Many businesses advertise on a city- and area-wide basis, but for some advertisers, this isn’t nearly local enough.

Like crime-fighting detectives in police procedurals triangulating a perp’s cell signal with technology of questionable credibility, some advertisers home in on areas of just a few blocks – or even a few streets – to find new customers.

These “hyperlocal” advertisers aren’t unwittingly sabotaging themselves, or focusing too narrowly; they’re targeting prospective customers right where they are – at home, at work, at local stores in their neighborhoods.

In this post, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at hyperlocal marketing. We’ll examine what hyperlocal marketing is, why it can be so effective, and most importantly, how you can do it across your paid search and paid social campaigns.

What Is Hyperlocal Marketing?

Hyperlocal marketing is the process of targeting prospective customers in a highly specific, geographically restricted area, sometimes just a few blocks or streets, often with the intention of targeting people conducting “near me” searches on their mobile device.

If you’ve ever found yourself looking for a very specific type of business when you’re out and about, you’ve probably already conducted a hyperlocal search.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a copy of a new book. You visit the nearest bookstore, only to discover that they’re completely sold out. What do you do next? You take out your mobile device and conduct a near-me search for bookstores near your location. You already spent 20 minutes circling the block looking for a parking space, so you’re not exactly keen on getting back in the car and driving to another store – you want a bookstore you can walk to, right?

This is the essence of hyperlocal marketing in a nutshell.

Why Launch a Hyperlocal Marketing Campaign?

In terms of objectives, hyperlocal marketing’s primary purpose is to drive foot traffic to physical locations and capitalize on near-me searches, which have strong commercial intent.

Near-me searches have become immensely popular in recent years. Data from Google indicates that near-me searches grew in volume by 130% year-over-year between 2014 and 2015 alone, and since then, Google users are using near-me searches to find everything from post offices to New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations.

Image via Think With Google

Although near-me searches remain popular, advances in search technology are shaping how users search for businesses near them.

Many users now expect local search results to take precedence over wider results, even when they do not explicitly state they’re looking for local results. Data from Google suggests that local searches without “near me” or other location qualifiers (such as zip codes or city names) have grown 150% faster than searches including “near me,” revealing that many users now expect Google to automatically take their location into account when serving results.

Take the figure below, for example. This graph shows search volume for restaurant-related search queries between 2015 and 2017. As you can see, search volume actually increased for restaurant-related searches, but the same searches that included zip code location qualifiers actually declined during this period:

Image/data via Google

This may not sound that remarkable at first glance, but it represents a seismic shift in consumer attitudes towards real-time geolocation tracking and how location data can be used to provide more relevant, accurate results for a wide range of search queries. Not only has interest in local search increased significantly, but more users now expect their location to affect their results automatically.

Just as search technology is changing the ways in which we search for and interact with local businesses online, so too is consumer behavior shaping search technology. We identified “research online, purchase offline” – also known as ROPO – as one of the biggest ecommerce trends to watch this year, and this will likely drive further interest in and demand for locally focused search results over time.

The popularity of hyperlocal marketing has risen in tandem with the increase in near-me searches observed during the past several years. However, greater adoption of mobile devices is not the only factor that has driven interest in location-based search results over the past few years.

Google itself has been shaping local search in a very intentional way for some time, prioritizing fewer, higher-quality Google Maps results for near-me searches and offering “near me” suggestions in the “Searches related to…” recommendations at the bottom of the SERP. On some results pages – including desktop searches as of last year – Google has even begun providing additional results in a “Discover more places” section of the SERP, a feature that was formerly limited to Maps results on mobile.

The combination of widespread mobile device adoption and Google’s heightened emphasis on local search have made hyperlocal marketing a very effective way of attracting new customers to your physical store.

What Ranking Signals Matter Most for Hyperlocal Search Results?

As with anything to do with SEO, there are very few things we truly know for certain when it comes to ranking signals for hyperlocal searches. We do, however, know that several specific factors are very important.

A Comprehensive Google My Business Listing

When it comes to maximizing the visibility in local search results, one of the most important steps you can take is to ensure you have as comprehensive a Google My Business listing as possible.

Google My Business listings – formerly known as Google Places – are where Google sources most of the information it serves to users in local searches and Google Maps results. This includes many of the details that appear in listings of individual businesses in Maps results, such as opening hours and address, as well as the cool little Knowledge Graph-style data points such as when a business is busiest.