Local Searches: The Importance of Proximity and ‘Near Me’ Searches to Your Business

When was the last time you searched on your smartphone or asked Siri for directions to the nearest restaurant or store? Did you specify “near me” or “nearby” when you did this or did you simply request the address of that location? For about three to four years, common searches including phrases like “near me” and “around me” grew rapidly, but in 2017 geo-qualifiers are becoming less important as users understand that Google has learned their location.

As you may have guessed, these users are your current and potential customers, and keeping up with the rhythm of this trend can take your business to the top of customer search results.

Google Knows Where You Are

The decrease in “near me” searches from three years ago to today is largely due to the fact that users have become accustomed to their smartphones knowing where they are through the geo-location feature. Since 2015, there has been a 150% rise in similar searches leaving off the “near me” specification. Looking for a nearby coffee house in 2014, a user may have typed “coffee houses near me,” whereas, these days a quick “coffee shop” entry into the search bar can generate the same list of locations. The same concept holds true in other contexts as well, such as looking up the weather.

In 2017, searches without “near me” exceed and expand past those including it. The three top options that pop up in a search are known as a snack pack, and this is where you want your business to fall to ensure users will select your shop over the next. Google studies show that 90% of users confirm they aren’t set on a specific brand for their purchase when they set out, making it is clear that there is an extraordinary opportunity for local. small businesses to shine through by being locally accessible.

Proximity is Critical for Ranking

When nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location, it is essential to understand the possible key qualifiers to achieve a high ranking in user searches. Studies done by Google show that customers who conduct a “near me” search normally enter the business searched within 24 hours, and a little under 30% of this sample ends up making a purchase. Local convenience is another key factor.

Suggestions to increase your ranking:

  1. Google My Business: The #1 factor in where your business ranks is your Google My Business.For the best results, make sure your Google My Business listing is claimed and completed with all relevant and up-to-date information.
  2. Your Company Website: Incorporate relevant and trending keywords into the content of your website as well as within posts you put up on your blog. Building links from other people’s sites to yours can also increase traffic and SEO.
  3. Reviews: Gathering positive reviews is crucial. Consumers nowadays really like reviews and Google is well aware. Data shows that consumers won’t even consider a business with less than three stars, so remember customer is king.
  4. Citations: Citations are listings indirectories other than Google My Business, such as Yahoo, Yelp and Yellow Pages, etc. You must claim your listing on these directories and complete the information about your business.

Every month, One out of two smartphone owners uses his or her phone to choose where to eat. Think about it, your customers are mobile and already on their way to you but the one deciding factor on whether they choose you or a competitor is who pops up first in their search with the most complete information promoting their business.  This means, if you haven’t perfected your Google My Business page, now is the time to do so to gain sales and security.

Priority on Facebook Goes to Mobile Optimized Websites

Facebook Goes to Mobile Optimized WebsitesEver wonder how Facebook selects the posts on your news feed? Or the order in which posts appear from hour to hour? We are familiar with the “See First” feature and ability to rank our own friends and groups on our feed but what about the advertisements, video clips and popular shared memes that pop up?

Facebook’s algorithm favors some behaviors and types of content over others, and the newest update deals directly with mobile responsiveness. As a whopping 94% of Facebook users access the site via their mobile phones, Facebook has made it so websites with mobile optimization will appear higher and more frequently on your feed than those sites with slow loading times.

The way it works is if a website loads quickly and completely on mobile with all graphics intact, the post is pushed out as high priority in the algorithm and your post’s reach is extended. On the other hand, if a website does not have mobile accessibility or optimization, it may not appear to the desired audience on Facebook due to a lag in loading speed. The user’s current network connection as well as the overall speed of the corresponding website will be factored out as these are trackable measures. This update supports the idea of a flawless user experience in that it ensures that users can scroll through their feeds with ease, viewing fast-loading posts and video clips. For businesses marketing their products and services on Facebook, understanding this new update is key to brand visibility.

We recommend you ensure your website is fast-loading and mobile-friendly to avoid any drop off. Listed below are ten best practices recommended by Facebook to help you maintain relevance and visibility in your followers’ news feeds.

