It’s not a complete surprise….Google has new evidence that local search advertising is good for you. The whole world of local search and search advertising has been a complicated mess for many years. The traditional search driven ecommerce equation where searchers click on ads which then turn into online sales at a measurable rate breaks down when we are searching online but shopping in local stores. The problem is that most of what we buy we buy in person within a few miles of where we live. There are several potential buyers of local search inventory. These include local businesses advertising locally (think Joe the Plumber), national brands looking to drive traffic to local locations (think Jiffy Lube) and national brands looking to drive local results (think Procter and gamble).
The hyper local world of local dentists and plumbers stumbling online and spending money to drive some kind of traffic to some kind of online presence without really understanding or measuring the results is apparently skyrocketing. We see this every day when we look at the inflated prices this kind of search is getting. That influx of new money from dentists and plastic surgeons is good but it’s not enough to stop the slide in average click value caused by the migration to of searchers mobile devices. The problem the search engines have is that it’s much tougher to attribute results to spend when the spend is delivered off line. Traditional media has a century of history and studies linking traditional media spend to offline purchase. Search has a decade of date which exactly attributes search spend to online sales. Folks like us who focus on measurable local results through online spend use things like tracked calls to link spend to results as closely as we can. It’s much tougher to link a search to an offline purchase.
What the search engines want is to corner a large chunk of traditional media spend and coral it into their camp as opposed to display or social spend. True success in this area will only come when the really large brand spenders believe and can prove well enough to satisfy the marketing community that spending money on local clicks will drive foot traffic and offline purchases…which is where the most recent Google/ipso media survey comes in.
Essentially they tracked four and a half thousand smart phone users and looked at what they searched for and what they bought. They discovered (surprise!) that online searches greatly enhanced the likelihood of offline purchases. That’s not staggering, we all know anecdotally from our own experience that in many cases that’s what’s going on. Will this kind of “it’ll be great!” fairly anecdotal data be enough to convince the big brand advertisers to spend on local search they way they spend on locally targeted TV and radio…the jury is out on that.