Strike business gold in local search

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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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Comments

Richard Saling
Richard Saling March 30, 2008 at 2:37 AM

Great Post. There are some local companies offering "Local Search Engines" to fill the gap of what the Google's and Yahoo's supposedly can't deliver. Some are the local telephone Companies and Yellow Pages Company for example. One such site is even developed strictly for the CIty of Surprise AZ. I don't see these sites taking over though. I think The big Search Engines will offer something comparable. We are already seeing it with local.google and yahoo.local etc.

Claudia Bruemmer
Claudia Bruemmer February 15, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Hi Jason,

Glad you had the opportunity to see the importance of a business listing in local search first hand. As you say, it's important for businesses large and small. Can also help you cover more ground in universal search results.

Jason Prescott
Jason Prescott February 15, 2008 at 12:50 PM

CB,

This is great information for marketers and businesses ( small and large). I spent the last 3 weeks in Manhattan---and it was cold. When I needed a coffee or diner, and didn't feel like taking a guess which block to venture down--- all I had to do was open my Google maps on my blackberry, do a search for a business ( Starbucks) and if a business is smart and using google maps, all of the info about your company will be displayed and google will walk you right to where you want to go. Yes, one better optimize for local search :-)

Thanks CB!

Claudia Bruemmer
Claudia Bruemmer February 7, 2008 at 1:48 PM

Hi James, Thanks for bringing managedq.com to my attention.I queried "local search tips" and came up with one good result (MHO), which was a pst by Michael Gray on Feb 5 saying he was going to interview search experts all week on local search. This is current and the list of experts was impressive, so this listing was relevant for me. The rest were all either old or irrelevant (for me). So many new SEs and people get confused just trying to remember them. When Collarity came out, I thought it was great (ditto for Rollyo). But I never did use them a lot. As far as SEs go, I still like Google despite sometimes getting irrelevant results. To get what you want, you have to be a skillful searcher. I'm learning. But thanks for bringing this new SE to my attention.

Claudia Bruemmer
Claudia Bruemmer February 7, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Thanks, Colleen, glad you could use this info. Local search listings are important for everyone these days.

Colleen O'Kane
Colleen O'Kane February 7, 2008 at 10:26 AM

This is compilation of terrific local search tips - thanks much for sharing.

James Mass
James Mass February 7, 2008 at 3:23 AM

My favorite new search engine is ManagedQ. To learn the latest SEO tips, you should do a ManagedQ cross-search on SEO Tech Mechanics