Micro Moments and Local SEO
“Micro moments” prove that our fundamental approach to web research has changed, permanently. Many of our readers aren’t old enough to remember a time when conducting internet research was an event. You’d sit down at the computer, with a notepad and a best-guess list of search phrases, ready to spend hours perusing search results, vetting websites, saving bookmarks, and following a daisy-chain of hyperlinks, all to answer a relatively straight-forward query. At the time, the internet was just another kind of library. It didn’t help you search its stores; it just let you connect, almost manually, to web-connected resources.
Today, things are vastly, vastly different. Rather than conducting research as if at a library, in long, focused sessions, we check our phones for information hundreds of times a day, almost always finding an instant answer. We’ve touched on this change in behavior before, when we talked about leveraging featured snippets, but there’s another side to this emergent pattern.
The models of a conversion funnel or the “buyer’s journey” are in need of some serious reconceptualization. Just a few days ago, we posted a (timely) flashback to a post we ran in October of 2013, talking about the conversion funnel model as it was. That was just a few years ago, and it still describes the traditional model elegantly, but customers don’t necessarily follow the model anymore.
Consider a representative example. Ted is driving home from work late Friday night, and he suddenly remembers a vignette from his favorite show. The protagonist, after a long week at work, has put a tongue-in-cheek “Gone Fishin’” sign on his office door, and the camera cuts to a moment of serenity and bliss, as he sits in a boat offshore with no one around for miles. Ted has the sudden and unmistakable urge to buy a small boat, and a trailer, and a wide-brimmed hat, and to disappear into the wilderness for an impromptu long weekend.
Ted pulls over, takes out his phone, and searches something like “Boat dealership near me.” Chad’s Boat Emporium has a five-star review, and the posted hours say it’s open until 11pm, and it’s just a few miles up the highway.
Where does Ted fit into the traditional buyer’s journey, in this example? He’s never expressed any interest in boating prior to this sudden impulse, but his query clearly demonstrated an intention to make an immediate purchase. He’s not researching a particular brand, or a particular dealership; he’s simply decided on the spur of the moment to buy a boat and the best option in range is the best option he needs.
That’s a micro-moment. They’re sudden, unanticipated, impulse-driven flurries of inquiry or intent. Google describes them as being “moments of decision-making and preference-shaping” when we reflexively turn to a web-connected device to act on a sudden inspiration. We’ve all had them, in one form or another.
It can be a clear-cut purchase, like Ted’s boat, but it extends to brand awareness and the like as well. For instance, just the other day I had cause to Google the difference between the Jejunum and the Ileum (two discrete parts of the human small intestine) — don’t ask why. The query brought me to a tool called Difference Between, which I’ve since bookmarked. I hadn’t been aware of the brand, or even of the concept of a tool like that, until I suddenly had need of one. That’s a micro-moment.
What Do Micro Moments Mean for Local SEO?
Consider Ted’s emergent need for a boat. Chad’s Boat Emporium was Ted’s top choice for three main reasons, each of which was supported by Local SEO.
The first is proximity. Chad’s was very close, and conveniently located. Ted’s sudden, impulsive purchase hinged largely on easy and convenient access to a dealership. Had Chad not emphasized his business’s location, he might have lost the sale. In fact, the impact of proximity on SERP rankings is enormous, and seems to be steadily increasing.
Darren Shaw, over at Moz has put together an informal, but ground-breaking study about the impact of proximity as the new top local search ranking factor. As Google pushes for a mobile-first system, location data (as your devices report it, so be careful of unintentionally spoofing it with proxies or VPNs and the like) informs the results you’re shown, especially those results in the featured snippets at the top of the results page. Something as simple as where your business is located can be enough, for proximate users, to push your page to the top of the list, easily pushing aside industry behemoths or SEO powerhouses. Chad was ahead of the curve on this, and made sure that his business’s location was clear, consistent, and added to his various profiles (GMB and Search Console should be your first stop, if you haven’t done the same!)
The second contributing factor was the good review Ted found. These might come from GMB (Google My Business), Yelp, or other sites, but an honest (genuine) review has more sway than any other single cause, when it comes to conversions and sales. According to Invesp 90% of customers will read online reviews before visiting a business, and 88% of customers say that they give online reviews as much credence as a personal recommendation. Positive reviews correlate with increased customer spending (31% more, in fact) and, importantly in our scenario, increased trust and confidence in a particular business or brand.
Ted saw a five-star review from someone he could relate to, he gained an idea of what he could expect from a visit to Chad’s, and he decided that he wanted his experience to mirror the one described in the review. Reviews are, in effect, tangible little totems of experiences you expect to have in the future, and they tie directly into local search. It does Ted, a Californian, no good to know that someone in Delaware had a great experience at Delaware Boat Company. The review would lack relevance if it didn’t come from someone in the same place, with similar conditions and circumstances. The parallelism is the source of the authority.
The third piece of data that informed Ted’s choice is something often overlooked. Chad’s posted its hours of operation. Ted needed to buy a boat outside of regular business hours, and, seeing that Chad’s was open late, as well as close by and well reviewed, the decision was all but made.
Chad used best-practice SEO tactics in good faith, and it earned him a sale that he might well have lost otherwise. Micro moments are so often spur-of-the-moment that the nearest option, if it passes muster, will likely get the conversion, simply by having been the path of least resistance.
How to Leverage Micro Moments for Your Business
I’ll quote Google again, when I tell you that your business should “be there, be useful, [and] be quick.” Google talks about people suddenly, even to their own surprise, having “I want to ________” moments. That might be “purchase,” “do,” “learn,” or a dozen other verbs, but the trick is in the volition. It might be as simple as the need for a definition for a word, and it might be as all-encompassing as a lifestyle change.
Your business should still try to groom those long-view customers, who meticulously consider a brand or a product before a purchase, but it should also make itself ready to cater to those who happen upon you instantaneously –- lest they happen upon your competitors!
So, what can you do? You cater to our (societal) emergent expectation for immediacy. We expect that, by typing a few words into a bar with a magnifying glass, we can have anything and everything at our fingertips. Your job, as a business, is to be the source that provides it.
Be Ready for Chance Encounters
If you’re looking for a full primer on Local SEO, we’ll be running one in the next little while. Keep an eye out for it on Facebook, and we’ll be adding a direct link to this post too! In the mean time, we can offer a few quick tips which should give you a head start.
First, keep your business information coherent. Make sure that any site (whether it’s a cross-link from another site, or your own Google My Business profile) has the same NAP information. That’s Name, Address, and Phone Number. That phone number should be a local number, not an eight-hundred routing number. Reviews should be relevant and honest, and your business hours should be clearly posted.
Basically, you want to be found. It’s great to remarket to an established client, but, with micro moments and local SEO, you want your web presence to be ready for the walk-ins, for the guy-off-the-street, for the chance encounter.
Don’t try to cast too wide a net. Be clear and totally up front about what your business offers, and trust the search algorithms to bring your business in front of the eyes of those people who seem to be looking for someone just like you.
If you’re looking to improve your own local SEO or your web presence in general, we can help! Give a click on the big pink button, and reserve your spot for a free digital marketing strategy session.
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Originally published at colibridigitalmarketing.com on March 10, 2017.