Local Search Optimization

What is local search optimization?

Local search is a geo-specific query that provides an enhanced list of results often including the name, address, phone number, location on a map, and reviews for businesses that match that query.  Attaining prime position in local search rankings for targeted keywords is an extremely powerful method to gaining online local dominance in your target market.

The primary way to accomplish this task is through local search optimization.  Local search engine optimization blends supplementary geo-specific on page seo and off page seo factors with a mixture of optimized submissions to local search feeds, review sites, vertical directories, maps, and geo-directories.  Unlike global search where nearly 70% of all searches are conducted or powered by Google, the local search landscape is incredibly fragmented.  In Laymen’s terms, this means that to achieve high level results and stay ahead of competitors, a successful local search optimization strategy is empowered by a broad saturation of consistent information across many platforms.

For example, in the case of geo-specific on page seo, one factor to include is a global header or footer so that every page on your site consistently includes your geo-specific contact info.  A key off page seo factor is for any articles about your company that are published on geo-specific third-party websites should include a link to back to your geo-targeted landing page on your website.  When, making submissions to the various available local search entities, it is critical to keep the naming conventions and format of your data in harmony.  If you call your company Acme Inc. 111 East Cartoon Lane, Nevereverland, CA, 55555 than it is extremely important to stay consistent and not to list the company as Acme or Acme Holdings Inc. on another property.

Local Search Ecosystem – History Repeats Itself

Local Search Ecosystem - A Treasure Hunt

Navigating the local search ecosystem is like digging through a purse searching for that one item you desire.

As mentioned, the fragmentation in the local search ecosystem is somewhat of a nightmare to keep track of.  For those of you who remember the frontier days of Search before Google rose to prominence, it was a different ball game altogether.  At any given time, you had to stay on top of who the newest player was in the market and optimize your site for a range of engines including Webcrawler, Go.com, Lycos, Altavista, Ask Jeeves, Inktomi, Yahoo, MSN Search, and Google.  Rising to prominence in search meant not only gaining top positions but, also gaining the top positions on multiple properties in multiple places.  With over 50 entities having a measurable impact on local search rankings, local search is a more saturated replica of the days of global search past.  From moment to moment, it is essential to know the active players in the game, where you are going to get the most bang-for-your-buck, and again, stay consistent with your information.

Local Search Properties – The Big Three Remain the Same

Local Search Optimization - Baltimore Pizza Search Results

Screenshot of listings that performed local search optimization for the keyword phrase pizza baltimore.

In terms of the names of the search properties where local search queries occur, these names are going to ring a bell or two.  Google+ Local, Bing Local, and Yahoo Local are the big three.  However, the data that is displayed by each search result on these recognizable properties is more often than not a mixture of data from third-party sources.  These third party sources specialize in capturing, managing, and distributing pertinent local business data that these primary search engines relish as enhancements to their listings.

As you can see, after performing a search on Google for the keyword phase “pizza Baltimore”, AllMenus and Yelp which, which are a vertical directory and a review site respectively, appear as the top results.  To the right of the screenshot listed above you see a map with pins of all the places that are optimized for the “pizza Baltimore” keyword phrase in maps, in the local area. Barely visible as the third result is JoeSquared.com which comes complete with a local address, also happens to be the “A” pin on the map to the right, and there also is a Zagat review and over 200 Google user reviews.  Not visible, beneath all of these results are standard results powered by Google.

Primary Local Search Feeds

As mentioned, local search feeds provide results and information to the search engines who act as the facilitator for the geo-specific queries.  The feeds act as a hub of local business information that is served up to a search engine like Google.  It is essential to optimize your submissions to these feeds as they serve as the catalysts for information appearing in these types of results.

While this landscape is extremely likely to consolidate and it is certain to change on some significant level, at the time of this post, the primary local search feeds are as follows:

  • Localeze
  • UBL – Universal Business Listing
  • Citysearch
  • DiscoverOurTown.com
  • Infogroup
  • NSphere
  • Travidia

Another major player in the local search feed arena is Yext.  The biggest difference with Yext versus the other local search feeds is that Yext is a paid feed.  For a price, Yext will provide immediate inclusion to over 35 local search entities in their network.

And The Local Search Beat Goes On… And On… And On…

Rather than identifying a seemingly endless list of local search properties that is nothing short of overwhelming, I thought it might be easier to consume a few examples and prominent members of each of the following environments:

  • Geo-Directories – These are directories that are specific to the region in question.  Examples:  Phoenix Business Journal Business Directory, Scottsdale.com, LocalFirstAZ.com.
  • Maps – These are the Maps that show up on local search results (see image above).  Examples:  Google Maps, Apple Maps, Mapquest.
  • Vertical Directories – These are directories that are specific to an industry and offer local listings.  Examples:  AllMenus, Lawyers.com, Hotels.com.
  • Review Sites – These are sites that allow for local business listings and customer reviews.  Examples:  Yelp, MerchantCircle, Angie’s List.

Local Search Engine Optimization – A Journey Through Spaces and Time

Honestly, as I was writing this post, it was extremely hard to condense the amount of information that is required to operate a competitive local search optimization campaign.  As a matter of fact, I did not even touch on the social or mobile influences which are already incredibly significant and they are becoming more so at an exponential rate.  My goal in this post was to provide you with a broad base of knowledge on local search optimization and help to demystify the wild frontier of local search.  In future posts, I look forward to providing you with additional information on the subject.  If you are going to gain one takeaway from this post, it should be that if you are going to dive into local search on your own, understand that you are going to spend a lot of time focusing on creating and managing in a lot of different spaces.  Ultimately, local search optimization will allow you to dominate your local market online and gain a bigger percentage of market share from your local competitors.

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