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Local marketing: Mission critical for restaurants

Local marketing: Mission critical for restaurants

Unless your operation’s online content is accurate, relevant and easy to find, hungry customers will likely look elsewhere. • See more Social Media articles

Consumers are increasingly using search engines, social networks and smartphones to find what they want, and this is particularly true for restaurants—whether it’s discovering new eateries, reviewing menus or making reservations.

According to ComScore, restaurants are the most common local search category, accounting for 23 percent of local business searches—more than double any other search category. The key to taking advantage of this opportunity lies in location, especially considering that Google has found that 20 to 50 percent of searches have a local intent.

Both your customers and your competitors are online, so location-based online marketing is a must. Here are three proven ways to ensure you are where your customers are, and more importantly, one step ahead of your competition.

1. Accuracy
The core of your online marketing activities should be the data about your location. Consumers are consistently looking for your restaurant’s address, phone number, its hours of operation and driving directions to it. People will remember being sent to a closed location, or the wrong one. Our research has found that nearly three out of four consumers lose trust in a brand when an online listing contains incorrect information.

The restaurant industry is progressive and volatile. Openings and closings, changing hours of operation, new locations, seasonal menus—all combine for perhaps the most dynamic industry when it comes to managing location data. It’s difficult to manage such fluid data, but to not manage it is a serious mistake. It is imperative that your location data be freely available and easily accessed across all the major search engines, social networks and online listings.

An automated, centralized system is the most effective way to ensure that location data is up-to-date and accurate. Luckily for restaurant operators, it also happens to be the most-cost effective method. The ideal system should track all data changes, run data through automated verification steps, format data for easy export to third parties and power your own branded digital presence.

The importance of your digital presence, relevancy

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2. Digital presence
But accurate data doesn’t get you far if it can’t be found. Having authoritative, local landing pages is the key to capturing top positions on the first page of search results. If you don’t have authoritative, local landing pages for every one of your locations you’re giving up search results rank, control of your brand, location visits and revenue.

Syndicating your brand’s location data to third-party websites like search engines, social networks and directories can be a component of an overall local marketing program. But extensive industry research shows that for enterprise brands, the foundation of a strong local search presence is actually having their own local landing page. Think about what information directories might display alongside your brand’s information. Directories often display your competitors’ location data and/or paid promotions on a listings results page.

3. Relevancy
Maintaining accurate data and being present in the right locations are a great start, but to truly take advantage of local marketing, brands must provide the customized, relevant content that today’s connected consumers demand. While hours, location, directions and menus are essential, consumers still want additional information like reviews, customized offers, videos and photos—all content that also yields better placement in organic search results.

Consider customized offers. Our research found that 73 percent of consumers like getting seasonal offers from local businesses and 55 percent consider it helpful when ads and offers are personalized to their needs and interests. This could also be where your competition is winning—more than seven out of 10 consumers say they would go to a competitor if they received a special offer while searching for a particular restaurant. Therefore, rich online content is critical to restaurant businesses looking to keep existing customers or capture new customers from competing brands.

Ads that are dynamic and location-customized increase click-through rates by more than 60 percent and eliminate the need for multiple versions of creative. In order to deliver highly relevant and customized information, however, you must have a unique landing page and mobile presence for each and every one of your locations.

As consumers continue turning to search engines, smartphones and social channels, a focus on accuracy, digital presence and relevance will ensure that restaurant operators can take advantage of the opportunity to gain valuable customers, and ultimately, increase profitability.

Melissa Risteff is the v.p. of marketing for Denver-based location-based marketing platform company Placeable.

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