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Local Search Visibility Solutions Guide


Local Search Visibility

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Location, location, location: How to maximize the power of local search and directory marketing. In the past, local advertising was the most effective way to reach new customers for businesses providing goods and services in a local market. Yellow pages, local newspapers, door-to-door flyers, coupons and promotions, and of course, word-of-mouth all continue to contribute to generating phone calls and storefront traffic. However, over the past several years, consumers have increasingly made the Internet their primary source of local business information. Having your business presented at the top of local search engine results and in local directories should therefore be a critical part of any local marketing plan, especially because it can be very cost effective when compared to traditional media. This guide will explain the ins and outs of local search visibility, provide an overview of the pros and cons of local search marketing, and explain how it can be integrated into your overall marketing plan.

What is local search marketing? Local search marketing is a relatively new concept that leverages the power of major search engines such as Google®, Yahoo!® and MSN®, along with local online directories also known as the Internet yellow pages. In its broadest sense, local search occurs when a potential customer goes online and searches for a product or service within a specific geographic area. Examples of local search could be “hotel in Kansas City”, “landscape design Loudoun County” or “daycare 90210”. Generally, local search is used to find information online with the intention of making an offline purchase, either over the phone or in a retail location. When a potential customer searches for a local business, product or service, search engines will return results that match the search terms within a specified geographic area. Often these local results are listed ahead of the general search results. Therefore, if the search engine has information about your business and the products and services you offer, that information could be displayed prominently in the search results.

© 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

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Depending on the amount of detail in the search terms or “keywords” entered by the consumer, the search engine may only return a small number of local results. For example, if you are a florist in Purcellville, VA, a favorable result for your business would be if the customer enters “florist, Purcellville” and the search engine only returns one or two results. However, if the consumer types “florist near Leesburg”, which is a larger town near Purcellville, the search engine will return thousands of results, many for major retail chains and your listing may be buried in the results. Currently, Google presents 10 businesses in the local results area, with a link to the rest of the results. Therefore, if you operate a local business, you will have less competition if you can be found using relevant search terms. When potential customers click on a link in local search results and the business has a Web site, they will be taken to that Web site. However, if the business does not have a Web site, or the search engine doesn’t know about the Web site, they are taken to a business profile created specifically by the search engine. If the search engine has a profile for your business and you did not specifically create that profile, the default profile will contain whatever information the search engine has gleaned about your business from other sources such as local directories. It may also include reviews from your customers:

If you create a local business profile for your company, you will have the option to regularly update the information that you want potential customers to see to ensure it is up to date. The types of information you can include are: Physical location(s) Directions via interactive maps such as Google Maps A business summary Contact information A link to your Web site Brands, products and services offered Pricing information and payment types accepted Coupons and special offers Hours of operation Any other information that may be of interest to potential customers!

© 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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Not all searches for local businesses take place on search engines. Many customers like to use online local directories, such as ThinkLocal™. In some cases the customer may know of a particular local directory that has good information about the type of business he is looking for, or has useful customer reviews, such as CitySearch.com or Yelp.com. There are also many local directories that only cover a particular geographic area and are used mainly by people who live or work in that area. Yet others specialize in providing product listings with supplemental geographical information: Online yellow pages ThinkLocal.com Search Engines

Business Listings

Local Guides & Information Citysearch.com AOL Cityguide Search Engines

Products & Services by location ShopLocal.com Krillion.com Craigslist.com Search Engines

Local directories can have the added benefit of being indexed by search engines, so the businesses listed in these local directories benefit not only from referrals from these directories, but also from subsequent placements in search results on the search engines. Making sure that your business is included as close to the top of local results in search engines and local directories is called “Local Search Marketing” or “Local Search Visibility”.

Why local search? Today’s Internet savvy customers prefer to use online search capabilities instead of traditional resources such as yellow pages and local newspapers. Studies indicate that customers with Internet access are more likely to use a search engine than printed sources like yellow pages or local newspapers and that this trend is increasing every year.

© 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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Source: eMarketer, October 2008 Of these customers, over 85% visit a retail storefront or contact a business on the phone or by e-mail, as a result of their online local search:

Source: eMarketer, October 2008 And not only do customers contact businesses as a result of a local search, almost 60% of them actually make a purchase!

Š 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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Source: eMarketer, October 2008 Local search is likely to become more important in the future because search engines like Google are becoming more focused on local results. For example, Google recently introduced a feature whereby people searching for a generic term, like “pizza�, are automatically prompted to enter their zip code:

Clearly, there are compelling reasons for every local business to have a local presence in search engines and directories.

Š 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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Local Search Pros and Cons The major benefits of local search are flexibility and cost when compared to traditional media such as yellow pages and local advertising. When this is coupled with the growth in popularity of online local search, it is clearly something that every local business should consider. Here’s a run down of the pros and cons of using local search to promote your business: Pros Cost: A local search visibility program can be very cost effective, especially when compared to printed yellow pages and local advertising. The return on investment is often higher because you are able to target marketing efforts to a specific category and location. Online presence: If you have a Web site, you already have an online presence that you can promote in search engines and directories. However, because many directories and search engines allow you to create a business profile, now you don’t have to have a Web site to have a presence online. (But remember that by having your own Web site AND profiles in business directories, you will increase your chances of being found!) Commitment level: Once you publish an advertisement in printed directories such as yellow pages, you are committed to it for a year. If you change any information about your business such as your location, or your products and services, you will not be able to change your yellow pages listing for a year. Flexibility: Because you can change your online listings at any time, you have the opportunity to test different information about your business and find out what works best in terms of generating leads. Local Traffic: Even if you are a national company with multiple locations, you can benefit from local search as a means to drive customers to your storefronts. Cons Time: It can be very time consuming to find and manually submit information to search engines and local directories Even more time: On an ongoing basis, it can be time consuming to track which search engines and directories are listing your business and update your information when your products and services change. Expertise: As a business professional, you are busy running your business and may not have the expertise to determine which search terms will provide the best results. This can lead to missed opportunities. Learning Curve: Even if you have the time, and are willing to test different search terms, it can take trial and error to develop optimized keywords that turn prospects into customers.

