I am often surprised when I hear a business or brand owner state, “My SEO or local listing position for my top keyword has dropped, and my revenue and sales are shrinking.” With Google’s recent reduction in local listings positions from seven to three, I hear this statement quite often. My response is often, “Adjust your mix of paid media or add additional promotional elements to increase lead flow and make up for the revenue shortfall from your organic elements.”
Now, if you were investing or even gambling, you would not put all of your money or bets on one number or stock. Yet many marketers for both big brands and small businesses rely heavily on a single or too few tactics to quickly adjust to changes which occur frequently in the digital marketing landscape.
Admittedly in the old days before the economic meltdown of 2008, it was much easier to simply place a big ad in the Yellow Pages, along with a local radio or cable ad and expect for the phone to ring. All was good in the world.
Media options in today’s local environment have exploded, and it is more difficult than ever to identify the good tactics from those that provide little or no ROI. Compounding the problem at the SMB and local level is a lack of trustworthy partners to provide unbiased advice which helps to create a diversified plan.
Instead, every local salesperson extolls the virtues of their offering and how it will solve all the local merchant’s problems. If they are an SEO firm, they tell the merchant, “All you need is a good SEO program and you do not need to pay for clicks.” At an SEM firm, they will tell the merchant that “PPC advertising is better than SEO.” When speaking with a social media firm… well, you get the picture.
The truth of the matter is, a diversified strategy is the best and only approach that local marketers should consider.
Why? Consumers no longer use one or two sources to choose local business and brands to purchase from. According to Google, they actually use up to 10 different sources when researching businesses. Certainly there are foundational elements that all businesses need, including a website and local business listings with Yahoo, Bing and especially, Google.
But in today’s market, it is clear that successful merchants are those who spread their efforts across more sources used by consumers. A savvy merchant will find ways to increase their digital presence by leveraging the use of apps, vertical directories, directional resources – like YP – or other similar location listing websites. However, even these sources alone are not enough.
Some other ways to spread brand awareness include:
- Social properties like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, Pinterest, and so forth help consumers seek out recommendations from either their own friends or others that have experience with specific businesses.
- Sales promotion resources such as Groupon or Coupons.com can be considered for targeted promotions to drive new customer trials, followed by loyalty programs to keep them coming back.
- Uploading videos that promote the benefits and difference of a business are an effective way to attract consumer attention. In addition, making tutorial videos relating to the business’ category is a great source of potential leads.
- Blogs, newsletters, and email also support increases in consumer traffic.
The list goes on and on. And this isn’t even considering offline media, which still has an impact in many local markets including cable TV, radio, and newspapers.
So, Why Do Local Merchants Panic When Their Google Local Listing or SEO Drops?
They are overwhelmed and have little time to keep track of the exploding options to prioritize them into a diversified local plan. Rather, they choose to focus on too few tactics because they do not have the time away from operating their businesses to keep current and take action with knowledge regarding alternative marketing platforms.
What’s the Solution?
I see an opportunity for the emergence of a new marketing agencies and consultants that act as the unbiased local experts to help merchants in their market area or vertical niche create diversified and actionable marketing plans. Most current local ad agencies are holding on too tightly to past practices and compensation models.
The future is media agnostic. Consultants must learn a client’s business niche and apply all media, promotion, and publicity tactics online, offline, and on mobile into a diversified plan that is measurable. I say measurable because if you can measure it – you can optimize it.