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February 10, 2009

Local Search Marketing Tactics

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Lunch at SMX is always awesome but over too soon. There were mini cannoli. [Why must you make me even more jealous of your SMX West fun! --Virginia] We’re back in sessions and this time it’s about the all important local search. Speakers Scott Dunlap, NearbyNow, Inc., Matt McGee, Search Engine Land, William Scott, Search Influence, Atif Rafiq, Yahoo and Dennis Yu, BlitzLocal LLC will be joined by moderator Greg Sterling, Sterling Market Intelligence.

Greg says we’re going to be talking about social media, blogging, stuff that’s more than just maps.

Atif Rafiq is our last minute sub from Yahoo and he’s up first. He manages the business functions of their local products. He’s focusing on discoverability (making your business easier to find) and marketability (making it more relevant).

How to enhance discoverability?

  • Enhanced listings in Y! Local, proactively monitoring and verifying listing information
  • Enhancing profiles
  • Using SearchMonkey

Local queries are actually fairly complex, such as “hotel zaza brunch menu, Houston, TX”. They have complex intent that needs to be responded to.

The traditional data sources for local are directory category trees. But emerging sources include direct feeds, third-party aggregation and Web crawling.

How do they do that? They’re adding more structured data and leveraging large pools of unstructured data acquired via crawl, aggregation relationships and direct feed submissions (SearchMonkey) including mining reviews to correlate significant content enrichment. SearchMonkey doesn’t affect rankings in general.

Local search is evolving with Web search.

SearchMonkey works in three ways:

  • Site owners/publishers share structured data with Yahoo.
  • Site owners and third-party developers build SearchMonkey apps.
  • Consumers customize their search experience with enhanced results or infobars.

Marketability

Geo-targeting (sponsored search) best practices:

  • Geo-target a campaign to a specific area: KW selection should include unmodified terms/ad copy should include location.
  • National campaigns: KW selection to include geo-modified terms. Ad copy to include location. If KWs have multiple locations through the country, include the state too.
  • Improved ad content: Integrate offers and promotions.
  • SearchMonkey: Include official URLs and images

There are three principle drivers and responses:

  • Increasing user sophistication: Getting found is not as simple as being labeled in the right directory category.
  • Ad product mix: Sponsored search will connect the demand with supply, relevance and performance focus.
  • Channel strategy: Intermediaries required to reduce complexity, aggregate inventory, integrate programs.

Will Scott is the next speaker. He’s with Search Influence and they work for mostly small- and medium-sized businesses.

Barnacle SEO: attaching once to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.

What is local search?

  • It’s location specific.
  • It’s often for goods and services.
  • It often leads to offline purchase.
  • Local is different depending on:
    • Urgency
    • Service type
    • Demographics/geography
  • Local search is long tail search.

Small businesses have small budgets, are risk averse and need quick proof of ROI. Local works for them.

Where is local search happening?

On the map, below the map, on vertical sites. Be in all those places and you can end up taking over the search results when your listing ranks on many different sites. [I wish you could see these search results.]

Do I have to have a Web site for local SEO?

No, you don’t. [Um...] You can promote your business in the yellow pages, local directories, etc. Links aren’t critical, the correlating factors are name, address and phone number. Some of the most trusted sites can actually be bought.

Yahoo local — you must be here
Citysearch.com
Superpages.com
Insiderpages.com — ranks well
Yelp.com
Yellowpages.com
Brownbook.com
Merchantcircle.com — ranks well

GetListed.org should be your first stop.

Maximize local listing with SEO. Use keywords in titles and copy. Get links to your local profiles — even low quality links will work. Leverage social bookmarking and directories. Authority sites always respond well to targeted links.

[It's okay to slow down, guys. Really.]

Dennis Yu steps up.

How do you geo-multiply without getting penalties?

Use PPC: geo plus the keyword = new keyword! Figure out which of your keywords and geo sites are the most trafficked and only combine those. Ignore the low volume ones. Run them and delete the ones that aren’t getting traffic.

Call tracking and recording is important.

Yahoo! has PPC and local listings but don’t discount SSP and Yahoo! Local Featured and Enchanced Listings (paid version) — medical and legal tend to work pretty well.

Encourage folks to link to you using geo-modified terms.

You should piggy-back on local brands — share links with related businesses.

Social is great for local. It’s heavily viral but you need to consider who the audience is. The cost is low because the competition is low right now. He’s got one client who, using Facebook Ads, has served 2.3 million impressions, spent less than $1000 and gets the same ROI as PPC targeted ads just because of the lower competition. The targeting isn’t there but it’s cheap enough that it doesn’t matter.

Facebook and MySpace don’t have APIs yet so you have to create a bunch of different accounts.

Use Twitter for local branding. Create backgrounds for people that they can customize and just promote yourself that way.

How do you optimize for all of your locations without creating geo-replaced pages that get penalized? Enlist the community to review and rate the locations in order to give them unique content.

Do video, and do it cheap by getting local journalism students. [Hee.]

Awesome guy and U2 guru Matt McGee is talking about hyperlocal blogging. He co-authors four local blogs. His wife is a real estate agent but this isn’t just for real estate agents. It’s content that anyone can create — big local news and events.

