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Does Your Business Qualify For Local Seo?


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#1 SEOigloo

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 07:07 PM

Greetings All!

I want to start off my work as a new Cre8asite mod by contributing something to the SEO forum. I'd like to chat with you a bit about Local Search.

One of the big draws of the web in its early incarnations was that it connected you with the whole world. This was very exciting. We approached web design, and then 'SEO' when that became an actual term, from a Global mentality for the most part.

As with everything else in Search Marketing, Local SEO has fractured off from the main body of traditional SEO, which has its roots in that Global mindset.

Over the past couple of years, the efforts of Google and Yahoo to begin processing local-type queries (product/service + geo location) differently than other queries, and then the development of their local entities (Local & Maps) have given us all the opportunity to use the web to connect with our neighbors - not just the whole world. :)

Likely, many of your companies, or your clients companies', are going to be able to benefit from this new-ish facet of SEO.

If the business serves only within a fixed geographic region, Local SEO is a no-brainer for you. You need to optimize the tags, footer, on-page copy for that magic combination of product/service + location, and you need to register your business with the various local business centers and IYPs.

However, if your business has traditionally focused on national or global users, Local SEO may still be appropriate for you.

We just launched a website for a client whose business is a noteworthy example of this. This fellow is a really great guitar teacher who has been giving off-line guitar lessons for over a decade. The website we've just built for him is going to empower him to reach out globally to teach people guitar through YouTube videos, private Skype lessons, etc. So, he wants to rank well for broad terms like "slide guitar lessons", but because there is also a local component of his business (teaching in his geographic area) we optimized the site footer and a couple of pages of the site to be Local oriented. We've also advised him to get registered with Google and Yahoo's local business centers, etc.

So, the point is, if you serve globally, but also have a physical location from which you can serve locally, Local SEO can be used as a form of keyword expansion that will get you ranking for additional terms that do relate to your business.

I'd like to know, how many Cre8ers are actively engaging in Local SEO for their own businesses or for their clients. I've managed to become friends with a small but extremely dedicated group of Local SEOs over the past year, and I would like to know how many people here share an interest in Local.

Miriam

#2 DrPete

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 08:20 PM

First off, let me offer a belated welcome. I've been a Cre8asite lurker for a while (Kim and I cross paths in the usability blogosphere, and I'm a big fan of her work) and am working on becoming a more active participant.

I recently passed my GAP (Google Advertising Professional) exam, and was impressed by just how much local search has advanced in the past few years. The trick I've run into, though, is that it's still really geared towards brick-and-mortar businesses. For example, I have a client in the event industry whose offerings have a strong local component. Because they offer many locations, though (it's "product" based, essentially) and aren't a physical presence, per se, a lot of local search offerings aren't a good match.

Likewise, as a consultant, I wouldn't mind building up more local business in Chicago, but promoting a local listing doesn't seem to carry that much weight. Clients don't care that much if I'm local (my biggest client is in the L.A. area) and aren't necessarily searching for local providers.

On a related note, I did a mini-experiment recently, and found that localization is about 60% accurate, based on IP. I'm guessing Google can use their other clues to get that up to about 75% accuracy. Far from perfect, but a big improvement over the late 90s.

Sorry, was that an answer or just a collection of random thoughts about localization? :)

Edited by DrPete, 03 March 2008 - 08:20 PM.


#3 SEOigloo

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 11:23 PM

Hi Dr. Pete -
I'm an SEOmoz lurker so I absolutely recognize your avatar! It's really nice to see you here.

You have brought up one of the 'classic' issues with local search. What if a guy is a mobile animal vet, a dog walker, a mobile notary public? If there is not a real business location, this is a problem.

This was a Google rep's statement about this from some months ago:


Can I add my business if I don't have or don't want to show a street address?

At this time, we accept Local Business Center submissions only from businesses that have a street address or a post office box. We need an address in order to send you the PIN mailer, and to display your business to users in Google Maps results.

We understand that not all businesses have an address or want to publish it, and we'll keep this in mind as we work to improve Maps.


I seem to recall both Mike Blumenthal and Chris Silver Smith being kind of shocked that Google appeared to be recommending that businesses without a B&M location could get by with a 'hack' of having a mailbox near the city centroid.

Whatever the case, having a physical address is really very essential to working with most of the local entities at this point.

Regarding your other good point, Dr. Pete, regarding jobs like ours not being dependent on location - absolutely. Like your clients, ours generally don't care if we live on Pluto as long as we do a good job. But, there is a certain demographic of business owners who are going to feel better about working with a local consultant. Thus, local search can simply act as keyword expansion so that you are present for that pool of potential clients, eh?

