Once upon a time if you needed a plumber you picked up the yellow pages looked up a plumber and began making calls. Today though people are going online first and one of those ways is local search. Even if people haven’t completely adopted it yet local search marketing is an excellent way for small businesses to promote themselves and have customers find them.
Each of the major search engines offers local search and it’s quite easy to find what you’re looking for in a specific geographical area. Google’s local search is Google Maps, but each of the other engines has a link called ‘Local’ where you will find their local search options The only difference to your search is that you can add a zip code or address to refine the search. Even the Yellow Pages has their own local search online.
If you have a business with a physical location you should list your business with all of the local search services. Listings are free in comparison to expensive yellow page ads and Matt McGhee of Small Business SEM has written a Local Search Marketing Guide to help you get started setting up your listing. You’ll be given a chance to share a description of your business to help searchers in addition to a simple listing of your company name and business location. You can also combine your local listing with a paid ad through Google and Yahoo and most likely MSN once their paid advertising system is complete.
Most experts have been predicting the local search market will explode sometime over the next few years as a major source of search advertising. $420 million was spent on local search advertising in 2005, though I’ve seen predictions as high as $1 billion for 2006. Whether or not that figure proves accurate local search is clearly one of the larger growing segments of the search market.
In addition to submitting a listing or paying for a local search ad you can also market yourself locally through normal search. When targeting keywords in your optimization efforts you should always refine your keywords with your physical location should you have one. Those people not specifically using local search may still type a location into their general search. It wouldn’t make sense to search for an italian restaurant for example without at least specifying an area as well.
While local search isn’t yet where many expected it to be there’s no denying it’s an ever growing segment of search and search marketing. Submitting a listing is both easy and free. By listing your business with search engines and expanding your keyword phrases to include your location you can increase the chances of being found by potential new customers.