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When it comes to local search, consumers look for goods and services before brands

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When searching locally, shoppers look generically rather than for specific retail brands finds a global study.

The newly released ‘Branded vs Unbranded Global Search Report’ from Uberall, a global ‘Near Me’ brand experience company, analysed the local search queries that consumers keyed into Google in order to connect with 48,000 individual business outlets located in the US, UK, France and Germany. All of the outlets included in the study were operated by well-known global brands. 

And it found that, even though all the 48,000 outlets in the report were operated by well-known global brands, 58% of their local search requests were from consumers looking for unbranded goods and services, making use of generic terms such as ‘coffee shop near me’, ‘local supermarket open now’ and ‘petrol station near me.’  

While both unbranded and branded search volumes grew rapidly during the 12-months between August 2018 and August 2019 – by 75% and 134% respectively – generic search terms dominated Uberall’s findings.

“Big brands may be well-known the world over, but at a local search level, being visible to prospective customers  is just as important – perhaps even more important – than being famous,” explains Norman Rohr, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Uberall. “Boosting visibility in local search is hugely beneficial to companies of all sizes, as it is proven to increase both customer engagement levels and footfall. Our latest research shows larger corporations cannot rely on their name alone, as that’s not necessarily what local customers are searching for.”

The value of branded search varies according to industry

The split between branded and unbranded search varies considerably between industries. Consumers searching for hospitality and travel services – such as fast food restaurants and travel agents – are much more likely to conduct a branded search to find a location.

For outlets in these sectors, branded search was responsible for  almost 62% of their visibility in local search.

For all other sectors included in the Uberall research, unbranded search volumes were higher than branded. This was particularly the case for business-to-business firms where less than 12% of online visibility was gained through branded search.

Rohr continues: “Understanding the type of search terms local customers typically use in your sector is key to driving offline business. Someone who needs to fill up their car with petrol might not care which company owns the petrol station, but they might like to know if it’s possible to pick up some groceries or even grab a coffee at the same time. Yet, the same customer is probably much more particular about who is delivering their pizza. These crucial insights are like gold dust for marketers who are trying to attract more customers to their premises, and who are focused on improving the local customer experience.”

Third-party management has a major impact on local search visibility

Uberall’s new report also assesses the impact of outsourcing the management of local search and engagement to third-party experts. 

By comparing search trends seen in the six months prior to engaging a third party with those seen during the first six months of engagement, the research found that brands typically double the number of times their outlets appear in online search results. For unbranded searches, visibility was three times greater. Consumer engagement – when a customer checks directions to an outlet, makes a phone call or visits their website  – doubled for businesses employing third parties. 

“When organizations have access to the tools and expertise required to manage their online location information with a high degree of accuracy and consistency, they can expect to shoot up Google’s rankings and become visible to many more potential customers,” adds Rohr. “Once these consumers have visited an outlet and had a good experience, they are much more likely to leave a positive review and search for the brand by name in the future. In short, unbranded search, branded search and customer engagement are all intrinsically linked, so need to be managed in a holistic, centralized way.”  

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