In this interview we’re talking with Brad Geddes aka eWhisper who is also the Moderator on WMW local search forum.
Hi Brad, let’s pretend your not involved in Internet marketing for just a moment, what types of local searches do you find yourself doing?
The majority of local searches I do for myself are usually on a mobile phone and not on a computer. When running errands in Chicago, I often search for stores, directions, and restaurants. When traveling, I’m mostly looking for directions to and from hotels, restaurants, and airports.
There are times that I do local searches from a computer, and it’s primarily serviced based businesses (the typical electrican or plumber), or for directions.
Let’s get back into the marketing end now. I imagine over on WMW you get quite a bit of beginner and entry level questions about how to optimize for local search. What do you think are some of the key initial steps everyone should do to get started on the right foot for local results?
The absolute first step everyone should take is to make sure they have a normalized address on their website in text. Crawlers understand how to parse out various address formats, but I wouldn’t rely on a crawler to understand how one is displaying their address; use a straight forward ‘envelope looking’ addresses on your pages. This will let the crawlers know exactly where your business is located.
The second step is to make sure that your information is listed and correct in the major local search engines. The third step is to make sure the IYPs (internet yellow pages) have your correct information. These steps are so critical that we have a service called registerlocal.com who’s entire existence is predicated upon normalizing information and then distributing data to the providers of local information to users.
Let’s take a step up the ladder and look at national companies who have regional offices what are some ways they can get involved in local search without having to resort to tricks like spammy doorway pages for each city/state combination.
National companies usually have a zip code or locator based page. These results often then have a list of addresses and locations within certain radiuses. Of course, the major problem here is that search engines don’t like to spider search result pages. Instead of making ‘doorway pages’, make a crawlable directory. The biggest issue with national companies is that they want to put the same information on the page for every local business, and this usually causes duplicate content penalties.
What national businesses with local physical presences need to accomplish is getting the local stores to write some unique content about each location. Even if the services are very similar, how are the various ways one can find the store? What else is near the store? Does the store offer something special that the other stores do not? Good unique content about each location is possible, and essential to make sure that each location is being properly spidered, indexed, and found.
Are there any mistakes that lots of people make that end up doing more harm than good concerning local search?
Yes – not controlling their business information online. Do you know if your information is correct in Yahoo local? Is Google local displaying your correct phone number? These questions go on and on. Many local businesses don’t try to ensure that their information is correct online. There are some large data aggregators that display a lot of backfill data in IYPs and LSEs. If the data is incorrect in the aggregator, it can easily be incorrect in hundreds of places online.
The second item that more local businesses should focus on is ratings and reviews. Many local search providers allow users to sort on the basis of rating. Are you having your customers (or yourself) rate your business? One can see examples on Yahoo.com where a local search result will bring up local listings. If one of those listings has a 5 star rating – it’s a very prominent display on Yahoo and can lead to quite a bit of traffic or phone calls.
Not nearly enough businesses are controlling both their data and keeping on top of their online reputation.
Let’s get out my crystal ball, look into the future where do you see local search going in the next few years, and do you see any changes on the horizon?
Mobile will eventually be a distribution source to be reckoned with. At present, mobile is still a small (although very relevant and high converting) inventory source. Once GPS is tied in with SMS and mobile searches, along with better browsers for non-smartphone users, there will be some incredibly targeted opportunities that open up for local businesses.
Local search online is about the quality of the data. I’m often asked what the ‘tipping point’ of local search is. I’m a firm believer that the tipping point will occur when I can goto a search engine, do a semi-ambigious local search, and the vast majority of the time it’s both faster, and the data is more accurate than opening theYellow Pages. That time has not come yet, but one of these days it will.
Tags: local+search, seo, Brad+Geddes