Jason Duke – Local Search Interview

In this interview we’re talking with Jason Duke aka JasonD of StrangeLogic.com.

Hi Jason thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, could you tell me a little bit about yourself for my readers who may not know you?

Hi Michael and thanks for asking me to take part in your Local Search series. I’m the MD/CEO/Guvnor of a search business over in London, UK. We are very data hungry search team, and probably collate, analysis and investigate more information than anyone else in our industry, outside the search engines.

I think it’s fair to say that what we do with that data is good old fashioned spam!

Thanks, let’s imagine for a moment you’re not involved with the internet, what types of local searches do you find yourself frequently, and anything you find particularly good or bad about local search results?

I’m a London based guy, but London isn’t just one city, it is often said that it is a “collection of villages” that have amalgamated over hundreds of years into an urban sprawl containing about 13 Million people within it and it’s suburbs. It is HUGE and is the most culturally diverse place on earth I have ever visited. I love it!

But, as a Londonder I don’t search with London as an identifier of my location in a search. I said just before that London is a collection of villages, and most of us that live here still think in those terms.

If I was looking for a widget shop or service, I wouldn’t search for “London widget” I would search for “Romford widget” (Romford is one of those London villages) It seems that I am not alone as log files back me up on this as has every “normal, non search business” person I have spoken to (and observed while they surf & search) about it. So to answer your question my local related searches are based on the town I am in, with a lot of professional services. I have moved house relatively recently and needed some works to be done, so my local search terms have been mostly of the tradesmen kind.

Let’s talk about internet marketing now, many of the engines seem to finally be paying attention to local search, Google for example has started rolling out “onebox” results with maps for searches it thinks are local. From a marketers standpoint do you think this is good or bad?

I think it’s a great thing if I don’t already rank for the phrase and a terrible thing if I already do! Let me explain what I mean.

If I don’t already rank I now know that there is a way to be contained in the onebox, above the fold, right at the top of the page, , higher than the organics, local results. It’s easy, it gets clicks through to the maps URL (which installs further confidence in the searcher as it’s still within Google) and not only shows a map to a location but allows you to add descriptions, phone numbers and a myriad of other fun things. If your business wants leads, then it is brilliant for driving phone calls.

If I already rank then it is a terrible thing, as I have just been pushed half way down the page. It isn’t a huge concern as I can do the same as above, and there are certain techniques which can assist in enabling those listings to occur, speedily, efficiently and cheaply.

I’ve heard you’ve been known to dabble in some “aggressive results oriented optimization” on occasion, do you think the search engines are doing a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff in local search or are they playing catch up?

They are definitely playing catch up but they are starting to get ahead of it. In the days of ESpotting (now owned by Miva) a few years ago, they monetised and essentially made the “click pimp” marketplace in the UK. Because of their work the SERPs changed internationally almost overnight which led to various algo changes. The noticeable thing then was where the majority of the traffic came from. It was local related searches, mixed within the long tail. Nothing much has changed in human search behaviour but “aggressive results oriented optimisastion” as you put it, can and is still being done and it works. The difference now to then is everyone, as well as their cat and dog, are trying to go after the longer tail. Every major brand I speak with nowadays is aware of the length of the tail and the current buzz words are definitely local related. A few years ago this would never have been the case, even though that was and still is, how their prospects search.

There’s a lot of mixed messages about how easy or hard it is to be successful and make money in local searches. Do you think it just varies from industry to another or is there something else at work here?

I’ll deal with the travel industry first, as local search in that business is different to every other, in so much as any location that is searched for is likely to be for a tourist, not the local inhabitants. This can be used to your advantage though to differentiate intent. If the IP address of a searcher is NOT based in or around the town / city / country they are searching for, then it is more likely their intent was travel related, whereas if the IP of the searcher IS local to the area a totally different intent of the search is likely.This information can help MASSIVELY in your conversion process.

Most other industries fall into non grokkel areas and so focussing locally for a bricks and mortar business is essential. Money is definitely available locally, but ideally you want to offer and measure the results not just in clicks, but enquiries via telephone (make sure you keep your phone number local to the search phrase town) and footfall through your front door.

Can money be made in local search? Hell yeh!

Now let’s take out the crystal ball, what do you see coming down the road for local search, what should people be preparing for and what should they watch out for?

The infamous crystal ball huh? Well let me just give it a little polish and look deeply into it. ….

Hmmmm interesting…

I can see spam teams the world over, not just based in Mountain View.
I can see them specialising in specific languages, trying to close the big hole that exists at the moment (non English language phrases)
I can see these guys and gals growing in number (why spend millions on building a computer based algo, when people powered algos do it so much better (and quite often are cheaper)
I can see the search experience changing to be based on your local geography, not your country or internationally.
I can see more competition, I can see national based businesses trying to become local without a local presence. I can see them failing at this endevour online
I can see the time being right for independant small businesses and their only competition will be from the nationals and internationals that truly do have a local presence and understand and market at a local level.

I can see search becoming more relevant to the intent of the searcher and closer to how business worked before the web and even TV. Local will be the new international!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today Jason, if you’re looking to get in touch with Jason stop by StrangeLogic.com, or find him at his blog at www.WidgetLogic.com.

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