• Webinar Recap: SOCi & ThriveHive on Localized Search Marketing

Monica Ho, CMO of SOCi, a leader in social and reputation management, recently invited me to share my perspective on SOCi’s new LSM Benchmarking report, which took a look at how national brands stacked up across a range of attributes in local social marketing. For those who prefer reading a summary as opposed to digesting a full webinar (myself included!), I thought I’d write up a quick recap of our conversation and answer some of the questions from attendees that we just didn’t have time to answer

How National Brands and Small Businesses Stack Up in Local Search

You might think national brand performance is a bit of a strange discussion topic for a guy who’s 100% focused on helping small businesses with their digital marketing, but — spoiler alert — small businesses are far outpacing their much larger, better-funded competitors, across most of the attributes that Monica and SOCi analyzed. Which to me, and I think Monica, and I think our audience, was a pretty interesting finding.

Monica kicked off the webinar by reviewing some of the methodology behind their analysis — their overall goal was to see if prowess with local social marketing predicted better revenue outcomes for national brands.

SOCi LSM Benchmark Report Methodology

We then tag-teamed on setting the stage as to why local-social marketing is so important. Regular ThriveHive readers probably already know this, but it’s a big deal!

One of the biggest reasons is the rise of mobile search — and the fact that 6 out of 10 mobile searches on Google are now “zero-click” (meaning users find what they need and don’t click through from Google to a website). In local search, Google My Business (GMB) is a big reason for that “zero-click” behavior.

During the webinar, only 31% of attendees polled said they knew what a zero-click search was, while 69% said no. 

So allow me to explain a little more about them!

Zero-click is a bit of a misnomer. There are still plenty of clicks happening on mobile search results, but the things customers are clicking on — things like photos, reviews, menus, etc. — keep searchers on Google.  

Zero-click searches are, in my view, by and large a good thing for local businesses. They mean your customers finding the info they need before they even visit your website, and they should change your approach to marketing. 

I used the GMB Profile of one of my favorite breweries, Green Flash Brewing in San Diego, to show just how much information Google presents about them front and center on their search result — basic business information, photos, menu items, peak times, reviews, and so forth. 

Green Flash Brewing Google My Business profile

It’s so important that you make a positive first impression with these GMB-driven search results — as my friend Mike Blumenthal says, “Google is Your New Homepage.” Mike did a case study a couple years ago using his friend and client Barbara Jewelry and found that ⅔ of her new customers were connecting with her directly on Google. Only 25% connected with her through her website, and only about 5% came from Facebook and Yelp combined. (He and I went through this in depth in our Found Bytes podcast episode 2.)


Monica picked up the conversation and discussed the industry verticals SOCi looked at in their research: food and beverage, hotels, personal care services, education, retail-general, retail-convenience, business services, auto parts and services, home services, and real estate. 

Monica then took some time to explain the scoring criteria’s three main areas: presence, customer care and review volume, and business engagement with their community — a close analog to our own Grader criteria of Presence, Reputation, Communication, and Outreach.   

Monica shared the key finding from the report: based on publicly-reported financial information the top 10 brands at local-social marketing grew at 3x the rate of their lower-performing peers over the course of the 5 years. 

Of course these numbers don’t necessarily equate causation, but it’s an interesting trend nonetheless. We don’t have revenue data from our own ThriveHive customers, but it seems pretty safe to say that regardless of the size of your business, the better you do with your digital marketing, the more you’re going to be able to grow your business.

I then took the virtual pointer back from Monica and explained a little bit more about our own Grader methodology and some of the specific features on which we measure small businesses.

When polled, only 63% of webinar attendees said Google My Business was a priority for their business. As my friend Jason Brown commented on Twitter,  “COME ON MAN.”

National brands DID score slightly better than small businesses on the act of claiming their GMB profile. But small businesses crushed national brands on actually using that profile to its fullest extent. Way to go small businesses!

National Brand v SMB Comparison GMB Scorecard

Given the unsatisfyingly low percentage of attendees for whom GMB was a priority, I took a deeper dive to explain some of the more interactive features available to businesses regardless of size.

Reviews are a big one — both for rankings and attracting customers who are already considering your profile. 

Small businesses do about a full star better than their national competition in terms of their rating (w00t!), though the number of reviews varies pretty dramatically by category. Asking for continuous feedback from your customers (and acting on that feedback) is the best way to increase your review score.

Questions & Answers are also a big opportunity; anyone can ask, and anyone answer questions right on your Google Business Profile, so it’s important to check your profile for unanswered questions or incorrect answers. Handily, we do this for you automatically as part of our Grader tool, and our study on Q&A is a great resource to help business owners proactively craft their own questions and hopefully attract more customers with answers to those questions in the process. 

The last feature I discussed, Posts, are essentially free ads and promotional space front and center on your profile, which you can learn more about in-depth in our fourth episode of the Found Bytes podcast with Dana DiTomaso and Jessie Low.

