Tips for Pairing Online Shoppers With Local Businesses
Every day, millions of people hit the Web to research pretty much everything. With a world of information at their fingertips, it can take seconds to dig up an answer to even the most arcane question. But, as anyone who's tried to Google their local pizza shop knows, the Web isn't always the best way to find nearby businesses.
To help pair online shoppers with the local businesses most likely to serve them, there are several search engine marketing strategies that can help maximize your online presence.
The power of geo-targeting
Every computer connected to the Internet is assigned an Internet Protocol address, which search engines can use to identify where an online search originated and customize the results accordingly. That means businesses can craft a search marketing program to target specific geographic regions, cities or even a radius around a ZIP code.
Almost all of the major search engines, including Google and Yahoo, have geo-targeting capabilities that help deliver more relevant results for every search. That benefits the business as well as the consumer; you pay only for search queries that originate from your local area, while search engine users get more accurate search results.
If that sounds a little altruistic, keep in mind that search engines do have a financial incentive to optimize the quality of search results. Higher-quality results make for more satisfied users, who likely will use the search engine more often. More searches equate to more online advertisers, which means more revenue for the search company.
The local search opportunity
Sponsored search results are just one aspect of a successful search marketing program. The other side of the search coin is the natural search results that appear in the unsponsored areas on search engines, also known as local search.
Although real buyers are conducting local searches, they aren't always using highly targeted, sophisticated search terms -- such as the ones you sponsor in your paid search program. A successful local search strategy helps fill in these critical gaps to capture as many potential online customers as possible.
How important is a local search strategy? Recent statistics indicate that consumers' online behavior makes local search a major factor. For example, the Kelsey Group estimates that 43 percent of search engine users are seeking a local merchant to buy something offline.
One way for you to take advantage of these local search trends and appear in local natural search results is to create or enhance your online business profile. Most search engines and online directories use a business profile to determine the relevancy of your Web site to each search query. A basic profile is free on many search engines.
However, the more detailed your profile, the more search queries will be deemed a match for your business. A comprehensive business profile that includes details such as products and services offered, primary and secondary business categories, and Web site URL will make your site much more visible to local customers.
Keep in mind that this type of local search effort, as with any search engine optimization strategy, does not provide the instant results of a paid search program. It may take several weeks or even a few months before these efforts move the needle as far as generating local traffic.
No matter the type or size of your business or how much money you pour into paid search programs, local search marketing strategies can increase your visibility among potential customers in your local area.