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The move towards local, hyperlocal and personalised search
It's no big secret that Google is giving more and more priority to Google Places results. They're not just embedding map results above the organic results anymore - they're part of the organic results. If you have a map listing, Google will flag this up in your organic result, showing where you are, providing an additional link to your Places page on which you can put pictures, video and, if you have positive reviews of your business, can offer added encouragement to the searcher to visit your shop or website.
Google will show localised results for generic terms if they feel a particular keyword merits this treatment. For example, we have clients getting traffic for generic keywords such as 'solicitors' even where they aren't in the top 50 - because Google is returning a localised result because they know where the business and the searcher are located. If Google doesn't think you have a location, you may miss out when a local result is delivered for a generic search.
Localised search is regularly driving better quality traffic. When a searcher types in a generic keyword, chances are he is doing research. When a searcher narrows that search down to a specific product, a specific place or both then he's more likely to be ready to buy. Ranking well for both generic and relevant localised searches can therefore improve the number of conversions you receive.
Online searches do deliver offline traffic. Let's face it, these days nobody uses a phone book. If we want to find a local service, we look online, maybe check out the website, get directions and then either phone or visit the shop. If your business cannot be found in local searches, then you will be losing business.
Think local even if you are web-based, or work nationwide
We have a number of clients who have an online-only business or have one main office but work with clients nationwide. We still recommend putting some effort into geo-targeting. Even online businesses have a registered mailing address - so get your business listed in Google Places.
There are other things you can do as well, including:
- Target local directories and websites such as City Visitor and Qype for nationwide listings to help you rank for geotargeted services.
- Add case studies pages to your website talking about the customers you have helped across the country, targeting local keywords on these pages.
- Ask your customers to write reviews on your Google Places listing.
- Set up (and actively use) regionally-targeted social media accounts.
- Build a blog and use it to create useful, locally-targeted content.
Locally-focused, personalised search results are already changing the way searchers connect with businesses, so if you're not already thinking locally then you are going to lose out on market share. You may feel that marketing your online-only business to people looking for a local service is not providing relevancy, but if you can offer the same product or service and give visitors a reason why buying online from you is better than buying offline from someone else then you are providing relevancy. In some instances, searchers may not realise it's just as easy to buy online and they won't understand... until you teach them.