American Marketer


Mobile devices and local search: Reaching a tipping point

May 1, 2012

Brady Cohen is vice president and director of interactive and media at Point to Point


By Brady Cohen

If you own or run a business that relies on local traffic, you need to pay attention. The proliferation of connected mobile devices – specifically smartphones, tablets and others such as iPod touch – means your customers and potential customers that are on the go are always connected. No more need for a laptop or desktop to look up your product or service. Forget about the Yellow Pages. We are talking real-time, hyper-local search.

Here is a jaw-dropping statistic: Last year, more than 50 percent of all local searches were conducted from a mobile device. More than one out of every two searches that have local intent were made on a mobile device. Most business owners and marketers do not realize that we have reached this tipping point and what it means to them.

Food for thought
Imagine this consumer scenario. You (consumer) are driving home from work. Your car breaks down. You need to a) find a ride home or a tow home and b) find a repair shop to fix your vehicle.

What is that? You do not own a car?

OK, then, here is another scenario.

You go out to have dinner at your favorite restaurant. You arrive and learn that there is a three-hour wait for a table. Being hungry enough eat an elephant, you decide not to wait three hours and start looking for other options.

In each case, what do you use to find what you are looking for? You guessed it, your smartphone.

Remember that statistic above about more than 50 percent of local searches being made from a mobile device? You are in the majority.

So, why is all this important if you own or run a business?

Towing in the right direction
Say you are a towing company, an auto repair shop or a restaurant. You not only want to be found at that moment when someone is looking for your product or service, you need to be found. But are you being found?

To get the answer, you need to look at the search results on your smartphone. Do some test searches based on the keywords someone would be searching when in need of your product or service – not just your company name but a search query that is topical about your product.

This is not a complex test. Do not believe the results? Ask your customers to look on their phones. Ask your friends. Your employees.

If you are not being found you quickly need to fix this problem. Again, remember that statistic above about more than 50 percent of local searches on mobile devices.

Search and rescue
There are a few ways to go about getting your business found on mobile search results.

The solution that will get you to the top of the search results for the examples above is setting up a paid search campaign that targets mobile devices.

Put your paid search ad square in the face of the consumer at the very moment they are looking for a tow truck, a repair shop or a place to eat.

Even show all your surrounding locations and your phone number to allow them to determine how far your business is from their exact location and call you with the tap of a thumb.

Other ways to get more visibility include optimizing your Web site for search engines (SEO), and making sure you are in all the relevant local directories including Google Maps/Places as well as inclusion in sites such as

REGARDLESS OF WHAT path – paid versus SEO – you choose to be found in the mobile search results, do not wait.

You need to take action now and put your company front and center. If you are not showing up in the mobile search results, chances are good that your competition is there or will be soon be there.

Brady Cohen is vice president and director of interactive and media at Point to Point Inc., Cleveland, OH. Reach him at