Your local search program is buttoned up. You’ve got your location information just they way it should be. It’s clean and accurate with the phone numbers, streets, directionals, numbers and your schema code is all correct. You even have your location meta data all set.
You’ve personally reviewed the information in all your accounts with the big search engines, local sites, and it looks good. There is nothing on your web site that doesn’t match what you’ve distributed to the aggregators or mapping sites. Search engine crawling shouldn’t be an issue.
All’s good. Your customers can find you and you can go on to your next project. Or can you?
You think you’ve hit the target. But, it’s not a target you needed to shoot for. Its another moving object…. the consumer.
Local search marketing is more analogous to trying to make two arrows hit in mid-flight than it is to hitting a stationary target.
Between your nice clean data and the consumer is the messy, dirty world of apps, mapping algorithms and sensors. They follow the consumer around and when the consumer tries to find you, these applications start trying to pin down the location of the consumer. And thats where the fun begins.
You’ll hear the services talk about how precise they are. They can locate people down to the city, neighborhood or block. But they are not locating the person. What they are doing is taking in the data from the sensors (GPS, IP, WiFi, cell towers, registrations etc), running that through their own programs, and then calculating where they think the consumer is.
The data may allow them to calculate a precise location. But, if the data is bad, it is precisely the wrong location. This, combined with the uncertainty of the technology being used creates an exponential problem of inaccuracy.
This is the focus of a study by local technology company ThinkNear’s: Local Score Index. According the the study, as the proliferation of apps with location based functionality grows, the accuracy of the overall location ecosystem decreases. For advertisers, this become problematic when going through an exchange or blind network.
We may see CTRs drop as a result of users seeing ads for our businesses when the store is not actually close the the user. The apps in which the ads run become a problem which we need to mitigate through more time and effort in manual optimization.
Perhaps worse, the user clicks the ad, sees how far of the location really is and then bounces. The feeling the consumer has from the bad experience is not limited to the app. They associate your company to the feeling as well. It is more than a wasted click, it is erecting a barrier between you and the consumer. If it happens often enough, the barrier will be too high for the consumer to see you; they’ll ignore your ads in the future.
What to do
Stick to proven ad serving technology or negotiate performance (conversion) based deals with newer companies. Ultimately, we’d like everything to be conversion based, but that is easier said than done. However, if you are going to take a risk on a new network, then the deal has to protect you from the likelihood that the technology is still being tweaked.
While we like high CTRs, not all clicks are created equal. If proximity is truly key to the success of your campaign, then your ads need to reflect that. Let the user know where you are before they click. You may end up with a low CTR and ultimately, low impressions as the networks optimize you out of delivery. But, that is better than paying for clicks that don’t convert.
Track EVERYTHING. Your ad tags should be to the most minute degree possible. If dynamic tagging is available, leverage it. The key to optimizing is nuance. The more granular the data, the better optimization you can achieve. Within a vast amount of bad impressions and clicks are some nuggets of gold. Without the right tracking, you’ll throw those out with the rest of the network.
Normally I tell clients that online marketing is not rocket science, its just hard work. But local search introduces a level of technology that can seem incomprehensibly complex. To manage campaigns around this, stick to the basics. It sounds odd, but the key to managing highly complex delivery technology is to stick to the mundane foundation of basic optimization. Track it and even the most complex programs can be managed and optimized.