Local search has become the single most popular form of online marketing for small and mid-size businesses in the U.S. But ask many of those business owners how their local search efforts are going, and they’ll have no real idea. Although 75% of SMBs polled in a recent survey by the digital agency RevLocal said they are invested in local search — which includes SEO and PPC — and 75% felt their digital marketing efforts were “effective” or “very effective,” those opinions seemed to be based more on perception than true analytics, as almost half (44%) said they were not doing any ROI tracking.
Although the reasons behind the lack of ROI tracking were not explored in RevLocal’s survey, it’s likely that many local merchants misunderstand the importance of using tracking metrics to inform their marketing practices, or they feel overwhelmed at the thought of adding yet another task to their overcrowded plates.
To find out how these business owners could be doing a better job of tracking local search metrics, we went straight to the source and asked top experts in the field. Here is their advice.
1. Track traffic month-to-month. “Local search work is generally about driving more potential customers to your website, so tracking month over month and year over year traffic growth in Google Analytics is a good metric to keep track of. If more people are visiting your website, that’s generally a good thing. Also, don’t forget to add UTM tracking codes to your Google listing so you can get a sense of traffic coming from your Google listing over to your webpage, and while you’re at it, add those UTM parameters to everything else: print materials, social posts, email signatures, etc. They will really help you drill down to what’s driving traffic and what’s not.” (Darren Shaw, Whitespark)
2. Look at conversions with close intent. “Appearing across paid and organic search listings, as well as maps, gives you more chances to convert. This combination approach enables you to appear in front of searchers at various points in their purchasing decision, solidifying your product as their brand of choice. Anything related to local search has to do with the traffic you see on your own site and looking at sources to identify search and drill-in from there. More importantly, it’s about conversions. SMBs should be looking at this with closest intent, mobile search, GMB, and searches inside Google.” (Cynthia Sener, Rio SEO)
3. Bring data from disparate systems together. “Conversions and revenue can be tricky without proper systems set up to measure leads and what happens to those leads after they come in. One of the biggest issues we see, particularly when it comes to local SEO, is that revenue and CRM data are siloed in separate systems that are not integrated with digital marketing data, so you are always comparing apples to oranges to pretzels. We have not seen a one-size fits all solution to this problem. (Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide)
4. Setup your website to track leads from forms. “Leads can get trickier as a lot of visibility can happen off your site—i.e. in Google My Business, Google Maps, or Apple Maps—and there are not always good options to track those leads. Putting call-tracking numbers on all of your local citations can help, but that can get expensive, particularly if you have a lot of locations, not to mention confusing. But without them, you will be flying blind a bit. At a minimum, make sure your website is set up to accurately track leads generated from forms and emails. That is a relatively cheap investment. (Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide)
5. Consider call recording. “Search is the most measurable advertising option available for local businesses, so there is a lot to consider. Ultimately businesses should focus on the outcome they want: turning searchers into customers. Often times for local businesses that starts with getting their phone to ring, and this where search can really help. Call tracking solutions with caller logs and call recording can provide insights into the specific calls generated from search investments, helping businesses connect the dots between their marketing spend, calls and revenue.” (Melissa Burghardt, YP)
6. Watch out for reviews. “Most businesses are not monitoring for new reviews of their business. Keeping track of these will allow you to respond quickly and deal with any problems. It’s also a valuable metric to monitor for how well your business is doing overall. If you install the Google My Business app, you can get alerts when new Google reviews come in.” (Darren Shaw, Whitespark)
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.