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Local Search: Defining Your Place in Local Markets
Sunday, February 17, 2008
It has been a while since we posted about local search or local search optimization. Local search is one area that many suggest might be the way of the future when it comes to search. Tie it in with mobile search and you can see the opportunity that advertisers will have in the near future. Starting today we are beginning a series of posts on local search and what it means for businesses who are looking to gain online visibility for their local businesses. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll examine what local search is, how you can get listed in local search engines and examine whether local search is for you.
So What Is Local Search?

Local search can mean different things to different advertisers. The fact of the matter is, that people who use local search tend to be further along in the buying funnel and are closer to making an actual purchase (either online or offline). Local search is simply the act of finding information for a business in a specific geographic locale. Whether a searcher is looking for a "plumber in Detroit", "pizza parlors in Chicago", or "hotels in Las Vegas", local search is how they are going to find what they are looking for. Whereas most used to look in the big book of the Yellow Pages, the Internet generation is now using local search to find businesses in their community.

Let's say that you are looking for a real estate agent. Chances are you are not going to perform a search for "real estate agents" in Google or Yahoo. (For the record, this query returns over 200 million results in Yahoo...) You are most likely going to append your search engine query with a geo-specific locator. Your query will probably look something more like "real estate agents in " for example: "real estate agents in Seattle". Users who are more comfortable online might actually perform their query modified with their area or zip code. As a result the results that you are served up with will be less competitive and more relevant. Ah relevancy. That is why people love local search.

Local search will always return results that are more relevant. Looking for a dentist? Of course you are going to perform a local search. Now let's clarify something.

To perform a local search does not necessarily mean that you will be using a local search engine

Depending on the user, many will simply use a GEO-modifier to their search query (a la "real estate agents in Seattle"). While they may be served up with local search results as part of the blended search results that the search engine displays, they did not go directly to the local search engine. Therefore, you need to be aware of the various scenarios that can happen with local search.

Scenario One: The user performs a Web search in a major search engine (Google, Yahoo, ASK etc) and appends their search with a GEO-qualifier.

Scenario Two: The user goes directly to a local search engine (Google Local, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, ASK City etc.) and performs a query specific to their local identifying a city, zip code, actual address or combination of the three.

Scenario Three: The user goes to a vertical local search engine such as Super Pages or Local.com and performs a search for a local business.

Depending on the searcher's user experience, there are other scenarios that come in to play:

Scenario Four: The searcher previously used a local search engine and bookmarked their query.

Scenario Five: The searcher previously used search either Web search or Local Search, found the business that they were looking for and bookmarked the site. After the initial use of local search, the user now goes directly to the site for that business.

The majority of the users will make use of scenarios one, two, or three depending on their comfort level and savvy of Search. The scenarios do point out something interesting. If a user has a successful Local Search experience initially, the need for Local Search is complete as they may not have need for Local Search (for that specific query) because chances are they may have bookmarked the destination site that satisfied their needs. This might be worth doing some research to determine how users interact with Local Search. A future research project and post perhaps? The fact of the matter is, while Local Search is becoming increasing popular for advertisers, Local Search may not work for everybody.

So now that we have discussed what Local Search is, our next piece will be on Defining Your Place in Local Markets through Local Search.

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posted by Jody @ Sunday, February 17, 2008  
  • At 8:31 AM, Blogger Rob said…

    Interesting post.

    I do have a comment - I don't think the yellow pages or superpages will be dominant forces in local search. Mostly because they are just online versions of their offline directories. So tell me, when was the last time you found what you wanted in the yellow pages? Did you get a good variety? Were advertisers equally represented? Were they even all there?

    I think the sites that win local search won't be the nationals, but the sites devoted to the local market.

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