This is the 20th installment this year of our Deep Dive Into Local series. For the week ending Monday, May 23th, Mary Bowling, Aaron Weiche and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video, including links and commentary on critical happenings of the previous week is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.
In this discussion, Aaron, Mary and Mike talk about the building a local brand that works off line and on.
Aaron: But, where I wanted to take things with a deep dive is three posts that to me hit upon, you know, a macro and then zip down to a micro level that have to do with branding and search. The first article was Rand did a Whiteboard Friday near the end of April that had to do with how to influence brand searches. He hit upon some of the high-level things that can be very rewarding by being able to influence your own ranking. The one that I find really interesting is affecting search suggests. Can you start to get your brand populating in Search Suggest for certain things that help connect that user quicker without them having to log all of those keyword results also appearing in related searches? Just becoming a lot more holistic and leveraging your brand a lot further —
Mike: I saw a very interesting sneaky, spammy technique on that front where you, basically, make penny deposits in 100 local businesses’ account and they then search your name and thus your name gets into Google Suggest. This was from Dejan SEO in Australia, and it was very funny.
Aaron: Wow, awesome. So then the second level to that is the article that Wesley Young put out today on Search Engine Land that covered 10 tips for building a local brand that will boost your local search ranking. So he went through the traditional understanding the difference between local and branding for national brands compared to local brands and pointed out things that we talked about a long time with Local U, the consistency in local branding, consistency in your data — things like that. He really highlighted a number of great points that are important for local businesses to take into account. Targeting your local publications and, I thought, which was another great point, the hyper-local publications. Not just your city newspaper, or things like that, but there is a lot smaller things that might be, in this day and age, niche websites and blogs and things like that deal with hyper-local. Mike and I are in favor of it. We talked about getting mentioned in reviews being a big part of it. But then really just hit upon — for him, it was engaging with your community online and in person. This comes down to things that we have talked about for a long time from how you interact with people to holding events to all those different things like that.
Another point was giving them something to talk about. And then one that I’ve hit home for a long time is using lingo that proves you’re local. Not having just marketing pitch and speak on your website and whatever else, but talking about the neighborhoods you serve, getting hyper-local with that kind of stuff and things going on in your area and what’s around you. So he highlighted some things with local businesses in the Dallas area, around Cinco De Mayo, and soccer tournaments and things like that.
And then to get one set down further, Marcus Miller last week wrote a Search Engine Land article, and it had to do with using print to bolster your local presence. It just really highlighted a couple of different ways that companies are using print — he is in an agency out of the UK — but to drive people back into the online experience. The one I liked was a fashion company that was hiring for a position, and they basically used print ads to drive job applicants. But then they drove them to Instagram where they had to select five different fashion looks and use that as part of their application for the job by assembling those, and talking about them and why they use them, and tagging them and everything else. That was a really nice way to move people from offline to online and get that right mix and brand empathy and strength going with what’s going on.
It’s that area that we’ve talked about a long time. It’s seeing a new renaissance as things continue. But it’s that common sense marketing, right? The things that make sense for a small business to do and not, as Marcus Miller pointed out in his article, not having your eggs just all in one basket where all you care about is online, and searches, and conversion rate and everything else. There is a lot of great things going on with brand and having your brand seen in local print publications and on flyers and on different elements like that, but then using that to drive them back into your online presence and making activity happen in the digital landscape.
Mary: And not only does that bring you more real potential customers and people that can actually become your customers, but it makes you fit into your community better. It just helps you to grow your real presence within your community and among the people that actually have the chance to become your customers. And I think this is something that got lost in marketing because the algorithms were so bad for so many years that we did all these crazy things just to try to rank. And now we need to go back and think: What things can we do offline that are going to help us to gain more customers as well? We’ve got to meld those two worlds together back again.
aMike: Well, Google has melded them together, right? They have their feelers out for all sorts of prominence signals. And I’ve seen with Barbara when she runs a TV ad, traffic to her website spikes really, really heavily. And, one presumes, a la Rand’s Friday Whiteboard, that if you can get people to do brand searches, it influences Google Suggest, it influences web traffic, it influences even rank, even if only temporarily. The reality is that Google is looking into all of that offline stuff as much as it comes online and using it as a metric.
Mary: Yes, it’s taken a long time to get there, but they’re pretty darn good at it right now.
Aaron: And even one that, I think, sits in the middle, Mike, that I was asking you about — what have you seen around it? When I’m out mowing my lawn or doing something around my place, I listen to Pandora a lot. And I don’t use the paid version, but I’m hearing a lot of very hyper-local targeted ads on Pandora, right? That’s a little bit of like, yes, you can call it today’s radio station or whatever else, but these are businesses that are within 30 miles of my home, and they’re not in downtown Minneapolis in a major area. They’re more rural in communities of 20,000 to 75,000 in population, and they are using that to target. And more than anything, that’s branding. There isn’t a direct call to action in a lot of these ads. I’m not going to stop mowing the lawn and click the ad and then go do something with it, but it is putting that brand top of mind where I might search them, look into them further, or have them at the ready when I need to go buy a car, or I need someone to repair this, or I’m looking for a specific need that I’ve been targeted with on it.
Mike: I thought maybe you were retargeted to buy a house from Marci [Aaron’s wife].
Mary: I bet you he has been.
Mike: My wife strictly believes in the world of referral engine, and she has built her empire that way. And she is just lucky to be married to a web guy that gets her online leads as well. I don’t think she would be buying Pandora ads. That would be a pretty big stretch.
Mike: Well, that’s one way to do a brand, marry a digital guy.
Mike: Yup, exactly. Her strategy started at the highest level, right?
Mike: So do we have anything else to add to that? If not, we’ll call it a wrap, and we’ll see you next week for Last Week in Local.