The digital ad ecosystem offers a slew of opportunities for local businesses to find, target, and connect with local customers. And, because the goal is driving foot traffic – not web traffic – you don’t even need a website to take advantage of most of these opportunities.
Following are some of the best local search strategies to take advantage of now, whether you have a website or not.
Local search is changing rapidly. Thanks to Google’s use of IP addresses, user-logins and Geo-targeting software, the search engine is able to anticipate what their users want by determining where they are.
This means that, in some cases, users don’t have to use location-specific searches. They can simply search for what they want, say, “ice cream” and get results specific to their location (rather than, say, the Wikipedia entry on the history of ice cream).
For local searches, where the competition is fierce, Google is integrating content from Google+ Local pages and delivering it via carousel:
This makes for a great user experience – you not only get images from places near you, but reviews of those places. Users can click through for typical “places” fare – an address, phone number and map – as well as additional Search Engine Page Results for the place they clicked through to:
That makes having an optimized Google+ Local Page a pretty powerful tool when it comes to winning the local search game.
To win though, you’ve got to have the type of content that users click through to. Namely, images and reviews.
Even if you’ve never taken the initiative to build a Google+ Local page, you likely have one. Last year, Google+ converted existing Google Places pages into Google+ Local pages, pulling in content from Zagat, UrbanSpoon, and other sites from around the web.
This is mostly user-generated content, but you don’t want to leave it up to the users of third-party sites to populate your Google+ Local page. And you don’t have to. Simply verify your page to begin managing it – uploading photos, linking to your website or connecting your Google+ Local page to your Google+ Social page (if you have one.)
Then, you can encourage the fans you already have to leave reviews on your Google+ local page. The best way to do this is simply ask. Send a note to your fans via Twitter and Facebook with a link to your Google+ Local page. Most people are happy to share news of an excellent place, product or service, and need no other encouragement.
You don’t have to have a Google+ social page to participate in Google+ Local. But, if you do have a Google+ social page, you can pull your social stream onto your Google+ Local page – taking even more control of what users see, and how their impressions of your business are formed.
Google+, Google+ Local and Google’s Search Engine Result Pages change all the time. In the near-future, there will likely be additional opportunities to optimize your Google+ Local page. So, don’t set-it-and-forget it. Check back to see how your business’ digital life is going, and what new opportunities may exist.
Major algorithm updates from Google are rarely disregarded. However in a year full of panda’s and penguins there has been little ado about the Google Venice Update. If you are a local business owner, the Venice update can help provide a bigger spotlight on your website or social media channel. This update occurred on February 27, 2012 and fundamentally changed localized search. According to Google’s search quality highlights:
“Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”
“Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”
Google will now return localized results for broad match keywords if they determine that it would be beneficial to the user. No longer are local keywords required to return localized search results. What this means is that if Google’s algorithms determine that a broad match search for a non-localized keyword such as “SEO” should return local results to the user, they will do just that. This is accomplished when Google “auto-detects” your location by using your IP address. This does not require your consent and will even occur when conducting a browser session in the “incognito” window.
You can see your location setting by simply performing a search in Google, then looking on the left hand side of the results page under the navigation. If you see your current city and state, Google has “auto-detected” your location through your IP address and will return more localized results as opposed to when your location is set more broadly such as to “United States.”
The Venice update can provide local businesses more impressions to local searchers who were not necessarily thinking about local businesses. It is more important than ever to not only have a strong presence on the web but also to have a strong presence in search. There are many channels through which you can accomplish this, and some great resources can be found on our blog under local search.