Local Search Marketing Guide

Local Search Marketing and Local Directory Marketing

Historically, local advertising was the most effective way to get new buyers for companies providing goods and services in a local geographic area. Phone book, newspapers, door hangers, promotions, coupons, and word-of-mouth all still contribute to generating phone calls and store traffic.

Nevertheless, over the last several years, individuals have steadily made the Internet their primary source of local company information. Getting your business listed towards the top of local search engine results and in local web directories should thus be a critical component of every local marketing plan, particularly given that it can be very economical when compared to traditional advertising and marketing.

This informative guide will discuss the ins and outs of local search marketing, provide you with a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of local search marketing, and describe how local search marketing can be integrated into your overall marketing plan.

What’s local search marketing?

Local search marketing is a relatively new approach that harnesses the strength of major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, in conjunction with local online internet directories also known as the Online yellow pages.

In general, local search occurs whenever a potential customer goes online and searches for a product or service in a specific geographic area. Examples of local search could be “bank in Winston Salem”, “dentist forsyth county” or “daycare 27106”. Generally, local search is used to locate info online with the purpose of purchasing something offline, either over the phone or by visiting a retail location.

Each time a potential customer searches for a local business, service or product, search engines will return results which match the search terms within a specified geographic area. Generally these types of local search results are placed in front of the general search results. Thus, if the search engine has information about your organization and the services and products you offer, that info could be displayed prominently in the search results.

Depending on the volume of information found in the search terms or “keywords” typed in by the prospect, the search engine may only display a few local search results. For instance, if you’re a florist in Kernersville, NC, a favorable result for your business would be if the consumer enters “florist Kernersville” and the search engine only returns a handful of results.

Nonetheless, if the customer types “florist near Winston Salem”, which is a larger city close to Kernersville, the search engine will return a large number of results and your listing may be buried in the results.

At the moment, Google presents 10 companies in the local search results area, with a link to the rest of the search results. Thus, if you run a local company, you’ll have significantly less competition if you are able to be found using relevant search phrases.

When a potential customers click on a hyperlink in the local search results and the company has a Web Site, they will be taken to that Web Site. Nevertheless, if the organization doesn’t have a Web Site, or the search engine does not know about the Site, they are taken to a company profile developed specifically by the search engine.

When a search engine lists a profile for your company and you did not set up the business profile, then the default profile is going to include whatever info the search engine has collected about your business from other online resources like local internet directories. It might even incorporate reviews and ratings from your prospects:

When you create a local business profile for your organization, you will have the option to regularly update the info that you would like potential customers to see. The kinds of info you will be able to include are:

  • Address / Physical Location(s)
  • Phone Number / Contact info
  • A link to your Web Site
  • Business hours
  • Directions using interactive maps such as Google Maps
  • A business summary
  • Any other information that might be of interest to potential customers!
  • Brands, services and products provided
  • Coupons, discounts and special offers
  • Pricing info and the kinds of payment you accept

Not all searches for local organizations happen on search engines. Lots of buyers prefer to use online local internet directories, like CitySearch.com. In some instances the consumer might be aware of a particular local directory that has very good information about the type of company he is trying to find, or that has handy customer ratings and reviews, like Superpages.com or YP.com. There are also a lot of local directories that only cover a specific geographical area and therefore are utilized largely by people that live or work in that region. While others specialize in providing product listings with additional geographic info.

Local web directories often have the added benefit of being indexed by search engines, so the businesses mentioned in these local directories reap some benefits not just as a result of website referrals from these types of internet directories, but also by subsequent positions in the search results. Quite simply you could end up with several listings for your organization.

Making sure that your business is listed as near to the top of the local search results and local web directories is called “Local Search Marketing”.

Why Local Search Marketing?

Since today’s prospects prefer to use Internet search functions rather than old-fashioned resources like yellow pages and local newspapers. Studies indicate that buyers with access to the Internet are more likely to utilize a search engine than printed resources like the yellow pages or local papers. Additionally, this trend is escalating every year.

Local search is most likely going to become even more essential in the future because the major search engines are becoming more focused on local search results. For example, Google not long ago launched a feature whereby people searching for a generic phrase, like “pizza”, are automatically prompted to enter their zip code:

Obviously, there are very compelling reasons for every local business to have a local presence in search engines and directories.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Local Search Marketing

The main benefits of local search are flexibility and cost when compared to conventional advertising like the yellow pages and local newspaper advertising. When this is paired with the growth in popularity of online local search, it’s obviously something that every local business must look into. Here’s a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of using local search marketing to promote your organization:

Local Search Marketing: Advantages

  • Cost: A local search marketing program can be extremely affordable, especially when compared to the phone book and local advertising. The return on investment(ROI) is generally higher because you are able to target marketing efforts to a specific category and location.
  • Online presence: For those who have a website, you currently have an Internet presence which you are able to promote in search engines and internet directories. Nonetheless, because a lot of directories and search engines permit you to establish a business profile, now you don’t have to have a Website in order to have a presence online. (But remember that by having your own Web Site in addition to profiles in business internet directories, you will increase your chances of being found on the internet!)
  • Commitment level: When you publish an ad in printed directories like the yellow pages, you’re committed to it for a year. If you change any information about your business such as your location, or your services and products, you’ll not have the ability to modify your yellow pages listing until the next year.
  • Flexibility: Since you’re allowed to update your web based business listings at any time, you have the option to test different information about your company and see what works best when it comes to generating leads.
  • Local Traffic: Even when you’re a national business with many offices, you can take advantage of local search marketing as a way to drive prospects to your storefronts.

