Dean Bloomfield – Local Search Interview

For this interview we’re going to be talking to Dean Bloomfield aka DigitalGhost around the SEO Blogs and forums.

Hi Dean and thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, could you tell some of my readers who may not know you a little more about yourself.

Hello Michael, sure, I can provide a little background. I became interested in ‘search technology’ long before the Web as we know it existed. I wanted to know the answers to all of the questions. Not always important questions like, ‘What is the meaning of life” or ‘Is there a God’ but questions like ‘Why do people say it is raining cats and dogs’ or “who invented the stapler”.

The problem was, libraries weren’t really set up to find that kind of information. The information was there, but search technology consisted of the humble card catalog. Search by author, search by subject. So I did. But what to do when you’ve read all nine of the books the library had on ‘famous inventions’ and still couldn’t find who invented the stapler? But then the desktop PC came along. And the Internet became accessible. And then information became accessible, but better yet, programs were created that searched the information for you to find what you were looking for. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Let’s pretend for a moment you don’t work in search, what type of things do you find yourself looking for?

Everything under the sun. Why are the Amish called Amish? Was Zarathustra really responsible for the concept off all good or all evil deities? How can I get 20 more horsepower out of a super-charged LT1 engine? What do the Dead Sea Scrolls really say? What is catgut? Really? How large does my chicken coop need to be to hold 200 chickens? How do I make my own brandy?

Want to know something that’s really odd? I thought it was fantastic when search engines came along because I wouldn’t have to buy as many books. Guess what? I buy more books now than ever because I can find them faster.

I know you spend a lot of time reading patents, research papers, looking at algorithms and tools, from a search engines perspective what are some the difficulties in getting local search “right”?

Local search needs input from locals. Sure, I can find a pizza parlor in Podunk, but what people want to know is where to get the best pizza in Podunk? That particular problem isn’t specific to local search, but it is one that local search needs to solve. Search engines simply make an algorithmic determination about the quality of a site, people that are using local search want a determination made on the quality of the product or service.

Without some kind of input from locals, local search is nothing more than phone book listings and a map. That particular mashup isn’t very exciting is it?

Local search is the perfect platform for click-to-call/pay-per-call as well. People’s dependence on smart phones will increase and as it does, click-to-call will become more important. Now add day parting and local search gets exciting.

I know most businesses who are interested in local search concentrate on a handful of “trophy phrases” do you think that’s a wise decision or is there a long tail for local search too?

There’s definitely a long tail. Chicago plumbers that work after five. Denver Pizza after 3 am. Diabetic vegetarian restaurants in Philly. The trophy phrase concept is, was and will always be a bad idea. SEOs will complain that people don’t know how to search but there’s another side to that. SEOs need to learn to ‘listen’ to how people search. Check those log files, find those phrases that pull in 3-5 searches a month, track your own searches for a month or two. If you have a spouse and children, ask to track their searches for a month or so as well.

What do you think are some common mistakes or easy fixes that people who are interested in local search can do to help search engines understand they are about local products or topics?

The biggest mistake is ignoring local search.It’s going to become increasingly better and more important. The same people that were questioning whether to buy a domain name in 1999 are now questioning whether there’s ‘anything to local search’ in 2007.

The most common mistake is not providing enough information on the site. Search engines need more than a name, service/product type and a zip code. Business owners, let people know that your shop is ‘within 2 miles of the downtown area’ or that you’re ‘across the street from Howard’s World Famous Hotel’. Let them know what you specialize in, where to park and what time you open and close. Provide directions. Sure, they can use an online map, but ‘turn left at McDonalds and right at the next light’ is pretty handy information.

Another mistake is to ignore local search because it’s the World Wide Web and the website is already targeting the world right? That should include the locals eh? Sure, let the world know you’re in business, but let the locals know where you’re located too. On the web, you can have a grand opening every day.

Recently you’ve featured a guest author on your blog a teen named Jessica, you’ve often commented that they do things “differently” and have a natural aptitude with mobile devices. Do you see them interacting with local search in unexpected ways and what role do you think these mobile devices will play?

They do things I simply don’t do, and I don’t see people in my age group doing it either. They STAY connected. Trip to the mall? It’s a 3-way call and text messages sent to everyone in their circle. Friday night? Check Jason’s website from the phone to see where the local bands are playing. Call the venue to see if under-18 is permitted. Text Lindsay to see if she’s still having a sleepover.

They always seem to know where their friends are and what they’re doing. I have 4 numbers programmed into my cell. My daughter has over 100. Not just friends either, the movie theater, skating rink, friend’s parent’s cell numbers, ticket agency, etc.

For them, it’s all about local. Local restaurants, local theaters, local games, local events, etc. Each one of them seems to have different areas of expertise, and it truly is a network. Because they stay so connected, they have fewer qualms about privacy, at least among themselves. So I look for that generation to fully embrace Push technology over mobile devices. Walking by the CD shop in the mall and a coupon code gets “texted’ to the cell phone? Fantastic. Driving by a restaurant and a coupon is displayed on the Blackberry for 15% off a meal? Great. Jessica’s in the ‘circle’ so her location shows up on their cell phone maps no matter what time of day or night, as long as her phone is on.

Soon they’ll be able to pay for purchases with their cell phones. All tracked neatly, maybe stored in an OPML file. Local merchants of course, will pay for the information. Phones of course replace all other audio devices, why carry two? Want to trade playlists? Beam it over the cell phone. Merchant has a sale? Why not Push it to those phones at the mall, and of course, the texting era teens that are now twenty-somethings will text it to their close friends. All two hundred of them…

Thanks for taking the to talk with me today, if you’d like to read more of what’s on Dean’s mind be sure to stop by his new blog Speaking Freely.


Tags: local+search, , dean+bloomfield, digitalghost

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