What is Local Search?
Before talking about why you need Local Search let’s define it. According to Wikipedia, Local Search is the use of Search Sites by people searching for local businesses. The search is geographically constrained by adding a location word such as city and state, or zip code.
Wikipedia goes on to say that there are two types of local search. Explicit and implicit. An explicit search is done with a location term. An example of an explicit local search would be shoe stores in raleigh nc. An example of an implicit search would be restaurant. A search for restaurants is implicit because the word is typically used by itself when people are searching for a local restaurant. But how does the search engine know which city to search for with an implicit search? It uses the physical location of the person doing the search. This is usually known by the search site based on the technical information about the computer and it’s connection to the internet.
Local search results are different than non local search results. A local search generates a page that includes businesses from an online business directory. These business directory listings would not show for a non local search. The search engine is making a decision on whether the person is looking for local products or services or not. In the latter case the search could be for research or some other need that does not require a list of local business products or services.
A business directory listing is the basic contact information for a business that exists in a directory. There are many online business directories. Each search engine has one. The online business directory is used for local search and with maps. It is not used with non local search.
When someone clicks on a business directory listing they are taken to the business’s website if the website address has been supplied in the directory listing. If the business has not filled in their own business directory listing with their website address the visitors are taken to the actual business directory information.
Who Needs Local Search?
Back to the main topic about the need for Local Search. If your business sells products or services to local customers, and if your local customers sometimes use the Internet to find what they are looking for, then you need to pay attention to local search.
A Free Opportunity
Local search offers a huge opportunity for businesses and organizations to attract website visitors. It can even help you if you don’t have a website. However, having a website can help your local business directory rank better. A consumer may be simply looking for a phone number for any local flower shop. When searching for flower shops (a local search) that person may see the phone number on the business listing in the search results page and call that number without even clicking to the flower shop website.
Does Your Business have Local Competition?
The challenge that businesses face is the same challenge they face elsewhere. Competition. In this case the challenge is to get your business directory listing ranking above your competitors. The top spot is the best. Each step lower gets fewer clicks, and thus, fewer leads, fewer calls, and fewer customers. If your business directory does not show on page one you won’t see much benefit at all. Few people check listings after page one.
As a business owner you need local search to work for you. You need your business directory listing to show up on the first page of search results for the most common terms that people use when searching for your type of business. You don’t need your website to show on page one when people 800 miles away are searching for local (local for them) products or services.
As an example, if you own an auto body shop you would want your business directory listing to show on page one (page one of search results when someone is searching) when the search term auto body shop in yourcityname is used. You should not try to get your website to show up in search results when someone searches for auto body shop. Of course it might be nice if you could get this to happen. The reality is that it would take a huge amount of time and money. It may be next to impossible. There is little value for you if non local people are finding your website but cannot do business with you.
How to take advantage of Local Search
Now that you know what local search is and why it’s important, you need to know how to make it work for you. Your business must be listed in the major online directories such as Google Places (now called Google+ Local), Bing, Yahoo, CitySearch, FourSquare and others.
If your business is at least one year old it may already be listed in many of the online directories. However, you need to claim your listing and fill it in with accurate information. Unclaimed listings contain very little content and often times incomplete and inaccurate information.
A helpful tool to get you started is getlisted dot org. Simply enter your business name and your zip code and it will show you where your business is listed. It will also help you get started by supplying the links to claim your business listing on many important directories.
Another excellent tool is at whitespark dot ca/local-citation-finder. It helps identify related search terms that people use to search for your type of business. It also finds websites that your business contact information is listed.
Local Search Optimization Tips
Here’s a valuable tip to get you started. Find and claim your Google+ Local page. Add your business to the directory if you cannot find it. Fill in all the information including your website domain name. Make sure your business contact information is correct and is exactly the same as indicated on your website. Add a review to your Plus Local page.
Local search is important. It’s a huge opportunity offered to you by the search sites. It’s used by a large number of people searching for local products and services. Take advantage of this free gift. It can make a huge difference in your business!
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