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March 18, 2008

Why Local Is Different

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Time to talk local, people! Ian White (Urban Mapping) is moderating this morning’s session with speakers Gib Olander (Localeze), Benu Aggarwal (Milestone Internet Marketing), Chat Schott (Marchex, Inc.) and Vik Advani (UpNext.com).

First up is Chat Schott. He’s from Marchex. He works with Matt McGee. I’m secretly jealous of Chat. Ian tells us that Chat is also an avid lacrosse player. I’m more impressed that he works with Matt McGee.

Chat says they look at local as the great consumer mega trend. There was search, then commerce, social networking and now local. It will shape the way consumers interact with content online and create a tremendous opportunity.

Local is the online equivalent of local newspapers, print yellow pages, community forums, and radio.

Why is Local Important?

Every day millions of people use the Internet to research, discover and contact local businesses from dentists to auto repair shops. They determine which stores to buy from and how to get there. They plan their weekend activities.

There are about 15 million small businesses driving a huge amount of online spend. Roughly a million of them are advertising online. Local is growing rapidly.

[Oh, how I wish I could stop coughing. It's severely limiting my ability to type. Or, I just need to grow a third hand. Either one would be great.]

The local consumer experience is fragmented and still evolving. There is not one leading source of local business information on the Internet. The lack of volume has resulted in national advertisers not allocating a significant amount of their budget to local. Offline transactions at retail outlets are difficult to track.

Small- to medium-sized businesses lack the time to manage search marketing and their business. Only 1M of the more than 15 SMBs do any form of search marketing (insane!). We need a trusted resource for online marketing. Seventy-one percent of SMBs prefer calls over clicks to their Web sites.

Why is Local Different?

Because it drives offline transactions.

  • 86 percent of search engine users search for local products and services.
  • 92 percent of Internet shoppers make their purchases offline.

Local search is different because it drives innovation. The consumer experience is evolving to better help users discover local businesses. There are greater refinement options, summaries for reviews and ratings, and more local content is coming online. There are new streams of innovative ad units and technologies. There’s pay per phone calls, video ads, better mobile applications and growth of Free DA. There are simple, more intuitive self-service tools to update and enhance organic listings.

Local is happening now. Local is about connecting high value consumers with relevant advertiser’s content in the most seamless and efficient way.

Benu Aggarwal is up.

It’s time to integrate local search into your overall online strategy. Get your ingredients together. It starts with your content. Make sure you’re using locally-based keyword phrases. They should be part of your research and integrated into your content. Always attack location-based phrases — that’s for organic search engine optimization and PPC. Work local interests into your site design and programming. Target pure local search engines and maps. Pay attention to the yellow page sites. Provide information to business data providers. Target local and vertical listings, social media sites and get into online video.

Impact of Local Search: In the Golden Triangle, Local search results are at the top. [But aren't we abandoning the Golden Triangle philosophy now that blended search kicks so much ass? - Lisa]

Quick Checklist for Local search

  1. Research
  2. Content: content for the search engines
  3. Packages: specials, packages
  4. Design: Optimize pages for local addresses and image names.
  5. Promotion: This includes SEO.

Web 2.0 Strategies: Creating blogs and videos and posting them on your site. You want your blog to talk about local issues and what consumers are looking for. What local information are users searching for? Use Flickr and image tags to optimize images.

Top 10 Tips and Tricks

  1. Make sure to integrate local as part of your overall online marketing strategy
  2. Check if accurate information/data is coming up from IYPs
  3. Check if you are listed on 2nd tier local directories and vertical directories
  4. Fully optimize business Web site with alt tags, image names, business information listed as text, page and image names, etc.
  5. Update your business profile on the main search engines by adding pictures, information and about business, coupons, maps, etc
  6. Reference from other local sites
  7. Local geographical based PPC
  8. Optimize Web 2.0 Tools
  9. Optimize your video for local search
  10. Monitor UGC

Vik Advani is up.

Location Matters. If you own a pizza shop you are interested in people around that location or people that are going to be in that area. And if you want pizza, you want it close. [True that. When I want pizza, I want it in my belly - Lisa]

You narrow down a location of a user through geotargeting. Lots of innovation is happening down to being able to identify the user’s block. The better you can get a user’s location, the more effective your ad is going to be.

