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When All Search Is Local

  |  March 26, 2009   |  Comments

How to use Google and Yahoo to your advantage locally.

For some businesses, all search is local search. This includes service businesses that work within a defined geographic area, brick-and-mortar businesses that exist in only one location, and those that have several different branches.

For these enterprises, location is everything and local search is the only search that matters. Their target market is potential buyers of goods or services who could walk into their place of business. It makes no sense to expend resources advertising to anyone else. For these business owners, narrowing their marketing is one of the best ways to a get good ROI (define).

So how do you do it? By combining your Web site optimization for universal search with the optimization of your Web site and local business profiles to rank in Google, the Google 10 pack, and Google Maps, and in Yahoo, the Yahoo 3 pack, and Yahoo Local.

Universal Search

Without a doubt, more people use Google search to find what they're looking for on the Internet than any other tool. Even people looking for the phone number of the dry cleaner around the corner or the hours of their neighborhood swimming pool are more likely to begin their online quest for information in the Google search box than anywhere else.

Therefore, you need to rank well in the universal SERPs (define). Do this by optimizing your Web site for Google for your best keyword phrase plus your location. Don't just optimize for "dentist" or "children's dentist," but for "Littleton Colorado dentist" or "Aurora children's dentist." Use all of your regular optimization techniques, but do it with a geographic slant. That includes titles, descriptions, header tags, and content.

Links are another important aspect of a Web site that help to convey local relevance to both the search engines and potential customers. That includes internal link text and the text of the external links that point to its pages. We're fairly confident that when we click on a link that says "Lakewood orthodontist," we'll be taken to a page about a dentist practicing in a western suburb of Denver who specializes in braces.

The same techniques that help you to rank well in Google will usually also get you a decent ranking in Yahoo.

Local Search Engines: Google Maps, Yahoo Local

While MSN Live Local is a distant third among local search engines in numbers of users, Yahoo Local is an important player in Local Search because many other Yahoo verticals, like Yahoo Travel, draw heavily from it as a source of trusted information. In addition, Google considers Yahoo Local an authoritative site. It frequently displays Yahoo Local listings in its search results and reviews from Yahoo Local often appear on Google Maps Local Business Listing pages.

Optimization for a local search engine depends greatly on its trust in the information it has about a business. So, it's critical to claim your listings in Google Maps and Yahoo Local and standardize your data across the Web as much as possible.

It also makes an impact when you optimize your business profiles by enhancing them as much as is allowed by adding information, photos, videos, and coupons; placing your listing in the proper categories and in as many relevant categories as you can; and in Google Maps by giving your listing attributes.

Local 10 Pack and 3 Pack

When Google interprets local intent in a search query, it often displays 10 local results beneath the paid ads at the top of the page and above the first organic listing. Sometimes, as in the example below, the 10 pack is shown first on the page. In the Yahoo search results, only three local listings are shown.

Google local 10 pack

Ranking in the Local 10 or 3 Pack is enviable, as those listings enjoy a privileged position on the page, catch the searcher's eye, and prominently show the businesses' phone numbers. The key to ranking well in these listings is to rank well in both the local search engine and in the universal search engine, either Google and Google Maps or Yahoo and Yahoo Local. So, concentrate your efforts on optimizing for those algorithms and the positive results will show up here.

When all search is local, you need to combine universal search, local search, and the local 10 pack and 3 pack to make certain your business appears where most of your potential customers can find it.

Does your company or client offer one of the best online marketing products or services? Nominate it now for one of the 2009 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards!


Mary Bowling

Mary Bowling has been involved in all aspects of online marketing since 2003. She has a special interest in Web site usability and in search engine optimization, including optimizing all types of media for search engines. Mary has also developed specialized expertise in promoting brick-and-mortar businesses on the Internet through local search marketing. She is currently doing independent consulting and working with seOverflow and Maia Internet Consulting in Denver, CO, optimizing and marketing a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits online.

Her accomplishments include speaking at Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conferences on a variety of topics, conducting trainings and webinars for Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Workshops, authoring popular white papers on local search and SEO for WordPress Blogs and speaking at SEMpx' s Searchfest.

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