Mary Bowling at Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc. has recently published a white paper: Local Search Engine Marketing – Profitable Tactics for the Lodging Industry.
From their presse release:
You need a strategy for Local Search and, in this whitepaper, youâ€™ll get detailed instruction on how to:
Optimize your website for Local Search using both on-page and off-page tactics.
Insure your presence across the many Local Search and Social Web platforms.
Choose the right directories to drive highly targeted traffic to your website.
Increase the return on investment of your pay per click advertising using local-specific strategies.
Standardize the information about you across the web in order to bolster your credibility with people and search engines.
The report provides a comprehensive overview of the local search industry with examples and tactics. It makes for a good read and while it is specifically written for the lodging industry, it includes a great deal of generally valuable information.
You may request a copy by visiting their website.
According to Comscore, roughly 11 million, of the current 200 million cell phone users, use their mobile phone to do local search. Of those 11 million, I believe that many are like me: “soft” users i.e. users that only use the service occasionally due to the limits of the hardware & software interfaces and the quality of the data. I am curious about how soon this local search aspect of the mobile market will become mainstream. A possible benchmark would be when it reaches 50% penetration i.e. 100 million users in the U.S.
There are many barriers to this level of adoption: limits of current phone technology, cost of the service and lack of perceived benefits by cell phone users.
We are now seeing the future of local search in overcoming the limits imposed by the current hardware & software. Google has staked out its mobile interface with Google Mobile Maps, Yahoo has its Yahoo2Go mobile application suite and Apple has created the perception of what a usable mobile device looks like. These three players may not be the winners in the cell market of 2006/2011 as it is dramatically different than the internet market of 1996/2001. However, these three will in many ways define what local search looks & acts like. These tools seem to answer the constraints on mass market adoption of mobile local search; the interface & hardware issues that have been barriers to widespread adoption.
When will we get there? And will it result in the increase in local searches that creates a truly vibrant mobile local advertising market?
Comscore has released the second part of their research about cell phone usage by age group. In the first part of their research they examined general cell phone usage patterns as well as types of cell phone internet access.
Their current conclusions:
Consumers in the 18-to-24 Age Segment: View Cell Phones as Multi-Functional Accessories; Crave Advanced Features and Personalization Options
Wireless Users in the 25-to-34 Age Segment: Most Likely to Access the Internet via Their Cell Phones
Their research does not detail specific internet usage by age group. In their previous research 44% of the users access the internet for email purposes while somewhat more than 24% used it for local search. It would be helpful to see top reasons for access by age group to see which age groups are more focused on local search vs other uses as well as the type and intensity of local search. It isn’t clear from the research summary but I would assume that the reason that the 25-34 age bracket is more likely to access the internet via cell is for job related e-mail.
Read on for more of their findings…
A summary of interesting tidbits provided by a press release from mInfo of China:
-WAP is currently actively used by only 30-40 million of the 450 million mobile users in the country, whereas SMS has over 90% adoption
-Searches were spread fairly evenly amongst the basic subject areas of Local Search (41%), Informational Search (31%) and Rich Content Search (28%).
-Local search involves finding directory information for locations such as bars, hotels and ATMs
-The five leading search categories in 2006 were: 1. Dining/Recreation 2. Jokes/Riddles 3. Ring tones/Pictures 4. News/Stock 5. Weather forecast
-The query model for mobile search is also quite different from web search. Mobile searchers tend to use longer query strings (5-6 words/query) vs. web searchers who average about two words per query. Mobile searchers tend to input phrases with qualifiers to improve specificity in an effort to increase relevance and get more precise answers.
-The average web search session usually involves 5 or more iterations of keywords with countless clicks on the resulting links. Contrarily, the average mInfo search session requires just 1-2 queries for users to find their desired answers.
-Search diversity is much higher on mobile vs. the Web. According to traffic data from a leading Chinese Internet search engine, the top 1000 keywords account for over 70% of all search traffic. However, for mobile search, the top 1000 queries account for only about 20% of the searches
-The 19-24 year old group seemed most interested in ring tones and pictures while the 25-29 year old group was more heavily weighted towards local search. The 30-34 year old group tended to spend more time on travel and news related searches.
There is a fair bit of optimism that mobile (see Get Ready for a Surge in Mobile Search) is going to dominate local search in the very short term. The numbers are mouth watering to venture capital: 200 million cell phones in the US alone and research that 30% will use local search on their current or next cell phone. I am sure that it will happen…. someday
Research on actual current users tells a different story. Here is the data from Comscore’s recent research:
Wireless Users’ Internet Accessibility (via Phone) October 25, 2006 Â November 1, 2006
sample size = 1,708
|Source: comScore Networks Wireless Report
||Percent of Users
|Don’t have Internet option/unsure
|Have Internet option/don’t subscribe
|Currently subscribe to the Internet
|Previously subscribed to Internet option
Top Reasons for Accessing the Internetfrom a Wireless Phone
(Among those who subscribe to Wireless Internet Option)
||Percent of Users
|Ring Tone Downloads
|Local Search (i.e. YP)
Let’s do the math: 200 Million cell users of whom 17% have & use internet access and of those only 24% (lets be generous and assume some more unique users from the other categories and say 33%) do some sort of local search. Total audience:11 Million. Nothing to sniff but not yet a huge market
Greg Sterling has provided an excellent summary of local search volume and profitability by analyzing ComScore’s December data:
comScore basically defines â€œlocal searchâ€ as Internet yellow pages, the queries on the local products of search engines (e.g., Yahoo! Local) and searches on general engines with geographic modifiers (e.g., â€œDenver Attorneysâ€). comScore (7/06) estimated local search to be 13% of overall Internet search volumes….. it would mean that on an industry wide basis â€œlocal searchâ€ is today hypothetically worth just over $104 million per month or in excess of $1.2 billion per year….The local ad market (all media) is worth roughly $100 billion….So one would reasonably expect many billions in SMB and other locally targeted ad buying will flow online,
But Greg points out: But in search in order to capture more of these local dollars there need to be more local searches or those with â€œlocal intentâ€ need to be better monetized….But, fundamentally, if youâ€™re Google, Yahoo! or MSFT and want to get more local money into search, you have to build more inventory: local searches.
