Local search database - The Two Types of Local Search

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Manage Social Media Business Profiles for Local SEO

 A recent survey by Internet2Go found that nearly half of small business respondents today manage profiles on both Twitter and Facebook. And while that is a testament to growth in social media, most are still on the fence as to the real benefits for their local business.

Today, all of the major search engines are providing users a search results page that includes available social media elements among local business content, e.g., images of local businesses from Flickr, local ratings and reviews from sites like Yellowbot.com, Citysquares.com or Getfave.com. Also, the new Google Places and revamped Yahoo! Local give users local business listings with added social media content. Essentially, these sites have started to provide a 360-degree view of businesses in local areas.  

Admittedly, this is great for users, but how should you manage social media profiles, in addition to your local search business listings?  

Although it is tempting for businesses with a local presence to alter their Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) to try and market themselves in a variety of ways across social media forums, a businesses' foundation - NAP - should serve as the consistent anchor that ties businesses' online content together across the Web.  Without this consistency, multiple identities are created for your business online, making it difficult for search engines to find you. Your business' online identity should not differ from its physical identity when it comes to any type of online business listing or profile information. If you change how consumers know your business for online purposes, you will potentially have a big identity management problem on your hands.

So go ahead and dive into social media but remember these key foundational elements that will tie all efforts and conversations together and ultimately drive traffic and sales:

1)    Invest the time to get on social networks

Easy, right?  Sometimes jumping in and getting accounts started on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks can be the toughest challenge because you aren't sure how to use them or don't know what the ROI will be.  However, once a profile page is started that includes your name, address and phone number, search engines have more content to crawl related to your company. Although you might question whether you have enough time and resources for social media, these tools can be very cost-effective and help engage consumers unlike any other medium.  Also, this can be a quick way for small businesses without a Web presence to quickly establish one.

2)    Consistently use your exact corporate name for social media profiles

Once you are signed up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, your exact corporate name should be used for profiles. Including a complete company name will increase the chances of users finding a wealth of information about your business when searching online. When a consumer looks on the Web for your business, several things should be returned in search results, e.g., a Twitter page, Facebook profile, Citysearch reviews, Flickr photos.  Keeping your business name consistent on all sites will help search engines aggregate all content related to your business.

3)    Occasionally tweet the name, address and phone number

Make sure a primary phone number and address are listed clearly on all social media profile pages.  Once on Twitter, businesses should tweet their name, address and phone number occasionally by tying this information to products, services, specials, events, promotions or coupons.  For example, "huge selection of Cubs T-shirts at businesses' NAP." Now there is an important key word (Cubs T-shirt)  and your business address associated with each other, available to be crawled and index by the search engines, also Include a link back to your company's Web site in your tweet or status update, so you can drive traffic and include more information than what you included in your 140-character tweet. The same type of information can be distributed on Facebook. If time is an issue, use a tool like HootSuite to schedule a calendar of relevant tweets.

4)    Add your social media profiles to your business listings

Once a business has their business listing information on their social media profile pages, they should include social media links, e.g., Twitter handle, Facebook URL, to their business listings on the major search engines and data providers.

5) Add a local component to social media campaigns for best results

It is beneficial to tie your social media strategy into advertising or local search campaigns.  For example, a large restaurant chain recently ran a nationwide promotion on Facebook offering a free food item, but failed to add a local component to their social media strategy.  Ultimately, they did interact with users on a national level but missed an opportunity to point diners to restaurant locations in their regional areas. An integrated social local strategy would include fans posting positive comments on Facebook or Twitter about the restaurant's local franchise. They could even include a sub-page or landing page with the NAP tied to each local restaurant from the corporate social page allowing the NAP to act as a signal to search engines to pull "fan" engagement together when the search engine is   trying to answer a local search query like "Hamburger in Downers Grove, IL." Ultimately, this would have promoted conversation about and drove traffic to regional locations.

The bottom line is that social media is happening with or without your business.  Make the most of these tools by getting online and interacting with your customers.  Social media is about creating engagement and generating sales.  Most businesses drive the majority of their sales through in-store purchases and social media is a way to increase traffic to your physical service or retail location. Just remember, these conversations are bound to happen, so do things on your terms and claim as much Web real estate as possible for your business. 

 

2:17 pm est 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Semantics Of Local Search
The Semantics Of Local Search orginally published in MediaPost
by Gib Olander, Wednesday, Aug 27, 2008 8:00 AM ET
Consumers are performing nearly two billion locally targeted searches each month, representing over 25% of total monthly Web searches. That number is likely to grow, given that local search is estimated to become a $25 billion dollar industry by 2017.

