Momentum is quickly gathering for location-based navigation among search engines and mobile device makers. Web search technology companies including FAST Search & Transfer and Google are working with wireless phone companies to power mobile searches that can benefit from locally targeted results. In addition, wireless Internet devices are becoming more equipped with GPS technology which can track the user’s physical whereabouts. Both parties want to localize Web searching to make it more relevant for the searcher and hopefully draw more regional advertising dollars.

“Alltheweb” today can tailor results to the searcher’s country. It’s only a matter of time before search results will be narrowed down to city block size or smaller. GIS Latitude and Longitude coordinates within web sites will soon become an absolute necessity for everyone performing eCommerce via the Internet. This data may relate to the physical location of the web site or where the site is being served from (if applicable) or where the actual business represented by the site is physically located. There may also be multiple web site locations and coding involved, if for example, you have a franchise with multiple locations, (e.g.. Starbucks) each location will probably need a page of it’s own with the correct corresponding location data.

Obviously a web site is a stable beast. It sits on a server somewhere and doesn’t move much, so at first glance it may not seem plausible to need GIS Location Data tucked into the web site’s source code. On the contrary, one aspect the web site represents, is the business’s physical location(s) and if people are going to try to find services and products based purely upon location, shouldn’t you at the very least, tell them where you are and how to get there?

Let’s look at one example of how location-based web site marketing may be utilized 

You are vacationing in a new city for the first time. Once you get settled into your Hotel room you pull out your hand-held, wireless device, log onto the web and search for “Italian Food in San Francisco.” Five hundred results come back. So you click the new “location-based” feature on your device which triggers a GPS satellite feed to pinpoint your exact location within the city. Now only ten Italian Restaurants, relevant to your physical location (who’s respective marketing firms’ were smart enough to code their client’s web sites with GIS data,) show up in the search results. Guess which Restaurants did not show up? The other four hundred and ninety. Starting to get the picture?

From a marketers perspective the advent of location-based marketing can include many benefits:

  • A captured target. The consumer is already in or near your place of business. Remember, this is location-based marketing. A customer is much more likely to come through your door if a competitors store is a twenty minute drive away, but your store happens to be right around the corner from where they are standing.
  • Increased Impulse buying. Real time delivery of advertising prompting benefits of immediate response. Example; Come in within the next 30 minutes and receive 20% off your meal.
  • Development of one-to-one relationship marketing. Consumer purchasing history can be examined, thereby enhancing future marketing messages.
  • Direct marketing spending effectiveness. True targeting of promotional materials. Materials are delivered electronically and on demand, as required. No hard copy waste or excess printing inventory.
  • Psychological Nurturing. The consumer ‘feels like a somebody,’ building brand recognition and loyalty.
  • Increased return on investment (ROI) Repeat or additional consumer purchases during a visit.

Aligning your marketing efforts toward this newest wave of e-commerce means preparing well in advance. Implementation of a professional search engine optimization (SEO) campaign for your site is absolutely critical. Whether in-house or outsourced, this aspect must be taken into consideration when pricing a marketing campaign. Not only will the web site need to be properly indexed and found within the general Internet’s top search engines, soon it will also need to be found by physical, geographic, location as well.

Specific key words and phrases will need constant tweaking to reflect the search patterns of mobile consumers in a wireless world. People may not necessarily search by the exact name of the business but rather by general terms, (Italian Restaurant) but you still want them to find you. This will require vigilance by you or your marketing company. Success will depend upon the ability to constantly extrapolate information from your web site statistics and apply those results back into your marketing equations.

You should be also prepared for your marketing budget to go through some changes as the location-based phase of Internet marketing begins to expand. Flexibility will be key. Additional costs such as subscribing to a “streaming” service to feed your site into those search results should be included. This aspect of service delivery could prove to be an escalating expense if based on a ‘price-per-click-through’ scenario. Industry standards and the methods of serving out GIS, web-based, location data are still within the developmental phases but given the speed of technology, it’s a safe bet full implementation will be sooner rather than later.

Give yourself and/or your clients a competitive edge. Find out if your site is ready for wireless searching. Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact. “Thank you for your wireless reservation at Luigi’s! Your table and online bonus of a chilled bottle of complimentary wine, will be waiting for you upon arrival.” Hmm, a person could get used to this in a hurry!