Integrating local search marketing into your business plan It is tempting to think of local search as a subset of your general marketing campaign, but the best results come with tactics specifically tailored to prospects looking for local information and services. How you approach this will depend on whether you have an existing Web site or not. If you don’t have a Web site: Local search provides you with the opportunity to create a Web presence! By setting up local search listings you can ensure that your business is found online. If you don’t have a

© 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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Web site, it is important to encourage potential customers to call or visit your retail location. You can track the effectiveness of this approach by offering special discounts or coupons, such as Google Coupons that you only make available through local search. If you do have a Web site: Local search can be an easy way to get your Web site listed in local search engine results, in addition to the general results. If you don’t sell online from your Web site, you may want to consider making your phone number or location more visible on your home page to convert as many prospects as possible. Regardless of whether you have a Web site, the search engines will often rank your business higher in local search results if you have a lot of listings in local directories because this is considered a good measure of your credibility. Therefore, it is important to try to obtain as many listings as possible on sites that the search engines believe are valuable local resources. So part of your strategy should be to seek out credible local organizations, such as your Chamber of Commerce or other local associations, that might be willing to include you in their business directory. You should also think carefully about the keywords someone searching for your services might use. While it might work to use “florist in Denver” as keywords for organic search (someone in New York wanting to send flowers to Denver might very well search on this), for local search you should select tightly targeted geographic keywords. Someone looking in Denver might well search for a florist in a specific part of the Denver metro area, such as “florist in Englewood”. One final tip to consider – your online identity for local search does not have to be exactly the same as your registered business name. If you can include some information about what your business does in your name, you may find your results improve. For example “XYZ Inc” could use an online identity of “XYZ Tire Repair Service” for local search. Some directories also return results alphabetically, so another option for this business would be to list itself as “A+ XYZ Tire Repair Service”.

Should I use an external service to manage my local search listings? There are hundreds of search engines and local directories on the Web and the number is changing every day. Each one has its own unique submission structure that can change over time as new categories and features are added. To find all of the relevant directories, submitting your information and keeping it up to date can be a monumental task. In addition, even if you create a business listing in all of the relevant directories, you may miss out on opportunities if the search terms used by potential customers don’t match the keywords you have included in your listing. So it may be more effective to work with an external company that specializes in this area. Local search service providers have dedicated resources employed to keep track of the changing landscape of local search. They will track which directories are available, keep up-to-date with the submission process and also be able to recommend search terms, or keywords, that perform well in finding prospects for businesses like yours.

What should I expect from my provider? Investing time and money to find an external firm to help you with your local search campaigns can seem daunting. However, these tips may help make your decision easier and ensure you hire a firm that can meet your needs and budget.

© 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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There are essentially two types of services you can use to support your local search efforts. If you wish to outsource the entire process, you can engage a local search marketing consulting company who will create a custom campaign specifically for your services and location. If you wish to have more control and lower costs, you can use a local search visibility service. With a local search visibility service, you create your business profile and the service submits your information to all of the search engine and local directory partners in its database. Important considerations when selecting a consulting company include: Be sure that the company is reputable and has experience in local search, not just general online marketing. As we discussed above, the two are not the same and being competent at online marketing does not guarantee expertise in local search. Be sure that you are clear about the budget you are prepared to spend, and remember that local search marketing is not an exact science. Your consultant will be competing for rankings with other businesses that may be employing similar tactics, so your ranking may change over time unless you continually optimize your listings. When selecting a local search visibility service:

Again, be sure you are selecting a reputable company – the last thing you need is to have to start over if the company goes out of business. Ensure that all the major search engines and directories that you are interested in are included in its submission service and that the company has a mechanism in place to keep up with changes in the marketplace. Make sure that the service has an easy way to change your business information and resubmit it to all of the partners in its database. Find out whether the company can help you with recommendations for popular search terms for your industry and location. If not, you could waste a lot of time in trial and error. Finally, make sure your provider has strong reporting tools so you can track the progress of your listing submissions and updates.

Summary As a business owner, it is important to adjust your marketing strategy to keep up with the changing ways that customers find local products and services. Local search marketing is a simple, cost-effective strategy which, if implemented correctly, can make a dramatic difference to your marketing return on investment. It is increasingly important to act quickly to establish a presence in local search results, before your competitors do!

Š 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com


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About Network SolutionsÂŽ Network Solutions, a leading provider of Web solutions and the pioneer of the domain name registration service, draws on decades of experience to make it quick and affordable for customers to build and manage an online presence. Our full range of Web-related services includes: Web hosting Web design E-commerce software Search Engine Marketing SSL Certificates E-mail services Domain name registration For more information, please visit www.networksolutions.com or call 1-877-438-8599.

Š 2009 Network Solutions, LLC

Network Solutions, 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon VA 20171

networksolutions.com

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Local Search Visibility Solutions Guide When a potential customer searches for a local business, product or service, search engines will ret...

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