I would really like to hear more about your experiment!
Miriam

#4 A.N.Onym

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 01:29 AM

You have brought up one of the 'classic' issues with local search. What if a guy is a mobile animal vet, a dog walker, a mobile notary public? If there is not a real business location, this is a problem.

While you don't have a local office, you do have a serving area. And that's precisely what the customers search on the web. "los angeles dog walker", why not? It'd still make sense to have a locally optimized website for any local professional, who doesn't have a local office (a vet should have a reception/surgey room, I'd imagine).

While I haven't run/optimized a local business myself, I am very, very interested in the process. I do believe it is even more important, than global search, for local people, because it drives easy and very targeted traffic.

#5 SEOigloo

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 02:16 AM

Hi Yuri -

While you don't have a local office, you do have a serving area. And that's precisely what the customers search on the web. "los angeles dog walker", why not?


You'd absolutely optimize the website. The trouble is that most of the local entities (Google Maps, Yahoo Local, etc) won't let you register your business with them without an address. That's the trouble, as this is such an important part of Local SEO.

The interesting thing, however, is that, in a conversation I was having somewhere with EarlPearl recently, he was saying that a website optimized for numerous, expanded local terms will bring in oodles more traffic, at this point, than, say, a Google Maps listing, so this is good news to any Local business without a real physical center.
The dogwalker can still win huge traffic if the site is built and expanded well.

Miriam

#6 A.N.Onym

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 02:29 AM

Well, you did seem to have been saying that "get to Google Maps or have no traffic", while the point is quite the contrary. Google Maps is just one of the minor factors to get traffic. A factor that should be used, nevertheless.

It is only worth it, if you can get ranked #1 there (in the One box result at the top of the organic search), otherwise it isn't really that noticeable. Just getting in Google Maps is helpful, but not by a large margin. It'd be much more efficient to have local search engine traffic.

And that's what Dave seems to have been telling you - because I've heard similar to the above from him.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 04 March 2008 - 02:31 AM.


#7 SEOigloo

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 06:59 AM

Hi Yuri,
I'm really sorry if that was unclear. I in no way meant if you don't get into Maps you get no traffic. When last I saw, the user percentage of Maps is very, very small, but it does grow every year.

My main point was that Local search is a way to expand the things you do rank for, where it can reasonably be applied to the business. Sorry if that wasn't clear in my initial post.

Miriam

#8 DrPete

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 11:13 AM

@SEOigloo: I apologize that you have to see my ugly mug in two forums :)

My "experiment" was pretty unscientific, but here's a quick rundown: I have a client in the event registration industry, so I took 100 registrations and compared the users IP-based location (through the public ARIN/WHOIS data) to both their billing address and the address of the event they were attending. I considered a match on either a match (which helped account for people registering for employees, etc.). Since some people will register away from home (at the airport, for example), I offset this by counting any city within 25 miles as a full match and any same-state match as a half match (1/2 a point, basically). I ended up with a total match of about 60%, which mirrors some other numbers I've seen. Google uses some additional data, and I'd imagine they can bump that up to 70-75% currently.

#9 earlpearl

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 06:29 PM

Hi Miriam:

I know of someone who has done that successfully, at least it was successful for a while. (I don't know if it is still working for him--in fact I know he's a member here, though he might not visit much or recently).

He did it in a slightly different way than you are suggesting.

He had (or has) a site that has strong rankings for a product/service on a global basis. Later he added a page(s) that described his product on a state basis.....call his product widgets...he had a page or pages that optimized in some level for Alabama Widgets, California widgets, etc.

The site started picking up search traffic for Alabama widgets, etc. and he was getting sales off those searches.

Last I know he never tried to do it on a purely loca basis wherein he would get the business identified with a local city.

I guess you'd say he optimized for regional as opposed to local. I'm aware of others who have caught onto that trick.

So it is certainly possible and there are more ways to skin the cat then simply entering the site in Google Maps and Yahoo Local.

btw....here is another way site owners do that. They populate craigslist in lots of cities with references to their site/products/services. Of course that is also subject to spam reports....but .....what the heck. :)

#10 SEOigloo

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 09:19 PM

Dr Pete,
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain that. 60% is pretty good. It's always really interesting to me to hear what people who analyze advertising have found out about it, because that is definitely not my area. I suffer both from ad blindness and little hands-on experience with PPC etc.

This is a whole other part of Local search that there is so much to learn about - making those ad programs work for regional businesses. I appreciate you explaining your test.

Hi EarlPearl!
I'm hoping to start coming across some examples of state-level optimization. Now that I've been talking to you about it, I bet I'll start noticing it (you know how that is when someone tells you something and then you start seeing references to it everywhere?).

