When I first joined Render Positive in late 2010, I watched as a force greater than Panda ripped through the heart of Google. Places results suddenly started popping up on page one, trumping the hard work of SEO veterans who had suddenly been bested by the fledgling discipline of local search.
It was obvious to me, and I don’t see how it wasn’t for everyone else, that local was going to be a big deal and not simply a SERP sideshow as some assumed. Coming a long way from its humble map-based beginnings, local search has, in an age of hyper-connectivity and multiple-device ownership, taken centre stage, becoming the biggest trend to watch in 2013. And here’s why…
Mobile Search Madness
Google is fondly embracing (and profiting) from an unstoppable surge in mobile device searches. As a reward, they have effectively levelled the organic playing field forever with the gift of local search. Never since the days of the early index have SMBs and regional players had the opportunity to take on the big guns and win on home turf with only limited investment.
In an on-going attempt to diversify and deliver a more ‘user-centric’ experience, Google’s local algorithm, Venice, is identifying one in three searches as having a local intent and delivering a new batch of blended results which feed off a fresh set of signals and sources.
This brave new frontier hosts a third of all page one results with space for up to 10 Google+ Local listings accompanied by newly empowered local landing pages. No longer is there a one shot, all-in opportunity to get on to the front page of Google, but the potential to digitally canvas your neighbourhood and reap the revenues.
However, this field has only been levelled temporarily – as competition for these new digital billboards is heating up fast. Now local’s influence reaches far beyond Google’s borders, becoming intertwined with social and the rapidly expanding apps market as an ever-present force that illusively infiltrates all of our online experiences.
No longer confined to maps, this localisation is delivering better, qualified and on the whole tech-savvier traffic to small businesses and multinationals alike. So if you are bricks and mortar then listen up, if you’ve got regional interests then tune in, and if your clients aren’t doing this yet than cash in, because the new gold rush has begun and you don’t want to miss out!
But as this space evolves, becoming more complex and competitive, it is harder for local business, the target beneficiary, to keep up and manage the ever-expanding portfolio of profiles that make up the local mix.
The ways and means of managing this Goliath task will have to wait for another day – watch this space – but the rewards are unparalleled and can’t be ignored by local SMBs.
The flames of this ever-growing local phenomenon have been further fuelled by the unprecedented rise in smartphone and tablet ownership which stands at around 68% in the UK – the highest in the world.
Recent research from BlueGlass has shown that mobile page views have rocketed from 2% to 40% in the last nine month alone and now make up 25% of Google’s entire click share.
Further to the glaringly obvious benefits generated from this ‘online footfall’, the average cost per click on a mobile device is roughly half that of desktop advertising and actually fell, much to Google’s dismay, in 2011.
Secondly the significant increase in tablet sales has seen its share overtake that of smartphones, uniting in a combined force that is estimated to grow annually by 160% to ultimately overtake desktop search by 2016.
This new breed of 4G connected, multi-device owning searcher will also be behaving rather differently over the coming years. The 25% of us who already own several devices average 21 local searches per week, which is 4 times more than PC owners.
Separate research from YP & BIA/Kelsey emphasises that reaching these new technophiles via mobile devices often speeds up conversions as people are more likely to research online and therefore be further down the purchase funnel – with the ability to make quick decisions.
This new A1 demographic are also more active on social networks; engage more pro-actively with brands (trusting and writing reviews) and have a much higher disposable income. These searchers are a digital marketers dream and as local influences more of these interactions its value as a channel becomes unquestionable, delivering the greatest value for money in the coming years.
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