In August of this year I attended the Brandify Client Summit. The two day conference covered digital marketing techniques and trends from the perspectives of a variety of speakers.
Presenters were from smart companies including Bing, Foursquare, Forrest and others. Topics covered include local search engine marketing, digital marketing, voice + search, the convergence of technology and marketing, and more. Here are some striking observations from one of the presentations.

On Reviews in Local Search Results Pages
An informative deck and panel presentation

Phil Rozek presented an informative deck on the Changing Face of Local Search, before being joined by Walgreens’ Kyle Eggleston, and Mindy Weinstein of Market MindShift. The trio was interviewed by Greg Sterling.

Online reviews matter. They provide consumers with valuable information about the products and/or services being offered by a business.

Today, online reviews are increasing prominent in Google’s local search results. With continued changes in the mobile search engine results pages (SERPs), they are even more prominent than before.

As a big-name brand, it can be easy to feel invincible, but small, local competitors can beat enterprise brands who are failing to optimize for the local experience.

One area in which big brands are severely deficient is review moderation. Listening to your customers and responding to reviews helps build brand awareness, resolve customer issues and increase engagement, but this is one aspect of local optimization that big brands fail to achieve.

Customers can be picky in their purchase decisions, because there are many different options from which they may choose.

With so many choices for consumers to choose from, there are also more decisions in the SERPs, and “more transactions take place offline after the initial search query before people even get to your site,” Rozek acknowledged.

Reviews are always prominent in the new 3-pack placements, even in the first position ad spot.

Despite the incredible weight given to reviews, big brands still have an advantage when it comes to ranking in the SERPs. Enterprise brands “have consistent media buzz, link juice [domain authority], an established customer base and brand recognition,” said Rozek.

Small brands have a better sense of the reward that comes from reviews, and this drives their motivation.

In order for enterprise brands to be impressive at the local level, they need to optimize for things their customers care about. This means prioritizing reviews.

Enterprise brands should still know who their biggest fans are and reach out to them to request a review as a personal favor, without incentives. This connection between brand and consumer is what makes consumers want to post positive feedback.

Make sure to ask your fans for reviews on the site where they are most likely to leave reviews. For example, do not ask someone who prefers Facebook reviews to review your brand on Yelp.

Try to get have your reviewers mention specific people at the location they are reviewing, so other customers get a feel for what a personal experience your brand offers.

Your fans will want to make your brand look good because their experience has been so positive.

Content is also important for local businesses, Weinstein reminds the audience. Brands need to make sure to publish unique, localized for each store location.

One of the most important things that enterprise brands can do to connect with consumers at the local level is to leverage internal data and ensure the consistency of location data.

Complete recaps and more from the conference can be found on the Brandify Blog. More from Phil Rozek, including an updated post on local pages can be found on the Local Visibility Blog.

Here are a few additional resources that weren’t covered at the summit, but that further add to the conversation around reviews, and local search results.

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