We are living in the days of wine and roses-for mobile devices, anyway. With each passing day, more and more smartphones and tablets are flooding the market. Not surprisingly, more and more people are using them when searching for local businesses. The numbers don’t lie. According to a February 2013 report by IDC on smart connected devices, nearly three-quarters of a billion (722 million) smartphones were shipped in 2012. In 2013, the smartphone market is expected to grow 27.2% to 918.5 million units. Significantly, IDC projects the 2012 figure to more than double by 2017, to over 1.5 billion smartphones shipped. Tablet shipments are seeing an even more dramatic upsurge, enjoying a 78.4% year-on-year growth rate from 2011 levels to 128.3 million units shipped. IDC predicts this number will nearly triple by 2017 to over 350 million units.
Things get really interesting when you compare the IDC data from the newly released Neustar Localeze/15miles/comScore Local Search Study cited in a recent Search Engine Land post. The study, which sampled 3,000 US adults who use smartphones to search for local businesses, found that the total number of U.S. searchers using mobile phones grew 26% between March 2012 and December 2012, from 90.1 million to 113.1 million, while tablet searches were up 19% between April 2012 and December 2012.
While mobile searches have risen, desktop searches have declined- 6% between November 2011 and November 2012.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT
The shift away from the “traditional” search engine portals in favor of mobile-friendly alternatives will likely continue to grow apace as mobile device usage outstrips that of desktops and PCs. For companies that want to get found in today’s mobile environment, here are some quick tips to optimize your business for local search.
Portal Sites: Make sure your company has submitted an accurate website sitemap to the major search engines, Google and Bing (Bing covers Yahoo). Doing so will ensure your site is fully indexed, which will help you get found when people are using portal sites to search for your business.
IYP Sites: Depending on the cost, you may want to consider listing your business with all of the major IYP sites. This is especially true if you have a local retail-based business.
Local Search Sites: If you haven’t already, your business needs to set up a profile on Google+ and Google Maps/Local. Though the process can be a bit confusing, having a fully completed Google profile will help your business get found on Google’s all powerful search engine and, perhaps more importantly, many of the popular apps on its ubiquitous Android mobile platform. In addition, you may want to experiment with social local search/review/check-in sites like Yelp and Foursquare.
Social Networking Sites: As Facebook continues to roll out its Social Graph, its users will increasingly rely on the social network for local business information, opting for tools like Facebook Nearby for business ratings, reviews, and recommendations from friends and family. To capitalize on this, make sure your business page is fully updated to include basic information like your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section. Consider running a Check-In Deal to encourage fans to engage and promote your business.
Customer Review/Ratings Sites: Many mobile users look to reviews and ratings from friends, family, and even strangers when making a purchase decision. Sites like Yelp, Merchant Circle, Yahoo Local, Trip Advisor, Open Table, Angie’s List, etc., are dedicated to helping online users find what they’re looking for. Educate yourself on the major customer review/ratings sites relevant to your industry, utilizing them as time and resources allow. If nothing else, police these sites for negative reviews of your business, so you can address them before they cause too much damage.
As we dive deeper into the mobile era, businesses of all types and sizes need to adopt a Social Local Mobile mindset. Optimizing your brand for local search is a sensible first step.