Local Search: How It Impacts and How to Improve Results

Local Search: How It Impacts and How to Improve Results

By: Shelly Kramer
September 6, 2011

Local Search Has a Big Impact on Business Today

Local search plays an important role in business success today. If content is king, then search results are queen – or co-kings, perhaps?

Obviously, it’s important that your company’s website and/or corporate blog feature compelling content, yet if you don’t appear in search results, you’re losing out on a number of potential business opportunities – and, more simply, money.

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing are critical tools for any business today, and it’s a no-brainer that search is becoming increasingly important for a company’s viability. Don’t believe that – look at your own behavior. How do you find things you want to do or buy? If your answer is that you “Google it” you’re proving my point. The Web is pretty much our universal go-to resource for information on products and services, so for businesses, making sure their marketing efforts are taking SEO into consideration is, well, pretty critical.

And in recent search news? Local business searches – not just search in general – are emerging as key traffic drivers. No surprise, really, and one of the many reasons that Google recently announced a push to enter the local ad market as a top priority.

Consumer Behavior Reinforces Local Search Focus

Results of a Bright Local survey on consumer behavior do a good job of justifying Google’s local search focus. According to a summary of the survey published by Brafton News, nearly four in five consumers have used the Internet to find a local business in the last 12 months. I’ll bet you do that yourself – on probably a daily basis – I know I do! I mention my 73 year-old mother-in-law regularly (and mostly to wave her in the faces of all those people who think this stuff is for the young ‘uns), but even she uses search, pretty much daily, to lead her to products and services that she wants to buy.

My point: people using search to locate and research things they want to do, know more about and buy are everywhere, in every age group and just about every socioeconomic group.

What’s more, the study says that consumers will return to the Internet to find a business more frequently once they’ve conducted an initial search. They find you on the Internet, they come back to you on the Internet. Only makes sense, no? Think about your own behavior for a minute — you’ll probably be nodding your head in no time.

Local Business Search Presents a Myriad of Business Opportunities

Let’s recap:  four out of five consumers and a whopping 79 percent of U.S. consumers have conducted local business searches in the last year. I’d say that if you focus a little more of your marketing efforts on local search, your business likely has the opportunity to reach a sizable audience.

Maximizing Your Business’ Presence Via Local Search

Now that we agree on the importance of local search, here’s the million-dollar question: How do you ensure your company emerges in search results? Try these tips:

*Get listed. If you’re not already included on local business listing sites, now’s the time to submit your company information to sites like Yelp, Google Places, CitySearch, InsiderPages and MerchantCircle, among others.

*Stay updated. Make sure your business’ contact information and other pertinent details are up-to-date – and consistent – on all sites on which it appears. Don’t set it and forget it. Things change, check them every now and then and make sure those listings remain accurate.

*Rave reviews. Although you don’t want to force your customers to write reviews, sharing their experiences on sites like Yelp, Google Places and CitySearch are valuable tools when it comes to enticing others to patronize your business. Bright Local’s consumer behavior survey found that 71 percent of consumers consult reviews of local businesses, so you may want to consider asking a few long-time customers to share their experiences online.

As an aside, don’t be the person who leaves rave online reviews about your own business. That’s not only tacky, but pretty lame as well. And, in spite of what you might think, it doesn’t take much in the  “Internet savvy department” for a consumer to figure out that you’re leaving reviews about your own business – and that tacky behavior could come around and bite you in the you-know-what in no time. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

What about you? If you’re a business owner, have you spent more time and effort over the course of the last year focusing on local search? How’s your experience – and results – been so far? And if you’re reading this and have additional tips on becoming more visible in local search results, do share – we love it when our smart readers share what they’re doing and help make all of us smarter in the process.