Local search advice seems to go in one ear and out the other. I’m drawing that conclusion after reading the 2012 SEO Benchmark Report from Marketing Sherpa, which tells what local search tactics are actually being used by more than 1,500 marketers around the world. What I’m seeing is this: the tactics that score highly year-in and year-out in the “Local Search Ranking Factors” aren’t actually being used by a lot of marketers.
Local Search Tactics Being Used in 2011
Let’s look at two charts from the 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition — these are from the chapter on local search, which is filled with all kinds of interesting data.
This first chart shows what tactics are being used by marketers dealing with local business listings.
As you can see, only two tactics are being used by more than half of respondents — adding a phone number to the business listing, and optimizing the listing with important keywords. Everything else is in use by less than 50% of the marketers surveyed.
Here’s the second chart, which looks at local SEO tactics being used outside of business listings.
What’s most alarming here is down near the bottom: Only 19% are doing any local citation building. Say what??!! Well, a little bit higher on the list, the two items involving local directory listings are being used by 35% and 32% of marketers. Those are both part of citation building, so the 19% number is a bit misleading. But still … none of the three tactics that involve citations scored more than 35% usage.
Local Search Ranking Factors Comparison
A lot of what I see above doesn’t fit well with the tactics that regularly score highly for importance in the annual Local Search Rankings Factors survey that David Mihm coordinates (and I, along with a few dozen local search marketers, contribute to each year).
If you look at this year’s Top Ten, you’ll notice these items on the list:
3. Proper Category Associations
According to the first chart above, only 43% are using categories to optimize their local listings.
4. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations
According to the second chart above, only 32% to 35% are working to get citations from local directories like Yelp or Superpages and only 19% say they’re doing any local citation building.
5. Crawlable Address Matching Place Page Address
According to the second chart above, only 58% are making sure to have a local address on their web pages.
7. Quality of Inbound Links to Website
Also in the second chart above, only 53% are doing a link building-related tactic — “local keywords in external anchor text.”
If you go further down the page on the Local Search Ranking Factors, you’ll see that “Overall Volume of Reviews of Place” ranks sixth as a ranking factor … but at the bottom of the first chart above, only 17% said yes when asked about making customers “aware of presence on Yelp, Places, Judy’s Book, etc.” and only 24% say they’ve posted reviews on their website.
This is pretty sad and disappointing for someone who’s been writing about local search optimization for a long time.
Is no one listening?
I’m not sure that’s the case. Actually, it probably is — but indirectly. I’m gonna chalk up the survey results to the fact that this was an international survey and that many of the tools, tactics and websites that we often discuss are only available in certain countries. In some places, marketers don’t have the option of piggybacking on strong 3rd-party sites like Yelp or Superpages, right?
Still, the basics are the basics, and if a marketer has access to local business listings in his/her country, you’d hope that more than 43% would be utilizing categories.
More Local Search Marketing Stats
Here are some of the other interesting stats that I’m pulling from the local search chapter of Marketing Sherpa’s report:
- Only 37% of respondents say they’ve claimed a local business listing on one or more search engines. 41% said “no” and 22% said they’re not sure.
- On the other hand, 60% listed local search marketing as at least “somewhat important” to achieving their overall objectives. 18% listed it as “critical.” Only 26% said it is “not important.”
- Only 27% said “yes” to a question that asked, Does your organization currently optimize for local terms as part of your organic search (SEO) strategy? 59% said “no,” and I presume the rest didn’t answer the question.
- 40% of marketers who work in a company of less than 100 employees said “yes” to having claimed a local business listing, compared to 32% of marketers in companies with more than 1,000 employees.
- 45% of retail industry respondents say they’ve claimed a local business listing, compared to 29% in the healthcare and education industries, and 28% in the software industry.
The report is quite interesting overall. I wrote about previously on Search Engine Land with some general SEO charts and statistics.
As I said in that article, the entire report runs $400 but you can download a free excerpt from Marketing Sherpa’s website.
Your turn: What are your thoughts on the statistics above? Why aren’t more marketers taking care of the most basic local search tactics? Comments are open…