Without optimising your local digital presence, your customers could be looking for a needle in a haystack trying to locate your bricks-and-mortar shops. Reach new audiences, improve your users’ experience and build success with this step-by-step local strategy.
It’s easy to focus solely on ecommerce objectives with your digital strategy (particularly if you have separate marketing teams for offline channels), but that means little to users who are only interested in finding out where their local shop is or whether you offer services in their area.
Get your local strategy right and our digital assistant friends Alexa, Cortana et al will work harder on your behalf, giving your customers all the information they need and in turn reducing unnecessary emails and phone calls.
Getting your house in order
The right foundations for local success will support your digital strategy across the board.
Your website is your online presence: it exists for potential customers to find you. Regardless of whether your website’s core objective is ecommerce, if you operate in a particular region or have a physical store presence, your website should reflect that. Avoid generic pages and focus on providing valuable and relevant information for your users - sounds simple right?
Your Google Ads campaigns will also perform more effectively if you can feed data through from your website. If your business has multiple physical sites, having an individual landing page for each means paid ad visitors can be sent straight to the store that’s closest to them. And don’t forget about remarketing – if someone has browsed your product pages without buying, why not tempt them back to your site (or to their local store) with a promo code just for them?
- Create pages per location/branch, for organic visibility and PPC campaign landing pages
- Embed maps
- Add local schema
- Include local area details/branch info and services/opening times/directions
- Link Google Analytics with Google Ads
- Add remarketing code to your site, build audiences, and apply to your campaigns
Google My Business/Bing Places for Business
A Google My Business (GMB) listing is an integral part of local search. It’s a prominent feature in Google’s results and can also appear as a knowledge panel for specific searches. You can utilise Google Posts to showcase events, products, offers and news, and you can also encourage reviews this way.
Maintaining up-to-date, comprehensive store details on your GMB pages means you’re eligible to show ads within Google Maps itself. Rise to the top of the pack - and only pay if someone clicks to get directions, or on your phone number to call. You can even track those phone calls as conversions, via Google Call Forwarding.
- Claim and verify for each branch location
- Make sure info is all up to date – review and update regularly, for organic and paid benefits
- Respond to all reviews - good and bad
- Link Google My Business with Google Ads
- Apply location extensions to campaigns, using filters for granularity
Depending on your business goals and audience, social media activity and setup will vary. In general, an overarching ‘brand’ account is the most efficient option; however, on occasion, an account for each branch will be more appropriate. This can then be used to showcase a business and engage with existing and potential customers.
Social media can fall into local search activity by its nature, although it can depend on wider business involvement in the local community. It’s great for boosting local shops, events and promotions – tactics could include tweeting about local business news and engaging in relevant “#” groups for local businesses.
- Claim and verify main profiles
- Think carefully about structuring - do you want to empower local shops to look after their own location pages or manage centrally?
- Look out for user-generated location pages, often information can be misleading, negative or non-existing - claim ownership or create verified pages to promote user engagement such as check-ins/reviews/shares etc.
Attracting more customers
Once you’ve got the foundations right, local strategy can help you convert current visitors and gain new ones.
Local citations and reviews
Citations are mentions of core business data across the web; for example, a mention on a news site referencing your business, or a listing in a directory containing your business details. Mentions such as these are good to grow awareness of your business, so long as they are on reputable sources, and not ‘spammy’ websites. Increased citations have been shown to relate to improvements in a business’s visibility in local search results.
Reviews are a big part of GMB, and being so visible can have a sizeable impact on a business. It’s important to try and grow your reviews, to show trust and good experiences to potential new customers. Whether good or bad, an effort should be made to respond to the comments. This shows that the business is actively engaging with people and looking to better itself - a great signal to potential customers.
- Reviews are very visible particularly in Google My Business; support users to make them and be proactive with any negative ones
- Do you know where your other citations are? Yell.com etc. - keep up to date
Provide your services to potential customers at their time of need – when they’re searching. Paid search advertising can help you cut through the noise of your competitors and drive new visitors to your site.
- Understand user intent and structure your campaigns to match – e.g. mobile-only with call extensions, geo-targeted with location extensions, remarketing for previous site visitors
- Optimise your bids and budgets to beat the competition – add sitelinks, callouts and structured snippet extensions to expand your ad across the page
- Use remarketing and behavioural audience list to tailor your ad copy to different user groups
Display and Social Advertising
Direct response and lower-funnel campaigns drive leads, sales, and other conversions - but not on their own. It’s important to maintain a strong brand presence beyond your website and beyond the search results page.
Display advertising - prospecting for new customers - can be an effective way of positioning your brand in front of a large audience of potential converters. If driving local shop visits is a key objective make your messaging reflect that. How about using audience data to inform it? “You’re only 30mins from our flagship store”. Be disruptive; if your audience are browsing Facebook on a Saturday morning, what messaging and creative could prompt an action? Try: "Me, You, Brunch? We’re open now."
Using paid social campaigns, you can also move your customers through every step of the purchase funnel. Position your brand in front of them by bidding for reach and awareness, engage them with your products by sending them to your website, reinforce your messaging by dynamically retargeting them with products ads related to pages they viewed, then encourage them to visit your store and convert.
- Influence potential customers at every stage of the funnel, with Display to raise their awareness, Social to engage their interest, PPC to answer their queries, and Remarketing to convert them
- Don’t underestimate the importance of view-through conversions – Display ads may not get many clicks, but even one impression could mean the difference between a won or lost conversion
- Keep your ad creative (imagery, video) fresh, interesting and relevant
- Link all your accounts together where possible to share data and learnings
Free measurement platforms like Google Analytics can and should be used as standard. And for paid channels, a multi-channel management centre like Google Marketing Platform can help you track all your activities, and (most importantly) measure them by the same standards.
Third-party providers like ResponseTap can help you track phone calls to your network of branches, and custom reports in all the above platforms (and plenty more) can easily be built to compare shops, regions and other aspects of your business.
Attributing the uplift in offline sales from digital activity can also have a huge impact on the value you place on campaigns. Where possible, join up your CRM data with your online advertising to create a 360-degree view of customer value.
- Benchmark performance against visits to local store pages on your website
- Use call tracking on localised ads
- Check SERP visibility using tools like BrightLocal
- Track vouchercode redemptions instore
- Use storevisits etc to track instore footfall
- Link as many of your accounts together as possible to share data and insights
Do bear in mind: while it’s good to measure lower-funnel activity by conversions and clicks, it’s better to use different metrics for Display and upper-funnel. Impressions, reach, viewability and post-impressions conversions will give a much better picture of Display’s contribution to your channel portfolio, as they’re much more closely aligned with the channel objective.
These digital marketing best practices don’t apply to local optimisation alone, but a dedicated local strategy that forms part of your wider marketing plan, shouldn’t be disregarded. Remember to build a solid foundation first and foremost – make sure your tracking works, your accounts are linked, your website is optimised and your branches have a complete digital persona.