In case the launch of Google Places and new Facebook developments on the geosocial front aren’t enough to convince marketers it’s time to start optimizing their sites for local search, experts at ad:tech New York 2010 all seem to agree that marketers should start thinking local.

The conference features a special block of geosocial panelists who spoke yesterday about emerging location-based services. Brafton reported that early advertiser Murphy USA is seeing major sales success with the neighborhood-focused platform Whrrl, and other attendees have also spoken about the marketing value of the geosocial channel.

Jeffrey Ferguson, senior director of online marketing for the neighborhood search channel, points to data indicating that nearly one-quarter of all online queries (23 percent) have a local focus. His colleauge Richard Szatkowski, senior vice president and general manager of network properties, affirms to Brafton that local search is how people are looking up information on the web today, and that it is now essential in marketing.

Even national brands should consider retail locations they can use to get themselves in the local search game, Ferguson suggests. He says well-written content seeded with local search terms is critical to driving web users to sites. He also encourages businesses to claim their Google Places listings right away if they haven’t already.

Greg Sterling, marketing consultant and writer for Search Engine Land, emphasizes the need for local search strategies to go beyond SEO tactics for the traditional internet – they should also consider the mobile web. Sterling says there are 85 million U.S. mobile users – that’s 28 percent of U.S. consumers. Plus, there are five billion mobile subscribers worldwide and Facebook announced
yesterday that it has more than 200 million active mobile users – 28 percent of consumers.

Sterling also says officials at Google told him their click-to-call ads for mobile users perform up to 30 percent better than other paid ads because click-to-call is a marker of local relevance. The conculsion, Sterling says: Consumers are more likely to engage with locally-targeted mobile content. In addition to rising sales, he says that the big reward this offers businesses is brand loyalty.

With this in mind, marketers should consider how they can create mobile-ready, locally focused campaigns for their brands. It almost seems this will be a necessity for competitve brands. Borrell Associates says local online ad spend will grow by 18 percent to exceed $16 billion in 2011.