Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Greg Sterling’s Summary of Local Search Dollars

Greg Sterling has provided an excellent summary of local search volume and profitability by analyzing ComScore’s December data:

comScore basically defines “local search” 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., “Denver Attorneys”). comScore (7/06) estimated local search to be 13% of overall Internet search volumes….. it would mean that on an industry wide basis “local search” 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 “local intent” need to be better monetized….But, fundamentally, if you’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.

Eyetracking Heatmap: How Searchers View the Google One Box

Eye Tracking Heatmap

From the Marketing Sherpa report excerpt: a heatmap…revealing how actual consumers’ 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 “X” 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 “bullet points” within top listings… these eyetracking results indicate you can’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
revealed:
- There’s a “red triangle” of attention in the upper-left corner, beyond which eyes don’t
stray.
Continue reading

Which business classes benefit most from Local Search

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):
-Jamestown, NY
-Olean, NY
-Wellsville NY
-Coudersport Pa

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

Best Practices for Local Success

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.

Windows Live Does Virtual Dallas

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…

When will GeoCoding impact Local Search?

In yesterday’s issue (11/2/06) of the NY Times they published an interesting article called: Basics: Pictures, With Map and Pushpin Included on the nascient field of photo geocoding.

I had been oblivious to this technology before but after reading this article I realized that it will have a huge impact on Local Search going forward. Clearly the technology is just now getting into the hands of people who are interested in geographically tagging their images with GPS data. Like all new technologies it might take 5 years or maybe even 10 to be widely adopted and deployed so that the average housewife is geotagging her family vacation images and sharing the resulting map with Grandma.

The possibilities are endless and Bill Slawski pointed out an interesting patent for some of those. He also pointed out a Microsoft technology demo. It gives some idea  of how maps and photos might interact.  ( I can only imagine that while it might change the details of  the husband  & wife  mapping argument it won’t change the nature of it.) Continue reading

Google Maps goes Vocal

Sahelia Datta has uncovered what appears to be a voice driven directory assistance service for Google Maps. She details both its strengths and its foibles.
The number for this free service:
1 877 466 4411 (1 877 GOOG 411)

Greg Sterling has an interesting analysis in his posting on Brands, User Experience and Mobile. He clearly positions the service in the big picture of directory assistance and local search.

For me the concerns are more pragmatic. Is it really Google results? (yes, they are) Is it free? (yes it is) And is it enough better than current directory assistance that consumers would use it? (Let me know what you think but it sure has promise).

For any of you that thought that optimizing for Google Maps was unimportant, this will certainly shake your world view. It clearly points out why it is important to have a solid listing with Google Maps, be listed in the top three in as many categories as possible and why if at all possible that number 1 ranking is critical on your keywords.

Continue reading

Local Database accuracy

Greg Sterling had an interesting piece on local database accuracy

What did they find? Shockingly, they discovered there was something wrong (minor to major issues) with 47% of the listings! That’s a remarkably large number. I was truly surprised.

The discussion in the post is of equal interest and well worth a read. My experience with Google’s data is similar. I beleive that it was originally purchased and maintained by InfoUSA and was riddled with problems. The question is whether the partners/local businesses/Search professionals of Google can get the data straight and keep it straight.

Local Search Continues to Gain According to comScore

“According to the study, 63 percent of U.S. Internet users (or approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July, a 43-percent increase versus July of 2005. Google Sites (30 percent) and Yahoo! Sites (29 percent) garnered the largest share of local searches in July. Microsoft Sites captured 12 percent of local searches, followed by the Time Warner Network with 7 percent. “

To read the comScore press release

To read Greg Sterling’s summary and comments

Local Search

I have been working on Google and Yahoo local search optimization for awhile. It is an area that while not earth shattering in terms of traffic that they have generated it became clear to me that the importance to Google and Yahoo and the client was increasing and it would be a benefit to understand more about it.

I searched the internet for technical and practical knowledge on Google Maps and Yahoo Local and while there were posts from time to time at a number of sites, none seemed to provide a single place to obtain comprehensive and current information or a place where experiments in techniques could be hashed out and discussed.

If you have an interest in this topic and have some experience I hope that you will take the time to share it so that the general state of knowledge about search optimization for Google and Yahoo local can move forward.