Also, I have to start thinking about this for a project we might take on where a supplier's region covers parts of 2 neighboring states. That's a bit unusual. In other words, you couldn't just cover Kansas or Oklahoma. You'd have to cover part of both states. That'll take some doing.
Miriam

#11 earlpearl

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 01:51 PM

Miriam:

If you pick up the client with the two state territory I might have some experience and hard data that can be of assistance. Let me know. I'd be pleased to share it with you. It may or may not be applicable but its turned into a nifty little find for traffic generation.

#12 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:09 PM

I was wondering - so if you register with Google's local business center, does it automatically begin to cut away from your rankings on keywords with the names of other cities?

This is one of the doubts that prevented me from signing one of my business websites up as local. We are also optimized for other cities, but could do better in rankings for our own city / province.

#13 DrPete

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:27 PM

Kulpreet, I don't have hard evidence, but I recently took the GAP exam, and the lessons on localization pretty strongly imply that localization and search ranking are independent, except from a personalization standpoint (i.e. if Google deems certain results more relevant based on your own location). They actually suggest using both localization information and city-based keywords for best results (at least in some cases).

Of course, I guess if you had a client with a flower shop in New York and entered them as a local business, they'd become less likely to pop up in a search for "Florist Los Angeles", especially relative to local business entries in that region. On the other hand, if your business is truly local, this is probably desirable, as the other traffic was irrelevant anyway.

I should add that local business options and localization accuracy seem to vary wildly across global markets, so if you're working with clients in your home market, I'm not sure how much of this would apply. You might find these two AdWords learning center pages useful:

Local Business Ads
http://www.google.co...text/48986.html

Region and City Targeting
http://www.google.co...text/19167.html

#14 SEOigloo

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:37 PM

Good Afternoon Kulpreet Singh,
That's really an excellent question!

My *feeling* on this is that because local appears to be governed by its own algo (talking about Google here) ranking well within Maps for a specific city is not going to affect your organic rankings for a broader range in the organic SERPs. The organic rankings will be based on your on-page/linking/user behavior/SEO factors, whereas the local rankings will be based upon proximity to city centroid/category/maybe user ratings, etc.

But, I do think that's a thought-provoking question. I like DrPete's answer. I think I'd like to ask some pals about what you've asked because it's such a good concern.

Miriam

#15 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:59 PM

Thanks Peter and Miriam. Thanks for the links Peter, I will check them out.

I hope that Google is separating local business submissions from the overall ranking of websites, but I do wonder. I mean if we look at it rationally, Google has so many departments and different features, operating with their own policies and algorithms. However, they can't work purely independently and sometimes the emotional reaction is to assume Google is one big machine and worry about if what we put into it could have negative side effects on some other, possibly unrelated, output of the machine. Maybe the reality is somewhere between the two extremes.

-k.s.

Edited by kulpreet_singh, 05 March 2008 - 04:59 PM.


#16 earlpearl

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 05:39 PM

Kulpreet:

I do a lot of local stuff. I have seen zero evidence of what you asked. Nobody has referenced that phenomena in any commentary I've seen. I don't think you have to worry about that.

Google and the other search engines independently amassed tons of information for their various local tabs from sources like Yellow Pages, etc. Then they subsequently developed methods for independently entering data on local businesses into their data bases of local information.

Bill Slawski has a lot of patent descriptions on the Local versions of the SE's (Maps in Google's cases). The patent applications in no way suggest that entering data in the Local version will have any impact on crawling and indexing sites.

DrPete: I'm glad to hear that Google reccomended both methods. That works. Too often in the current commentary on Local, I read and hear total focus on what to do solely in terms of entering information into the various maps opportunities and no focus on organic search optimization.

I can say with strong evidence that it is vital to do both. You can pick up lots of traffic for search terms with geographic descriptions that don't show a map variation in organic search. In those cases the organic results and ppc are the only sources of information.

For instance I did searches for computer schools, computer classes, computer training/ Philadelphia. All are currently accompanied by a 10 pac maps insertion into organic results.

Do a search for computer class philadelphia and there is no map inserted into the organic results currently.

Frankly, users will use any of those terms and in the eyes of the various users they probably all mean the same thing.

In fact, Maps algos are sometimes very wierd and still need a lot of fixing.

Try these two (unless google recently fixed it ) :)

Advertising Agency Philadelphia (or any city) ......and

Advertising Agencies Philadelphia (or any city)

The 1st organic listing under the maps is the same for the plural and singular....but oh my, the maps version for the plural is way off base.

#17 earlpearl

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 05:55 PM

In fact, and this is in reference to Miriams earlier reference to a business or site that markets to two states.

Its a little trick that clearly shows up in organic results, DrPete, but doesn't show in maps.

