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March 25, 2008

Local Search Engine Optimization Doesn’t Exist

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There are plenty of things about search engine optimization that confuse me to no end. One of the biggest sources of confusion for me is our intense need to coin a million terms to describe the same thing. In my humble little brain, there’s no such thing as local search engine optimization. It’s just search engine optimization. Just because we’re targeting a more niche set of keywords doesn’t suddenly change what we’re doing. Also, why the hell do we need the word canonicalization? Can anyone even spell that, let alone pronounce it? Okay, that’s not the point of this post.

Tim Nash had a post yesterday hailing SEO Nottinghamshire Here I Come, which essentially asked whether or not companies received business from their local area and if they specifically target it.

Personally, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be targeting your local area. Isn’t the point of having a Web site to target everyone? How hard is it to work some geographic keywords and local identifiers into your content? To me, doing that isn’t "local search engine optimization", it’s straight up smart optimization. Let’s stop with the names. We just make ourselves look silly and create more words people can’t spell. Like canonicalization.

It’s really my hope that in the next 3-5 years we’ll stop thinking about local search engine optimization, video optimization, audio optimizations and all the optimizations individually. SEO and all the practices and techniques that fall under that umbrella will simply be part of a company’s core marketing campaign. It’s not that we’ll stop performing these techniques; they’ll just become a natural part of your larger Internet marketing campaign. Optimizing for local search or making your site blended search-friendly will be second nature (okay, maybe that’s a stretch) as companies wise up and begin taking advantage of all the opportunities available to them. It’s promising to hear that 70 percent of those Tim asked said they were specifically targeting local areas, as well as nationally.

It’s promising, but not good enough. That number should be way higher, like 100 percent. I’ll use Bruce Clay, Inc. as an example just because it’s what I’m familiar with.

We’re a global business, right? We have offices open or in the works in the UK, Sydney, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, China, and obviously in the United States. Clearly our focus is on national and international clients, and yet we still know the importance of having a presence in our own backyard. That’s why if you do a search for ‘simi valley seo‘ or ‘simi valley optimization‘, we’re right there. It just makes sense that we’d want to show up for these terms.

By NOT focusing and targeting locally, you run the risk of missing out on a lot of great opportunities that just happen to be closer to home and may actually come with a lower cost of conversion. Okay, I have absolutely no hard numbers to support that statement, but my gut tells me that users searching for local terms are more likely to convert than someone who just found us searching for "search engine optimization". Why? Because it’s human nature to trust someone "like you", who lives and works in your town. Do you not immediately like someone when you find out they grew up in your home town? Of course, you do.

There’s also some comfort in knowing that you do business with someone who lives downtown that you can head down there and kick some ass should a problem arise. Say what you want, you know it’s true. ;)

When companies maximize these local relationships, they’re able to set themselves apart in a way that competitors across the country cannot. things begin equal, what business do you trust more: The one located 3,000 miles away or the one that happens to have an office in town?

I don’t think it matters how many local clients you currently "get". Optimizing your site for local queries is just good business. You almost have to purposely NOT target your local audience. And keep in mind that opportunities for local search are growing by leaps and bounds. Just because you’re not seeing much return now, doesn’t mean that won’t increase as the search engines begin working local listings deeper into their SERPs, users begin searching smarter, and we all start taking advantage of mobile devices.





11 responses to “Local Search Engine Optimization Doesn’t Exist”

  1. Catfish writes:

    Lisa I completely agree with you. Too many people make up to many catchy phrases in this industry to describe basic search engine optimization principles (see “link bait” as an example). I don’t understand why there would be any difference between local SEO and just plain old SEO since if you are doing plain old SEO you should be targeting local terms. Otherwise you’re really not doing SEO…lol.

  2. Jeremy Rivera writes:

    I think that specialization isn’t a negative. As search grows, there are more and more facets of search to address. Local search engine optimization adds a category to the mix, and there are a different set of rules and ideas that you should implement to have the best impact on your local market. However, simply because it is a different set of actions doesn’t mean you should exclude it from your overall strategy. I agree that a good umbrella plan should include a facet of local optimization.

  3. Kevin Heisler writes:

    Lisa right on the money – except maybe for “canonacalization” since it makes SEO seem like a religious experience. With all the search evangelists preaching SEO, seems like a good fit. ;-)

    While we’re on the subject of evangelists, no swearing? That gives me the SEO Blues. If i wanted no swearing i’d read Search Engine Watch.

    @Catfish – great comment, great mp3. Very cool.

  4. Peter Leshaw writes:

    I disagree. I have been promoting local search optimization for a while now. For example, after I verify a clients site with Google Webmaster Tools, I then have the ability to Geo-target the site. In addition, I go to Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and Localeze to register the client’s physical location as well as update the listings if needed. Since Google displays local results at the top of SERP’s and since the results are organic, Local Search Optimization is possible. – Peter Leshaw

  5. Local SEO Guide writes:

    Couldn’t resist commenting on this one. While for the most part there’s not a big difference between doing “local” seo v. doing seo in general, there are some peculiarities that apply to local just as there are peculiarities that apply to any other niche. So if you are working on a seo project that involves local search, it couldn’t hurt to have some experience in that area.

  6. Rae writes:

    Just as a fun tidbit of information… for simi valley seo: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=simi+valley+seo&btnG=Search you’re only number one for those on a US IP… for those of us in Canada, you’re below the fold after merchant circle and the local listings… :)

  7. Jeremy Kuo writes:

    I think it’s a sign of growth; a testament of the increasing general awareness for each SEO subset — regardless of how basic they are.

    Back in the “Hello World” era, I knew that various onpage tweaks would cause ranking shifts, but at the time, I didn’t know that it was called “SEO”! Just like “local SEO” is to “SEO”, you’d assume that SEO should be an integral part of web development. Only, it isn’t — which warrants our professional existence. Did the term “search engine optimization” sound like fancy sales speak back then? Probably did, as much as “local SEO” today.

    Words are good. They share meaning and a sense of our world! And it serves us well because most of business prospects already understand the concept of “local”.

    [Btw, sry I don't blog -- yet. It's an integration initiative that's underway with our site redesign]

  8. Link Builder writes:

    Your article is entertaining while educating at the same time. Well, I just wanna share that everything around us evolves, this includes the SEO. It comprises the SEM (Search Engine Marketing), but recently, I’ve heard that SEO wants to be independent from SEM… ;-)

  9. MaltaMom writes:

    I agree that we should be targeting local keywords as second nature. However, for business whose main focus is to get calls from locals, there are several things beyond “targeting a niche set of keywords” that they can do to enhance their local rankings that wouldn’t be appropriate for other websites and thus, local SEO does exist as a separate discipline within SEO.

  10. Tim Miller writes:

    I absolutely love Lisa’s take on local search. Local search is in fact SEO. Local search is one of the best ways for small to medium size businesses to draw in local customers. Franchises or companies with multiple locations can benefit well with Local search, it really helps establish and strengthen their name.

  11. HighPoint writes:

    I can’t agree more. Local search should be a no-brainer, automatically included in everyone’s SEO plans. If you are avoiding your local community, or don’t have that in your marketing plans, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.



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