In recent years, technology has completely reshaped how both marketers and consumers use location to meet their needs. While location-based marketing has been around, in a physical form, for centuries, recent developments in consumer mobile device technology enable businesses to target users in their area with advertisements and empower consumers to find goods and services nearby.
How should you, as a business owner, be taking advantage of these developments? In this piece, we’ll dive into what exactly location-based marketing and search are, how they’ve grown rapidly, and how to optimize your business for successful search results.
What Is Location-Based Marketing?
Knowing your audience’s location is valuable. Your audience knowing your location is equally—if not more—important, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Here’s how location-based marketing works. Consumers’ mobile devices, with location services turned on, allow advertisers to see their longitude and latitude. Marketers and advertisers can then target those users with ads. This powerful form of marketing works best when targeting audiences somewhere between 500 meters and three miles of the point of purchase. Messaging can be sent either in real time, while the audience is still in close proximity, or later. After all, if a consumer has visited a targeted area, they’re likely to return to the location—or visit a related area.
Tip: Target audiences somewhere between 500 meters and three miles of your point of purchase.
While the most obvious method of location-based marketing is simply targeting consumers near your position—people who live near or spend time around your business—the possibilities extend much further than that. For example, the sponsor or owner of a music venue may target individuals in close proximity to a music festival, based on the likelihood that they’ll spend money on live entertainment again in the future. In other words, the location doesn’t have to be near the purchase goal; it may simply inform it.
Don’t Forget About Consumer Search
Location is a two-way street. Businesses are looking for local consumers, and consumers are looking for businesses that are close by. In fact, almost half of all Google searches have local intent. And not only are consumers searching more often, and more locally, but they’re also getting more specific in the ways they search. Since 2011, around the more-or-less dawn of search as we currently know it, searches containing “near me” have increased by 3,400 percent—with about 80 percent of these searches coming through mobile channels.
Searches containing “near me” have increased by 3,400 percent since 2011—with 80% of those searches coming from mobile.
As search evolves, consumers continue to get more specific. For example, Google’s VP of marketing for the Americas, Lisa Gevelber, reports that the number of “near me” searches that include variations of search terms like “that I can buy” or “to buy” have increased by 500 percent over the past few years. This makes sense, since consumers tend to start their searches with an idea already in mind. They know what they want and where they are; then search helps them connect those dots to relevant nearby businesses.
There are increases in the use of time-specific terms in searches, too. More consumers—mobile users in particular—are using search terms that include timeframes, like “Vietnamese restaurant near me open now,” or “movie showtimes near me today.”
Consumers want to find you. But ensuring that consumer searches are matching with—and finding—your business’s criteria requires careful optimization.
Getting Optimized for Location-Based Search
The first step to being optimized for search is making sure you’re optimized for mobile. Some research suggests that, by 2020, a whopping 80 percent of purchases will be connected to mobile activity. To ensure that searchers are able to find and connect with your location, consider doing the following:
- Ensure your website works well on mobile devices. Your nav should be easy and clear, with a one-touch phone call option.
- Set up and optimize a free Google My Business account. Since over 75 percent of searches happen via Google (that’s more than 74,000 per second at the time of this writing), it’s crucial to ensure you’re doing everything by the book—by Google’s book, specifically.
- Remember to keep your NAP (name, address, phone) information current on your site and any campaign- or location-specific landing pages. Also, be sure your website, business description, category, and attributes (all categories on Google My Business) are up to date. Note that a local number, rather than a toll-free or call-center number, can help with SEO.
- Keep your hours up to date, especially if they’re event-driven or unique in your industry. Make sure someone searching, for example, for your after-hours veterinarian’s office is getting results that point them to your business during your defining hours of operation.
- Optimize your copy, so that it’s relevant to brick-and-mortar traffic. Let would-be customers know that you have what they’re looking for at your (or their) location.
- On your website, guide searchers with calls to actions—including placing calls or getting directions. You may want to include specific popular products or services in your calls to action or point customers towards ways to get pricing or specialized service.
- Think location, but also think action. Be sure to optimize keywords for the actions that searchers are looking for: buy, sell, rent, eat, watch, exercise.
- If you expect a lot of traffic, consider multiple landing pages—or even multiple sites—for different locations, especially if they serve very different markets.
Serving People Where They Are—Right Now
At the end of the day, consumers who are using mobile to connect with businesses are looking for easy, fast, and convenient. This means that effective marketing (and effective search) is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. When you know where your audience is—and they know where you are—you’ve got a big head start in getting found by the consumers who are looking for what you’re selling. And for someone hungering for pho or a new Marvel flick, that’s what matters.