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5 Google Place Search Changes the Local Game Again

Last week Google reshuffled/revealed its local search strategy by introducing something called Place Search.

Place search eliminates the local search 7 box and blends local and organic results in a way that clearly demonstrates how important local search is to them – and consequently to your local small business.

Google has been steadily improving its ability to predict your location and offer up local results even without the use of a city name or location in your query. (It’s very interesting to experiment with this function one letter at a time in Instant Search.)

Google Place Search - note the map has moved too

One thing that’s certain from this new look is that you must claim, optimize, amplify, and participate on your Google Places Page. If you thought this was a nice thing you would get around to someday, stop right now and go get this in the works. It will be very hard for a business to rank well for local search lacking a dynamic Google Places Page.

Once you claim your Places page you must go to work on the elements that will give your page a competitive advantage

1) Add images, video and product/service descriptions to your page. Add custom fields to get more relevant content. Spend time getting the right Places categories.
2) Get listed in other second tier directories – here’s the easiest way
3) Get involved in the ratings game – on Google, Yelp, CitySearch, InsiderPages – reviews on your Google Places page and from other major review sites are a key ingredient for higher local ranking and have become an expectation from shoppers.

Ratings and reviews are an important ranking factor

4) Start routinely using the Places Posting feature to add fresh content
5) Add coupons and try out the Google Tags

33 Is Google Local Search For Sale?

I’ve always assumed that Google Maps (and other local search directories) would build up the free local directory, drive other for pay players out, get us hooked on their service, and then start charging to be listed in the prime spot. In this case the prime spot for local search is the Google Seven box shown below for a search for “Attorney Houston, Tx”

Sponsored local search
Click to enlarge

Something else you might notice is that while optimizing your web site to appear in the lucky seven box is a great idea, the majority of these results are sponsored. That’s right, Google is playing with selling enhanced listings in several cities and looks to be headed towards paid listings in local search.

At first this may not seem like such a bad thing to those on the outside looking in, but it may price some folks out of yet another organic search option.

21 Getting More From Your Google Maps Profile

Mobile and desktop surfers alike are turning to Google Maps to find local and sometimes nearby businesses. Optimizing your web pages for local search has become an extremely important part of the local marketing mix.

Claiming and building strong profiles in the local search directories is another must for the new local search habits.

Today’s post and accompanying video explains a bit of tweak that I suggest can make your Google Maps profile even more local search term friendly.

As shown in the video above, once you claim your Google Maps Profile (Go to the Google Local Business Center) you have the freedom to do lots of customization, including customizing the very important “category” listings, which Google relies very heavily upon to determine when to show your profile. You must choose one category suggested by Google, but are free to add up to four more that can contain city names as part of the category. In my opinion, Las Vegas plumber is a much stronger local category than just plumber.

Watch this quick video and then go strengthen up your profile.

Update: Interesting discussion on this topic here – thanks to @niftymarketing for pointing me to it. Grey area for sure, test and decide.

30 Google Local Storm is Brewing

I’m out in Las Vegas at CES giving a couple talks on social media for AMEX OPEN and one of the big topics is Google’s new Nexus One phone. While it is a bit interesting that they’ve jumped into yet another market, I think the message that’s getting lost in a great deal of their recent moves is the way they are setting up to take over local advertising, marketing and search.

I’m working on a series of posts on this topic (small business better get good at local search or prepare to disappear.) and the recent holiday visit from my college and just out of college age kids reinforced what’s going on with local search and Google. By the way, when I say local search I mean when someone is trying to find a business online in their town.

When twenty somethings want to find something they often go to one of two sources – in this order 1) They fire up a mobile browser, plug in “dentist” and call the closest pin drop or 2) they ask a close friend. Understand that neither of these methods involves advertising, marketing or even search for that matter. No Yellow book, no print ad, no SEO – it’s becoming very much about showing up on the local search map. (I understand that this is a new form of SEO, but you better get your arms around it if you are either an SEO provider or small business.)

Case in point – Google announce yesterday another feature making local search even easier (only on new iPhones and Android phones for now) The feature is called “near me now” – you can read Google’s near me now announcement here.

near me nownear me now googlenear me now google local

Click to enlarge the images

If you’ve given Google permission to use your phone’s current location (under settings link) when you use your mobile browser you will see a new link under the Google search button that says: current city Near me now. If you click that you will get a menu of common places such as coffee and bars and the ability to click on one and find all the places in Google local nearest you now. Pretty darn easy way to drive business isn’t it?

Well, if anyone thinks Google put the Yellow book directories out of business just for sport, think again. This is the total domination of local search for ad money coming soon storm. Get in the storm shelter while it’s cheap! More to come on this.

22 Google Wants to be the Local Place

Google seems to constantly add little tweaks to all of its various products. The Google Maps search product is inching more and more towards the turf currently occupied by the likes of Yelp and CitySearch. Not content to be a directions engine Google has added a feature that’s being dubbed Place Pages. Now when someone does a local search for a place or business and clicks on the “more info” link for a listing they are brought to a full-fledged, often info rich, web page complete with reviews aggregated from other sites, including Yelp and CitySearch. The idea is to present all the information about a place on one page. (I love to play around with the street view camera feature.)

bluemarble

Of course, all I can think to tell you is – take advantage of the real estate gift and make sure you fully enhance your local profile by visiting the Local Business Center.

You can also find out a little more at the official Google blog

21 Getting Listed in Google Maps Even More Important

If your customers and prospects are locally based the importance of concentrating on local optimization of your web site and local directory listings gets more important with each passing day.

Google quietly upped the local search game by inserting the Google Maps local 10 (listing of 10 local businesses) into search results for local products and services regardless of whether the searcher used a geographic term in the search. It used to be that if you wanted to get local results for a good tailor in Kansas City, you typed in “Kansas City tailor.” Now, by detecting the location of your IP address Google will add the local result to the search results for the much more generic phrase “tailor.”

local search

Notice the search in the image above was for the word tailor, but returned listings for Kansas City tailor.

My feeling is that this makes it more important than ever that your local business is showing up in those Google Maps results. (For now the search terms returning these kinds of results are primarily limited to B2C plays like tailor, taco, or electrician )

So, I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – get to work on getting listed and getting in the top 10 on Google Maps.

1) Make sure you’ve claimed your listing – Google Local Business Center
2) Enhance your Google profile by adding lots of descriptions, images and videos
3) Optimize your web site for local search with local terms, links, mentions, suburb names, and your business address and phone on every page
4) Get links back to your site with local phrases in the anchor text – ie:”Best Kansas City Tailor”
5) Get reviews on your Google Maps profile – anyone can add a review directly into your profile and Google appears to give profiles with reviews higher weight – be proactive on this one.

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