While experts have been predicting local search would accelerate for the last few years, it is finally gaining traction. Borrell Associates estimated an $8.5 billion search spend in 2007 for local online advertising, which includes local search, local banner ads and local video.
In 2008, Borrell estimates the local search portion will account for nearly 50 percent of the total local online advertising spend, which is projected at $12.6 billion for this year.
Beyond the ad spend, there are two other reasons for revving up your local search presence in 2008: explosive growth in local search and the increased visibility potential due to universal search and personalization.
- Explosive local search growth: Local search queries increased 24 percent in 2007, faster than general searches, which increased 14 percent (Marchex, 2007). Last August, a TMP Directional Media/comScore survey reported 82 percent of local searchers made an offline purchase inquiry, and of those, 61 percent bought products/services. There is no doubt the internet drives offline sales.
- Increased visibility potential: Google and some major search engines introduced personalized search and universal search, greatly impacting the search results landscape. This is both a blessing and a dilemma because it requires different optimization strategies, but it also offers multiple opportunities to be found in the SERPs.
The importance of local listings
Every company needs a local listing, regardless of whether it sells locally, nationally or internationally. Here's how you can improve your results on Google Maps and Yahoo Local, using similar tactics on Live Search, Ask and other local directories.
- Free Google maps listings: List your business in Google Maps by going to Google's Local Business Center, where you'll find information for creating your free listing. You'll need a Google account to log in to the business center.
The most important part is entering your business information for the business profile. Gather your information ahead and follow these steps:
- Sign up for a Google Local Business Center account.
- Check to see if you already have a listing.
- If so, check your listing for accuracy and edit if necessary.
- If you're not in the database, list your company name, address, phone/FAX numbers, toll-free number, contact personnel, email address, website URL and hours of operation.
- If possible, use keywords in your business name title.
- Submit a listing for every location where you do business.
- Sprinkle your website pages with city and location nicknames.
- Add a footer to all your pages, listing your street address and phone number.
- Edit your listing any time to update your information.
Google will activate your profile with a phone call or a postcard, which is necessary to ensure the person who entered the data is actually employed by the business. Your business profile will appear in Google Maps as a local listing and can come up for local search queries in Google's general search index as well.
Google maps advertising
Google Maps displays local business ads, integrating the local match options from Google AdWords into Google Maps
- Google enhanced listings: Once you are satisfied with your free business listing, you can enhance it with features from the Google Adwords advertising network. If you already have a pay-per-click AdWords account, you can create Local Business Ads. These ads serve a dual purpose because they appear as regular text ads on Google.com and other sites participating in the Google advertising network. They also appear as enhanced listings in Google Maps.
- Local business ads: These ads are based on the physical location of your business, so it is important that the address in your Google AdWords account match the one in the Local Business Center. Your location determines whether or not the text version of your ad appears in Google.com listings. Searchers indicate location in their local search queries, so if your business is in that location, your ad will appear.
- Logo image: The text of your ad on Google Maps will also be accompanied by a small logo image of your choosing. The ad appears on the left side of the screen, and also as a balloon marker showing your business location on the map display to the right. If you wish, the marker can be an uploaded custom icon rather than the usual red-letter balloon provided by Google Maps. This can help your ad stand out from the crowd.
- Coupons: Google allows you to create printable coupons that your customers can print out and redeem at your offline location, which is an easy way to create more business.
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