Local Search Optimization - A Guide to Getting Started

While searching the web these days, it's hard not to notice all those little Local tabs sprouting up in the vicinity of the search field on virtually every major search engine. Within the past year, the race has been to integrate a plethora of advanced features into local search capabilities.

Already we're seeing features like customer reviews and ratings, storefront and product photos, detailed maps with directions, hours of operation, forms of accepted payment, integration with cell phones, and much more is promised to follow. Picture a million paper phone books combined - on steroids and capable of providing instant results for an information-hungry and time-challenged customer base. The potential for local search is really quite staggering!

So what exactly is local search, and how can you best position your business to take advantage of it?

In a nutshell, local search is essentially the Internet's version of the phone book. The difference being that this "phone book" is much faster and far more responsive. For example, suppose I'm in Boston staying at the Harbor View Hotel and in need of a haircut? No problem. I Just enter haircut followed by the zip code of the hotel where I'm staying - 02114 - and I instantly find Richard's Haircutting for Men a scant 0.4 miles east and with directions.

All that took about 30 seconds from concept to completion leaving me with a feeling of satisfaction that no regular phone book could ever provide. I'm now addicted to local search after only a single dose! Throw away the phone book, never mind the concierge.

Now, if that little demo hasn't yet convinced you, chew on this recent finding...

70 percent of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services... Findings also suggest the Internet is poised to surpass newspapers as a local shopping information resource. Source: The Kelsey Group

Simply put, local search - including local search on mobile devices - is about to dominate the world of brick-n-mortar marketing. Ready or not, here it comes! ...we suggest you get ready now, before it starts costing you a fortune to negotiate the learning curve. Oh, and get used to the fact that the big yellow phone book is well on its way to becoming nothing more than a cheesy doorstop.

How To Get Listed In Local Search

The first step to getting your business listed in Local Search is (surprise) to buy a listing in the offline Yellow Pages (yep, that cheesy doorstop-to-be we just dis'd). Here's why:

Most search engines get the bulk of their local business listings from just two companies: 1)infoUSA and 2)Acxiom.

...or else from Internet Yellow Pages sites which also derive their listings from these two companies. Both have compiled enormous databases containing detailed information on most of the businesses and consumer households in the US and Canada. And much of their data is pulled from your basic Yellow Page and Business White Page directories (aka, the cheesy doorstops).

The good news may be that your business already has a listing in your local Yellow Pages - if not, then you should get one! Don't worry about taking out a big colorful ad with lots of information about your company. We haven't any reason to believe that expensive ads offer any advantage in local search rankings. Nor does lots of business information in your Yellow Pages ad seem to enhance your local search listing's comprehensiveness. It appears to us that any Yellow Pages listing at all will get you included in most local search engines just fine.

By the way, InfoUSA has the more user-friendly website of the two. They provide a way for you to actually check to see if your site is listed with them by using their Directory Assistance Plus web search. And, if you find your business is not listed or is listed incorrectly, you can use their add/update page to correct your listing.

How To Check Your Listing

Once you have a Yellow Pages listing (the cheesy doorstop version), then chances are you'll be found in most local search engines. To check your listing, enter your business name and zip code into the search fields at the following locations:

Google Local - http://www.google.com/lochp

Yahoo Local - http://local.yahoo.com/

MSN Local - http://local.msn.com/ - Still not yet quite as extensive as most other search engines. Don't be surprised if you're not listed.

Ask Jeeves Local - http://local.ask.com/local - Not quite as good at word parsing as Google and Yahoo. For instance, sees timeshare as different from time share. Be specific in your spelling and punctuation of your business name or category.

AOL Local - http://localsearch.aol.com/ - Divides its results into directory-like categories, so you may have to drill down a few levels to find your listing.

A9 Local - http://a9.com/ - Not really a local search engine, but A9 does have local features, as well as their own Yellow Pages. Type in your business name and zip code and see what comes up.

