Local Search for Non-Local Marketing
[Ed Note: Last week, Michael Fleischner presented on the webinar "How to Make Google Fall in Love With You," (click here to watch it on demand). One area of his presentation that many listeners wanted more information on was local search and how it impacts even non-local marketers. This article has more on why this emerging field is so important. And if you want to hear about how to rank well on Google globally, catch the Aug. 19 webinar "Spanning the Globe With Google."]
It's hard to avoid. The practice of local search is growing like a firestorm thanks to the explosion in portable electronic devices. The percentage of online searches with local intent, some kind of location-related component, has reached around 50 percent or more based on recent Internet Marketing research (ComScore 2014). What does this mean for local businesses? What does this mean for companies with a national audience?
If you're a local business, serving local customers, you obviously can't ignore the importance of local search. Knowing that shoppers want access to products and services within a given radius means one thing—if your business is not listed online at the time of search, you're missing out. For local businesses, the connection to local search results is clear. But what if you're not a local business?
Local Search: Good News and Bad News
The growing importance of local search brings with it opportunities for non-local businesses, and some challenges as well. This is because Google has been trying to build the largest business database for years and apply it to all types of businesses, not just local ones. Google Places, their primary directory for returning business results in search engine result lists, allows companies to submit, claim and verify their company information. However, companies that do not appear in this database may have less weight in search results—regardless of the area they serve. This is based on work we've done with dozens of clients at both a local and national level and analyzing website authority.
It's important to tell Google about your business. As a matter of course, we always recommend adding your business to the Google Places directory. Information from Localeze claims that about 85 percent of businesses have not yet claimed their Google Places profile. Google may, in some instances, pull in information about a business that has not claimed, posting information that you don't want listed. Claiming your Google Places profile is easy to do and is applicable as long as you can receive mail to verify your Places submission. Even if you are a national company and don't expect people to visit your place of work, you should still get your business listed in Google places. The goal is to legitimize your business with a company listing, not be a beacon for prospects to show up at your door.
Google Places Is Just the Beginning
Local search engines are increasing in importance, authority and weight. In fact, Google is making similar updates to local search like they do to national or global search. The most recent update to Google Local search, Pigeon, is placing more emphasis on established local search engines. As an online company, you may be asking yourself, "Why do I need to be listed on local search engines?" but I'm here to tell you that being listed provides significant SEO benefit.
The primary benefit of being listed on a local search engine is that Google depends on high authority sites to indicate popular websites and digital assets. If you're being linked to from the likes of CitySearch.com, YellowPages.com, and other national search directories, you're benefiting from their inbound links to your website.
The secondary benefits are associated with showing up in local search results. When prospects or customers research your business, you want to own as much of the first page as possible, pushing down and out any negative listings or results promoting a competitor. You can do this by having your business listed on local search engines whose results appear in organic search—many of them do.
Getting Started With Local
Whether you are a local deli, regional car dealership, or national online business, learn more about local search. Begin by claiming your business through Google Places and expanding your online profile. Once you completed that work, use a data aggregator to distribute and publish your information on leading local search engines. Once your information has been published, Google will improve your own website authority based on quality inbound links and you may even get some qualified traffic from local search.
Michael Fleischner is an entrepreneur, author and speaker, and the founder and CEO of Bordentown, N.J.-based marketing services and consulting firm Big Fin Solutions. Reach him at email@example.com.