Covid is Changing Search. Here’s How to Respond

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The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be one of the most disruptive forces the search industry has ever seen. With consumers worldwide in various stages of lockdown, many are leaning more heavily on online search and commerce. Consumers are searching on a more hyperlocal level than ever before as they stay close to home.

With that in mind, advertisers, brands, and agencies are scrambling to deliver the highly tailored, localized search experiences that Covid-era consumers are increasingly looking for. In fact, 61% of marketers in a recent Forrester study said that improving the efficacy of their local marketing is a high priority for 2021.

So, how can advertisers and marketers navigate this evolving, more localized search landscape and get it right? Here are a few key items to keep in mind.

Don’t Rely on Google Location Targeting Alone

Even prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, location targeting — through Google Ads, for example — marked a huge revolution for advertisers and marketers. It enabled them to maximize their PPC by targeting ads to specific areas.

Yet, while this is certainly helpful, significant blindspots still remain. The data provided by Google Ads and others isn’t as granular as it needs to be in order to do things such as monitor competitor strategies or uncover opportunities that may crop up. This is something that advertisers and marketers need to keep in mind when gathering comprehensive search intelligence to make their strategies as dynamic as possible.

For advertisers, it’s nearly impossible to juggle national, state, and local demand manually or without the right data. Therefore, AI is a business imperative when it comes to succeeding in the local search market.

Take the Time to Lay the Groundwork

Local search advertising is moving at the speed of light, so it’s natural for advertisers to feel as if they need to jump in as quickly as possible and deal with any growing pains as they come. But in actuality, not having a game plan before jumping in can have far greater consequences.

Therefore, take the time to create a clear checklist of tentpole items that will build the ideal strategy for you. By identifying such items as current benchmarks, target search terms, ideal partners, and other foundational elements ahead of time, advertisers and marketers can build a much more effective strategy with far fewer gaps right from the outset.

Know Your Business

Given each industry and each business’s KPIs will have at least some differentiation, it isn’t necessarily surprising that Adthena’s customer research has revealed that location targeting tactics vary drastically across industries, sub-industries, and even individual businesses. Don’t settle on some sort of one-size-fits-all approach to your search. Instead, get as granular as possible.

To truly get the most out of your local search strategy, advertisers and marketers need to focus on the specific behaviors of their customers and local competitors. Moreover, advertisers and marketers need to be able to adapt their creative and broader strategies in tandem to capitalize on any potential opportunities.

Simply put, having a scattershot approach in today’s local search ecosystem will likely result in a lot of wasted effort and spend. Additionally, given how sophisticated today’s search environment has become, if you aren’t actively personalizing and adapting your search advertising content, your competitors likely are — and are stealing your business as a result.

Ashley Fletcher is VP of marketing at Adthena.

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