Local Search 101

By Ron Jones

As the economy opens the door of opportunity for many people who have lost their jobs, more small businesses are on the rise -- and so is the demand for Local Search. Are you looking to venture beyond the printed yellow pages? You should be. According to a SBI+M article, 54 percent of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone books. Ninety percent of online commercial searches result in a local offline purchase and 61 percent of all local searches results in a transaction. Do I have your attention?

On-Page Factors: Make Sure Your Location is Visible

Your contact information should be on every page of your Web site. It can be frustrating for users visiting a site when they come to the point where they're ready to buy, but they have to search around for a phone number or a local address.

Also, make sure the location of your store or office is on each page. Have multiple locations? List those as well. Place this information at the bottom of your pages or get creative and maybe develop a tagline that includes each location.

Optimizing each page for SEO is next. Make sure the various HTML tags on your page include your location info where appropriate. For more info see "Site Structure 101" or Search Engine Watch's Search Engine Optimization section.

Solicit Local Links

Submit to directories and get your company listed. Look at directories that cater to your local market. Reach out to your local chamber of commerce and other Web directories local to your area, and ask them to link to your Web site.

Submit to Directories -- It's Free

Get listed with some specific sites that are designed just for local listings. For each business listing, make sure that your information is complete and correct and that it uses the same keywords you use on your Web site. Here are the most notable ones:
  • Superpages
  • Truelocal
  • Local.com
  • Yellowpages.com
  • Localeze
  • MerchanyCircle
  • Hor Frog
  • nfoUSA
Instead of taking you to the home page, I found links that will take you directly to the free submission. Most of these services allow you to upgrade to better features for a fee -- in fact, they're rather proactive at helping you upgrade, so beware.

Update or Add your Site on Local Search Engines

Just in case you'd like to do these one at a time, here are the links to the search engines where you can place your local listings:
  • Google's Local Business Center. You'll need to set up a Gmail account prior to filling out the form.

  • Yahoo's Local Search. You'll need to set up an account before you proceed with the listing.

  • Live Search Local Listing Center. Yes, you guessed it. You'll need to set up a Microsoft Live account.
You can also take advantage of a cool new tool, Getlisted.org. That's a one-stop shop for generating multiple listings. What a great idea!

Now that you've taken the time to set up your business listings, you're on your way, but there's still work to do. Reach out to your satisfied customers and ask them to come and rate your business and/or write a review. When people find you, they'll likely find your competitors as well. Positive reviews will add more credibility and help you stand out in the crowd.

In Part 2: more tips on local search tactics, and the impact of mobile search and what you need to know about this growing market.

Local Search 101, Part 2

As a quick follow up to "Local Search 101, Part 1," I'd like to add that there's a growing list of sites to get listed on. Keith Hagen, who commented on the article, posted this link to his site that keeps a list of local search engines and directories. It's a good idea to check this list for more providers to get listed on, as the list will continue growing.

More Local Search Tactics

When it comes to local search SEO, it's important to study your competition and find out where they have local link groupings. A local link grouping is a page on the Internet where all, or most of, your competitors get incoming links. Then focus on bundling your site into that grouping of local links.

Address citations are another way to build the quantity of references around your site. These references should contain a variation of your business name, address, phone, and Web site. Video is another factor you should consider, both as a good content and as a citation. Having a thumbnail and a local listing on the same search result will really help drive traffic.

Local Search Industry on Twitter

Do you use Twitter? If not, you should consider it. One nice thing about Twitter is that it gives you the ability to follow anyone who has set up an account and is posting mini articles, 140 characters or less (sometimes called microblogging). If you're looking for a great site with a growing list of Twitter profiles that you can follow if you want to keep up with people or companies who are talking about local search, check out Matt McGee's The List: Local Search Industry on Twitter.

While we're on the subject of social media, it's a good idea to not only link your corresponding location page to your Web site, but also your Facebook, Myspace and Twitter page. These are just some of the ways to leverage social media for local SEO.

Mobile Search on the Rise

While traveling, have you ever found yourself needing to find a local restaurant or something specific at a store nearby? What do you do? Pick up your mobile phone and start searching for stores that are nearby that have what you want, right?

Well, that's mobile search. It's that simple. You aren't concerned about which Web pages have the best links, PageRank or SEO.

Do you see the close correlation between mobile and local? This is a marketing vehicle you can't ignore if you're optimizing for local search.

The Kelsey Group recently published statistics on U.S. Mobile Local Search, which was also covered by ClickZ's Enid Burns in "U.S. Mobile Ad Revenue to Grow Significantly through 2013" :
  • The percentage of mobile searches that have local intent will increase from 28 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2013.

  • There are 54.5 million mobile Internet users in the United States, representing 25 percent of online users.

  • Approximately 15 percent of iPhone applications are local.
As this industry grows, you'll probably see more tools and applications that will help users search locally, especially for the iPhone. Google is also a major factor with Google Mobile and Google Mobile Ads. These are all great resources and tools for businesses that need to be found locally.

Ron is President/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron is actively involved in the SEM community and speaks at conferences and seminars, as well as hosting regional SEM events where he provides participants SEM training and education best practices. Ron also serves on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and is also one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

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