Thursday, 15 July 2010 08:08

Local search, more important than ever for business

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At the start of this month, we reported on the ongoing rise of social media among baby boomers in Australia. Now it's time to look at local search and the benefits for Aussie business.

According to the latest Comscore search report, 10.29 billion online searches were conducted in the US alone in June 2010. Fortunately, Comscore also includes some choice snippets regarding local and mobile search, incredibly relevant data for real-world businesses.

Given that the population of Australians online is roughly 5% of the US, it's possible for us to extrapolate what this means for local businesses.

I'll give you the short version: local search is on the rise. If you own a local business you need to start making use of local search now.

On Mike Blumenthal's excellent Google Maps and Local Search blog, he extrapolates the volume of local search in the US for June 2010 at over 2 billion search queries.

Another report (also based on the most recent Comscore figures) notes that mobile search is now placed at around 10% of all queries: over 1 billion searches are being performed on mobiles in the US alone.

To put that in local terms, it seems likely that:

  • Over 100 million local search queries were performed in Australia in June 2010
  • Over 50 million mobile search queries were performed in Australia in June 2010

How does this affect your business?

When was the last time you pulled out the Yellow Pages? While still somewhat popular amongst baby boomers, even the online Yellow Pages is in decline, compared to other search directories.

Even my parents, at 65 and 70 years of age, use Google to find local businesses and services before turning to the Yellow Pages. (Anecdotal, I know, but still relevant - neither are particularly technically-minded. I'd probably grateful for the break in support queries if they ditched the computer! They've both got one.)

So you may still have your decades-old ad in the Yellow Pages (dead tree or online version). But is anyone seeing it?

Even business directories are suffering the pangs of irrelevancy: True Local tried to sign me up this month. To have a priority listing for the Sunshine Coast and a standard listing for Brisbane would cost me over $500 per month to get 3,000 impressions. That's 3,000 times that my ad would show up on the True Local website.

Not 3,000 visitors to this site. Conversion rates being what they are, I'd be sensationally lucky to see 300 visitors actually arriving at this site from True Local. 

I gained 300 new visitors in the last ten days just by posting on Twitter and a few relevant small business forums.

Even more importantly, it's become clear that Google has changed its PageRank algorithms once again and this time business directories are taking a hit. As Local SEO Guide points out, the latest updates to PageRank have devalued business directories in favour of results for real businesses being found in Google search.

Local search defined

Broadly speaking, a search is local if you search for anything at all and include a location as part of the search. For example, I performed a search for 'pets sunshine coast', which returned the following:

Local google search performed on Pets Sunshine Coast

The results are pretty clear: a map of the sunshine coast with all pet stores listed.

By the way, someone (or a lot of someones!) is clearly not doing his or her job. Notice the complete absence of paid search results? That's not a mistake. At least, not my mistake. There are no businesses paying for these search terms right now. There's 480 global searches on this keyphrase and over 12,000 per month on 'Sunshine Coast pet'. Call us if you want to take advantage of this and absolutely dominate search for pets on the Sunshine Coast.

Overall, local search is a pretty great way of finding relevant location-based results for real-world businesses. 

And don't forget, there were approximately 100 million local search queries in Australia alone. Already we've seen that pet stores on the Sunshine Coast are missing at least 13,000 potential visits by failing to utilise relevant keywords in search engine marketing.

And there's a good chance that at least half of those searches were performed on a mobile phone.

Think about that for a minute. There could be someone standing near your business right now, trying to find your type of product, ready to buy.

Will they find you? Or will you miss the sale?

Here are two very simple ways to take advantage of the astounding boom in local and mobile search.

  1. Get listed in Google Places
  2. Create targeted advertising with Google AdWords

The first is easy: just go to and list your business today. Bear in mind, however, that you may rank below other businesses if your page isn't optimised for those. I won't go into optimisation tactics here, that's a whole other article. To get you started, pop over to Randy Kirk's blog for some helpful Places optimisation strategies.

The second requires a little more time and effort, but can pay off handsomely. Fortunately, you can set a very small daily budget for AdWords to test the market and only grow your traffic as you feel it pays off for you.

I'll go into more depth in a future article, but the key strategies are:

  • Identify keywords that are relevant to your products
  • Identify keywords that have high search volume, but low competition

    (see the above 'pets' example)

  • Create ads that focus on specific products or product groups
  • Create landing pages that are relevant to the ads

    (don't just dump visitors on your home page and expect them to go looking for something they've already searched for!)

If you can manage those four tips, you're well on your way to being able to create an AdWords campaign that will bring you relevant traffic that purchases products.

Here's a thought to leave you with: Search marketing is a quest for relevancy. Determine what keywords are relevant to your business and provide relevant results to people searching for those keywords. You'll also save money on Google paid search when your pages are deemed relevant to search results.

It's likely that over 100 million local searches were performed last month. How many of those searches were successful? How many businesses reaped the rewards of search marketing and how many failed to gain new customers?

What could the rest of 2010 look like for your business if you embraced search marketing?

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