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December 5, 2007

Local Search Optimization

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In case you didn’t get enough local search information from the last session, it’s time for another one. This time we’re here with David Klein, Joe Laratro, John Coronella, and Jennifer Black. Melanie Mitchell, whom I’ve never met but Simon Heseltine talks about all the time, is moderating.

Looks like we’re jumping right into things. David Klein is first.

David says he’s a chiropractor posing as an SEO. He also says it’s okay to laugh and heckle during his presentation. Apparently, we’re all looking very serious. It’s probably because half the room is hung over and the other half is asleep. What?

A brick and mortar business is a business with walls and customers inside. David says he asked current and potential customers if they searched for his company, what would they search for? In his case, the main term was [San Diego chiropractic]. Using that information, what they did was create a really simple site with lots and lots of text. Google likes sites that tell a story. They talked about chiropractic and put up lots of success stories. He says he likes to make sites look beautiful. Um, if that’s the case, someone needs to tell David that 1997 called and they want their site design back. He says they made an 80 page cartoon book about chiropractic. (I wish David would stop making me spell chiropractic. It breaks my rhythm.)

David’s goal was to be number one for [san diego chiropractic]. To do well, you need lots of links that are relevant to your page. Dave got links to his site by doing lots of things, including posting a letter from the University of California Dan Diego (testiominal), the cartoon linkbait they did at WordCamp (which is one of Matt Cutts’ favorite how-to-get-links example as of late), they gave the firefighters chiropractic services during the recent San Diego fires and brought them food, he posted a photo of Dave and Matt Cutts on his blog, and they set up a site for the SEO Poker tournament they’re throwing tomorrow night.

What can YOU do to get links?

If you have a hardware story you could donate hammers to build homes for the homeless and then take photos and write about it on your site.

If you have a florist you could donate flowers to the funeral of someone well loved and write about it on your site.

If you have famous customers, you can take photos and write about them on your site (with permission).

Do those examples may anyone else feel kind of sleazy or is it just me? Donate to the homeless because you care about other people and have a soul, not to get links.

Jennifer Black is next. I can’t stop coughing. Melanie is going to ask me to leave, I know it.

"Local search is actually the process whereby users seek information online with the intent of making an offline transaction" – Greg Sterling

Where do you start?

You have a listing. Actually, you should have lots of listings. All the major engines already have your business listed. Most off self-service tools allow you to verify and update your information in about 5 minutes. There are many data sources. Make sure your listing is correct and complete in all of them. Doing this will assist you in building backlinks (which will help with search engine optimization) and allow you to be found by local prospects.

Customers will see your profile page on the local search engine. Your profile should include hours, service area, payment methods, photos, logos and more. You can have someone do all the work for you for a small monthly/annual fee. Submit once and get distributed across the Internet. Again, she restates that this is great for search engine optimization.

If you’re not ready for PPC, you can try paid subscription listings. It works under a flat fee and there’s no risk of spending too much money on PPC. She calls it’s a simple and painless way to start.

She mentions Pay Per Call where a customer 800 number is assigned to your business and then you pay whenever a customer calls you. If you’re going to do this, make sure you answer the phone when it rings! Heh.

She talks about PPC, testing different landing creatives and using a good analytics program to track what’s going on. I’m not sure how this relates to local search, but it’s good advice nonetheless.

Welcome, Joe Laratro.

Ooo, Joe is coming into the crowd. He’s shaking things up and asking for some audience participation. Please don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me.

He provides proof of the long tail search. He pulls up some data on his friend’s Web site which shows that users visited the site by querying 272,022 different keywords. This is important because in local search there are so many keywords that you can target. If you’re a plumber, you take your basic keywords and then figure out your geotargeted keywords. Think about how people refer to your specific area. Once you have those, can focus on specific keywords, geocentric + broad keywords, and geocentric + specific keywords.

Joe asks the audience what they doing for a living so he can give them content ideas.