If you find your business is missing from any of these local search engines, most of them provide an interface to allow you to add your site. Look around for a link that says something like "Update Your Business" or "Information for Business Owners". Chances are good that even if your site is listed, your business information may be incomplete or inaccurate and you'll probably want to update and improve your local search listing.

Esoos Bobnar is a search marketing specialist and one of the head researchers at SearchEngineNews.com, a company which publishes an award-winning Search Engine Book, as well as a monthly report on the latest search engine marketing techniques.

In The News:

SEO myths busted by an ex-Googler  Search Engine Land
TF-IDF: Can It Really Help Your SEO?  Search Engine Journal
How to find your ideal SEO agency  Search Engine Land
For SEO, How Fast Is Fast Enough?  Practical Ecommerce
11 Tools to Use for Your YouTube SEO  Business 2 Community
Google BERT Update – What it Means  Search Engine Journal
How to find cheap & affordable SEO services  Business MattersBusiness Matters
5 Free Keyword Research Tools for SEO & PPC  JumpFly PPC Advertising News
10 Best SEO Podcasts to Master the Art of SEO  99Signals - Tech News, Tech Hacks, & More
What Does It Mean to ‘Do SEO’?  Search Engine Journal
Google Shares Top 3 SEO Factors  Search Engine Journal

Google Gunning For Directories?

Why is it that webmasters are so quick to blame... Read More

The Two Most Important Things You Must Do For Google Top Ranking

Attaining a top ranking in Goggle or any other major... Read More

Marketing Articles: Getting A Better Search Engine Rank For All Of Your Pages!

In one of my articles, I discussed how to market... Read More

Are You Getting Nuked By Google Lately?

Since the last Google update, there have been many instances... Read More

Pay Per Click Versus ?Organic? Search Engine Listings - The Pros and Cons and Best Uses for Each

What's the difference?For those who aren't quite clear what the... Read More

King + Queen = Royal Success

Ever wonder how or why your competitor gets better search... Read More

Search Engines - The Dominant Factor

Let's face facts - Search engines are starting to rule... Read More

Search Engine Success & The Google-Vision Secret

Want to know the secret to great search engine listings?... Read More

The 7 Best Stealth Techniques to Improve Your Google Rankings

Stealth as in Spying. But Knowing What your Top Competitors... Read More

SEO #3: Getting Listed In Google in Under 24-Hours!

Yesterday you should have read the second course out of... Read More

Getting Noticed by Search Engines

We all, meaning us webmasters want to have the best... Read More

Look Out MSN Search, Here Comes Gbrowser

It is official, the search engine wars are in full... Read More

Optimze Your Web Site on a Shoe String Budget

Let me start off by saying I'm not a marketing... Read More

Search Engine Robots - How They Work, What They Do (Part II)

If your site isn't found in the search engines, it... Read More

The Secret Benefit Of Search Engine Optimisation: Increased Usability

A higher search ranking is what many website owners dream... Read More

SEO Facts

The internet is the largest market place on earth. It... Read More

What is Google Pagerank?

PageRank is one of the factors that Google uses to... Read More

Stuck on Keywords

Keywords have turned into big business on the internet. If... Read More

Every Search Engine Robot Needs Validation

Your website is ready. Your content is in place, you... Read More

How To Design A Search Engine Friendly Website

There are many websites that fail to target their required... Read More

See How The New Kicked Up Google Sitemap Can Get You Indexed Faster and Ranked Higher!

Does Creating a Google Site Map and Telling Google About... Read More

PPC v Natural Search ? A Cost Comparison Case Study

The attraction of Pay Per Click (PPC) online advertising is... Read More

Dont Make the Top 30 SEO Mistake

SEO consultants will tell you that you need to be... Read More

Has Google Lost the Plot?

With the help of MSN, recently I've been reminiscing about... Read More

Agressive Linking Strategies Help To Get Your Site Noticed

A good link building strategy has become an essential part... Read More