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People have come to expect a certain amount of contextual relevance with regard to search. In fact, new research shows that four in five U.S. smartphone users believe search ads should be customized to their city, zip code or immediate surroundings. Location-based ads can quickly satisfy consumers' expectations by featuring a store's address, directions to a nearby business and a phone number. By adopting a local strategy - one that takes people's locations into consideration - businesses can provide consumers with the information they need to take action.

Local advertising is not a new concept. The Yellow Pages, after all, have been around in one form or another since 1886.1 What is new is the way people are finding and consuming this information and how advertisers can reach them.

Today, consumers search for local information online. To better understand the mind-set and behaviors of consumers when they’re performing these local searches, Google partnered with Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased® to run two custom research studies. We recruited people who conduct searches on their smartphone at least a few times per week. As part of the research, respondents voluntarily completed an online survey or logged their smartphone search and in-store activities via a mobile diary. We found that local searches happen everywhere and that consumers respond well to ads that feature location-based information such as a business address, directions, a phone number and a click-to-call button (if they’re on a smartphone).

Local searches happen everywhere, on every device 

We’ve all been in situations in which we needed to find something nearby—on a business trip in a new city, while running errands around town or even when simply planning where to go for dinner. In the past, when we wanted to find, say, a great Mexican restaurant for dinner, we'd consult our favorite foodie magazines or critics’ reviews from a local newspaper.

How Advertisers Can Extend Their Relevance With Search

Today we search. We’d simply search for “Mexican restaurant” and the results would be relevant to our location. This kind of searching is now commonplace. In fact, four in five consumers use search engines to find products, services or experiences nearby.2 They conduct local searches wherever they happen to be; 84% use search engines on their computer or tablet and even more (88%) do so on their smartphone.3

Respondents said they searched for local information on their computer/tablet in a variety of places, including at home (76%), at work (24%) and at a hotel or motel (18%); on smartphones they searched at home (53%), while on the go (51%) and in stores and malls (41%), among other locations.4 And when consumers are outside of the home, the majority of their smartphone searches are of a local nature. In fact, 56% of smartphone searches done on the go have local intent as do 51% of those done in-store.5

Wherever and whenever consumers search for local information, they’re likely to look for a store’s address, directions to a store and its business hours.

Local searches lead to action 

Our research suggests that consumers who conduct local searches are further down the purchase funnel. Within a day of a local search, 34% of consumers who sought local information on their computer or tablet made their way to a store, and of those who used a smartphone, the number is even higher at 50%.6

Once in-store, they continue to search locally. They pull out their smartphones to continue the discovery process—whether it’s to get more information on a product or compare prices.

And their next step might just be to purchase. In fact, if you’ve gotten them in-store, there’s a good chance that these consumers are ready to buy; a greater percentage of local searches lead to a purchase within a day versus non-local searches (18% vs. 7%).7Local searchers are a prime audience for advertisers because those who search with local intent are more inclined to act.

What this means for ads

Consumers have come to expect a certain amount of contextual relevance with regard to search. In fact, four in five want search ads to be customized to their city, zip code or immediate surroundings (if they're near an airport, for example).8

How Advertisers Can Extend Their Relevance With Search

And more than 60% of consumers said they used the local information in an ad, specifically the link for directions and the click-to-call button (or the local address and phone number if on a computer or tablet).9

How Advertisers Can Extend Their Relevance With Search

By accounting for a consumer’s constantly changing location, all businesses can benefit, whether they are an online-only company looking to attract consumers in certain cities, a brick-and-mortar store trying to reach local consumers or a multichannel organization hoping to drive consumers from online to store. When it comes to a local strategy, advertisers should consider the following:

Optimize for the consumer's location. Advertisers can reach a large set of consumers by starting with a wide geographic area such as the entire U.S. and then using location bid adjustments to fine-tune bids for specific areas or zip codes.

Help consumers find what they need. Make it easier for the people searching to see the information they need most. Simply adding location extensions, a phone number or a click-to-call button right in the ad can help consumers take action faster.

Engage consumers near your stores. You should use radius bidding to reach consumers near stores and build an attribution model for local searches.

Today's consumers are constantly connected; they're using search engines to gain access to local information whether they're at home, on the go or in-store. By optimizing budgets for location and providing information that is locally relevant, advertisers can deliver better experiences to people in the moments that matter.

For more information about local search, see our research study, Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior."