Drive It – Convert It! #12 (podcast): Getting Started with Local Search

(Note: This podcast was originally published 1n 2006 under another domain name – bastioninternet.com/blog.  In 2010, the blog was later migrated to this site.  Some links may be outdated or there may be issues with RSS feeds)

Local search tactics offer a huge opportunity whether you are local or not.

Suggested Tags: seo, sem, web design, website design, search engine optimization, internet marketing, web marketing, local search, web promotion

Show summary:

Local search defined.
The numbers are all pointing to more and more local searches being done online by Internet users.

A 10 step plan to get started with driving more traffic to your web site through optimizing for local search.

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Hi and welcome to Drive It – Convert It!, for October 6th, 2006. This is episode #12: Getting Started with Local Search

They say that all politics is local. Is that the same for search – listen and find out.

Drive It – Convert It! is the podcast where Small and Medium Sized businesses learn the marketing strategies and tactics behind Driving More Traffic to their website and Converting that Traffic into qualified leads and sales.

Drive it, convert it.

I’m John Boulter. I’m the president of Bastion Internet. Podcasts, show notes, and transcripts can be found at BastionInternet.com/podcast. That’s B A S T I O N internet.com/podcast. Email your comments and questions to podcast@bastioninternet.com.

Welcome to the first installment of the Getting Started series. The plan for the Getting Started series is to give you a simple five to ten step plan which will get you started in a variety of traffic driving strategies. We’ll focus on the less traveled strategies, those beyond normal SEO and PPC – Pay Per Click. Our first Getting Started installment – Local Search.

Local search – it’s very hot news in the search marketing industry right now. Last week in Colorado, Search Engine Strategies had a conference dedicated to only local search. I wasn’t able to attend but I did heard is was very well received. comScore, the data gathering folks, just published some stats on local search. There was some very interesting news there which we’ll go over. And if you’re following the actions of the maajor search engines, you can see they’re ramping up their local search offerings.

But the hottest news came yesterday when I needed a Firewire cable. I quickly found the number to my local Target store. Local search in action, in vivid color.

It’s always a kick to me when my wife is climbing up on a stool to get the yellow pages to contact some local business. As she’s blowing the dust off the phone book my son gives her a printout of whatever information she needed. In the time it had taken her to get that big old book off the shelf in the closet, he had the information in hand.

Now I think she’s just faking him out when she starts heading for the closet to get the book. She just wants him to do the work.

During the next 20 or so minutes, I’m going to be mentioning a lot of links. Don’t worry about writing them down. Just visit the show notes – they’ll all be the Bastion Internet website.

Local search – what is it; why is it important; and how do you get started. I’m going to talk about that and give you a 10 step “getting started” plan.

What is local search. To me local search means physical contact. If you have something to offer that can be enhanced by a physical meeting then you are involved in local search. If your target audience will want to get together with you at some point in the process, and they’re searching for your type of offering, that is local search.

Why is it important. It’s important because people are doing it. They’re searching online for local products and services. Right now – as we speak.

There are some fresh stats just out from a comScore Networks study. comScore provides consumer behavior insight to companies. They just completed a study on local search on the Internet. This past July, 2006, 109 million people in the United States did a local search on a search engine. That was 63% of the US internet users. Local search is up 43 percent year over year.

Now for the really exciting number – 47 percent of local searchers followed through with a visit to a business they’d found while searching.

Here’s the number that surprised me the most – Yahoo and Google were neck in neck with local search market share – Google had 29.8 percent of the market, Yahoo had 29.2 percent of the market. To me that’s pretty significant for a couple of reasons.

First it means that Google has a lot less proportional influence in this category then they seem to in overall search.
Second, it means that the 2 market leaders comprise about 60% of the market, a lot less then in more general search where it’s probably closer to 75% of the market. There’s also a lot more players making up the next 30 or so percentage points. Check out the link to the press release to get more info on that. So – we know what it is. We know how important it is. Now – how do we do it. Where do we focus.

Here’s the 10 step program to get you started:

  1. Add your website to the major search engines’ local search areas.
  2. Update your infoUSA profile
  3. GeoTarget your Pay Per Click program
  4. Place tester ads on traditional yellow page style websites
  5. Place tester ads on vertical search engines
  6. Optimize your website coding
  7. Optimize your website content
  8. Create new website content
  9. Add a map to your site
  10. Get geographic centric links

Let’s look at those in more detail

1 ) Add your website to the major search engines’ local search areas.
Just before the show, I typed in the phrase “furniture store in los angeles”. The top result in Google, Yahoo, and MSN (aka Windows Live) were all the search engines own local search sites. Try it.

Even if you can deliver your service anywhere in the country, if someone wants to deal with a local company – you want to show up.

Now in Google, you can have many local addresses, – but they are going to ask you to confirm each one by sending you a confirmation code via snail mail to that address.

I’ve got the links to Yahoo, Google and MSN’s local submission URLs in the show notes. It does time them time to get listed, so start this going today.

2) Update your infoUSA profile
infoUSA is a large database and list management firm. When you get telemarketed, there’s a good chance the telemarketer bought their list from infoUSA. Oh well, they’ve probably got your information anyway, so go onto their site and make sure it’s the right information. infoUSA feeds a lot of directories and smaller search engines so you do want to be there.

