Customer reviews are becoming increasingly important for marketers (particularly retailers) to boost their search results. That’s why companies like Chatmeter, which provides brands with actionable information about what customers are saying in and around local store locations, exist. Search Insider spoke with Chatmeter CEO Collin Holmes about the importance of reviews and the future of search.
In your experience, how do national brands — in particular national retailers — tend to
view local search?
It’s interesting to see how many times we go into pitches and it’s not on their radar. There’s a lot of different issues that has kept it off. There’s a variety of reasons, one of which is they aren’t aware of tools like [ours]. In many cases, we’re still educating large retailers that there’s other options. Everyone knows that people are using local search on their smartphones, but they don’t realize how to get in front of those opportunities. It’s also a matter of getting into their budget. Typically, this stuff isn’t a massive amount of their budgets. You are starting to see more and more brands shift from traditional ads into search and mobile search especially.
Do you expect that trend to continue, particularly when it comes to mobile search?
It’s not going to be all of their budget obviously, but it is going to get more and more competitive. Reviews — quality and quantity — play a major piece of that. We’re seeing Google in their algorithm show it’s not just the quality and quantity [of reviews] but responding to them is [also part] of the algorithm.
As voice search continues to grow, it seems review content will become an important
differentiating factor. It won’t be “Where’s a coffee place near me?” but rather “Where’s the best coffee nearby?” Is that the case?
If you look at the amount of information that Google is tracking on you, or even Facebook is tracking on you, they’re applying that logic into their search results. So, if you’re looking for a hotel, they’re going to know if you’re a Best Western guy or a Marriott guy, and drive searches to that level. If you search for things on Facebook now, a lot of those recommendations or reviews from your friends show up. That’s definitely an advantage that they have, and they have barely scratched the surface with their mobile. You’re going to see a lot from them.
But will the search algorithms smart enough to know a definition of “best” based on a star ranking or some other data?
There’s definitely an evolution of people changing their search query, and that’s where the search engines are coming in to find out what the best result is that they can provide for consumers. The more granular they can get in results the better it is for them.
In addition to “near me” location data, what other data should marketers be looking at?
Should they have prices online or real-time wait times in the case of a restaurant?
Pricing is already a filter, as is “open now.” I think “product” is an area where there’s opportunity. Even at the restaurant level, you can have dishes, where you’re looking for a specific [entree]. Those are specific queries that the systems aren’t built to handle as of yet, but you’ll see that emerging. People can take that from the review data that’s already out there, analyze it, and base it on results that customers are looking for.
How do you advise national clients about approaching search on a local level?
In many cases, we find the national brands are happy with their results because they’re [testing] branded searches. But a large portion of where your traffic is coming from — and the traffic you’re missing — is from non-branded search. [One retailer] noticed that 90% of their traffic was coming from non-branded search. And that’s an opportunity for us to get them on page one for their individual stores.
How do you do that at the local level?
The majority of the time, it is on a national level. Even at a franchise level, much of the budget is going from a corporate budget. We try to stay away from the franchisees as much as possible because everyone is time-starved and money-starved and it’s easier to deal with the corporate office. They tend to understand digital marketing and the value component of it.
However, you’re not getting a lot of value from optimizing a corporate Web site, but you are getting value from optimizing the store pages. We do work with many clients where we build the store pages. We know what to put on those pages in terms of products, descriptions and categories. We’ll also put widgets on the pages that will work on pulling in reviews and make them dynamic. That does have an impact on your overall search results. Where we have to educate change in brands is to understand that these searches are happening, and they have to optimize around that because they’re losing a lot to their competitors.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.]