When it comes to search, Google is rewarding those who prioritize proximity and relevancy in their digital marketing strategy. In fact, it's become such an important part of the search equation, brands large and small --even those with a national or global focus -- should be looking at local as an integrated part of the overall digital strategy and customer experience.

Naturally, local marketing may not be a fit for every brand, but as digital continues to blur the locality lines, it might be time for you to redouble your efforts to make sure you're not only reaching the right people, but creating a more personalized experience from the customer's first interaction. Here are three key reasons why neglecting local marketing could be a mistake for big brands.

The hyper-local expectations of search

Current trends in search marketing point to a subtle, yet sweeping, behavior change in consumers looking for information. No longer do potential customers feel the need to add disclaimers like "near me" or enter their zip code when searching for restaurants, retail banks, electricians, urgent care, etc.

In fact, 93% of consumers typically travel less than 20 minutes for everyday things like gyms, auto repair, grocery stores, etc. Additionally, according to Google research, almost one-third of all searches on mobile devices are based around location queries, which explains why the top listings on nearly any Google search engine results page (SERP) are those in closest proximity to the searcher. Moz's 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey also showed proximity of a business' address was the number one, most important ranking signal for Google's local pack results (just four years ago this factor was #8).

And with the number of mobile devices primed to top the 50 billion mark worldwide in just two years' time, a number of industries that rely on local foot traffic, like retail banking, are looking at local search as a way to improve the customer experience. According to 2018 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions report, 70% said optimizing the customer journey across multiple touch points will be critical to shaping their digital marketing strategies.

Monitoring behavioral data can translate to real results

And if you think your customers and prospects aren't searching local, think again. According to research conducted by Google, nearly two-thirds of all mobile users are more inclined to choose brands with apps or mobile sites that are localized.

Shockingly, a majority of businesses haven't so much as claimed their listing on the most popular search engines. And this does more than hurt your search rankings. When a potential customer can't easily locate your brand's information online, it impacts the experience.

Furthermore, when you have a finger on the pulse of the trends occurring in individual markets, you can better tailor your marketing to attract customers based on their current need. For example, pharmacies and urgent care facilities might identify a higher than average incidence of the flu in one particular community or a bad allergy season in another city, and with that insight, they can create more effective ads and relevant content that address the need.

On the subject of insights, the connected devices I mentioned earlier have unlocked more data than ever before to local advertisers. Now you can go one level deeper beyond location-based targeting and use the data to reveal behaviors and patterns in your prospective customer's movement. This means better targeting based on routines and behaviors, higher conversion rates and a better return on your digital marketing spend.

Local SEO tying into your overall marketing strategy

Many brands find local marketing a nuisance and prefer the set-it-and-forget-it philosophy, which means claiming some listings and moving on to bigger and better marketing initiatives.

This is a missed opportunity for brands to truly integrate all online and offline marketing strategies on the local level. Each location should, in theory, have their own SEO, paid media, content, and social strategy which all rolls up into a brand's overarching marketing roadmap. Think about local SEO from a customer experience perspective -- it's the first and sometimes the last interaction a customer has with a brand before they make a purchase decision. Everything from the local listings, website, social behavior, and customer reviews should all impact a potential consumer through the brand's buying cycle.

Approaching local SEO as set-it-and-forget-it won't do that. Only a clear and implemented local marketing strategy will make this sort of an impact on your audience.

If you've turned a blind eye to your local digital strategy or haven't revisited it recently, now is the time to take a hard look at it. With Google prioritizing proximity, voice search impacting results, and more searches being conducted on mobile devices, brands without a local digital strategy could be leaving opportunity open for the competition's taking.

Published on: Feb 28, 2018