The Mad, Mad, Mad Future of Local Search with Greg Sterling – Rocks Digital 2016 Live Blog

Greg Sterling, Keynote Speaker at Rocks Digital Marketing ConferenceTo kick off the 2nd day of Rocks Digital 2016, we have Greg Sterling, VP of Strategy & Insights of the Local Search Association, blogger at Screenwerk, and a contributing editor to Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, leading online blogs on search and digital marketing.

Let’s explore the mad, mad, MAD future of Local Search, and certain breakthroughs in the epidemic of local search:

  • Local search is about “ready to buy” intent and online to offline purchase behavior.
  • Internet has escaped its desktop prison.
  • More complex path to purchase.
  • Increasing visibility re offline consumer actions (location analytics).
  • Increasing sophistication of technology (search -> assistant).
  • Blurring of offline and online worlds (for consumers and producers).

“All mobile queries are potentially local.”
~ Chandu Thota, Google Director of Engineering

Most search queries that carry buying intent are ultimately local because they will likely be fulfilled in a store, dealership, or by an offline service provider.

Ultimately, people are not going to buy, say, a car or fridge online.

Google may be more inclined to treat the same query as local.

The Purchase Path

  • Via an app – 19.6%
  • On mobile web – 52.8%
  • Via desktop/laptop – 48.3%

Awareness | Interest | Decision | Action

Mobile is KING…

More than 50% of Google’s queries come from mobile devices on a global basis.

70% of Yelp searches come from mobile

New Search Experiences:

  • Billions of mobile devices/new hardware
  • New UI/UX experiences
  • Improved voice recognition and NLP
  • Machine learning/AI
  • Metaphor of the virtual assitant replacing search

Using Voice Search…. by the numbers:

  • 71% of 18-29
  • 59% of 30-43
  • 39% of 44-53
  • 38% of 54+

The assistant is conversational – an ongoing two-way dialogue between you and Google that understands your world and helps you get things done. It makes it easy to buy movie tickets on the go, to find that perfect restaurant for your family to grab a quick bite before the movie starts, and then help you navigate to the theater. It’s a Google for you, by you.” – Google, May 2016

Marketer Challenges: Buyers are harder to reach, and figuring out how to bridge the gap between so many tools and dashboards. The top 5 challenges for large businesses today are:

  1. 52% – Identifying and engaging our most valuable customers
  2. 51% – Differentiating brand and experiences against competitors
  3. 39% – Implementing strategies that help drive traffic to stores
  4. 37% – Exceeding direct competitors and online pure-plays from a sales perspective
  5. 36% – Keeping up with customer demands for more seamless brand experiences

People want more functionality, so they don’t need to use so many apps. Mobile consumers want to complete tasks. Users want personalization and relevance. Location is very forward but beware of being too personal (or, the “creepy line.”

84% of consumers think advertising interruptions while watching digital content are too frequent
92% of consumers get frustated with interruptions in videos because of poor Internet connection
63.2% Never want to get notifications from brands

Millennials are blocking ads!

Small Business Issues:

  • Average number of media types/channels used by SMBs to market: 7.8 in 2016.
  • It’s strategic, competitors are doing it.
  • Most small businesses do it themselves.
  • Measure ROI – 74% not using tools to measure ROI.
  • Trust Issues – only 1 in 5 of small businesses (18%) trust their employees.

New kinds of SEO:

  • LBO – location base optimization
  • Audience targeting and validation
  • Offline to online retargeting – figure out your marketing opportunities


  • Meeting consumer expectations (existential issue)
  • Embracing predictive and conversational search
  • Making search more “transactional”
  • Optimizing and distributing content across the ecosystem to multiple consumer touch points
  • Not alienating customers with bad ads/marketing

The most important thing to remember, though, is to put the customer at the center of the whole process. Most organizations don’t really care about their customers, and it’s all about being customer centered. Offer your consumers helpful information, and be genuinely concerned and interested in them.

Speaker Information:

Click for PDF of slides.

Elisha Fernandez

Elisha Fernandez is a blogger at, author of "I Love ME! Self-Esteem in 7 Easy Steps," public speaker, and passionate enthusiast in writing, singing, dancing, and using her creativity to help others. You'll most likely find her with a book stuck in her face, playing the piano, on her blue laptop, or hugging people.

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