His blogs: Richland Real Estate, Pasco Real Estate, Kennewick Real Estate, West Richland Real Estate. Most of the posts aren’t about real estate, they’re about local events but that brought traffic.

A post that did well was about Circuit City closing down. There were pictures, content and a little bit of a story and they got a tenfold increase in traffic as a result.

Here’s another example. Leann Rimes was coming to TRAC — the story was about a big star at a unique venue. It ended up being a local blog post that was only three paragraphs long but it brought great traffic.

Hyperlocal news: Hyperlocal is neighborhood level — stuff that’s too small for the media. They had a local pool closing down for the summer so they blogged about that and got little bits of traffic from the post.

It’s not all about real estate. Anyone can do this.

Why does it work?

  • Growing interest in local stuff online — people aren’t using the yellow pages as much.<.li>

  • Traditional media is declining and they didn’t cover a lot of it when they had full staff.
  • Local Web sites are often lacking information.
  • Search engines love good blogs.

Tips:

  • Write about local stuff — not real estate search, not lawyer search, local search.
  • Use photos and video.
  • Think ahead — like the Leann Rimes show, it wasn’t going to be on the usual sources.
  • Do basic SEO.
  • Don’t overdo self-promotion — for them it’s been an indirect marketing method.

HyperlocalBlogger.com has a post with more info.

Scott Dunlap jokes that he’s got a local blog that gets more traffic than his company site. He’s up next and he’s going to teach us about tracking. It’s a multi-channel opportunity.

[His slides have a lot of text on them because he hates me. Or because he wants you to print them off and take them with you. One or the other.]

The problem:

How do local shoppers find us?
Can’t convert online — most want to try it on/out first.

Nearby now is focused on getting local data out. It geo-locates product data for 60,000+ stores. It sends unique feeds to Google, Yahoo, etc., to attract local shoppers.

They have a way to check inventory for a searcher using a concierge service. They do the calling for you and will contact you back to tell you where to find your item, who to talk to, how much it is. Very cool.

What works and what doesn’t?

Lucky Magazine causes selling spikes. They created an iPhone application for them where you can peruse all 100+ shoes in the spring shoe guide, geo-locate and find the closest store that has your size. Concierge teams call, sends e-mail/text “claim check” to pick up.

Mobile customers want to find it “nearby” in general. Online searches tend to be about equal. Only in the electronics products does it cause cannibalization to add a “find it nearby” button to a product page.

Methods that work:

  • Send them a claim check — you can include a fake bar code
  • Coupon code
  • Bar code
  • In-store bar code
  • Post-purchase consumer survey

Benefits:

  • If you account for in-store sales, most online programs will double conversion.
  • Adding “find local” to banner/search ads has little effect on online conversion.

Q&A

What’s the poor man’s version of the concierge service?

Scott: Call tracking works. Write about 20 lines of code and collect an email address. Send “claim checks” in order to increase tracking so they feel compelled to take it with them.

How long is the local search query on Yahoo?

Atif: Three to four words but the long tail queries are the most effective. Category, modifier, locations.

When you’re doing your binge and purge on combinations, how long do you wait?

Dennis: It depends on volume. If you have a lot, you might be able to do it every few days. He makes the head the top 20 terms and the rest the tail. You can say “I’m going to make the top 20 whatever gets me the 100 clicks in a rolling 30-day period.”

What percentage of searches are local? What percent of searches get completed online?

Greg says it depends on how you define local search. If it doesn’t have a geomodifier, is it still local? ComScore says about 16 percent. 90 percent of conversions are online. Service businesses are almost entirely offline. Atif says it could be upwards of 25 percent. Greg says it’s about using the Internet to influence your offline life.

Matt McGee likens social media to joining the chamber of commerce. Why does everyone tell you to join the chamber of commerce? Because it’s community, it’s networking. That’s the point of social media.

How do you do local search SEO without a Web page?

Will: WordPress.com is a good solution for that. Spend $200 bucks to direct a custom domain, make it ad free, get a CSS developer to make it custom. The end. Also put your Twitter profile and your Facebook page on every single mailer you send out.

Final takeaways:

Scott: Download every single presentation from this conference, especially if you didn’t go to the session.

Matt: The long tail of local search is huge.

Will: The chances of you ever having the strength of Yahoo or InsiderLocal are low. Use their strength.

Dennis: Make people embrace you.





5 responses to “Local Search Marketing Tactics”

  1. Michael D writes:

    I like the local search presentations at SMX best. Noticed Matt mentioned talking about hyperlocal blogging. Great to see you covered it so well (they do speak fast).

  2. john saldi writes:

    Very good information posted. Thanks Susan

  3. Aaron Weiche writes:

    Thanks for the recap, this was one session I wish I was there for. Some great local search take-aways here from each speaker. Locally focused businesses really need to hone their message/offering/connections to strengthen their geo-community.

  4. Leanne writes:

    We have really limited experience with MerchantCircle, mostly just calls from clients who’ve had some hard-sell types of calls from them that ultimately made them uncomfortable. Anyone else have any different experiences with them?

  5. Susan Esparza writes:

    Leanne – The panelists did mention that MerchantCircle wasn’t necessarily the best choice, it was simply that they rank very well, so if you’re trying to get search result coverage, they might be something to consider.



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