How local presence management drives brand discovery

Today’s marketers can ill afford to overlook any channel or strategy that has the potential to bring new customers to the brand. And while most marketers would not likely put local presence management in that category, new research proves that’s exactly where it belongs.

Local search is widely acknowledged as one of the most critical drivers of business outcomes in digital experience today. Closely integrated with core SEO functions, local search comprises best practice optimization, content and media to develop a holistic and performance-focused experience that commands attention from both consumers and search engines.

The foundational component of local search is local presence management. This is the multidisciplinary practice that requires managing all aspects of a company’s local online identity through optimization of vital information, such as online reviews and Google Business listings, as well as effective execution of tools and tactics such as local SEO.

A new study by DAC uncovers the correlation between local presence management and brand discovery. Those businesses that strengthened their approach to the practice saw a significant jump in rankings for nonbranded searches (i.e., generic searches for a product or service that do not include a brand name) conducted through the Google Maps channel.

Moreover, those same companies also saw a corresponding leap in business outcomes, such as an increase in call center activity, website visits and requests for directions.

This direct impact on non-branded search discovery takes local presence management beyond the realm of IT or customer service, where it often resides, into a necessary component of
overall marketing strategy. But critical steps remain in order to make this change a reality.

A wider scope, greater accountability

Marketers not yet prepared to make the leap may be held back by one of two things: a narrow overall view of local digital strategies, as only impacting what a customer does in the last mile; and organizational barriers, including silos and measurement accountability, that prevent a holistic approach to local presence management.

Many marketers continue to associate local presence management with business listings. While maintaining accurate and thorough listings remains an essential part of the practice, many other elements are necessary to deliver the best results. These include:

•    Reviews. The numbers matter, so keep them up to date. An old review can instantly undercut a business. And sheer volume matters just as much. Statistically, it’s important to reach certain thresholds of numbers of reviews to maximize local search returns on Google.

•    Visuals. Today’s SERP is increasingly visually driven, and photos are an especially important content field to populate on a Google Business Profile (GBP) page. Marketers have to know the kinds of images that people seek when conducting an online search for a particular type of retail business.

•    Local SEO. Consumers don’t use just one way to discover local businesses. Thus, ensuring proper listing management, with a focus on GBP, of course, due to volume, on all of the platforms that drive discovery is paramount for success. Different platforms make different content fields available, so not only do marketers need to complete this content in an optimized way, but it needs to be done to satisfy the algorithm and consumers alike.

Working toward a holistic approach

By now, most successful companies have solid fundamentals in place for their local online presence. One would be hard-pressed to find a poor listing from a major enterprise brand. But many organizations still lack a willingness or ability to connect all of the different aspects of local presence management, such as reviews, to broader SEO programs, or a plan to integrate these tools with local experiences, digital platforms and media.

To an extent, this is a reflection of the same silo challenges that hinder holistic execution and measurement across many marketing disciplines. Separate teams often handle SEO, landing pages, listings, reviews and online reputation management. It is also a reflection of the way technology companies position local to CMOs—as a series of disconnected solutions for each individual channel problem.

Still, many of these barriers would begin to fall if the local channel were held to the same level of accountability as advertising and paid media. As any chief experience officer knows, there are many ways to influence revenue outcomes apart from advertising. Brands that are truly customer- and audience-centric have the wherewithal to align local tactics with the rest of their marketing and extract as much value, if not more.

And now, DAC’s research promises the data to back them up. Local practices are not only about showing up for existing customers, but also creating a whole new layer of visibility for everyone who interacts with the brand.

None of this is meant to suggest that effective local presence management is easy. On the contrary, it is hard work. But just think about how much it would cost to generate similar volumes around nonbranded discovery searches from paid media. In this light, it becomes clear that the potential payoff is well worth the effort.