The great thing about mapping is that you don’t have to predict where the user is. The user tells you what they’re looking at. You’re focused on a very specific location. You can get all the way down to the block level.

Geotargeting on basic maps

You can advertise on maps using Google, but you can also geotarget your listings. You can narrow what city or states you want to target. You can put a point on a map and set a radius so that everyone with an IP location within that radius can see you on the map. You can even great custom shapes to block out certain areas.

If you have a local business ad, you can get a sponsored pushpin on the Google Map itself. This is really effective.

Gib Olander is next.

Local Search is about this:

  • 67 percent of respondents said they prefer to make purchase in physical stores
  • 69 percent research products or features online.
  • 58 percent use the Internet to locate items before going to a store to purchase.

Local search is only partially about Web sites. It’s also about organizing your content outside and away from your Web site. There are more than 16 million US businesses. Less than 50 percent of business locations have an independent Web site.

Gib took a look at a typical local search result page. Of the 20 total links on that SERP (10 local + 10 Web results), zero are going to a local Web site. They go to map listings, but not a local Web site. You have to give Google some place to link to.

On Yahoo, of the 7 links above the fold, not one appears due to the content on a Local Business Web site.

Change this by creating a cloud of content for each individual business location. Keep in mind that the content must answer both discovery and recovery local search queries.

Recovery Content:

  • A business name
  • A business address
  • All business phone numbers
  • Business Web address
  • Primary line of business
  • Neighborhood services

Discovery Content:

  • Products offered
  • Business specialist
  • Services provided
  • Payment methods accepted
  • Hours of operation
  • Alternative lines of business
  • Unique offers

Each business location should create and maintain a local search content cloud organizing content for recovery and discovery search.

Ian asks Benu to walk the audience through what a local PPC campaign looks like and the research need. PPC says to make sure that your landing pages are optimized. If you’re doing an exact match, your landing page has to be optimized to support that. She recommends spending 50 percent of your time thinking about local activities.

Ian launches into trivia time!

Q: Out of all queries, what percent of search queries use city or a state terms?

A: 5 percent.

What percent of search terms use a zip code?

5 hundredth of one percent. (I’d make that decimal but I’m not sure what it is. Math is delicious.) [Point oh five percent, I think? --Susan]

Chat stalks talking about the PPC campaigns Marchex does and says that their strength is in micro-campaigns. Chat says that if we work with a reseller, we develop a product that they sell, we get that and we create/optimize the campaigns. Our business is service, but it’s about scale. In our case, we probably rely on tried and true methodologies for breaking down keywords.

Ian says there’s no way that Google’s street view can be up to date and accurate. What’s the nature of the perishability of some of this rich media?

Advani: Right now it’s a lot of eye candy but they’re trying to make it more useful. There are things that can be done. There are methods involved. I think if you have the majority of the data correct, then you should be okay. Also, the images that are displayed on the store fronts really need to be brought out more. The problem with GSV is that you can’t tell what the business really is. There’s technology out there right now trying to clear it out and make the image sharper.

Going back to the PPC question, Benu says that they way they differentiate their campaigns is really difficult to do. We are always looking for data that will help us understand their market. What are people searching for? What do they want to do? If you’re doing PPC for others, it’s a good idea to get information from the business. Don’t just look at AdWords.

Question and Answer

For local search, two of our clients have multiple offices, how do we get each one of those offices showing up?

Gib: There are three different places to really rank: PPC – you want the landing page optimized best to the location. From a site perspective, you want to use a strong internal linking structure and use nice geographical modifiers. You want additional pages for each location. And then, focus on the offpage stuff. Each of those listings needs to have their own unique content. Each location is its own entity. Each of those you need to add the right descriptive information.

Benu: Google just launched a feed where you can claim your main business and then include a feed for all of your locations.

Given that Google Web search and Google Local use different algorithms, any theories why the Google 10 pack differs from the organic results?

Gib: In the Google 10 pack they have more businesses to choose from. If 50 percent of all business don’t have a Web site, it’s hard to serve that content up anywhere else.

[Li Evans is sitting to my right and whispers that the results are different because they use different algorithms. I have to agree with Li on that one.]

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One response to “Why Local Is Different”

  1. David writes:

    In an article posted by Posted by Lisa Barone called Why Local Is Different; she states that “86 percent of search engine users search for local products and services.”

    Can you possbkly give me he source for that 86% number?

    Many thanks,

    david



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