These statistics highlight that accessible, accurate, comprehensive and relevant business listing content on local search engines is fundamental to increasing online local search consumer adoption.

While listings accuracy is an obvious necessity for business information being displayed on local search engines, business owners and marketing executives may not yet have embraced the concept of comprehensive listing content as it applies to local search -- many are still primarily focused on traditional website optimization and paid search. A few years back, consumers turned primarily to the Yellow Pages to find local business information. Using this method, the products and services they were looking for were only identifiable through rigid categories. Today, that couldn't be further from the case.

Where Yellow Pages queries are category or headings driven, online consumers are free to search for answers to specific problems not just by business category. A consumer searching online for a plumber in San Francisco for instance, might type in "leaky faucet Oakland," instead of "plumber San Francisco."

While "leaky faucet Oakland" may be a difficult query for search engines to answer, imagine the consumer's frustration when searches like these turn up inaccurate, or worse, no results. The expectation of accuracy on local search engines is often higher than in general search, because most consumers performing local searches are intent on buying, or at minimum, are conducting research before making a purchase. According to comScore, nearly 90% of people will research online and buy offline. In fact, the trend is so popular that it was recently coined, "ROBO," (Research Online Buy Offline) by Yahoo's GM of Local, Frazier Miller at SMX Local & Mobile.

ROBO is changing consumers' definition of "window-shopping." Now the Internet is becoming the vantage point through which consumers gauge the retail landscape, and if a business is identifiable in local search engines through only its name or category, it is not going to be found by the things that make it truly unique. In order to appear in organic local search engine results (the storefront's virtual window), businesses must optimize for local search engines differently, focusing not just on their name brand, but instead on all the brands they carry, as well as all their services offered and much more.

Let's take a golfer, for example, searching for a PING putter in Elmhurst, Illinois. A ready-to-buy consumer with a tee-time scheduled for the next day enters "PING putter Elmhurst, IL" into the search box. Because the search site he used was able to tie the words "PING" and "putter" to a generalized category of "sporting goods" the results display the nearest sporting goods retail stores. He hops in his car and drives to the first store on the list, only to find that the PING brand is not carried there. He gets back in his car and returns home frustrated and determined to find the Ping brand in his area through another search medium, perhaps the Yellow Pages. The end result of this experience is that the consumer's time has been wasted, and the local pro shop that actually carries the PING brand missed out because they only optimized around their primary category of "golf stores."

Another great case study could be done on Crocs Shoes. Consumers have learned that you get what you ask for so a sensible way to start the search for Crocs Shoes would be to use the brand name alongside with a local geo-modifier.

However, in this instance Crocs aren't generally sold at category-specific shoe stores, they are sold at lumberyards, airports, grocery stores and even at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is a perfect example of the limitations on category specific-searches. If each of these types of businesses only focused on their assigned local search engine category as opposed to the keywords that differentiate them, they would miss out on attracting active buyers who are looking for the very products and services they offer; in this case Crocs Shoes.

It is essential to the success of any business that the keywords that describe the products and services offered are identified and propagated in local search engine listings and to as many local search directories as possible. Optimizing in this way is a simple practice in gaining a competitive advantage and is critical to local search engine presence, as consumers are no longer simply searching through a pre-determined set of categories.

If a list of businesses appears in a local search engine query result for a product or service that you offer, and your business isn't listed, your competitor just won an active buyer. Through local search engines, consumers are asking questions first so businesses must keyword optimize both their web sites and their local search listings so that they become the providers of the answers.

12:15 pm edt 

Friday, March 7, 2008

What are some of the factors in local search database rankings?

Raising your Local-Search Visibility


Virtually any merchant would love to appear at the top of the neighborhood local-search results that appear in the top block of major search engines. Showing up first when people are searching for a local product or service gives you a much better chance of getting their attention. After all, people are impatient. They’re not likely to click through to a second page of results to find your business.

The problem is, if you don’t know how local search works, it’s hard to understand how to make that happen. Just try searching for "florist (your city, state)" on any of the major search engines. On the surface, it's hard to see why Rosa’s Flowers appeared above Amy’s FTD Shop and below Andy’s Gifts.

Fortunately, you don’t have to learn some mysterious secret to get a handle on increasing you local search visibility. Let’s look at some pointers that will give you a much better understanding of how local-search optimization at the business listing level works.

