Why Data Attributes Power the Long Tail of Local Search

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As I discussed in a recent Street Fight column, attributes consist of descriptive data elements that set your business apart from your competitors, such as whether your business offers free parking. Attributes are variable (i.e. not all businesses offer free parking), and they provide specific context about a location that influences consumers to make decisions based on their need in the moment. They also give each search platform (Google, Yelp, etc.) the information they need to use your business as a possible answer to a query.

Recently some developments have cast the spotlight on the growing importance of attributes:

Pokémon GO Illustrates the Ascendance of Discovery Marketing
The sudden success of the augmented reality game Pokémon GO has inspired many businesses to figure out how to convert Pokémon GO trainers into customers at their brick-and-mortar locations while trainers search for the elusive Pokémon.

Many businesses discovered that their locations happened to be designated as PokéStops, where trainers congregate to collect Pokémon GO points, or Gyms, where trainers square off in battle. And location data amplifier Yelp noticed. Within weeks of Pokémon GO exploding around the world, Yelp began to update its search filter to note whether local businesses happen to be PokéStops. In turn, businesses have been challenged to update their attributes to make it clear that they happen to be PokéStops.

Although managing your location data might not sound as exciting as hosting a Pokémon GO party at your business, revising your data to include whether you are a PokéStop is one of the smartest marketing moves you can make if indeed you are a PokéStop. But only businesses that are nimble about revising their attributes are going to cash in.

The success of Pokémon GO speaks to a larger trend that brands need to be aware of: consumers are discovering your location through a more complicated, omnichannel experience. How many of you were considering the role augmented reality plays in discovering your business before Pokémon GO came along? I’ll bet you are now. The lesson here is that as consumers discover brands through a wide array of touchpoints ranging from Instagram to Pokémon GO to Snapchat, businesses need to be ready to adapt their location identity quickly. And revising your attributes is an important way to do so.

Voice Search Is on the Rise
One of the major themes of Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report is that voice search is becoming more popular. She cited a number of factors to support her case, including improved speech recognition technology and a shift in our user interface from keyboards to microphones and keyboards. I would also add the adoption of wearables such as Apple Watch and voice-activated discovery systems such as in-car navigation are important factors. Consequently, people are becoming more comfortable with voice search. As Meeker noted, voice queries on Google are up 35x since 2008, and Amazon Echo is the fastest-selling speaker in the United States.

The rise of voice search makes attribute more important. Voice commands are usually more complicated and more descriptive than text queries. With voice search, it’s easier to say, “Siri, find me a BYOB vegetarian Indian restaurant near me” — a search that is more descriptive than a quick text query. Apple, Google, and Microsoft understand this reality, which is why they are investing more into better voice-based AI search capabilities. Accordingly, a business’s ability to share more descriptive content is an important competitive advantage — which is where managing attributes comes into play. I foresee more businesses creating richer, more descriptive location data elements in order to be found more easily in a world of voice search.

Google Makes a Move
When Google acts, the world reacts. And Google recently made a move that will certainly influence how businesses view attributes.

Google recently stopped allowing businesses to manually edit their introduction/description fields on Google My Business. At the same time, Google indicated it will rely on attributes instead for further details about businesses. As Google noted, “Editing of attributes, coming soon to all Google My Business views, will be an improved way to describe your business to users on Google Search and Maps.” I think Google is making it clear for all businesses: either you manage your attributes, or you’re going to miss out when consumers use Google to discover businesses that can meet their needs.

Google and other major data publishers such as Yelp are also relying on consumers to help businesses manage their attributes. For instance, Google Maps users are prompted to add attributes for businesses they have visited. TripAdvisor and Yelp are crowdsourcing these kinds of details from their user bases. These data publishers are collecting attributes to set themselves as the go-to resources for people conducting near me searches. The more descriptive the data publishers can be, the more useful they can be. And as Google rolls out its voice-activated Google Assistant, Google seeks to rule the roost.

The mandate for brands is simple: manage data attributes as a crucial element of your location marketing strategy. But it’s not enough to create attributes. You need to constantly monitor the ever-changing nature of your business and your customers and be ready to act on your attributes as needed — which the advent of Pokémon GO illustrates perfectly.

Gib-Olander-150x150Gib Olander is vice president of product at Chicago-based SIM Partners.