Let me tell you why your national brand with brick-and-mortar locations is losing money. Consumer behavior, the internet, and local marketing are changing a lot faster than you think. Almost all consumers these days, 97% according to joint study by BIA/Kelsey and ConStat, search for local products and services online.
Is this going to collapse the brick-and-mortar channel partner network that sells your product and services locally? No, ecommerce still only accounts for only 5.8% of total retail sales according the US Census.
So then what are all those people doing searching online if they are not planning on buying online…they are trying to find your local partners so they can then research, call, walk-in, make an appointment, etc. Can you as a brand manager say for certain all your channel partners are being found in the local search queries customer make to find them?
A Typical Scenario of an Underrepresented National Brand
Let’s say you are a national brand with 1,500 locations across the US (or you could be regional with 50 locations, this still applies). Some of those locations will appear in local search results just by virtue of their longevity of having a local webpage or being in uncrowded markets. Many others however that don’t have a local webpage and that aren’t registered in local business listings will not show up on the first page when potential customers search using Bing, Yahoo, or Google.
Now suppose that you have a channel partner network that’s pretty clever so only 30% of them are not represented in local search results for five top keyword phrases. That would equate to 450 stores that don’t show up in local search, and many others that could be underrepresented, meaning that they rank in local search results, but not towards the top.
How to Get Channel Partners Ranked and Climbing in Local Search
Make sure all locations have their Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) on their local webpages. It’s elementary, but the NAP must be present and crawlable (not in a image) by search engine spiders. Having business hours crawlable is a good too. These local pages are the hub of local marketing operations for your channel partners.
Claim listings in the primary directories of Google+, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local. As much information as possible has to be entered to into directory listings like descriptions, images, offers, videos, etc. This data should be updated on a regular basis.
Claim listings on secondary directories and review properties. Secondary and or niche directories need to be claimed and completed as well as review properties. Secondary directories could be City Search, Insider Pages, and Angie’s List, while an example of a niche directory for something like healthcare clinics would be WebMD Physician Finder. For review properties, Yelp is the obvious first strike.
Clean up unclaimed pages. Directories like YellowPages can scrape the web for business information about channel partners and publish business pages that are out of date and inconsistent. Any inconsistent information needs to be cleaned up so it doesn’t negatively affect ranking.
Put social media and review property buttons on local sites. Relevant social media pages’ addresses should be stored in directory listings and the social media buttons placed on local sites. Review properties like Yelp also have buttons that can be installed on local sites that link back to the independent review property for each channel partner.
Directory Maintenance. Now that everything is set up it needs to be maintained and updated. Continue to publish images, business updates, and videos to keep directory listings fresh.
Local search is not one of those techniques that marketers write about that has speculative value; 4 in 10 people use local search at least once per day according to a study by Street Fight Insights, a hyperlocal Thought Leader. It is the single biggest opportunity available today for national brands that sell through local channel partners to be found by potential consumers.