A few years ago, the Internet experienced a video revolution. As broadband access expanded and more people began uploading content, video became an expected resource for consumers. Businesses could get more mileage out of television commercials and engage users by linking to video reviews of its products.
A year ago, we saw evidence of small and medium-sized business increasing budgets for video content – to be used both on their homepages and in advertisements. In 2009, 19% of businesses polled were using video (up from 5% in 2008) and I’m willing to bet that number will be much higher in the 2010 report that should come out later this month.
Now, as technology has become more affordable and increasingly mobile, we’re able to experience virtually anything online. As such, local search engines are evolving into master content synthesizers to meet the needs of consumers and advertisers alike – offering video and photos, local advertising deals, user reviews, QR codes, maps and directions, etc.
Consumer expectations of local search engines have never been higher. Users want to see photo and video reviews of a company’s products, read what other people have to say, and even take a virtual tour of your store or restaurant before they visit.
The same is true of small- and medium-sized business owners looking to find a competitive advantage. Local search engines are offering more dynamic content than ever before to users and it’s up to search marketers to help business owners feed that content.
It’s interesting to see how video content has changed since the advent of YouTube. Instead of traditional video advertising, we’re seeing new technology that lets users look around your business from their own home. Soon, we’ll be able to find virtual creations of almost any environment online – and those virtual tours are being integrated with current deals and other advertising promotions to drive traffic to your business.
Recently, a company called EveryScape partnered with Bing and YP to offer digital advertisers a new local search solution – virtual tours. For example, YP360 will let a user step inside a restaurant in Baltimore while they’re still on the train. They can choose a place and even set a reservation, all within the same application on their phone.
Google Earth has gone indoors and local search engines are responsible for bringing this detailed and vivid content to users while keeping it simple and accessible. And the business case for offering this new content to users and advertisers alike is clear as local advertising is expected to grow to $16.1 billion this year, up from $13.7 billion in 2010.
Even more, mobile phone advertising spending is expected to be more than a billion dollars in 2011, up 48% from 2010. Local search engines like YP and Yelp! are seeing over 20 million visitors a month, many of them accessing via mobile phones.
This is a great opportunity for local search engines and advertisers to embrace this new technology and get ahead of the pack. Effective local advertising goes beyond building a social networking presence and listing in directories – you have to make sure your content is engaging. In the online world, the savviest local search marketers who use this technology well will have the most successful campaigns.
I recommend that any business owner or local search marketer read up on the latest digital advertising solutions and consider offering your customers virtual tours of your products or store. To set your business apart, you need to stay current with the best that local search has to offer.