Local Digital Marketing Basics: A Quick Primer on Priorities

Basics of digital marketing start with searchAt the BlueglassX conference several weeks ago, I was having a conversation with fellow panelist David Mihm prior to our Local Search Session about a fact related to local businesses digital marketing priorities that amazed both of us.  Far more local businesses have set up a Facebook page then have claimed a Google Place page, by what David has estimated in the past to be a factor of 3 to 1. And as BIA Kelsey recently announced (as reported by Search Engine Land as well as local search expert Mike Blumenthal)- “An astounding 41.7% of SMBs surveyed by BIA/Kelsey say they see Facebook most importantly as a (customer) acquisition tool”.

Clearly among SMB’s digital marketing priorities related to acquiring customers and increasing revenue, these businesses put their Facebook presence way above search marketing (since claiming your Places/Google+ Local page is the most basic step to getting more customers via your visibility in local search results).

So let’s do a quick recap of the facts campers so we all have the basics straight about what to approach first in your marketing priorities:

1)    Search is still by far the way consumers discover products and services

As a recent Fleishman-Hillard/Harris Interactive study found, 89 percent of consumers turn to search engines to find information on products, services or businesses before buying. By contrast, only 18% go to the brand or product’s Facebook page when looking for info before buying. These findings echo what Forrester has reported related to how consumers “discover” things online- in their case they looked at how users find websites. What they found was that by far the largest percentage– 50%– discover sites through organic search. Social media was a distant third at 23% (you can view a chart of Forrester’s data on consumers online discovery paths in my recap here).  This continuing powerful role of plain old vanilla search is often forgotten amidst all the buzz about social media.  Social outposts like Facebook are absolutely valuable when it comes to building awareness, customer retention, and customer service.  But the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to directly acquiring customers will always be search marketing—whether PPC or SEO.  It would be my first priority if I’m setting up any kind of digital marketing effort.

2)    Search is all about being “ready to buy”.

I search when I’m looking to take action, which is particularly true related to the exploding world of search on mobile devices. As I’ve written in past posts, a rapidly rising number of consumers are searching for products and services via mobile devices,  70% of these searchers act on those search results and on average that action happens within one hour.   The challenge is there is typically limited volume on this bottom of the funnel activity- which means after I successfully tap this vein, soon I’m going to need additional marketing activities beyond just search (which will include social media elements like Facebook).  But the reality is search is absolutely where I am starting.

3.  Appearing in the Organic search results is free.

Steps like claiming your Google Places/Google+ Local page, and creating a well optimized web site that you personally own (versus a presence on Facebook that you don’t own and fundamentally don’t control), put in place the gift that keeps on giving– potentially driving sales for your business for year’s to come. They can take an initial investment of time and money to get right, but once you have them, the payoff over time can be enormous.

So there are some facts to help you put all of it in perspective.  Facebook can be a wonderful marketing tool, but you need to put it in context– particularly when acquiring customers immediately is your first priority.


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

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