Over the past few years Local Search, that genre of organic search that can reach consumers on the sidewalk outside the door to your business, has seen a few changes. From its humble beginnings to the current fast rate of technology development, marketers and tech-lovers have learned to rethink their marketing strategies and their budgets in a hurry to keep up!
To get an idea of where we are going, lets take a quick look at what got us here…(approximate dates courtesy of the SEO Moz Google Algorithm Change History).
The Holy Grail of marketing for small-mid sized business is finding consumers who are near the business, well-defined demographically, and ready to buy. For a long, long time, this meant direct mail. The following is a very brief history of how direct mail has evolved into highly targeted internet marketing.
- Non-Localized Search, just over 7 years ago, had everyone competing for search in the same arena; search results were not localized.
- Local Search Begins (approx March, 2005): Google opens their doors on the Local Business Center; local search becomes a viable advertising medium for small business and businesses began to gear up and get online at a rapid rate.
- The Age of Hyperlocal Search: New websites come online that keep highly localized data up-to-date. Where print newspapers once contained information about what is happening on your block, that information begins to become available online. Blogs by local people, online newspaper, online grocery ads, meetings, school functions, and more, all become available online in a wide variety of formats. In many ways, people are beginning to learn to go online instead of calling their neighbors. Data is inherently not real time and any location based services work from IP address which can be inaccurate.
- Bring on the Mobile: The age of the smartphone now brings us closer to the holy grail of local search, crossing the barrier between local stores and the consumer. QR codes, roadmaps to a digital location, become readily available. More and more types of businesses begin to use them to cross boundaries with their advertising (including Google). Detailed product information is now available at the punch of a few buttons. Marketers now have many new ways to create offers for highly targeted segments. With the use of geo-location, location services begin to become very accurate and controlled by the user.
Enough yet? Then the tech crowd went crazy, literally and figuratively…
The paradigm that is local search is now changing from a desktop user based query to user accepted mobile push queries where marketers send the user the best deals. Apps allow marketers direct access to buying segments (Shopkick and many more), geo-fencing is used by the real estate industry to push locations of open houses to people walking in the neighborhood, and more.
- The Term SoLoMo is Coined: Just over 1 year old now, SoLoMo or Social Local Mobile search gradually works its way into the niches of our lives with check-ins on FourSquare, later on Facebook and Facebook Places, local search services even allow check-ins from mountain tops.
- By now NFC, or near field communication, has been used for a while and its use now begins to expand from the real estate community (Geo-fencing – allowing users to find open houses in while walking in neighborhoods where homes are for sale) to inter-phone communication and even paying for parking meters. Many start ups are now based on this technology and this technology is helping mobile communications grow at an almost exponential rate.
- Retail goes mobile with wireless, relatively inexpensive card readers, allowing retail locations to be mobile. This availability of credit card processing encourages the growth of micro and small businesses.
- In our very near future we will be paying by smartphone. We are already depositing checks by smartphone, checking in for flights, paying for parking via smartphone, starting our cars by smartphone, even controlling lights and music in our homes by smartphone. We can even look forward to a new future for retail…will paper and coin cash become obsolete?
- As we grow into mobile usage and tablets become more sophisticated and more available, the definition of mobile is being expanded to include tablets. Tablets have seen never ending creative use in science, medicine, and industry. Where will this portion of the mobile industry go?
What I question is, with all of the energy savings and ease of SoLoMo, will we gain more leisure time to go check-in on a local mountain? Also, I am wondering what the check-in command will be for Google Glass!
This revolution in mobile marketing is here and in a world where there are 200 million mobile views each day on YouTube.com alone, I am sure it is here to stay.
Overwhelmed yet? FiG can guide you through this maze with a digital marketing strategy that pays. Contact us today.