Search Online, Buy Offline Study for Localized Service Businesses

Greg Sterling writes a very informative article regarding search driving offline conversions for localized service businesses. Interesting points include the the use (and non-use) of geographical modifiers, preferred business contact methods, and the power of word-of-mouth advertising.

The most surprising part of the article (to me) is that about half of Web searchers (at least the repondents in this study) don’t include geography in their localized queries. This means that many could be searching for “tax accountant”, “chiropractor”, or “Mazda repair” figuring the search results would automatically be local by nature.

For advertisers running regional Google AdWords campaigns, it’s another reason to include both localized ads to be seen only by searchers in a specific geographical area, and national ads that include a City/State/other geographical area to suggest where they’re able to take business.

For example, here is a local ad that does not include geography in the text, but is shown only for searchers in the St. Paul, Minnesota area:

local ad

When contacting businesses, a good two-thirds of searchers would initially rather pick up the phone over sending an email, filling out a contact form, or by visiting in-person.

This can be a compelling reason to use “pay-per-call” solutions, since they track phone calls and businesses can then track the results. My only knock on that is businesses (to my knowledge) are not able to use this with their own phone number. Most I’ve seen most use a unique 800 number. This is a great pitch, but not as useful for a local business with a vanity number or one that simply wants to use their phone number that they’ve had for years. Plus, local users would most likely be more prone to dial a local number.

If you work for a company that can track calls by using the actual business phone number, reply to this post and pimp yourself out.

The power of word-of-mouth advertising sure isn’t going away. Over half of the study respondents used it within a few months of performing a local search query.

Nonetheless, the article linked in the first sentence is worth a good couple reads.

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One Response to Search Online, Buy Offline Study for Localized Service Businesses

  1. Chris Dohman says:

    Thanks for pointing us to the article Paul and great points you have on it. When I am searching local I am usually looking to take action pretty soon and will most likely pick up the phone if I need to make contact. One method I use often when available that they did not mention is Live Online Chat Support. I choose that over the phone most the time. Businesses that can can afford to have someone available and chatting with folks are a step ahead in my opinion. For smaller local shops I can see where it could be tough to have someone in front of a computer all day. I wonder if those chat support apps have a feature to do an intercom ring when a chat is requested by a customer.

    Great stuff, thanks Paul!

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