The internet has a global reach, yet nearly every day, consumers search for local results—maybe they’re looking for a plumber, an HVAC repair person, a dentist, or a massage therapist. When they do, they will be delivered search results that include the Map Pack (a focus on three local businesses), paid ad listings, and organic results.
Local organic search is hot. For a snapshot of just how hot, take a look at these statistics:
- 99% of consumers have used the internet to find information about a local business in the last year.
- 4/5 consumers use search engines to find local information
- 78% of consumers use the internet to find information about local businesses more than once a week (up from 69% in 2020). 46% of Google searches are for local information
- 97% of people learn more about local companies online
- 88% of local business searches on a mobile device either call or visit one of these locations within 24 hours
While most marketers understand that search engine optimization (SEO) is important, they often don’t understand that the Map Pack is only part of that opportunity.
Your Google Profile represents only half of the opportunity available to you. Our data indicates that organic listings represent 70% of organic traffic opportunity and 50% of lead opportunity in mature programs.
As you can see, thinking beyond the Map Pack and your Google Business Profile and optimizing for local search presents a massive opportunity, not just because of the volume but for many other important reasons that multi-location brands can leverage to their advantage. But first, given that Google owns 92.48% of the global search market share, let's have a little refresher on what consumers see when they conduct a typical Google search.
First, a look at how your location comes into play.
Extending the Reach of Your Antenna
Your physical location is like an antenna. When you do a better job with your local SEO, your antenna signal strength grows, making you more visible away from your physical location, as the image above shows.
Good SEO will also allow you to perform better across your market area when consumers use geographic modifiers in their search queries--like “plumbers near me” vs. “plumbers in Indianapolis.”
Organic vs. Local and the “Map Pack”
Every time users use Google to search, specific types of results come up. Conducting a home services search for “plumbers near me,” for example, and you’ll see this in action.
First, you’ll see Google’s Local Services Ads that businesses can use to clearly label their business as part of a specific category (home, business, education, care, wellness). Home Services Ads also are eligible for a Google Guaranteed Badge, indicating that Google has screened the business as a trusted provider—CLICK HERE to view an example.
Next, you’ll see some ads that are clearly marked “Ad.”
Then you’ll see what is referred to as the “map pack.” It’s a term that refers to the bundle of three Google-Maps results that generally appear during local searches. You’ll see the business's name, its customer rating, and a brief summary, along with a map showing the location of the businesses.
Yes, it’s great to be placed in the Map Pack. But don’t make the mistake that many marketers make by stopping there. The Map Pack is not an end all to local SEO--it represents less than half of the opportunity to gain traction with your audience.
And, ultimately, Google presents organic listings like below.
Consumers generally know how this works. They can readily tell the difference between organic and paid listings—and these differences matter.
These organic listings have power. Being visible for more keywords and sub-geographies will help you increase your overall share of search in each local market. You'll rank higher on the page as you’re found for more search terms relevant to your business and more geographic searches. The combination of these factors will drive exponentially higher organic traffic.
Local Organic Search is More Trusted Than Paid
It’s the same principle that has long existed in the traditional marketing world. Paid ads on television are less trusted than hearing a company’s name mentioned on the news or included in a list of “the best [roofing contractor, pediatrician, etc.] in our community.”
This also rings true in the digital environment. Organic results are more trusted than the “ads” that show up when consumers conduct a search. What we say about our own businesses is naturally suspect—we have some skin in the game. What others say about our business, including which organic listings Google decides to show first, demonstrating their trust in that website, or business, makes an impact.
In fact, research shows up to 94% of searchers ignore paid ads entirely, scrolling immediately to the organic listings. You’re probably part of that group!
Local Organic Search Costs Less Than Paid…and Delivers More
Even though work and effort are involved in optimizing for organic search, overall, it’s a more cost-effective approach than paid advertising.
In addition, over time, consumers have become increasingly distrustful of paid ads and concerned about the potential for spam and hackers, so they’re often hesitant to click. In fact, the paid click-through rate (CTR) is painfully low. While it varies by industry, the average CTR was 3.17% in 2021, according to LOCALiQ.
Even marketers fortunate enough to get their ad to show up as the first result will see a CTR of only about 19%. The more ads that show up on the page, the more dismal each ad’s individual performance.
Local Organic Search Drives Traffic
According to BrightEdge research, organic search is responsible for 53% of all site traffic, with paid search accounting for only 15%.
It’s not hard to see that organic search—and for local businesses, organic local search—can significantly impact your marketing results.
Your performance in local search will also influence your performance in the Map Pack, which is driven heavily by unique, locally relevant content.
A final significant benefit to note: local organic search results have staying power. Over time, you’ll own your local visibility versus renting it via paid ads which only last as long as you continue to pay for them.
- The good news: the opportunity to build business through local search is massive.
- The downside: that massive opportunity requires an extensive investment of time, effort, and expertise that you may not have.
But there’s more good news. MarketSnare can help you build and grow your marketing programs at scale across tens, hundreds, or even thousands of locations, leveraging the power of local organic search. We can help you understand what will work in your local locations and automate many of the tasks to keep engagement up. Use our new guide, How Mature is Your SEO Program Across Local Markets?, to get started. It's a tremendous resource on what multi-location brands need to know about local SEO, how to assess rankings, and where opportunity lies to beat competition.