As consumers have become more intelligent about how they search for products and services online, search engines have evolved to serve these savvy shoppers with more relevant results.
In a recent study, Chitika.com found that a growing number of online search queries are local in nature, meaning that more and more people are searching for products and services in their local cities and towns.
To be even more specific, Chitika found that over 24% of Google’s 100 billion monthly searches are localized.
That’s a crap ton of potential customers if you ask me.
Oh yeah, and remember how I told you that search engines were evolving to meet the changing search behavior of consumers?
Well, back in February of 2012 Google made an update to their search algorithm called the Venice Update. Before this update, searchers had to use geo-modifiers if they wanted to find local businesses on Google - ex: “Atlanta Plumber” would serve up a list of local Atlanta plumber sites.
Fast forward to post Venice roll out, now Google is able to understand where the searcher is located and serve them local results for broad terms without geo-modifiers IF Google feels that these searches are meant to be local - ex: “Plumber” would serve local Atlanta plumber websites if the searcher was located in Atlanta.
So as you can see it’s becoming extremely important for local businesses to understand these nuances, and jump on the train before it runs them over.
The big question is, how does a local business take advantage of this HUGE opportunity? Well, don’t worry, because 98togo has you covered.
Perfect Local Business Marketing Plan
I’m about to give you the perfect local business marketing plan to help you get more phone calls, leads, and sales for your local business, AND help you kick your competition’s butt. Are you ready?
Here we go! There are 3 opportunities for your local business to show up when a potential customer searches for your products or services on Google.
Google + Local aka Google Places
Check out the screenshot below…
Let’s breakdown each section to show you how local businesses can increase visibility and grab more customers.
The paid search section, or sponsored ads, are located at the very top and right side of a Google search engine results page (SERP). To show up in this section, local business owners can either start a Google Adwords account or use Google Adwords Express.
I would recommend setting up a Google Adwords account because you have more control, but be very careful and do your due diligence or you could waste a good bit of money if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The major benefits of using paid search is that you can drive very targeted traffic to your website virtually instantly, you can bid on all the keywords you want to show up for, and you can accurately measure ROI.
Paid search is a great option for local businesses that have a budget, want quick results, and like to know their return on marketing spend. Stay tuned for later posts where we’ll dig a little deeper on how local businesses can setup and manage their Google Adwords accounts.
Google + Local AKA Google Places
The next section we’ll talk about is Google + Local, formerly known as Google Places. This in my opinion, should be a major focus for local businesses. Why you ask? Well it’s usually the first section a searcher sees below the paid section, which some folks are weary of clicking.
It stands out from the other results because each listing has a red marker in front of it and makes business information such as name, address, and phone number easily accessible. Visibility of user reviews is another quality that makes these local business listings so valuable.
Potential customers want to feel confident in their purchasing decisions, they want to understand the quality of product or service they’re buying and the level of customer service they’ll be receiving.
Please note, this is no overnight cure, optimizing your Google+ Local listings and improving your ranking for this section takes time.
Typically we see that it takes at least 4 -6 months and even longer in more competitive niches, but it’s well worth the time and effort to improve your visibility here.
So how does a local business rank higher in Google + Local? In upcoming weeks I’m going to be breaking down exactly how local businesses can improve their visibility in Google + Local using real life examples, so be on the lookout.
Until then I recommend reading this survey by David Mihm outlining the most important ranking factors in Google’s local search algorithm.
Yes, it’s true that the organic search section is farther down the SERP page than the paid search and Google+ local sections for localized terms like “Atlanta plumber” or “plumber” if the searcher is in the Atlanta area.
For these head terms organic search holds little value because searchers need to scroll down so far to reach them, but not all keyword phrases trigger these localized results.
If local businesses are only concentrating on these specific head keyword phrases, they’re leaving a lot of traffic, leads, and money on the table.
What about longtail keyword terms like “fix my toilet in Atlanta” or “repair leaking faucet in Atlanta,” people search phrases like this all the time.
For these keywords ranking well in organic search becomes extremely valuable.
The key to ranking well in organic search for these types of keywords is CONTENT. By creating valuable educational blog content optimized around longtail keyword phrases that your target audience is searching for, you can increase search engine rankings and targeted traffic to your website dramatically.
However, it’s important to point out that, much like Google+ local, you must be patient it. It can take around 6 months to reap the benefits. Content is our specialty here at 98togo. All you have to do is follow our blog and you’ll see, “We Eat Our Own Dog Food!”
Start Your Local Business Marketing Plan – Ready, Set, Go!
Now that I’ve shared the marketing formula to help you take advantage of the shift to local search, my next tip is that you don’t have to implement all of these at once. Pick and choose the ones that fit your goals, time restraints, and budget first.
Once the money comes in, invest in the others. If you master these strategies and use them to complement one another, I can guarantee that you will have a successful local business and be the envy of your competitors. So what are you waiting for, as Nike says “Just Do It!”