If you have a business in a border state or border state/city--optimize the site for the 3 geographic names.

If the business was in Philadelphia --optimize the site for Philadelphia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the initials and native words for the geographic areas, such as NJ, PA, Philly. Put it in a title...put it on your first page.

Some searchers are going to search for things like Dentist as follows; Dentist Philly/NJ/PA. Some searchers are going to use any two of the three geo areas in any order.

Once they start putting in something like Philadelphia and New Jersey a map won't show.

The other interesting thing about this is that most businesses don't optimize in such areas don't optimize for the 3 locations. Frankly if you do halfway work you'll probably rank high for phrases like New Jersey Pennnsylvania and possibly capture some other traffic for other goods and services. ;-)

#18 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 06:55 PM

Hmm... Dave, very interesting information! Thanks for your reply.

Edited by kulpreet_singh, 05 March 2008 - 06:57 PM.


#19 SEOigloo

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 12:29 AM

Bill Slawski has a lot of patent descriptions on the Local versions of the SE's (Maps in Google's cases). The patent applications in no way suggest that entering data in the Local version will have any impact on crawling and indexing sites


Dave, that's too funny. Mike Blumenthal just said almost the same thing to me. You two guys! :)

See, Dave, the thing I think you are saying that is so brilliant about all of this is that state searches are unlikely to bring up a 10-pack listing, but research indicates that, at least for some things, people DO search that way. So, do you want to capture that traffic, at the state level, before the user refines their search in frustration and gets shown 9 of your competitors?

Yes you do. :thumbs:

Very cool stuff, Dave.

Kulpreet Singh - consensus of opinion on this from this forum and the couple of guys I spoke with today about this is that adding a local listing is only going to help, not harm. And, obviously, this is but one step in the total marketing/optimization process. So, go register!

I'm really enjoying this thread.

Miriam

Edited by SEOigloo, 06 March 2008 - 12:30 AM.


#20 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 12:46 AM

That is good news. Thanks so much Miriam for helping to answer this question!

Edited by kulpreet_singh, 06 March 2008 - 12:47 AM.


#21 earlpearl

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 01:58 PM

Miriam:

There are an immense number of searches with state names in them.

#22 SEOigloo

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 04:47 PM

Dave -
I'm having a memory lapse.
Who was it that blogged about a test recently where they were researching the different ways in which people were doing local searches in two states? I'm sure you will remember what I'm talking about. I'm suffering from feedreader confusion. The data was looking at things like do people use abbreviations of states or the whole name, does the city come first or the service, etc.

Shoot. I'm trying to remember. If you can recall what that was, it might be nice to provide a link to that here as it relates to what you're talking about.

Miriam

#23 A.N.Onym

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Posted 06 March 2008 - 11:07 PM

Maybe you mean this?

#24 SEOigloo

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Posted 07 March 2008 - 02:43 AM

Yuri, you're a genius!

That's exactly what I meant. I loved that study. It was really revealing, though, of course, one needs to do the research for whatever the individual region/market is.

Thanks, Yuri! I hate it when I can't remember where I read something good.
Miriam

#25 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 06:48 PM

Just read that link - great information if only on a small scale. Are there any larger scale studies on local search?

People are more likely to use the sequence: “business type + geo” than “geo + business type”; about 75% -25%

Good to know. But I wonder if this has been confirmed by others as well?

#26 SEOigloo

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 08:27 PM

Hi Kulpreet_Singh,
Yes, that was some great data. So far, all I have run into is research of this kind on a small scale. I know EarlPearl has done lots of stuff like this. Unless a study were able to cover a large number of variables, I suppose it could only serve as a general guide. As the Convert Offline study shows, there is variation, so it's going to be important to research each industry and location, even when data seems to point one way or another.

I have heard of 2 different groups considering doing a big study for Local search, but don't know if that's going to come to fruition. A big job!

Miriam

#27 earlpearl

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 04:23 PM

Kulpreet:

I have a lot of data on that topic.

I wouldn't generalize. It may well be that the usage of geo term and business service/product depend on the topic and the region. It might be for instance that if the geo name is long, users might input the business name first and vice versa.

For different businesses...and for the same business in different regions I have seen opposite results. -> NO HARD CONCLUSION.

I haven't found one method to dominate...but I'd like to see the study. The best data would include a lot of geo areas and a lot of business types.

#28 earlpearl

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 03:39 PM

Kulpreet:

was your data from Tim/Search Hound's information from his blog. If so, its a small data set.

Its fine data, its just very limited. I have far greater volumes of data than what he published. I often started off with assumptions on things like that till I saw greater volumes of data and a wider variety of business terms/products and geographical data.

I would love to have access to a great volume of data of that sort.

Dave



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