Local Search

Search Engine Marketing

Just as the name implies, Local Search is all about searching the billions of pages on the World Wide Web for information that is related to a specific geographic area (country, state or city).

The PRIMARY use of this type of search, and what is implied in the term “Local Search”, is that the searcher is looking for information specific to his/her present geographic location. The classic example of local search is a freshman college student new to the geographical area in which the college is located using the Web to search for the nearest restaurant or pizza shop in Google, Yahoo or Bing, etc.

In other words, search engines on the Web are being used as a replacement for the traditional phone book Yellow Pages.

How big is “Local Search”? Google and Yahoo! (now using Bing as their search engine), the 2 biggest names in Web search, have devoted significant resources to perfecting local search for their search platforms.

Let’s take a look at Google Local Search (now called “Google Places”), then at Yahoo! Local Search, and finally a quick look at Local.com, a dedicated, local search-only Web site.

At the end of this review, I’ll give you some tips on how to maximize your Web site’s exposure in this important and growing search innovation, especially if your company depends on attracting LOCAL prospects/customers.

Google Local Search (“Google My Business”)

Note: Much of what is said in this article about the concept of “local search” remains valid.  What changes frequently is Google’s never-ending attempt to present a topic in a more optimized fashion. Thus Google Local Search has become “Google My Business”.

Google has made LOTS of changes to Google Local Search over the years. These changes have made optimizing Local Search on Google one of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of Local Search that small/medium-sized businesses MUST pay attention to. And here’s why…

First, let’s start with the person searching for something on Google. If Google can relate that search query in any way to the SEARCHER’S location, Google will then list those location-related search results using Google’s best guess at where on the planet that SEARCHER is located.

Google does this by using the SEARCHER’S IP address – the internet address of the computer network from which the searcher is conducting his/her search on Google. Best guesses at the area included in Google location-related search results are anywhere from 15 to 40 miles of the physical location of the searcher’s IP address.

To see this in action, perform a search on Google for “used cars” (without the quotation marks), then look for the search results on Google’s FIRST SEARCH RESULTS PAGE that are listed under the heading “Local business results for used cars near ___”. The blank space will contain a location that you are either located in or near when you perform that search.

Why does Google want to include searcher location-related results in its search results? Because, to quote Google, “one in five searches on Google are related to a user’s location and very often people are looking for local businesses”. (Quote taken from the following Google Press Release, April 20, 2010: “Google Get Local with Google Places”.)

Second, in order for a business to make sure it gets correctly included in Google’s location-related search results, that business should make sure that it has an accurate (free) listing in Google My Business. Why? Because most small businesses do not host their Web sites on their own in-house computer systems. The Web site is usually hosted by a large Web site hosting service, and the physical location of that service’s computer network may be thousands of miles from the physical location of the business.

By signing up for Google My Business and entering the physical address of the business location as well as details about the products/services supplied by that business and the business Web site, Google can then accurately index that business’ product offering AND Web site content by its physical location.

When searches are made on Google for a product or service supplied by a business located physically near the searcher’s location, that business will be returned as a high ranking search result (see the “used cars” search example given earlier in this section).

Yahoo Local Search

Here’s what Yahoo! tells potential users about their local search service:

“What is Yahoo! Local?

It’s the best way to find what’s around you and more.

Yahoo! Local helps you find the things you need in your neighborhood and beyond. You’ll get the traditional list of business names and numbers plus innovative tools to help you customize your search and pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for.

Let’s say you’ve entered a search for “restaurants” in “San Francisco, CA.” Now you have this comprehensive list. Which restaurant do you choose? How do you find the one closest to you? Or the one that’s most romantic? Here’s where Yahoo! Local’s unique search tools come into play.”

Click on this link to review Yahoo! Local Search Features in detail:

Yahoo! Local Search Features (Note: this link no longer active)

Dedicated Local Search Web Sites

There are a number of Web search sites that are dedicated to local search exclusively. One of the best known is Local.com

Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

“Local.com is a leading local search engine and the largest local search network in the United States. The company provides over 19 million consumers each month with the most relevant search results for local businesses, products and services on Local.com and over 700 regional media sites. Businesses can target ready-to-purchase consumers using a variety of advertising products including subscription, pay per click, banner and pay per call ad products. Local.com consistently ranks in the Top 100 in U.S. website traffic according to Internet research firm, comScore.”


What do YOU have to do in order to take advantage of the Local Search concept?

First, make sure your Web site is in both the Google and Yahoo! search indices. That’s covered in great detail in the Search Engine Optimization section of this Web site.

Second, once your site is in these indices, perform the following searches in both Local Search Services and note where in the search results your company is listed, especially relative to your largest competitor(s):

  • your company name AND your zip code
  • your company name AND town, state abbreviation

Now perform these same searches substituting several keyword(s) you think searchers would use to find your company for your company name and note where in the search results your company is listed, especially relative to your largest competitor(s).

If your company is listed higher than your major competitor(s) in these local search results pages, the ONLY thing you need to do is to perform the same searches outlined above on a regular basis to insure that you stay ahead of your major competition.

If your company is listed lower than your major competitor(s) in these local search results pages, then you must approach this situation as you would any search engine optimization exercise. See the Search Engine Optimization To Do List – Existing Site Web page for a detailed outline of how to perform this optimization. The good news is you’ve already completed Steps 1-4 of that procedure!

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