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How To Revive Local Search Lost Opportunities

MagnifyingGlass-Search-AThe local business directory resides in the pockets and purses of consumers like me who are click-to-callaholics. A MarketingSherpa study suggests only 37% of the companies have claimed their free local business listing on one or more search engines, according to a white paper scheduled for release later this week.

Consumers are using mobile devices to find local businesses, but the local businesses are not online. What's wrong with this picture? The white paper from Covario's software unit Rio SEO suggests that most local businesses are not optimized for local search marketing.

Lost opportunities result when consumers can't find retailers and merchants in search engines for strategic keywords at the time shoppers look to buy, according to the white paper author Bill Connard, founder of Top Local Search, acquired by Rio SEO. He notes two lost opportunities: brands are not locally optimized for local keywords, and brands are not maximizing conversion tools for the Web and Mobile Web.

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Search marketers need to start thinking about local desktop and mobile media in ways that are similar to a multichannel advertising campaign. Covario's Rio SEO software unit will release two white papers Thursday focused on how companies with multiple locations can achieve the best local and mobile search results.

One paper, "How the Top Retailers and Service Providers Achieve Top Local Search Results," speaks to "top retailers and service providers," but all businesses with more than one location can use the advice. It provides a five-step process covering methods to support local search results on mobile sites, as well as creating a plan to update all company information across the Web.

Location-specific reporting and analytics will help measure Web, mobile and telephone traffic. The report suggests adding telephone reporting for each location to report call volume, duration, and time-of-day stats as well as adding a Web analytics reporting code to each location page to measure traffic volume from search engines and referral Web sites, monitoring positions and placement on the first page of search engines to identify areas where the site lacks first-page presence, and claiming and managing location business listing on paid and free sites. If company information varies in business listings across the Web it could prevent the Web site from ranking high.

As more consumers use mobile, the white paper reminds marketers how information services like LocalEze, InfoUSA and Acxiom can aggregate business location data, content and categories. Similar to marketing or advertising campaigns that require consistent messages across media, businesses need to provide directories and services. This allows search engines to build relevant backlinks validating local business listings across the Web and directories.

The white paper suggests managing each local business listing -- adding all relevant categories describing the businesses, the products or the services. Make certain that the directories and Web site all have the same operating hours, payments accepted and other local enhanced business-specific information.

Those retailers with a local presence also need to educate sales staff on how to use their platforms. Last week while at the Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza, I had to teach the sales associate how to use the Web ordering system. The point-of-sale (POS) system was so cumbersome that it kept crashing, so I reached for my iPhone to place the order on my mobile device, but I had to jump through too many steps, closed the browser, and abandoned the shopping cart. I went home to order the pants via my desktop. The mobile ordering app became too painful.

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