Big companies plan bigger local search budgets, local businesses need to up their game

Local search marketing is a critical piece of the business plan for local companies, and it used to be that it was something of a secret, too. That was until the doors were blown off SEO in general, and the largest search engines started singing the praises of local search. That got national companies interested, and if the results of a recent survey of large brands in regard to their local search budgets hold true, local businesses will need to do everything to step up their local SEO efforts in order to remain competitive against the top dogs.

Around 91 percent of national brands said they plan to spend the same or more on local marketing in 2013 compared to their 2012 budgets, according to a survey by marketing automation firm Balihoo. The results found a slight trend among national brands toward dedicating resources to a local marketing strategy: 8.6 of surveyed companies said they would spend less on local, 11.1 percent said they would spend less on the national stage. The increased focus on local means businesses may face stiffer competition in their local markets, meaning they need to explore all options of fortifying their local SEO strategy.

Overall, 67.5 percent of survey respondents said digital marketing is either "very" or "extremely" important to their marketing campaigns. The survey polled 384 national brand marketing executives across North America.

For some insight on specific tactics large companies are looking to use in local marketing, the survey asked what strategies they already use and what they would like to add. SEO was a big piece of the puzzle: 66 percent already use SEO, and another 14 percent said they did not use it 2012 but would like to add it to their marketing repertoire in 2013.

However, smaller businesses will have to remain vigilant in local efforts after many national companies signaled they would pick up local-specific tactics in 2013. Thirty-two percent used mobile marketing in 2012, 35 percent will add it in 2013. Local blogs were the target of many big firms, 26 percent had a local blog in 2012, 31 percent will start one next year. Customer reviews have also been linked with local efforts recently, 22 percent featured customer reviews and 31 percent will use them starting next year.

Part of the upped focus on local stems from dissatisfaction with how local affiliates of larger businesses are handling marketing. Eighty-seven percent said their national brand was not well represented on a local website.