Ultimately despite all of the startups in local and all of the talk of delivery of ads on cell phones, the local search market won’t really take off until there are more searches by real people. Certainly the current crop of portable devices dosn’t make that easy and Yahoo and Google actively hide their local data on-line.
Perhaps the iPhone,or something like it, will allow this significant hurdle to be overcome by both making local searching easier and not requiring every website to reformat their output. Another strategy might be that if you can’t get people to come to the mountain you move the mountain to them…with a Google Kiosk in every mall. (Now that’s local search.)
For now, Local is a niche within a niche and it will remain so for a while. In some ways though, this is not such a bad thing (other than hundreds of startups going out of business), in that much of the data and the interfaces are not quite ready for prime time…when they are they will be adopted and used and the revenue opportunities will be evident.
From the Marketing Sherpa report excerpt: a heatmap…revealing how actual consumersâ€™ eyes view listings. As you may be aware, the red blob is where most searchers looked directly; as colors change, the level of attention goes down. The â€œXâ€ indicates where searchers clicked, and the red horizontal bar shows how far down folks scrolled to view listings.
User behavior upon viewing a search results page has always fascinated me although I have never attempted to actually test this behavior or track the physiology behind it. The folks at Marketing Sherpa annually do that and the results are both instructive and beautiful.
Among their key findings: … is the attention to which search users pay what we call the â€œbullet pointsâ€ within top listings… these eyetracking results indicate you canâ€™t afford to wait for a time when Google stops changing the One Box (if indeed they ever stop changing.)… In addition, as our past eyetracking tests (also included in the appendix of this Guide) have
- Thereâ€™s a â€œred triangleâ€ of attention in the upper-left corner, beyond which eyes donâ€™t
stray. Continue reading
Which business sectors would be best served by optimizing their local listings? Clearly not all business types are searched on equally and some are not searched at all.
To develop the data to analyze I went to the Overture Keyword Selector tool and typed just the city name with no state modifier for 4 relatively small rural cities (populations from 2000 to 50,000):
I then removed any result for any city that was obviously not the one I was looking for (ie wrong state), removed all Not for Profit searches (hospitals, schools, govt. etc.) and removed searches for specific businesses. The list I was left with included the ambiguous “city + business type” or the non-ambiguous “city + st. + business type” search frequency results.
The outcomes offered some surprises…. Continue reading
Local Search optimization should be an integral part of every web site marketing plan. The goal is to encourage customers to visit or contact your business and Local Search plays an ever increasing role in this. The ultimate goal in Local Search optimization is a showing your business on the Google Main Search results page (ideally as the “onebox”) on a phrase that generates traffic.
Here is a list of best practices that I have ferreted out so far (what would you add?):
1. Go to the Google Local Business Center (and the Yahoo equivalent) and control your record with correct information, remove all incorrect records and keep it updated. This will override, take precedence over and be more trusted than the default data from a commercial data provider. While there do the following:
–a)include the relevant business categories
–b)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)
–c)Craft the categories and the description to reinforce the key phrase(s)
2. Buy into as many “trusted” sources that Google uses that make business sense i.e. BBB, Mobil Guide, SuperPages. A comprehensive list of these needs to be developed and they will vary somewhat by industry.
3. Monitor your entries and reviews in the relevant web based guides like CitySearch (a list of the ones that Google uses needs to be assembled). Make sure that they are factually correct and if possible be sure that the reviews are positive as that will affect your rankings.
4. Make sure that your business web site has your basic business information readily available. I do not think that you need to be too concerned with its specific format as Google’s parsing and normalization algorithms seem pretty good but as Bill Slawski points out you should attempt to use key:value pairs (i.e. phone: 716-372-4008 not just 716-372-4008).
5. Make sure to have as many references on other web sites to your business as possible and be sure that they include accurate business data: business name, address, phone etc.
–a)This needs to compliment your overall linking strategy.
–b)If you can a get a link AND a description including address & phone you should
–c)If you can only get a listing of address and no link, take it.
6.It appears from limited experiments that running a Google Adwords campaign associated with your listing in the local space adds authority and ranking to your listing and it might also help to have a coupon (proof of this idea is pending).
That being said you need to be the one ultimately responsible to be sure that the information is accurate and does truly reflect the nature of your business. Google has put the technology in place in Google Local Business Center for that to happen and they have done it in a way that gives businesses small and large an equal opportunity.
Google Earth Meets Windows Live “Virtual Earth” Search Engine Roundtable -
Extremely impressive release by Microsoft with Virtual Earth. It is basically a Google Earth product with “dramatic 3-D mapping” in …
Windows Live Local Gets “Virtual Earth” 3-D Cities Search Engine Watch (Greg Sterling)-
Tomorrow Microsoft will bring dramatic 3-D mapping to the browser window. Windows Live is set to launch photorealistic 3-D imagery for the “urban core” of 15 U.S. cities: San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix….
Microsoft tries 3D maps, fails ZDNet -
A very cool (but for me, almost unusable) version of Virtual Earth was released today by Microsoft called “Virtual Earth 3D”. Instead…
I, being a Mac guy on a PowerPC, have not been able to see this work…