What is Local Search? How can it help my business?

Local Search is simply the search engines updating what results are shown when someone searches for a local phrase. A good example is "find web designer" or "davenport web design".

When someone searches for something the search engines tie to a local service or product, they often show a map and local business listing above the other rankings.

Davenport Map Online Google Listings

Why is this important for local and offline businesses?

Now when someone searches for a mechanic or a dentist, it will show local mechanics, dentists, etc. Put your type of business or service in search and see how you rank online. Does it pull up the map listings? Are you there?
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If the answer is no, I am not showing up anywhere on those listings; your website is invisible. Your commercial site may get a few clicks, but 80-90% of people use Google now to find products and local small business. Those searchers click on the local map results 90%+ of the time. Some quick math will tell you how much money you are losing, not making, giving to your competitors. Take your choice.

In the past Google would show national/big company listings for these type of searches. With more and more people using mobile search to buy online locally, they have updated the search results to give the users what they are looking for.

"Most businesses have not taken advantage of this. Those that do have a huge advantage"
Local businesses with what they want to buy right now. Even better, they show your potential customer where you are located, directions, and an easy click to call; if your site is set up correctly.

How Do You Optimize a Site For Local Search?

The site needs to have good fresh content related to what people are searching for. The website should have all the normal social properties set up and pointing to the main business site (Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.). Google needs to see that people are clicking on your site when they give it as an option in their search results.

The simple answer is that your site must have fresh content and have real people engaging with your site. Engaging with your site from the social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but also consistent phone numbers, addresses and basic information about your business on the major citation sites. Citation sites would be sites like Yelp and other review sites; as well as site specializing in local directories. It is very common for a business to have multiple phone numbers, addresses and other information listed online. Most businesses do not pay attention to these listings. Since most are generated by scraping the internet with software, if they get the information wrong, it is your job to let them know.

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Who has the time to do all this social media and web 2.0, and ..... ?

The businesses ranking on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing. If it were easy everyone would rank #1. Wait that is impossible. Exactly.

I like this analogy. Let's say there are 50 car dealerships in the Quad Cities. At most 10 of them can be shown on the first page of the search engine. Usually less, since some of the spots will be taken up by national companies still. In the online world the first page of search results is more than being on the busiest street in town. It is the only street.

Considering the scarcity of those precious 5-10 spots on the front page, only those that focus on ranking will be able to rank. Putting up a website does not mean people will find your website. Shifting marketing budgets from offline (newspapers, TV, phone directories), to online marketing is how modern marketing is successfull. There is no extra, or even less cost per online lead or online sale.

Top ranked websites also enjoy 24 hour exposure. A recent study showed that 60% will not buy in the store until they search online. 80%+ did research before making a purchase at a physical store. 20% did research at the store and bought online. If someone can find your product online at thier convenience, your products are marketing themselves. People are leaving reviews and talking about your business online. All this activity on your site can be tracked and measured; something that can not be done with an accuracy with offline marketing. It truly is working smarter, not harder.

Your website turns potential customers into educated ready to buy consumers when they arrive at your QC business.

How large of a budget does a local business need to rank online?

Of course the answer varies depending upon the price points and competition in your market. It is better to think of how much would you have spent, or are spending on marketing your business, in total. It is understandable why it seems better to give the local paper, the big phone book company or even a TV station several thousand or more for whatever they tell you, your business needs to get more customers. That is how marketing was done by local Quad City organizations for decades.

Now it makes no sense. It is very expensive. It is hard to change once it is out there. It can not be tracked. Most importantly, no one really sees it. People searching online have developed ad or banner blindness; they just ignore ads by instinct. Were all masters of ignoring the commercials we watch before we fast forward through that thousand dollars you spent on an offline ad.

My advice is spend the usual 15-20% of revenue on marketing. Spend 50% of that on online marketing. Internet rankings will generate 80% of your leads and business. But since the traditional offline advertisers still have huge overhead, it will take 50% of your budget to get that other 15%-20% of the market.

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