The Three Things You Can Do to Increase Offline Traffic: Part 1
You might have heard about local search as a buzz word, and wondered what it meant exactly or how it differs from traditional SEO in developing an online marketing strategy or an SEO implementation process. In this BusinessOnLine‘s Local Search Wednesday series for the next 3 weeks, we will explore how users may experience local search, what it is & the three major steps in local search optimization.
First, let’s explore how users may experience local search features from certain types of keywords that trigger search engines to suspect the possibility of searchers’ intent to look for local (geo-specific) information.
For example, if you search for “pizza” in Google, whether you wanted some web pages about pizza’s history or recipes, you will be prompted to enter your location in case you wanted local restaurant information.
If you enter your city or zip code, you’ll then see what’s called Google OneBox, which displays 10 relevant local business listings with their locations marked with thumbnails on a map of the city.
If you’re a sophisticated searcher and use a long tail search term such as “pizza san diego ca” from the beginning, your search results will display OneBox at once, and your web search results following OneBox will be different too. Notice how Domino’s Pizza’s general web site listing stays with OneBox if you have entered a zip code after being prompted above. The results page above shows a mix of local business search results and general web search results. However, the search results for “pizza san diego ca” display all localized results (See below) as Domino’s Pizza result is gone and San Diego location of Woodstock’s Pizza shows up. PPC listings are changed as well, as they show addresses in San Diego below.
We will explore more scenarios from the users’ end as we continue this Local Search Wednesday blog series. For now, let me provide a clear definition of local search optimization before we move on to the first step of the local search SEO process.
Definition of Local Search Engine Optimization
Local search optimization is an online marketing campaign that targets local audiences on the Internet by using various off-page local relevancy building strategies and by using keywords with geo-modifiers, such as city names or zip codes. For example, local search SEO would optimize a local business listing for keywords such as “sushi restaurants 92101” or “sushi san diego ca”, while traditional SEO will focus more on keywords like “how to make sushi” or “sushi market”.
Local search optimization’s goal is to increase visibility on local search engine result pages, such as Google Maps. This would ultimately lead to offline, in-store sales, increased brand recognition and even long term relationship building.
Step 1: Local Keyword Discovery
Like all marketing campaigns, a local search optimization campaign should start with learning about the audience you want to reach. Understanding and finding effective keywords to reach your local consumers who are interested in your business is very crucial in local search SEO, as it begins with defining the service areas your business covers. For example, if you own a sushi restaurant, you would want your city and cities nearby as well as different names locals might use to refer to certain areas or neighborhoods in your town. If you own a car dealership, the areas your business serve would be much bigger than a sushi restaurant because people are willing to travel farther to get a good deal on a car than they would for sushi.
In addition to defining your local business’ service areas, you should also research whether there are unique keywords your local customers use to land on your business listing. You can use keyword research tools that show which keywords are searched in which areas.
After defining your local service areas, you may discover the needs to develop geo-targeted content for each area. For example, if you discover your customers come from only one specific area, you may want focus on optimizing your About Us page or Contact Us page for that area mainly. If you find out, your local customers come from several different areas or use different geo-modifiers (city names or zip code, etc) to find your local business listing online, you may want to create new pages for each major area and use those specific search terms throughout the pages. However, the focus is to develop helpful local information about your service or industry, while using the right term to refer to the area, rather than repeating your local keywords over and over for the sake of SEO.
You will also want to set a page that would satisfy the intent of local searchers as a landing page for local search engines. If local customers would be wondering about a particular service, make that service page as a landing page. For the sushi restaurant example, it might make sense to submit an About Us page with customer testimonials about how tasty your sushi is compared to other local restaurants and allow that to serve as a landing page.
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Local Search Wednesday Part 2 is up now: Exploring Google Maps Features for Local Business Listings. Part 3 is about The Right Techniques & Attitudes for Local SEO.
I appreciate your feedback, and if you have any other new questions, I will try to get them answered in the next post.