This article is Part 1 of 5 in our Local Search Marketing Series, by Sian Simon of Network Solutions.
In the past, local advertising was the best way to reach new customers for if you have a business offering local goods and services. Yellow pages, local newspapers, door-to-door flyers, coupons and promotions and word-of-mouth do still generate phone calls and storefront traffic. But today consumers are increasingly using the Internet as their primary source of local business information. Having your business presented at the top of search engine results and in local directories is now a critical part of any local marketing plan. And it can be very cost effective when compared to traditional media.
This series of posts will explain the ins and outs of local search visibility, provide an overview of the pros and cons of local search marketing, and explain how it can be integrated into your overall marketing plan.
What is local search marketing?
Local search marketing leverages the power of major search engines such as Google®, Yahoo!® and MSN®, along with local online directories (also known as Internet yellow pages).
When a potential customer goes online and searches for a product or service within a specific geographic area, this is called a local search. Examples of local search could be “hotel in Kansas City”, “landscape design Loudoun County” or “daycare 90210”. Generally, local search is used to find information online with the intention of making an offline purchase, either over the phone or in a retail location.
When a potential customer searches for a local business, search engines will return results that match the search terms within that geographic area. Often these local results are listed ahead of general search results. Therefore, if the search engine has information about your business and the products and services you offer, you could find yourself in a prime position on page one of Google!
If the customer clicks on a business in local search results and the business has a Web site, he or she will be taken to that Web site. If the business doesn’t have a Web site, or the search engine doesn’t know about the Web site, the customer is taken to a business profile created by the search engine. If the search engine has a profile for your business and you did not specifically create that profile, the profile will contain whatever information the search engine has gleaned about your business from other sources such as local directories. It may also include reviews from your customers:
By creating a local business profile for your company, you will be able to regularly update the information that you want potential customers to see. The types of information you can include are:
- Physical location(s)
- Directions via interactive maps such as Google Maps
- A business summary
- Contact information
- A link to your Web site
- Brands, products and services offered
- Pricing information and payment types accepted
- Coupons and special offers
- Hours of operation
- Any other information that may be of interest to potential customers!
Not all searches for local businesses take place on search engines. Many customers like to use online local directories, such as ThinkLocal™. There are also many directories that only cover a particular geographic area and are used mainly by people who live or work in that area. Local directories can have the added benefit of being indexed by search engines, so the businesses listed in these local directories benefit not only from referrals from these directories, but also from subsequent placements in search results on the search engines.
Making sure that your business is included as close to the top of local results in search engines and local directories is called “Local Search Marketing” or “Local Search Visibility”.
Stay tuned next week for Part 2: Why Local Search?