Key Factors That Determine Your Local Search Position

While each search engine and local online directory has its own formula for determining what order in which to present results, Virtually all engines weigh the following factors when determining the frequency and order in which to present local-search results. Below, I’ve listed those factors are and explained how they work.

* Alphabetical order

As you’ve probably noticed, when business listings appear in print Yellow Pages or other directories, companies with names at the beginning of the alphabet have a definite advantage, because they appear on the initial pages of the book. (That’s why you’ll still see some plumbing services named "AAAAAAA Plumbing Company" — it’s a form of search optimization that pre-dates the Web!)

On the Web, of course, things are different. Online, alphabetical order is only one of a handful of criteria that dictate how high up on the search results page your business appears in local-search results. But it does have some impact on how your business shows up in search results.

* Distance to center of ZIP code or city name queried

Though the search engines do give some weight to alphabetical order, they also consider how far a business is located from the area a consumer is searching. When the search engine presents its results, businesses whose name starts with "B" might appear much lower on the search results page than one starting with "Z" if business "Z" is closer to area where the consumer is searching. The engines can do this because they “know” where the center of the city is, thanks to the databases they use for mapping and directions. They use this detailed data to estimate how far you’d have to drive to visit the businesses they find for you. . 

If you think about it, this makes sense. From a consumer’s perspective, you don’t just want the right type of business, you want the most accessible one too.  Unfortunately, you can’t control whether this works in your favor or not—you can’t move your business each time someone searches!—but know this is still part of understanding how local searches work.

* Consumer ratings and reviews

Virtually all search engines give consumers a chance to rate businesses (usually on a one to five star scale) when the consumer clicks on a business listing.  And of course, good ratings are a plus for your local business. But did you know that even negative ratings will cause a business to show up closer to the top in local search results pages than those without ratings or reviews?

The truth is, the search engines like listings that have reviews or ratings attached to them. Why? When consumers have rated or reviewed your business, it makes your listing more informative to other consumers (and interesting) — so search engines give added weight to that input. After all, like any other business, search engines always want to put their best foot forward. Since even a negative review can offer valuable information to other consumers, the search engines are going to spotlight reviews if someone takes the trouble to write one.

* Keyword content

If you have a Web site, and you’ve tried to get it near the top of search engine page results, you probably already know that using the right keywords is a critical part of search marketing . So you won’t be surprised to hear local-business listings do better when they include the right keywords, too.

Keywords help search engines decide whether your content is relevant and important to the consumer who’s making a search. However, few businesses realize that their business listings will appear more frequently and higher in the results of local searches if they include the right keywords in their listing. For example, if a consumer searches using the keywords "anniversary flowers in Chicago," florists that included the keyword "anniversary" in their online listing will rank more highly than those that just include themselves in a general "florist" category.

Make Local Search Rules Work For You

So, as you’ve seen above, it's possible to change your local search engine ranking significantly—and attract the interest of countless local buyers--if you know the rules.

So take advantage of what you know! Go out there and get customers to rate and write reviews of your business (remember, they don't have to be long). And when it comes to links, keywords and other tools to make sure you connect with motivated, ready-to-buy online consumers, Localeze can help. We're here for you when you're ready to enrich your listings with keywords that uniquely identify your business and what it offers. 

Ultimately, you'll find that it's easy, and well worth the effort, to improve your local-search visibility. After all, local consumers are searching because they're ready to buy. Make sure you’re there when they come looking for you.

10:38 am est 

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Defining Two Types of Local Searches: Recovery and Discovery

Defining Two Types of Local Searches: Recovery and Discovery
by Gib Olander

When it comes down to it, there are two main types of local search queries that a search engine needs to be able to handle. John Battelle’s book The Search describes them as follows: “This perfect search also has perfect recall. It knows what you’ve seen and can distinguish between a journey of discovery, where you want to find something new, and recovery when you want to find something you’ve seen before.”

In this article, we’ll explain how these two searches work and why they’re both important for businesses.

Recovery searches

There are many times when people using a local-search application are trying to recover a bit of information or the address of a business that they know exists. It’s easy for consumers to find an unhelpful recovery search dissatisfying because they know the item exists.

A 2002 survey of search-engine users by iProspect drives home the importance of effectively fulfilling recovery searches. The iProspect survey noted: “If a search is deemed unsuccessful by the user, 27.2% of users immediately switch to another site/search engine.”