  1. Minimize landing page redirects, plugins and link shorteners.
  2. Compress files to decrease mobile rendering time.
  3. Improve server response time by utilizing multi region hosting.
  4. Remove render-blocking JavaScript.
  5. Use a high-quality content delivery network to reach your audience, quickly.
  6. Remove redundant data that does not impact how the page is processed by the browser.
  7. Optimize images to reduce file size without diminishing visual quality.
  8. Reduce the size of above the fold content to prioritize visual content.
  9. Use asynchronous scripts to streamline page render time.
  10. Dynamically adjust the content for slower connections/devices.

Although Facebook expects the impact of this update to be minimal, it is best for business owners to be on the lookout for noticeable changes to page analytics as well as to check through the list of suggestions above and upgrade where possible.

Craft Your Content, Carefully

If you’re sharing a link in a post, be sure to adhere to the link-format guidelines from a previous update that prioritizes displaying links in link-format versus placing the link in a status or caption. Studies show that using link-format gains twice as many clicks on your post than any other link sharing method. To use link-format, simply paste the link into the draft of the post before posting.

Another less recent yet related update to the Facebook algorithm that we found to be helpful improved posting format and reduced the amount of “click-and-bait” headlines. This type of shortened headline forces the reader to click into the post before fully knowing the post’s topic. This can be disappointing for the reader if the post appeared to contain valuable content and, in fact, did not. Many users click on these mystery headlines only to navigate away from the actual article, immediately. Facebook monitored user behavior alongside likes and shares on a variety of posts of this nature to discover a solution to the problem. Results showed that many users clicked on links but did not like, share or engage, highlighting a disinterest in the content. In order to improve the user experience, Facebook took action to reduce the amount of click-and-bait content appearing on the news feed so that users can see more of what they want.

If you have a business that could use assistance with your Facebook presence or other digital marketing initiatives, contact DAS Group today at 1-800-717-2131.

Facebook’s local search improvements create new opportunities for businesses

Facebook’s local search

Although Google’s dominance of valuable search traffic market share seems beyond question, Facebook is making strides to secure a larger portion of it. Currently, Google has more than 63% of traffic in mobile search, where the growth is considered to be, and a monopoly on search traffic in general of 95%, according to industry intelligence gathered by comScore. However, Facebook has been steadily modifying how search works on its platform in ways that could mean new changes are coming to the local search landscape.

This is good news for businesses that would like more options to capture local customers while searching locally. Recently, industry expert SearchEngineLand.com noted the seven key improvements that Facebook is making after having tested each to see if they truly delivered:

  1. Using location much more effectively

Local business pages on Facebook have now changed to prominently highlight maps and directions at the top on “Home” and “About” pages. Many searches from the top search box also automatically return results based on the user’s location. This provides truly local search results, SearchEngineLand.com says, noting that clicking through to see all results opens the “Places” tab and provides more results within three miles.

  1. Places are prioritized

In the past, the functionality of the “Places” tab was sorely lacking, according to SearchEngineLand.com, but now that has changed: “Facebook Places today is not only highly functional, it is the first information provided when relevant (i.e., when a search is made that implies a place or local business). For example, a search for “Texas Beaches” or “Plumbing services” returned Places results at the top, followed by pages of local businesses. And Facebook recognizes when location is not relevant — a search for “Wonder Woman movie” returned videos, news and a Wikipedia page.”

  1. Search engine results are much more robust and complete

Search results on Facebook are now much deeper and provide more valuable information. The publication tested lawyer listings and found that they now show profile pictures, addresses, distance from the searcher, whether offices are still open, and a star rating, as well as a description of the type of law the firm or attorney practices.

  1. Improved indexing of information

Previously, Facebook had poor indexing of information in its search function, according to SearchEngineLand.com. Now, that is improved with the addition of suggested search terms that appear when a user is typing in the search box. These suggested search terms frequently pull up business categories that Facebook offers its business users to identify what kind of business they are. In this way, Facebook helps the searcher use search terms that will provide better results as indexed on the platform, the publication notes.

