Live from #BrandifyIt2016: The Changing Face of Local Search

Posted by Mila Hose on Aug 25, 2016 11:02:08 AM

 

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As  a big-name brand, it can be easy to feel invincible, but small, local competitors can beat enterprise brands who are failing to optimize for the local experience. The combination of personalized, local business have the potential to consume the market share for bigger brands over time. One area in which big brands are severely deficient is review moderation. Listening to your customers and responding to reviews helps build brand awareness, resolve customer issues and increase engagement, but this is one aspect of local optimization that big brands fail to achieve. Phil Rozek of the Local Visibility System discusses how big brands can master review moderation, with Mindy Weinstein of Market Mindshift and Kyle Eggleston of Walgreens, as panelists and Greg Sterling of the Local Search Association as moderator.    
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More Choices, Changing Preferences

Over time, customers have been given more choices than ever before. There are a plethora of brands that offer the products and services customers need in a multitude of delivery methods. As customers have been given more choices, their preferences have also changed, and which brand has the ability to capture customer trust and experience often has to do with features such as personalization, customer service, and ease of experience. Customers can be picky in their purchase decisions, because there are many different options from which they may choose.

The Local Search Ecosystem is Shifting
With so many choices for consumers to choose from, there are also more decisions in the SERPs, and “more transactions take place offline after the initial search query before people even get to your site,” Rozek acknowledged. Google recently removed the requirement for having a Google+ account in order to post reviews, and implemented the “Critic” review feature, signaling the importance of reviews in ranking factors. Reviews are always prominent in the new 3-pack placements,even in the first position ad spot. Reviews are everywhere, and most consumers will not even make a purchase without consulting online reviews first.  

Big Brands Still Have the Advantage 
Despite the incredible weight given to reviews, big brands still have an advantage when it comes to ranking in the SERPs. Enterprise brands “have consistent media buzz, link juice [domain authority], an established customer base and brand recognition,” said Rozek. Yet, SMBs potentially receive the maximum benefit from these shifts in the local search ecosystem, as they know their customers more intimately than enterprise brands, and can more easily ask their loyal customers to spread the good work about their products or services. When there are thousands of small businesses popping up as your competitors, “big brands will lose customers they could have retained, because of reviews,” Rozek told the audience today. Whenever customers choose between a big name brand or a highly-rated local brand, brands need to be able to compete. 

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Use Reviews to Win Your Audience
Small brands have a better sense of what the reward that comes from reviews, and this drives their motivation. “Small brands associate reviews with more customers,” says Rozek. Consumers often choose local brands because of their reputation or for the personalized brand experience, but local consumers choose enterprise brands for something features like proximity, hours, and familiarity. This puts enterprise brands at a disadvantage against small competitors, who are also chosen for similar reasons. In order for enterprise brands to be impressive at the local level, they need to optimize for things their customers care about. This means prioritizing reviews.  

How Multi-Location Brands Can Foster Reviews
Enterprise brands can take their good reviews and put them on location pages as testimonials to their products or services. “Good rankings without strong reviews don’t pack much of a punch,” Rozek tells the audience. Local brands need to be mindful of the platforms on which their customers prefer to leave reviews, and not only on their own brand website. This means syndicating location data across review sites such as Google, Yelp, Facebook and Bing.

Be Personal 
Enterprise brands should still know who their biggest fans are and reach out to them to request a review as a personal favor, without incentives. This connection between brand and consumer is what makes consumers want to post positive feedback. Make sure to ask your fans for reviews on the site where they are most likely to leave reviews. For example, do not ask someone who prefers Facebook reviews to review your brand on Yelp. Try to get have your reviewers mention specific people at the location they are reviewing, so other customers get a feel for what a personal experience your brand offers. “If customers are willing to write a review, it’s not that hard to get them to talk about specific people,” says Rozek. Your fans will want to make your brand look good because their experience has been so positive.

Content is also important for local businesses, Weinstein reminds the audience. Brands need to make sure to publish unique, localized for each store location. This helps personalize the customer experience, and also contributes to SERP rankings. One of the most important things that enterprise brands can do to connect with consumers at the local level is to leverage internal data and ensure the consistency of location data.

Ultimately, reviews are an important part of personalizing multi-location brands and ensuring that your brand is able to compete with SMBs at the local level. Enterprise can enhance their review moderation strategy by utilizing a content management system that houses all of your reviews in one place and allows you to redistribute positive reviews across your website and local pages.

Topics: Multi-location Business, Local SEO, Reviews