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May 8, 2008

Local Search Engine Optimization – Revisited

Roughly a year ago, local search engine optimization was all the rage – the new frontier in search engine marketing.  For a while, it seemed that everyone was interested in the local search angle – even multi-national companies.  However, for many companies selling products or services to the entire United States, or even globally, it seemed like a non-starter. Companies that counted on people looking for certain products or services that did not require close proximity to the company’s location were unaffected. As far as local search engine optimization goes, things have changed a bit since then – at least for some.

Some time ago, Google introduced a “geographic box” at the top of its search results.  This is tied in to its mapping feature, and, when it was first introduced, the engine would display three results at the top of its search results whenever somebody entered a geographic modifier into the search box (“Atlanta widgets,” for example).  The Google algorithm then has the intelligence to determine whether the query calls for results that are primarily local in scope.

Since that initial trial, Google has obviously found that its users appreciate the feature.  The engine now displays ten local search results at the top of the listings for certain queries, provided that they have a geographic modifier attached.  For example, if you type in “Atlanta gyms” in Google, you will see ten results alongside a map that shows the location of ten gyms in Atlanta.

It should be noted that you will not see local search results for all queries that contain a local modifier.  In certain instances, it almost seems as if Google somehow “knows” when a geographic modifier really means that you only offer services in a particular area.  Yeah, those guys are pretty good.

There are many resources on the Internet to turn to if you are looking for local search engine optimization for your regional website.  However, many companies have client bases that cater primarily to a national or international field.  Can they benefit from local search?

Yes, they can – in two ways (with a caveat for the first).

First, many customers prefer to deal with people that are local, even if the business is national, or even global.  A businessperson that is looking for, say, marketing consulting, may be inclined to work with someone with an address in close proximity found through local search.  It just feels more comfortable – if something goes wrong, he or she can request a meeting, rather than calling an 800 number.

Here’s the caveat – you may not want people showing up at your doorstep.  Some companies invite people to show up at the headquarters and voice concerns or sing praises, but others would prefer to keep things at a distance.  This is not a value judgment by any means.  With many companies that deal with thousands, or even millions, of customers, it would be impossible to service every complaint with a human smile.

The second way, which seems more customer friendly (but actually isn’t), applies when a large company has many locations. This doesn’t mean that your company has “walk-in” locations that are open to the public.  If you have locations in many cities, each serving a different function, you can still benefit from local search engine optimization.

Say, for example, you are headquartered in Toledo.  You have distribution centers in several cities across the United States.  Each of your physical locations is eligible to show up in local search results on Google, provided that you supply the engine with the proper information.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, not all searches with regional modifiers attached will bring up regional results.  But based on recent happenings, it’s a good idea to make your regional presence known and consider the effects of local search engine optimization.  After the years of talk about it, local search might finally turn out to be something that most companies can take advantage of.

© Medium Blue 2008

About the Author

Scott Buresh is the founder of Medium Blue, a search engine optimization company.  His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including MarketingProfs, ZDNet, SiteProNews, WebProNews, DarwinMag, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide.  He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004).  Medium Blue has local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, and was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world in 2006 and 2007 by PromotionWorld.  Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.

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