  1. Facebook is beta testing new features, including integrating friend posts and local search

Facebook hopes to compete with Google by incorporating its social media data with search results to make sure its offering is as good as its competitor’s. According to industry expert TechCrunch, the company is now testing its improvements with some users to determine if extra posted information about a place or business makes a difference in their search and a business’ ability to tap into valuable “word of mouth” leads.

Facebook also is changing its map results from static to interactive, which SearchEngineLand.com says is a necessary addition to its search function: “The map functions much like Google or Apple Map local searches, providing business listings with pin locations on the map that can be pinched in or zoomed out.”

  1. Facebook is using crowdsourcing to build out its database

Facebook appears to be leveraging the already proven tactic of tapping into its wealth of “free manpower” in the form of users providing recommendations, much the way Google uses its “local guides”.

According to SearchEngineLand.com, some users are being asked to provide input into details about places that they’ve checked into via Facebook Editor. When the user checks in or tags a place, a series of yes-or-no questions are asked, such as “Does this place have parking?” or “Is this the right location on the map?” or “Is this the same place as [another name]?”

SearchEngineLand.com columnist Wesley Young notes: “Based on the information that I’ve been asked to verify, it appears that Facebook does have a fair amount of inaccurate information — leftovers from allowing users to create new place listings themselves. What appears to be a selective “trusted” editor function is an attempt to rectify that, but it also is making some users unhappy. Facebook didn’t ask users to be editors and just automatically asks those questions once a new post is created. A Google search for Facebook editor suggests searches for “delete Facebook editor,” “remove Facebook editor” and many other similar search terms — so it’s unclear how long Facebook will essentially force its users to help clean up its database.”

He maintains, however, that more accurate and comprehensive information would help further improve Facebook’s search function.

  1. The introduction of city guides

Based on research that social media is boosting travel and entertainment spending as users seek out experiences that they can share with friends and reflect positively on themselves, Facebook has created City Guides that provide information on popular places such as restaurants and sights for frequently visited cities, according to SearchEngineLand.com.

The guides list the user’s friends who have visited the city, and by tapping on each friend’s name the user can see a list of places that the friend visited while there. The guides also list “local favorites” and Young says they have more of a “TripAdvisor feel that is more personalized or targeted and adds a rich surf-and-discover function to Facebook’s local search experience.”

How to benefit from the new Facebook changes

With the improvements that Facebook is making, SearchEngineLand.com notes that users will have more reason to spend more time on the platform and consume more content. This can easily result in small businesses that already benefit from the engagement it provides becoming customers of its advertising offerings.

We agree that it’s a good idea for businesses to review their local pages’ “About” section, checking for how information appears in search results to make sure it captures search traffic in accordance with Facebook’s changes. Both SearchEngineLand.com and we recommend doing the following as soon as possible:

  • Review your Facebook business profile and make sure it includes contact information, details about your business and interactive functions you can adopt.
  • Make sure your location information is accurate and offers a physical map location that shows up at the top of your business profile when your page is displayed.
  • Add business categories that further describe your business. Although you are only asked for one business category when you create your Facebook page, you can return and edit the “About” section to add two more business categories that may help improve visibility, depending on the search terms used.
  • Activate buttons that Facebook offers, such as call-to-click and appointment schedulers that help convert traffic to your page.
  • Don’t leave blanks in any section that might trigger Facebook to crowdsource answers. Your answers will be the most reliable answers.

If your business needs assistance with your Facebook presence or other digital marketing initiatives, contact DAS Group today at 1-800-717-2131.

Yelp Drives Conversions Better than Google and Facebook, Study Says

Yelp Drives ConversionsWe have been closely considering the results of a new study of consumer purchasing habits by Nielsen, commissioned by Yelp, which states review sites drive higher conversions than search and social media. The survey of 2,000 adults throughout the United States found that 92 percent of respondents said they made a purchase after visiting Yelp, “at least sometimes, frequently or almost always.”

Some experts say the results more or less state the obvious: “At the highest level, this makes sense because reviews have a strong influence on consumer buying behavior, and review sites are generally part of consumers’ path to purchase,” says Greg Sterling of searchengine.com.

