LeeAnn Prescott at Hitwise reports: Traffic to Google Maps increased by 26% from January to February 2007. It appears that this increase was due to an increase in upstream traffic from Google, which occurred on February 7, according to this daily clickstream chart shown here. Did anyone notice a change in how Google drives traffic to Google Maps around this time?
This jump in traffic to Google Maps shown on the chart occurred one week after it was reported that Google upgraded the Local Onebox results on the main search results page.
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?
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…. (more…)
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.
When you enter your business in either Google’s Local Business Center or in Yahoo Local Listings you are limited to entering your business in 5 categories. It is not clear whether Google prioritizes these categories but Yahoo definitely does, allowing you one primary listing and 4 secondary listings.
Since both Google and Yahoo over a very limited number of choices, it becomes critical that you choose categories that are true representations of your business. While Google doesn’t state that there is a priority I think that you want to enter the most important ones first.
But how do you choose when you have more than five categories in which your business plays? My suggestion would be to go to Yahoo/Overture’s Keyword Selector Tool and search on your place identifier (i.e Olean NY) and determine if any of the categories in which you do business is searched with any greater frequency than the other categories. Be sure that your place identifier is the one with the most searches by the searching public. Do they search on your town name (i.e. Olean, NY or Olean, New York) or on your zip code (14760)?
In a recent article at SEOMOZ.org a group of leading SEO experts identified “Keyword use in Document” as the third most important overall factor in ranking of web page in the organic search results (behind Title Tags and Anchor Text Links). In the Local Search world the database is much more structured and much more limited. It appears that the business category fills the role of keyword use.