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August 18, 2011

Why You Need A Local Search Strategy

Approximately four years ago, Google made a major change in their search engine results page by introducing a “Universal Search” system that blended listings with video, images and news results along with the sites it gathered from crawling web pages. Universal Search also accommodated the increase in searches for location-specific information. Instead of just searching “restaurants”, many people were searching “restaurants Louisville KY.” Search engines tested this new interest trend by placing a map and local listings at the top of the results page. Heat map reports showing how users absorb a search results page implied that users paid a good deal of attention to the map listings at the top of the page.

This research also indicates that users interact with map listings and organic search results more frequently than the paid ads. This change prompted Google to prioritize local search to the top of the search results page, and in time most engines followed suit.

Before the rise of local search, users had to enter a search term plus a geo-modifier (e.g., Louisville, Kentucky, 40299) in order to get location-specific search results. Today’s search algorithms take into account the IP address of the user, showing location-targeted results without the searcher requesting it. A search for just “dentists” from a computer in Louisville will pull up dental offices in the Louisville, KY area along with the general information pages.

Google experimented with how many local search listings to display in order to maximize user experience. Originally, only three local search listing results were displayed as flags next to the area map. Google tried increasing local map listings to a 10-pack, but found that searchers did not like how far down the page that moved organic search results. Research indicated that local searchers wanted a selection of map listings, but also valued the organic search listings. This led to the 7-pack format, which presented seven listings at the top of the search page.

The most recent iteration of Google’s local search display is called “Place Search.” This format combines the organic listings with local map listings and positions the map on the right panel. There is also an option to see only local listings by clicking the “Places” link in the left-hand panel. The latest iteration personalizes local search by allowing users to select their location to see local listings in any area, not just their current location. This change puts even more emphasis on local search results by showing more robust listings with pictures, meta descriptions and review quotes.

Bing and Yahoo have followed Google into local search marketing. However, all local search does not work the same and they have different algorithms to determine business rank. Obviously, you get more traffic if you are ranked on the first page of local search. To obtain a high ranking, you must build out your business listing using geotags, reviews, citations, product and service keywords and additional information.

G3 Marketers is an internet marketing service that specializes in online marketing for local
businesses. G3 helps businesses get recognized through dynamic Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Google Places Optimization (GPO) as well as Yahoo Local and Bing Local. In addition, G3 provides Social Media Marketing (SMM) services which includes strategically placing your product, service or brand in front of millions of web users that religiously participate in social networking.