An audience member says she does real estate in Thousand Oaks, California, which is in Ventura Country (and right near the BC offices. Shout out!). He talks about creating testimonials where people will naturally use the keywords she’s looking for. You can also then go in and edit those testimonials to make them more keyword-robust. Joe asks the audience member how many pages her site has. It has 48. Joe says that’s nice, but what if your site was 140 pages? Then it would be 5 times as nice?

Form pages don’t work. You can’t target 50 different states by using a form page and then only changing that one word. You need more content. Think geo and writing. Your clients aren’t going to think geo when writing testimonials, but you are.

Track your success. Review your analytics. Look for increases in the amount of keyword and search referrals. Is there traffic going to the new pages you’ve created? Make sure Google has indexed your new content. Stay committed to adding content. You can’t just add 5 pages a year. A 10 page brochure Web site will not rank well for lots of content. The low hanging fruit today (the long tail) may not be there in five years. Do it now, don’t waste any time.

John is up.

John says he asked to go last and now everyone has already said everything he was going to say. He can’t find his presentation on the desktop cause they’re all named "PubCon". Heh.

Local search is interesting because it’s a way to take a couple of big databases and get a lot of keywords from them. But there are some tricks and it’s hard to do. As a local merchant, if you understand how the local search sites put together their sites, it helps you use them to your advantage.

Local Search is Dead. The tactic of taking geographic terms and expanding your keyword set has been around for ever. It generates lots of ‘long tail’ queries. There’s a low barrier to entry. The challenge is not to be ‘just another search result within another search result’.

He does a search for [plumbers in Medford, Mass]. You see big portal sites, the IYPs, the small truly local directories, the industry verticals and a lot of other crap.

When you’re marketing your local business, content is key. You want to be in Google’s Universal Search. Make sure your information is updated.

[He's flipping through his slides really fast and not reading them. I'm getting nauseous.]

How do you build your local search?

When most people build their sites, they start with the state pages, then they drill down into city pages, and after those they have their 15 million business listings/profile pages. This dilutes your PageRank and makes it really easy for people to take over your results.

What you want to do is optimize your site, get into all the data providers and then optimize those listings.

Own your own SERPs and your town. Insert yourself into the local listings and optimize. Provide them content for your business. Buy/Send them links and rank you.

What? I have no idea what just happened. Okay, it’s lunch time.

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7 responses to “Local Search Optimization”

  1. Lisa writes:

    Thanks for the ideas. I just started the keywords about 2 months ago. It has increased my website hits 100%. It still isn’t as high as I would like – but we are getting there. I do need to be better about watching the statistics and updating the website. Thanks for reminding me.

    Lisa

  2. Simon Heseltine writes:

    I thought the only person I talked about ‘all the time’ was “The Lisa”

  3. Terry Reeves - Mr Unkie to you writes:

    “Local Search is Dead”

    How did this guy get to speak at PubCon?

    Local search is not dead. It is about to become big business for many of us. It already is for me.

  4. Simon Heseltine writes:

    Same way a certain J.C. was a keynote speaker at the Kelsey ILM conference last week and said
    “Local Search is a sh*tty business”

  5. Terry Reeves - Mr Unkie to you writes:

    If you can’t do local search, you can’t do any search. SEO wise, anyway. Now, I will agree that the demand for local search is not great, but i am seeing more and more local businesses wanting to know more about ranking for their hometown, city, county, state…

    I see tremendous demand in the future just with mobile devices alone.

    Those who can’t hack it should leave their ignorant comments to themselves.

    Hello pormroers. I am doing local search and all is good. When you need a more realistic opinion of local search, give me a call.

  6. Terry Reeves - Mr Unkie to you writes:

    I promise I can speak better than I can type.

  7. purposeinc writes:

    That was fricken hilarious. The only thing worse than doing a talk that bombs to the audience, is having to relive it months later when you read someone’s blow by blow account of that talk!

    If any of the bad taste still lingers from my talk, send me a post and I will send you a container of antibacterial wipes.

    I promise to do better next year!

    Much Love,
    Dr. David Klein
    dk
    purposeinc



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