The survey says that most people who made a purchase after visiting Yelp did so within a week or less, and he notes that consumers using Yelp appear to be low in the funnel: “Consumers who use online consumer review sites and claim they make a purchase after visiting Yelp are also reporting they do so faster than before, compared to a Nielsen study from 2014. The number of consumers who report purchasing something within a few hours increased by 212 percent, and the number of consumers who say they make a purchase after a day or less increased by 55 percent.”

Nielson’s recent survey provides additional findings:

  • 74 percent of the consumers searching online for a local business turn to consumer online review sites at least monthly.
  • Yelp ranked above other online review sites as “most trusted, most influential and most useful.”
  • 79 percent of Yelp users say they are looking for a business they can visit multiple times.
  • 55 percent of Yelp users searching for restaurants have ordered takeout or delivery from a restaurant they found on Yelp.

Even though Yelp commissioned the survey, and Sterling advises employing a healthy amount of skepticism to the results due to that association, he maintains that other data sources and non-sponsored surveys support the survey’s findings.

He points to Nielsen’s non-commissioned Global Trust in Advertising Survey that was conducted in 2015, which found that “consumer opinions posted online” ranked higher for trust than most other marketing channels.

There’s more research that backs it up as well, Sterling notes. The Local Media Tracking Study, which was non-sponsored and conducted by Burke for the Local Search Association, polled more than 8,000 consumers in 2016. It found they were more likely to connect with a local business via calls, email, or a store visit after visiting a review site vs. other channels

Sterling also references research that shows a large majority of Yelp searchers’ queries now happen in the Yelp app on mobile devices, and that these users are often closer in time to a purchase decision as well.

We feel these studies’ results are worthy of every marketer’s consideration when planning digital strategy. The evidence clearly points to using review sites if at all possible, and when relevant, to market a large portion of products and services.

Google Launches New Next-Gen Local Discovery Tool

Google

Google’s new “tappable shortcuts” now make it possible to find key localized information without the need to use a search box for users in the United States of the Google app on Android, IOS and Google.com on the mobile web.

Google says search app users will need to have the most updated version of its app to have access to the shortcuts. Then, with a tap on a shortcut icon, located just below the search engine’s search boxes, they can find quick information about weather, sports, food, television programming and other entertainment. The data is grouped by interest, cuisines, atmosphere and various other attributes.

The search engine also said it will soon introduce new shortcuts for “big moments and events” that may be one-off shortcuts for things that attract a lot of search queries – like elections or the Olympics.

Driven and accompanied by rich data, Google’s new move provides a strong incentive for businesses to add more enhanced data as part of their local SEO strategy.

“The Google search box is great when you’re looking for a specific answer, but there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest,” writes Google’s Vice President of Product Manager, Tamar Yehoshua, on the Google Search Blog that announced the shortcuts.

He added that Android users will have access to even more shortcuts, including translation tools, nearby attractions, travel information, a currency converter, games and more. The blog also offers a short video that explains how the shortcuts work.

The new launch is likely Google’s bid to compete with Yelp and other such providers of local content, industry experts have said, as this sort of machine learning-driven activity entirely bypasses the traditional search box.

“These are essentially prepackaged queries, using a range of data behind the scenes, to replace typing with tapping,” writes Greg Sterling of industry publication Search Engine Land. “The experience represents a template for other kinds of mobile search results beyond the four categories currently present. Shopping and Travel come immediately to mind. Android features more shortcuts than iOS. Currently, you can buy movie tickets via the entertainment shortcut. We can expect more transactional capabilities like this to roll out to other categories.”

He added that, while there are no advertisements currently on Google’s shortcuts, he assumes there will be if the tools gain widespread usage – especially if we see large numbers of people entirely bypassing the search box in key categories.

“The changes also come at a time when the major technology companies are bringing back the idea of portals as a stepping off point to the web,” elaborated Sarah Perez from Techcrunch.com.  “In the internet’s early years, users would visit their favorite homepages for this sort of information — news, weather, local, sports, etc. Now, they’re being shuffled off into apps. Facebook, for example, has been trying to combat this shift, by steadily adding features that would have otherwise necessitated users to exit its own app for others — like weather, shopping, jobs and more.”

DAS Group is available to help your business make sure it’s on top of the latest digital marketing trends; we would be happy to share ideas with you.