When I write about controversial topics and get all fired up and make crazy, wild, sweeping assumptions and generalizations, I get a ton of feedback, and you all fire links to my article around the Web. Don't get me wrong; I love and appreciate that, but I fear today all I have for you is some cold hard facts and more moderated thoughts about local search. Well, OK... maybe I can shoehorn in one tiny bit of controversy.
The last few clients I've worked with on large SEO campaigns all have significant brick-and-mortar operations, and there's been a lot of focus on local search and driving online search to offline sales.
First, let's look at some stats around local search. If these numbers don't get you excited and focused on local search, you're going to be left behind.
- 13% of searches involve some level of geographic intent
- 50% of searches involving geographic intent don't actually use a location
- 84% of queries that include locations do so on a city level
(Stats from http://www2009.eprints.org/49/1/p481.pdf)
Add to those stats that Google is now matching location-specific searches to local results based on your IP address, and you have a real reason to sit up and take note. That's right. Google (Big Brother) knows where you are. Try it out. Go search for pizza, used cars, new cars, diamonds, skin-care and coffee. Spend some time poking around. You'll be amazed at what Google is experimenting with matching to local intent.
What I'm seeing today is that Google is putting the 10 pack of local listings at the top of search results when you add a city name to your search, as well as putting the 10 pack after the third result when you leave a city name out. It's not a bad compromise; without the city name you may actually be looking to shop online.
What does this mean to you? If you're only doing general non-local SEO, you will now have less opportunity to get the traffic you are chasing. If you're optimizing for "city name used cars" and you've done well and are ranking No.3 on Google, that's great -- but what happens when Google drops that giant 10 pack of local listings at the top of those results? Your excellent No.3 listing is now below the fold. You'll be better off if you rank in the top three for the non-city-specific term, since the 10 pack will land beneath you.
My point: the engines are evolving the local search space at a rapid pace, and they've done a lot of it quietly. Forget the "Year of Mobile" -- this is the "Year of Local" (sorry mobile people, I know you've been waiting).
Here's a few key points to get your Local SEO in order:
- Visit GetListed.org and find out where you are or aren't listed
- Make sure you listings are consistent
- Submit to:
- Augment your listings with rich data where possible
- Have a page on your site for each individual store
Until recently, I've largely ignored local search because it was separate tab and tied to maps. I thought it didn't really matter. But just look at what the engines are jamming into the search results. I've seen search results that have local, news and video in them all at once, and only three regular results showing above the fold.
SEOs: Pay attention here. I'm most interested in local right now, because that dang 10 pack is 49 feet tall.