Local Search Marketing: Disadvantages

  • Time: It’s generally incredibly time consuming to search for and manually submit your business information to the major search engines and local directories
  • Even more time: It is usually very time consuming to monitor which major search engines and internet directories are listing your business and update your information any time your products and services change.
  • Expertise: As a business owner, you’re most likely working hard running your business and might not have the experience to ascertain which exact search terms will provide the greatest results. This leads to missed opportunities.
  • Learning Process: Even though you may have the time, and you are ready to test out various search words and phrases, it can take experimentation to produce optimized keywords and phrases that turn potential prospects into customers.

Integrating Local Search Marketing Into Your Company

It’s tempting to consider local search as a subset of your general marketing plan, but the very best results come with methods specifically tailored to potential customers looking for local info and services. The way you approach this will be based upon whether you have an existing Site or not.

If you don’t have a Web Site: Local search provides you with the opportunity to develop a Internet presence!

By establishing local search listings you can be sure that your business is found on the internet. If you do not have a Website, it is crucial to motivate potential prospects to get in touch with you and / or stop by your retail location. It is easy to keep track of the effectiveness of this technique by providing exclusive bargains, that you just offer through local search marketing.

If you have a Site: Local search can be an simple way to get your Website indexed in local search engine results, in addition to the general results. If you don’t sell products and services online through your Website, you might want to consider making your phone number or address more visible on your website to convert as many prospective customers as you possibly can.

Regardless of whether you have a Website, the major search engines will often rank your company higher in the local search results when you have a great deal of listings in local directories because this is regarded as a very good measure of your company’s trustworthiness. Thus, it’s vital to have as many business listings as is practical on Websites that the search engines think are important regional resources. Hence a natural part of your strategy ought to be to try to get reputable local associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, that may be in a position to include you in their local business directory.

It’s also wise to think carefully about the keywords an individual trying to find your services might use. While it may work to use “florist in Winston Salem” as keywords for organic search (somebody in Seattle wanting to send flowers to Winston Salem might very well search for this), for local search you ought to pick tightly targeted geographic keyword phrases. Somebody looking in Winston Salem might well search for a florist in a specific part of the Winston Salem metro area, such as “florist in Ardmore”.

One final tip to consider – your online identity for local search marketing doesn’t have to be identical to your registered business name. When you can incorporate some information about what your company does in your name, you may find your results improve. For example “Blah Inc” could use a web-based identity of “Blah Plumbing Services” for local search marketing. Some web directories also show results alphabetically, so another option for this business could be to list itself as “A+ Blah Plumbing Services”.

Should you work with an external Local Search Marketing Service to take care of my local search listings?

You will find hundreds of search engines and local internet directories on the Web and the quantity is growing daily. Each one provides its own specific submission process that may change over time as completely new categories and features are incorporated. To discover all of the important directories, submitting your data and keeping it current can be a huge project.

Additionally, even if you establish a company listing in every one of the pertinent web directories, you could lose out on opportunities when the search phrases used by potential prospects do not match up with the keywords you’ve integrated in your listing. So it might be more effective to work with an external firm which specializes in this area.

Local search marketing firms have focused resources to keep track of the evolving landscape of local search. They’ll know what web directories are on the market, stay up-to-date with the submissions process and likewise be qualified to recommend search terms, or keywords, that work well in finding prospective customers for businesses like yours.

What to Expect from a Local Search Marketing Service?

Investing money and time to locate an external company to help you with your local search campaigns can seem difficult. However, these tips may help make your choice less difficult and be sure you retain a company that will suit your needs and your budget.

You will find essentially two kinds of services you are able to use to guide your local search marketing campaigns. If you wish to outsource the entire process, you can hire a local search marketing firm who will create a personalized strategy specifically for your services and area. If you wish to have a lot more control and also lower costs, you are able to utilize a local search marketing firm. With a local search marketing firm, you create your organization profile and the service submits your info to all of the major search engines and local directories in their database.

Critical considerations when selecting a Local Search Marketing Firm include:

  • Ensure that the business is reputable and has experience in local search, not just overall Internet marketing. As we discussed above, the two are not the same and being competent at online marketing does not guarantee expertise in local search marketing.
  • Ensure that you are clear about the budget you are prepared to spend, and remember that local search marketing isn’t an exact science. Your consultant will be competing for rankings with other organizations that might be using equivalent tactics, so your ranking may change over time unless you consistently optimize your listings.

When picking a local search marketing provider:

  • Once again, make sure you’re selecting a reliable firm – that is not at risk of going out of business
  • Make certain that all the major search engines and web directories that you are thinking about are incorporated into their submission service and that the organization features a system to stay up-to-date with modifications in the market.
  • Ensure that the local search marketing company has an simple way to change your company information and resubmit to the local directories.
  • Determine whether the organization will help you with recommendations for popular search phrases for your business and geographic area. If not, you may well waste a lot of time in experimentation. Finally, make sure your service provider offers strong reporting tools so you can monitor the progress of your listing submissions and updates.

Summary

It’s critical to change your marketing strategy to keep up with the evolving ways that buyers find local services and products. Local search marketing is a easy, cost-effective technique which, if implemented effectively, can have a significant impact on your marketing return on investment (ROI). It is increasingly important to act fast to establish a presence in local search results, before your competitors do!