Monica led the closing stretch of our webinar to discuss Yelp and its impact. The average star rating on Yelp was much, much lower than Google or Facebook (2.09), owing partly to Yelp’s culture around reviews. Because Yelp discourages brands of all sizes from asking their customers for reviews, its reviews tend to be more of the complaint than compliment variety — at least in my own experience, anger is a far stronger motivator than satisfaction.

I closed by highlighting that because Yelp reviews are embedded with Apple Maps, they’re still really important to pay attention to. You can make special Yelp check-in offers and put Yelp stickers in your window to subtly encourage users to leave you Yelp reviews.

Lastly, Monica mentioned the full 2019 LSM Benchmark Report is available at www.lsmbenchmark.com, before we broke for our Q&A session.  

Your Questions, Answered

How to start with Local Social Marketing, which channel?

If you’re just getting started, to focus on your presence. Go to Google and create and claim your listings, as well as on Facebook and Yelp. Once you claim everything, then you can dive into reputation and engagement. ThriveHive also has a Grader tool here as a great way to figure out how to set up a GMB profile step-by-step for local brands. 

Any pointers on GMB free ads and Posts?

Check out ThriveHive’s third episode of the Found Bytes podcast for more great advice on this! In general, make sure you’re taking the time to upload great photos for all of your posts. We’ve seen that photos with text convert better, so use that wisely. Also, experiment with the different post types. Offers is still the biggest one, but it’s not being used a whole lot so go play. 

Also, you can follow a business on Google My Business, so you see those posts directly. Follow business listings to learn from others in your area. Social functionality is coming, and it’s an interesting trend. 

How to boost reviews?

Don’t do anything that could direct more positive reviews, so don’t incentivize or direct more positive responses to your review sites. Instead, promote that you’d love reviews, share where you’re listing; think of it as raising awareness. 

Review gating, which both Google and Yelp says against policy, is a big no-no. Start thinking about reviews opportunities to engage. Small Thanks with Google is another great resource to get some printables encouraging customers to review you. 

What is LSM? 

LSM refers to Localized Social Marketing, which is defined as marketing efforts that focus on building a local presence for a business by leveraging locally-driven communication channels to reach the specific local communities it serves.

Where do I set up Questions & Answers for Google My Business? 

Because this feature wasn’t originally developed, it can be a little counterintuitive. Try searching for your full business name and ZIP code in Google and look in your business profile on the right hand side of your screen (desktop) or top of your screen (mobile). On your Google profile, scroll to the Questions & Answers section and click or tap See all questions. From here, you can ask your own questions, answer questions, and like correct responses.

If you’re not sure what to ask, you might also check out our Google Q&A Research to see the top questions customers are asking other businesses in your category.

For Google Q&A, what if the answer is incorrect? Is there any way to provide not only the correct answer, but remove the wrong answer?

The answers work on an upvote system, and just because a business owner answered a question doesn’t necessarily mean that their answer shows as the primary answer to that question. So you should always upvote your answer to help give it more visibility. 

If the answer is fake, off-topic, or violates Google’s terms, you can request to have it removed. Next to the questionable answer, tap More and then tap Report answer. 

What is review gating?

Review gating is the process of preventing bad reviews with leading questions. So asking something like, “Hey, were you happy with your service?” If they say yes, then you ask them to leave a review. And if they say no, then you may ask for more info, but never mention anything about a review. Google wants you to ask everyone, while Yelp says not to ask at all, so be sure you’re familiar with the guidelines of each review platform.

Any pointers on GMB ‘free ads’ and posts? 

Make sure you’re using all of the features! Experiment and test them all out and use every feature available, titles, URLs, call-to-action buttons, images. Offer posts, in particular, are great because they give you a little bold, yellow tag in results, which can be eye catching. You can follow other local businesses on GMB, as well, to get a sense of what the industry is doing around you. 

Do you have recommendations on how to increase reviews for your business? 

The best way to get more reviews is to ask! Bake this step into each customer conversation in a natural way–some recommend the checkout process as a good spot–and you should see your reviews increase. 

We have a national, online-based niche consulting business. Our business address is located within an existing co-working space, so we cannot claim/create our Google My Business … any suggestions?

Google does not restrict coworking spaces from being used. In fact, my email newsletter company, Tidings, proudly lists my coworking space as its address.

Google DOES, however, forbid the use of PO Boxes, UPS stores, or similar purely “virtual” locations.

Does this “local” search work for real estate or mortgage lenders? 

Absolutely. “Real Estate Agent” and “Mortgage Broker” and thousands of other searches return local businesses in those categories prominently, even on desktop devices, let alone mobile phones where local results are even more prominent.

Any help for independents who represent national brands, for example, insurance agents/brokers?

Independent agents are totally eligible for a Google My Business profile — if for some reason the national brand you represent has already claimed your profile, you can use this form to request ownership be transferred to you.

Is the Google Reviews study from BrightLocal taking data from both small and national brands? 

Data was pulled from 93,845 local businesses across 26 different industries reflects businesses across the world, with the majority from the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. These were predominantly if not exclusively small businesses. You can read the study’s methodology and get more information from the full report

Will there be a replay/recording available of this webinar?

Yes! You can find a recording of the webinar available on SOCi’s Insights page.

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