Hopefully you were able to attend the webinar last week detailing the results of the annual 15miles/comScore/Localeze Local Search Study. If so, you may have been intrigued by what I thought was one of the more interesting findings: respondents selected local listings as the most trusted local business data source, ahead of organic and paid results.
Hearing that these results are favored over paid may not surprise you, as searchers have grown more savvy over the years and are able to spot irrelevant ads much more easily. Companies which purchase ads on pretty much any product available (I’m looking at you, Amazon) even if they can’t fulfill the customers’ needs have had a lasting negative impact on paid results. That’s not intended to be an indictment of paid advertising – I wholeheartedly endorse it as a tactic – but we have to understand the reality of how some customers perceive that section of search results now.
What was interesting to me was the fact that local listings outpaced organic. In business meetings and informal discussions, I often hear how much trust searchers place in organic results, so hearing that they didn’t come in first was surprising. However, thinking about this a little more carefully, I think the issue is again one of users becoming more savvy based on past search experience. The question being asked is in regards to local business listings specifically, and I think searchers have had to endure too many Merchant Circle-type sites showing up high in organic rankings over the years. Think of your own search habits – how often do you search for local businesses and find organic results littered with outdated local directories that feature disconnected phone lines or closed locations? I know I’ve run into this problem over and again.
So what do you as a marketer do with this customer feedback? I think the first objective is to put together a local listings management program if you do not have one in place already. If customers are putting more faith in the local listings they’re encountering on Google or Bing, then you need to make sure you’re supplying those sites with accurate data to pay off those expectations. Second, re-examine your local paid search and local SEO strategies. What can you do to make your ads, meta descriptions, landing pages, and local pages feel like more localized, trustworthy content? What can you do to separate yourselves from the spammers and irrelevant listings out there, so you can gain the trust, and in turn click-throughs, of the customer? The time you invest in an exercise like this will pay off in more leads and sales, making it well worth the effort.
For more data insights like the one discussed above, please download the Local Search Study data and white paper at http://localsearchstudy.com/. Replays of the presentation are available as well.