The Psychology of Local Search

*This post was originally published by Booodl CEO & Co-Founder, George Freney, on LinkedIn*

How retailers can use online to increase offline footfall

Hyperlocal search is ready for its time in the sun, and I predict this year will see brands utilising search to make a big impact in small geographical areas.

There’s the sudden appearance of a ‘What’s nearby’ option in Android search, Apple’s Spotlight feature, the Google neighbourhood algorithm, and the fact that searches including ‘nearby’ are up 40%. Not to mention the increase in mobile and voice searches on-the-go as consumers look to complete research for local products and services as quickly as possible. They expect search results that are relevant to the task at hand and take into account where they are.

All signs point to local.

It’s well worth the effort for retailers too: 78% of local-mobile searches result in an offline purchase. Physical retail stores can either jump on the local SEO (ahem, SDO) bandwagon and make sure they get found, or miss key discoverability opportunities.

If SDO is a foreign term, you should read our posts on Store Discovery Optimisation here.

 

Going Local

How recent findings support the hyperlocal search trend

A great report from IDC and YP was just published that looks at the huge opportunities in local search and what needs to be done to adapt.

36% of respondents turn to search engines for local queries (e.g. ‘where can I buy Nike shoes in Bondi?’), while 48% go straight to a vertical. For hotels it’s Trip Advisor, for restaurants it’s Zomato or Yelp, and for retail and product search it is yet to be filled – Booodl is working on it and is already delivering this in Australia.

Interestingly, those who begin their local search on a vertical, end up at a search engine as their second step. So, understandably, it’s local search engine queries that we’re particularly interested in.

First, a quick deep dive into the stats. 38% of searchers use ‘How’ in their queries, 24% use ‘Why’ and 15% use ‘Where’. The desired outcome for all of these searches is information, with those containing ‘Where’ decidedly further down the purchase funnel. We call these full searches with 4+ words (compared to fragmented searches of 2-3 words) where the user treats Google like their knowledgeable, helpful friend. Ask a question, get an answer. Full search queries are on the rise, particularly for voice searches: 55% of teens and 41% of adults conduct voice searches more than once a day through Google, Siri, or Cortana.

“Siri, where’s the closest store to get an iPhone charger?”

“Google, is there a close shop selling running shoes?”

You get the picture.

Side note: here’s an awesome Re/code Decode podcast interviewing Google’s head of search, Mark Bergen, on their plans (including making voice search much more prominent).

User psychology is at the heart of this. Online search is a result of the human being it comes from, and we all differ greatly.

So, how do users currently search for nearby stores selling what they want? In short, there is no delightfully succinct experience. Sure, you can search for a store and location, but what if you don’t know the store – only the product? That’s where you come unstuck.

Booodl is filling this void by making sure retail stores get served in search results answering queries about a product and location. For example, the search ‘where can I buy a navman in Bondi Junction?’ returns the Booodl store profile for JB Hi-Fi. Since we launched our web version in November last year, we’ve already seen store profiles appear in Google search results over a million times. The best news is it’s free for stores to join Booodl, but more on that later.

 

What It Means for Your Store

How can retailers adapt to the hyperlocal search trend?

There are a few key things to do now to make sure your SDO is top notch.

  1. Accuracy

Accurate and consistent listings in all relevant directories is the first step. Given that, it’s a worrying trend that 85% of small businesses say it’s important for them to be found on local search apps and directories, yet only half have ever updated their online listings. 70% say that they just don’t have the time.

It’s a crucial mistake.

The most significant negative local ranking factor, according to Moz, is a listing detected as a false business location. The next biggest negative ranking factor is a mismatched NAP (Name, Address, Phone). Local search engines use the NAP as a measuring stick of accuracy for a business’s existence, according to Neil Patel. Every point of data need to align perfectly. Patel provides a good example: if your business name is Charlie’s Killer Crepes, and you accidentally type Charlies’ Killer Crepes (a misplaced apostrophe) in your citation, the directory may register your business inaccurately and penalize your ranking as a result.

  1. Completeness

Every directory addition gives you a little local SEO boost, but most businesses don’t make the most of that opportunity. Customers who look at your listing want information, and lots of it.

To use Booodl as an example, retail stores have the ability to fill out a range of information (outside the obvious name, address, phone) such as product categories and brands stocked. They can even add their inventory. Failing to utilise Booodl, or any other directory, to its full ability is a missed SEO opportunity.  Add the required info, and then some, to win the hyperlocal search game.

 3. Emphasise your location

Google factors neighbourhoods into their search algorithms, so clearly stating where your store is located in titles and descriptions is more important than ever.  “Neighbourhoods” are tricky in and of themselves because they are not necessarily referred to by locals as the official name on a map (and their boundaries may differ too).

Neighbourhood information is therefore more important than ever. Andrew Shotland provides a great “neighbourhood” checklist of quick and easy tips for ranking well in local searches:

  1. Add your neighbourhood to your directory name e.g. Tony Bianco Paddington
  2. Add your neighbourhood name into the text of your website
  3. Add your neighourhood name to the title tags on your website
  4. Add your neighbourhood to all of your social profiles – title and description
  5. Make sure Google Maps has your neighbourhood defined correctly. If not, go into Google MapMaker and submit an update (sadly this can’t be done in Australia just yet)

——–

Local businesses depend on SEO and retail stores can’t survive without building their SDO. Start upping your hyperlocal search game by going through the checklist above, and then go from there.

Or next time you’ve got a spare 20 minutes, do a search and see where you’re listed in directories and how accurate the information is. Keep in mind that a wrong address or misspelt name can have a big impact on your ability to get found, so it’s well worth the effort! If you aren’t listed in relevant verticals (e.g. restaurants on Zomato, retail stores on Booodl) then block out half an hour when you can and create an accurate and in-depth listing.

If you have any other tips for helping retailers use online tactics to increase footfall I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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