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The Long Tail of Local Search

  |  March 1, 2007   |  Comments

The secret economics of local search extend your reach as far as possible.

In 2004, Chris Anderson wrote "The Long Tail," which exploded conventional wisdom about the economics of online sales. Weird things happen when you don't have any significant inventory costs. The same principles hold true whether you're talking about books, music, or local search listings.

Without any real inventory costs, Internet businesses can use deeper catalogs to beat their brick-and-mortar counterparts on market share. On the Web, unlimited inventory allows obscure or less-popular online products to outshine hits in total sales volume.

Now, local search queries are no niche market. An estimated 30 percent of all online searches are local. But long tail economics are shaping results for local business listings on the major search engines, regardless of whether they're posted by local businesses, agencies, large retailers, franchises, or chains. When companies merely post local listings on the big-name search engines, they miss out on local search's long tail.

At first glance, major search engines and Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) seem to be the only stops needed for local search listings. Yahoo, MSN, Google, SuperPages, and YellowPages receive 81.8 percent of all local search queries.

But what drives a listing to the first local search SERP (define) on these Web sites?

Hundreds, if not thousands, of directories and regional, niche, and vertical sites focus on local and relevant data. These Web sites focus on data relevant to searches that are even more granular than Zip Code level, so they appear on the first page of local search results. These are the hidden key to prominent local search results.

For example, a consumer conducts a local search on Google for a plumber in Atlanta. There's a very good chance the user will be presented with a link or listing from a local niche directory called Kudzu.com.

Google has a local database of business listings, but, from what I can see, it has very limited content. Check Google Base specs, and you find another clue Google doesn't maintain deep troves of local data. Google Base doesn't let you post or update any data that goes far beyond merchant category, payment options, and a brief, subjective description of your listings.

Kudzu, on the other hand, has extremely deep, relevant content about Atlanta area businesses. Google doesn't maintain this data, it just goes to sites like Kudzu, MojoPages.com, and Yellow Page City to find it. Instead of storing the data, Google uses a business model that concentrates on bringing the relevant local data to the forefront for the consumer.

As a result, Google does a tremendous job of servicing the search. But don't forget what feeds Google's results: the long tail, wagged by sites with deep, relevant content about local businesses.

Local search's secret economics can help ensure your reach is extended as far as possible to consumers searching for your goods and services. Right at the tail end of the buying cycle, when consumers are looking online for the specific store to make their transactions at, sites with deep, relevant local information can help funnel consumers to your business rather than a competitor's. Make sure your search marketing plan reaches as many of them as possible.

Don't forget to take care of the local search basics. Most of the search engines and IYPs have free or low-cost services that allow you to post and update local listings. The services offered at these different sites range from basic to very sophisticated. Some sites allow you to add basic business information, such as your business name, address, telephone number, and a category that briefly describes what you do. Other sites offer more sophisticated tools that even suggest keywords based on your business category.

For a local business owner, agency, or marketing executive with a healthy retail network, this is a must for an effective marketing strategy in 2007. If consumers are looking for a product, service, or specific brand in your local area, don't be invisible. Make sure they can find you.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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Brian Wool

Brian Wool is VP of content distribution at Localeze, a Chicago-based local search company. Established in 2003, Localeze specializes in connecting consumers with local merchants through online content collection, enhancement, and distribution. An expert in local Internet search marketing, Brian leads the distribution efforts at Localeze and is responsible for content delivery to over 35 leading search engines, Internet yellow pages, and local directories. Brian previously held various sales and marketing positions at comScore Networks and Claritas.

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