Harnessing the Power of Local Search

What is Local Search?

Local search can be defined as any search that is aimed at finding something within a specific geographic region. Some examples include “landscape gardener melbourne”, “baby photographer bondi”, “gold coast accommodation” or “yoga classes williamstown”. Local search includes searches where the transaction takes place online and searches where information is gathered online and the transaction takes place offline.

For some businesses their entire customer base is centred around a specific geographic area so local search is vital to their business. Examples include vets, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, doctors and dentists. For other businesses their location is important and people based elsewhere will seek them out. Examples include tourist destinations, accommodation providers and car rental companies. Finally, some business will draw prospects from near by and far away. This includes businesses such as consultants, lawyers, accountants, graphic designers, psychologists and specialist shops.

The one thing all these businesses have in common is the benefits optimising their website for local search will bring them.

Where is Local Search Offered?

Local search is currently offered by the big three search engines: Google, Yahoo! and Live Search. All these search engines have a local component which collects local data and displays it in relevant searches.

It’s also very important to point that that most local search listings, including Google’s, include reviews of businesses by customers. This enables prospects to research businesses and get a variety of opinions of their products and services from others who have used that business.

For more information or to see local search in action you can visit the Australian versions of their local websites:

Google Maps
Yahoo! Local
Live Search Maps

Who Can Benefit from Local Search?

Many businesses can benefit from local search including businesses who service a specific geographic area to businesses who offer a unique, sought after product or service.

It’s also worth noting that most statistics show a trend in people migrating away traditional methods of finding businesses such as the Yellow Pages to searching online. In fact studies report that up to 70% of shoppers begin on the Internet with their favourite search engine. And Google states 73% of activity online is in one way or another “related to local content”. (Google 5/07)

Here are some examples of how your prospective customers might use local search:

  • To evaluate local companies – in particular service companies and individuals such as cleaners, plumbers, accountants and hairdressers.

  • To book or order a service that is location specific.

  • To hear others experiences of travel and accommodation providers such as hotels, bed and breakfasts and caravan parks.

  • To research a product that they intend to purchase offline i.e. in your store.

  • To find a unique product or service available in a specific area.

6 Steps To Boost Your Local Search Presence

Ok so you’ve realised the importance of local search. Now what? The following six steps will help you boost your local search presence in the three main search engines.

1. Add Location Keywords to Your Website
As well as incorporating the main keywords describing your products and services in your website add keywords related to your locations. I also always recommend adding  your address to each page of your website. And finally, include your location keywords to your page title and meta tags.

2. Link to Your Web Pages Using Local Keywords
Your link reputation (the number and quality of websites linking to you) is an important part of  getting high rankings in the search engines. So when asking for links from other websites be sure to get them to link to you using your main keywords and location phrases. Try to mix them up so you don’t end up with the same link text for each one.

3. Get Local Links
If you’re a business that relies on local business then networking and getting links from other local websites is for you. This strategy will not only help your local listings in the search engines but should help drive targeted, local business to your website.

As well as straight links look at other ways to link up with other relevant local businesses. Some suggestions include running joint promotions, sponsorship of local clubs and sporting groups or competitions.

4. Claim Your Local Search Listings
Claim your local listings at Google Maps, Yahoo! Local and Live Search Maps. At all three search engines you can claim or submit your business listing and then provide information about your business. Doing this can also help boost your reputation with the search engines and give them a higher level of trust and confidence in the information they display about your business in their results.

5. Enhance Your Local Search Listings
Once you’ve claimed your listings in Google, Yahoo! and Live it’s worth taking the time to enhance your listings by providing as much information as possible. Keep in mind that prospects are usually hungry for information so provide business information, photos if applicable, location details and opening hours, payments accepted, areas you service and any other information you feel is necessary.

6. Monitor and Manage Your Online Reputation
As I mentioned above most local search providers include reviews of businesses and their products and services as part of the local listing. These reviews are an incredibly powerful “word of mouth” thumbs up or thumbs down opinion of your business. In the past friends may have shared both positive and negative experiences with your business but now they can share them with anyone who is interested and looking for the information. So I can’t exaggerate the importance of monitoring what’s being said about your business online and if a problem arises stepping in and resolving it.

More than ever before people are using the internet to research products and services they require locally and it’s tipped to increase in importance over the next 10 years. So it’s vital that your business and your website can be easily found by people performing local searches.

Continue reading...