3) Target Your Pay Per Click programs
If you aren’t already doing this, geographically target some portion of your pay per click campaign. Even if you market in the entire country, if you can do something extra in some locations – because you have physical presence there – target those locations. You can do this in one of two ways – either bid regionally – a feature within the various pay per click engines, or include geographic keywords as part of your search phrase – like furniture store in Boston.

If you choose to use the PPC feature, Google and Microsoft seem to be doing a better job at this than Yahoo’s search marketing. However, Yahoo’s new Panama release may change that. I did see a demo of their upcoming software but can’t remember if in enhanced the geotargeting functionality.

I usually prefer to add the specific keywords to my phrases, but others definitely prefer using the search engines own geographic filters. With services like AOL and other anonymizers the IP address of the searcher does not always match their geography. And I think Users are getting more used to using geographic terms in their searches. If I had to choose one, I think that using the actual keywords is the way to go.

4) Place tester ads on a traditional yellow page style websites
Go to yellowpages.com or Verizon’s Superpages.com, check out their ad prices and place some test ads.

One thing I really need to mention and that is definitely the subject of a future Drive It – Convert It episode is that of Analytics. You do need to know where your traffic and conversions are coming from. The more sources of traffic you have, the more important it is to be able to analyze the success or lack of success of each one. This is a little easier when you’ve got limited sources of traffic drivers. As you diversify, analytics is a key.

5) Place tester ads on vertical search engines
There are a number of search engines that are catering to Local search. I’m not sure whether they’ll having staying power versus the big engines.

I do think it’s worthplacing some test ads on a few of these sites. Two that I would start with are local.com and truelocal.com

6) Optimize your website coding
This gets back to showing up in the general engines but for the geographic long tail.

Revisit your page titles, metatags, h1 headings and see if you can’t plug some geographic terms in there. Often it will just add to your ability to be found for these geographic qualifiers without diminishing your ranking for the more generic terms you’re currently focused on. If you need more information on how to do on-page coding – re-listen to podcast # 4.

7 ) Optimize your website content
Take a look at your current content. Do you mention nearby cities, suburbs, neighborhoods, counties. Usually you can add a short paragraph that is very conversational in nature

“whether your planting lawns in Southlake, landscaping in Colleyville, or gardening in West Plano our Dallas based warehouse can handle your fertilizer needs” you get the idea.

Make sure your physical addresses are listed on your contact page. Consider putting your main address as part of your footer. Add your phone number to the header. If you’re solely doing business locally, that should be a must anyway.

8 ) Create new website content
Create pages for 2 or 3 key geographic terms – let’s say you’re San Francisco Bay area based – so Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose. Dedicate a page to talk about each of these cities. List the attractions, the weather, the business climate the

Now take your top 2 or 3 regular search phrase targets and integrate them into the city pages.

It’s probably going to look a little strange, so be creative. Make up a new section for your site. Call it doing business in the Bay Area. Tell why your employees like the surrounding cities. Talk about the history of your area of business within the cities. Just make sure you have some good internal links near the top of the page which will transfer Users to the business end of your site. The idea is to rank with the search engines for these pages and then quickly have those users move on to the converting areas of your website.

Make it quality, as always. And, make the pages different. Don’t just do a search and replace on the city name and leave the rest of the content unchanged. Duplicate content is likely to get ignored. If the technique works for you, it’ll be worth your time to expand it. Branch out to more cities, neighborhood, states, whatever makes sense in your geography.

9 ) Add a map to your site
Make sure you’ve got a map on your site with an Alt tag describing it. Add some directions. Tell how to get to your location from neighboring cities. Sound like good content to me.

10 ) Get geographic centric links
Finally, go get some links. Two tactics here – first, make sure the linking anchor text contains the geographic keyword qualifier. This applies especially to links from more generic directories or traditional website sources for you. Second, try to get links from directories or sites that cater to your geography. We often talk about links from good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods and same-industry neighborhoods. Now go get some links from your actual neighborhood.

There are a lot of directories trying to cater to a particular region, search them out and you’ll probably find you can get some cost effective links. Hopefully, the links themselves will drive traffic to you, but the link juice you get that ups your search engine rankings can often be a big kicker.

There we go – done! It should take you less than 60 days to work your way through those 10 steps. You’ll probably be through half of them in just a few weeks.

So like politics is all search local – nah – but a lot of it is – so take advantage!

That wraps up Getting Started with Local Search. But whether you’re local or national, it seems you can’t turn around without bumping into another Drive Traffic animal – Social Search. So join us for our next installment in the series – Getting Started with Social Search.

So if you haven’t yet subscribed, you won’t want to miss out. You can follow the subscription links on our site. Or, if you use iTunes, do a search for drive it convert it and pick us up there. I’m John Boulter, for Bastion Internet’s Drive It – Convert It! podcast.

If you just don’t like the whole RSS thing, fill out the email form on the site, I’ve got the link in the show notes and all the podcast pages. We’ll get you added to our double-secret probation opt-in email distribution list.

As always I welcome you to visit us at bastioninternet.com or Email us at podcast@bastioninternet.com. We’ll get back to you.
And for gosh sakes – link to me – because you can never be to thin, too rich or have too many quality inbound links.

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About JohnB

John Boulter is the President of Bastion Internet and a major contributor to the Drive It - Convert It! website. Avid interest in the web and Internet marketing and a student of life.
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