Most national brands are strategically positioned at the national Web level with strong awareness and branding, but these companies often lack insight into how their brands are represented at this level. Their local presence becomes clear when you conduct local searches on national brands using the “Local Web Test.”
The Local Web Test is a three-minute exercise for a national brand to discover how easy or difficult it is for consumers to “find” them on the Web when searching using a local modifier. First, search on the brand and its product category. Most brand searches like this reveal 100% presence on search engines -- to be expected for popular national brands. Now search on the brand + product category + a geographic modifier, and you’ll find that most national brands tested in this way will have less than 10% presence on page one of search results. And when searching the category + geographic modifier, the percent of search real estate drops even further. At the 2012 AdAge Digital Conference in April of this year, 95% of national brands tested in this way saw their Web presence drop to 10% or less at the local level.
Notable for national brands -- especially brands that that sell through local outlets such as dealers, distributors, agents, franchisees, or retailers -- is that local searches for these types of products and services are typically made by consumers when they are intent to buy at its highest. In addition, Google research has shown that 20% of all desktop searches and 40% of all mobile searches have local intent. Yet most national brands have little to no local Web presence. The key to solving this lack of local visibility is for national brands to implement a “local Web” strategy.
The local Web ecosystem
The concept of the local Web is still emerging, so many brands have yet to develop a local Web strategy. The local Web is the name for the integrated, growing ecosystem of online media channels that collectively drive local online marketing and are ultimately responsible for those search results, including local search, local reviews, social media and mobile channels, location-based "check-ins," daily deals and more.
To build a strong, local Web foundation, here are five key elements for national brands:
Local Web sites
SEO-optimized local Web sites are crucial for local marketing relevance, and the type of business will determine the types of local Web sites you will need. For example, national brands that sell through a network of dealers and resellers will need unique, co-branded Web sites with content provided primarily by the brand. Local resellers can then customize the content for their local market. Franchise brands or company-owned stores should have unique URLs, and the content will be a mix of standard company information and localized content.
Having an optimized network of local sites is an important first step, but it’s also important to ensure that local sites are not only mobile-friendly, but also highly optimized for the mobile searcher. Research has shown that consumers conducting local searches on mobile devices have a strong intent for immediate purchases, so it’s well worth the effort for national brands to optimize all local sites for mobile accessibility.
Local search registrations
Map-based listings play an increasingly important role in search engine results today and often trump traditional SEO-based listings. The “biggies” such as Google, Yahoo and Bing are essential, but it’s also important to ensure that local listings are accurate across the hundreds of smaller directory sites to improve findability and drive better SEO placement for your map listings and local Web sites.
Enable paid execution
A significant portion of the real estate on the local Web (think PPC, display, social media advertising) is made up of for-pay placement, so if you want to truly dominate this space, enabling paid execution is very important. You’ll also need to provide a solution for both the creative and the execution of these media.
Tracking and reporting
Tracking and reporting the results of your local Web investments is vital to local Web success. You need to know what’s working and what’s failing to meet expectations across all of the local Web elements you’re using. Senior management will also want to know how local marketing investments are faring. Online analytics will provide much of the tracking and reporting information you’ll need, but it’s also important to consider tracking phone numbers.
There are additional local Web elements to consider such as 1:1 local social media engagement and local reviews, but getting started with these foundational elements is the most important first step.