Loci2009: Matt McGee’s Most Important Developments in Local Search for 2009

It seems to me that the two most important developments in local search during 2009 both came from Google. I suppose that’s not much of a surprise in the current local environment, is it? Here’s my top two:

Google Shows Local/Map Results on Generic Queries — you wrote about this on your blog, I wrote about it on Search Engine Land, and many others wrote about it, too. I called it a game changer. It’s huge because all of a sudden you have local business listings showing up prominently for thousands of keywords/phrases that they never appeared on before. It excused lazy search behavior. More importantly, it opened up a whole spectrum of exposure opportunity for small businesses. All of a sudden it was possible to rank on generic terms like “insurance agent” and “italian restaurant.” Huge development, and no surprise that both Bing and Yahoo had followed suit by the end of the year.

Google Launches Place Pages — I was in the middle of a two-month travelogue when this hit, and didn’t really appreciate it until much later when I got home and had time to see what it was all about. I think this will become a game changer, too. This idea of a single URL for “every place in the world,” as Google said (with typical hubris), is really compelling. It’s Google doing what the Yelps and Citysearches and IYP sites have been doing, so it’s kinda of a catch-up move in one sense … but Google has so much traffic and so much interest from business owners who want to be found. This can’t help but be big. I mean, Google’s already using place pages to show real estate listings; what else can they use them for?

And I’m shocked that Google isn’t indexing these pages. I suspect they will at some point. The URLs are already fairly SEO-friendly and some of the pages have really good content. Why not index them? So what if they’re already available in the 7-pack listings; why would Google include business listings from Citysearch or Yelp that may have less content and offer a poorer user experience, when it could show a Google place page in the organic search results?

(The flip side of all this Google talk, of course, is the ongoing saga of Google’s terrible support for small/local business owners. Miriam Ellis wrote a marvelous article about that. And no one’s done a better job of writing about Google’s ongoing problems with spam, hijacked listings, and general technical incompetence than you. So Google’s local track record is far from perfect … still.)

Some other things that stand out for me from 2009:

David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors remains the de facto standard for information about local SEO, and I could retire if I had a dollar for every time I’ve suggested a small biz owner read it.

I continue to love and be fascinated by the convergence of local search and social media. Small business owners were especially creative with Twitter last year, and I think that’s just the start of things. Twitter itself has made no secret of its plans to reach out to small businesses with formal services and tools, and they’ve said that local is an important part of their plans, so it should be interesting to see what develops in 2010.

And I think we collectively tend to under-report on Bing Maps and Local. I’ve always received a lot of traffic to my blog from people looking to learn how to get listed on MSN/Bing maps, how to optimize for it, etc. I documented some of that in this post, showing that eight of the top 50 keywords that send traffic to my blog are about Bing/MSN local, and only four of the top 50 are related to Google maps/local. I suspect that means something, though it might just be that you’re getting all the Google traffic. :-)

Matt’s Bio:

Matt McGee is the Assignment Editor at Search Engine Land, and offers SEO consulting and training to small business owners (and sometimes big business owners, too). He blogs regularly at Small Business Search Marketing and Hyperlocal Blogger.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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5 thoughts on “Loci2009: Matt McGee’s Most Important Developments in Local Search for 2009”

  1. Matt:

    With a bunch of small local business websites, one has been strong enough to rank highly and get that “generic” query traffic for years.

    This year, the big difference out of google, was during the periods when the 7pac was showing (with the business ranked #1 through most of the geography) and the high generic rankings co-incided Not only was there a ton of traffic….BUT….coversions just SOARED!!!!!

    The visibility of a map coinciding w/ a search w/ probable local intent…but no local geo modifier is actually a tremendous boon for local businesses, and of course a dagger into the hearts of all the directories, IYP’s, vertical directories, etc…..that now sit way below the 7pac.

    A very big deal, indeed, for the local search industry!!!

  2. Earlpearl, if you managed to get a client to rank on page one for terms like “insurance agent” and “italian restaurant” years ago, you’re a much better SEO than me. :-)

  3. While google are showing local listings on generic search terms it does seem to be quite random as to what words trigger it, I am not sure if this is to do with words that they deem should trigger these searches or if its more that they dont have a “local” supplier of x in which case we will see more and more instance of this.

    I think that the amount of focus that these local searches get at the top of the page will drop over time, at the moment they take up the whole of the page above the fold on the majority of setups.

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