Improve Business with Local Search
Improve Business with Local Search
by: Dan Kluz, January 2006
If there is any local aspect to your business - that is, if your business serves customers in any specific geographic area(s) - you should strongly consider making the effort to get into Local Search. Google, Yahoo! and MSN all position applicable Local Search results at the top of the regular, web search results when a city/state or zip code is part of the search.
You, too, could have this enviable placement in the search results by using Local Search.
Google Local Search
Google Local is considered one of the most powerful Local Search areas, mainly because of the integration of a large, sophisticated map that appears alongside the Local Search results. When a visitor searches for local businesses, balloon icons are also overlaid onto this map showing the exact location of the results. Clicking on a balloon icon opens a larger balloon with the full address, phone number, and convenient links to the company's web site, past customer reviews and directions.
If you are in the Google index, there is a very good chance that your company will already appear in Google Local Search results if your existing web site - or a business directory containing your company's information - clearly states your address and phone number. This is because Google has been adding entries to its Local Search database for quite some time based on identifiable addresses and other text found on indexed web sites.
To explicitly add your firm to Google Local Search, you can do so through the Google Local Business Center at https://www.google.com/local/add/. You will need a Google account to add the information, and Google has also implemented a verification process before your listing will appear in the results. After adding your entry, you are required to verify the entry with a touch-tone phone or via a PIN number that will be mailed to the business address you entered.
If you have more than ten locations you would like to submit to Google Local Search, it is possible to send Google a data feed after joining as a Froogle Merchant at https://www.google.com/froogle/merchants/welcome. (If you sell products online, becoming a Froogle Merchant also carries the important benefit of being able to provide Google a data feed of your products, which are then locatable through the Froogle shopping site, as well as at the top of Google search results for people searching for specific products.)
Adding your information to Google Local Search and/or becoming a Froogle Merchant is completely free.
MSN Local Search
Similar to Google, there is already an excellent chance that you will already appear in MSN Local Search results as long as your business has a valid business white pages or yellow pages telephone listing. This is because MSN gets most of its results from local telephone records.
To explicitly add and categorize your company for MSN Local Search, MSN guides the business owner to add it through Localeze, the "national brand and local merchant content management forum," at http://webapp.localeze.com/bizreg/add.asp.
Yahoo! Local Search
Yahoo! Local Search is similar to Google's, although Yahoo's search results page is focused more on the search listings, rather than the large map that Google presents. (Yahoo! displays a map of its own with functionality similar to Google's, but it is smaller and located off to the side; it dynamically expands to a larger image when you hold your mouse cursor over it.)
Another difference between Yahoo! and Google is how they get customer reviews. It seems that Google will only display pre-existing reviews from sites that it has categorized as providing this information. Yahoo! allows anyone with a Yahoo! ID to create a review directly from the Yahoo! Local page for the business.
As with most things offered by Yahoo!, it offers a basic, free service for its Local Search listings, along with a paid service that is more comprehensive, but involves a monthly subscription fee. With a Yahoo! ID, any business can add a company listing, whether or not it currently has a web site. In fact, Yahoo! offers a free, 5-page web site as an option just for signing up at http://listings.local.yahoo.com/signup/create_1.php.
The Yahoo! enhanced listing - at a cost of $9.95 a month - gives you an emphasized listing in the Yahoo! Local Search results, and allows you to provide more detailed information about your company as well as links to coupons or other special pages where you want to guide visitors. Your listing still has to compete with Yahoo's sponsored results that get top positioning on the Local Search results pages, but an enhanced listing likely gets you preferential placement in the local results themselves (depending on the relevance to the search keywords and the company's distance to the search location). More information about the Yahoo! enhanced listings can be found at http://listings.local.yahoo.com/#enhanced.
Clear Benefits of Local Search
Whether or not you opt to pay a monthly fee to get Yahoo's enhanced listing will be based on your perception of the cost to the value of the extras you receive. It is obvious, however, that every business with a local presence should be participating in free Local Search. The preferential placement that is given to Local Search results alone makes this a task that is worth the relatively small effort.
Although the number of searches for local businesses is clearly much less than for most generic search terms, the number of people using the major search engines as their Yellow Pages is growing steadily. Each and every Local Searcher is extremely targeted; the odds are high that if a person is searching for your type of business in your locality, he/she will be ready to pick up the phone almost immediately to contact you. If your listing isn't displayed, it's also likely that you will lose the online searcher to a local competitor.
Whether or not your company has its own web site, it is apparent that you can greatly improve your rankings for targeted terms - and increase the online visibility for your business overall - by participating in Local Search.