In August 2015, Google conducted a survey of American mobile phone users about their mobile shopping and search habits. The results were striking:
91 percent said they turn to their phones for ideas when trying to figure something out,
90 percent said they are usually not certain about which brands they want to buy from,
82 percent use their phones to check for potential in-store purchases.
51 percent said they discovered a new company or product through a mobile search,
All of this showed that consumers are very phone-intensive. It also showed that they don’t really value brand loyalty. Instead, mobile shoppers value proximity and good value, and they are constantly engaging in what Google calls “micro-moments” or “critical touch points.”
Local SEO: Why “Near Me” Searches Are the Next Big Thing
A “near me” search involves the user looking for something in their local area, generally including the words “near me” in the search engine input box. For example, a consumer on a mobile phone could type “coffee shop near me” or “shoe store near me” while on the go. It is a completely rational way to find local businesses or products, but Google’s search history suggests that “near me” entries are a relatively new phenomenon. The trend didn’t really take off until 2013 and really only exploded in 2015.
One 2015 case study found that “near me” searches had doubled since the prior year, and 80 percent of those searches were on mobile devices.
Search engines are responding to this development by letting local businesses bid on keywords that deal specifically with “near me” searches, which means better and more accurate ranking and more targeted advertising. This improvement adds value for local businesses and consumers, who don’t want to click on a top search result that doesn’t actually offer anything near them.
That leaves two different potential revenue streams open to small businesses: potential customers and potential clicks on mobile ads contained within the small business’s website.
Strategies for Optimizing “Near Me” Searches
To optimize your business’s website for local “near me” searches, list your phone number and address in spots that are easy to find. If your business has multiple locations, try to have different mobile pages for each location to increase the likelihood that consumers in each market will access the correct one.
It is critical that your website is mobile-friendly. Local users will favour a mobile site, and Google actually rewards mobile-friendly and responsive websites by putting them higher up in search engine results. If you rely on local traffic – especially walk-in traffic – then you should consider a functional mobile-friendly site to be a prerequisite for stronger search engine optimization.
Try to obtain more Google or Yelp reviews. Ask for them and even reward customers who leave written reviews. Businesses with more and better reviews are more likely to appear in Google’s local pack.