4 New Local Search Findings to Help Shape Your Franchise's Local SEO Strategy

By Naomi David posted 10-12-2017 04:06


Our business helps companies monitor their online reviews — so improving local search is a big part of the value we offer major brands. This has led me to ask some questions about how local search really works, namely:

  • How exactly do consumers use local search services to find and assess businesses?
  • What kind of impact does your local search presence have on users’ path to purchase?
  • How many businesses are actually optimized for local SEO.

To answer these questions, my company surveyed 350 consumers and 500 businesses about local search. Here’s what we found in the 2017 Local Search Report by ReviewTrackers.

58% of SMBs don’t even optimize for local search.

According to the report, more than half of small businesses currently do not have a local SEO plan in place, even though 31 percent would like to. Only 10 percent say that they have hired someone to help improve their local search rankings, while 20 percent have applied a DIY approach to local SEO.

If you are looking to strengthen your brand presence online but haven’t yet developed a local search strategy, the time to do so is now. Higher local search rankings have always been correlated with greater traffic and more in-store visits, which then result in better sales and increased revenue.

14% of local searches occur when a user is looking for a place to visit immediately.

Survey findings show that approximately 1 in 7 local searches carries a specific user intent: to find a business to visit immediately.

This highlights a tremendous opportunity for businesses and marketers to cater to a relevant, targeted audience that’s ready to make a purchase. Capitalize on this opportunity: put yourself in front of these want-it-now consumers by claiming your listing via Google My Business and applying best practices in local SEO.

It also means there’s a demographic difference in local searchers.

Our data tells us that millennials are twice as likely to be searching with the intent of visiting a local business immediately.

57% of local searches happen on mobile devices.

This is something probably every person who owns a phone or tablet can relate to. When hunger pangs strike and you’re craving sushi at 3 AM, a mobile browser like Chrome or Safari is your best friend.

According to ReviewTrackers’ report, majority of local searches happens on a mobile device. 39 percent use a browser like Chrome or Safari, while 10 percent use a map-based mobile app.

These figures once again reinforce the need to ensure the correctness of and consistency in your submitted NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) and location information. Regardless of whether they’re examining their options, calling to make reservations, or looking for directions, you have to make it easier for local searchers to find your business.

Local searchers care about photos, your reviews on Google, and your search ranking — in that order.

In the eyes of today’s consumers, a search result with high-quality profile photos, positive reviews on Google, and a high ranking on search engine results pages (SERP) is far more attractive than one that doesn’t have photos, has negative reviews, and has poor visibility on search.

Clearly this is all just common sense, but the survey findings do provide a better idea of what users are specifically looking for — and care about — when performing a local search.

It turns out that your pictures, reviews, and search ranking are powerful differentiators in local search. 24 percent agree that high-quality profile photos are one of the most important factors when looking for a business. 21 percent place their trust on customer reviews of the business on Google, and for another 21 percent, SERP position is one of the foremost trust signals in local search results.

With reviews, remember that bad reviews aren't necessarily bad. If you do have negative reviews, consumers want to see that you're responding to them — and that you have a healthy share of positive reviews as well. 

Make no mistake: your opportunity is in local.

From a business perspective, these findings serve as one of the latest demonstrations of the ways local search can bring in low-funnel traffic from key, ready-to-buy demographics. To drive conversions, businesses must work on improving local search rankings on Google, as well as develop a strategy for optimizing their local search and mobile presence, securing more (and better) reviews, and creating user experiences that inspire in-store visits and sales.

The 2017 ReviewTrackers Local Search Survey features the responses of a U.S.-based consumer panel to a 39-item, two-part survey distributed in January 2017. You can read the rest of the findings here.