The problem is that in today’s world, nearly 50% of all businesses do nothave a Web presence. Without a Web site or HTML-based profile, these local businesses don’t have any listing that the various spiders, bots and slurps of the world can find. In other words, if left to their own devices, the search portals would fail at a recovery search.

To address this problem, search applications have begun licensing databases (such as the Localeze local search repository). These databases contain the “base” information on all US business locations, whether they have a Web presence or not, allowing a search application to fulfill recovery searches. The business attributes that make up “base” data center around business names, business address, phone numbers and business classifications.

Discovery searches

The second type of search, a discovery search, is much more difficult to address but it is just as vital for a successful local-search application. In the local-search sense, a “discovery search” is when a person has a need and knows where, geographically, she or he wants a product or service. But the user doesn’t know which business to turn to in order to get that particular need met.

For example, consider a person who wants to find a one-hour dry cleaning service in ZIP code 60606. This person knows what they want (one hour dry cleaning) and knows where they want it (ZIP code 60606). However, he or she doesn’t know WHOprovides that particular service in that ZIP code. After all, all dry cleaners do not provide one-hour service. The person using the local-search application is trying to discover the answer to her or his question.

Answering discovery-type local search queries poses problems for any search application without a complete local-search database. This problem again stems from the fact that most businesses still do not have a Web presence.

Those businesses and their unique qualities are invisible to a Web-crawled index. To successfully fulfill a discovery-type local search, an application needs more than just the name, address and phone number.

A local-search application needs to understand the fabric of a business and identify the particular thing that makes a business unique. People making local-search queries want context that allows them to understand what each business does to distinguish itself from other businesses in their same category and same geographic space.

The information needed to understand what is unique about a business range from the simple — hours open and payment types accepted — to the more complex attributes like a business’ specialties and the products it carries.

Does your local data work?

A local-search application should have an understanding that there are two types of local-search queries to answer. This level of technology will help you evaluate the quality and depth of your index or database. Ask yourself:

  • Can you answer both a recovery or discovery query?
  • Will your application allow your users to recover information they know exists today? For example, can they recover the phone number of their favorite pizza place or dry cleaner?
  • Is your search index deep and complete enough to answer unusual queries?
  • Will your search result offer a user relevant data beyond a category list of businesses?
  • Can you help your users discover the one-hour dry cleaner in their neighborhood?

If you can’t answer these questions with a “yes,” then the Localeze local-search database will help.

If you have a business location, or you represent a business with physical locations, please take some time to evaluate whether or not you have made enough information public for a search application to find you for recovery and discovery searches. If you don’t, you could be discouraging users from returning to your site rather than building their trust.

3:56 pm edt 

2010.01.01 | 2008.09.01 | 2008.03.01 | 2007.09.01

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If you have questions on building a local directory or as a busines owner you have a question on how to own your business location's local search findability please feel free to contact me at anytime. 

Currently, I work for www.localeze.com

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For free email business advice, send your questions, comments or ideas to gibolander@gmail.com . For issues that are of particular interest to the the community, we may publish (with your permission) your questions along with our answers on this web site.

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Gib Olander |Follow me on twitter @golander59 |  gibolander@gmail.com

About me.

Gib Olander
Director of Business Development
www.localeze.com

Currently serves as Director of Business Development for Localeze, the leading provider of merchant content management services, which includes; collection, organization, validation and distribution of merchant content. Having a complete focus on making local search more relevant, while giving local businesses ownership of their local search findability.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/gibolander

Local Search content cloud
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Own your business location Findability
My attempt at a squidoo page.

http://www.squidoo.com/golanderlocalsearch/ 

The following list of blogs, aggregrators and sites I find valuable.
 

http://www.techmeme.com

http://blog.kelseygroup.com

http://gesterling.wordpress.com

http://www.techcrunch.com

http://gigaom.com

http://battellemedia.com

http://searchengineland.com

http://www.naturalsearchblog.com

http://radar.oreilly.com

http://www.blumenthals.com/blog

http://localonliner.com

http://www.praized.com/blog

http://www.wolf-howl.com

http://searchenginewatch.com

http://evansink.com

http://google-latlong.blogspot.com

http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt

http://www.emilychang.com/go/ehub

http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer

http://www.localsearchguide.org

http://www.mattcutts.com/blog

http://www.searchenginejournal.com

http://www.technorati.com

http://www.marketersstudio.com

http://www.marybowling.com

http://www.davidmihm.com/blog

http://www.stephenespinosa.com

www.localsearchnews.net

www.searchinfluence.com

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Gib Olander * Local Search Content * Business Listings * 630-400-5002

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