Okay, you’ve been working diligently at optimizing your website on search engines like Google. (What’s that? You haven’t? Well then, you might want to look at some basic info on search engines, then come back and read this post.)
You’ll probably have realized two things by now:
- Unless your search keywords are localized (ie. “real estate Sarasota” versus just “real estate”), you’re probably competing with everybody on the Internet instead of just businesses in your area. Not only that, but a lot of your site visitors will probably be from out of town.
- If your keywords aren’t focused (ie. “foreclosure properties” versus the more general “real estate”), you probably get a lot more “junk results” in your search. Again, this is because you’re competing with all the other “real estate” people out there, as opposed to just the ones who specialize in “foreclosure properties”.
These are legitimate concerns, and things you must take into account when promoting your website online. A prospect in your area is probably more useful to you, and easier to convert, than somebody in a different city, so it’s in your best interest to create optimized searches using local, focused keywords.
But… what if I told you there was also a way to improve your search results with general terms, and virtually guarantee those visitors are local to your area?
Plus!! This method also lets you provide more information about your business, including customer reviews, special offers, and local news, inside the search results, before they even get to your website!!
It’s called LOCAL SEARCH, and it’s very quickly becoming the gold standard for Internet search. You have to get a handle on this, right now!
Local Search works by identifying where the search user is, then supplying results with locations nearby. So, if a person in Sarasota types “real estate” into a local search engine, they’ll get information on real estate businesses only in or near Sarasota. This is exactly what you want, without having to compete with every other real estate business on the Internet!
Not only that, because Local Search returns relatively fewer results, it can provide more information per result than you get in larger, more general searches. Local Search results are usually displayed with a map, showing their relative location to the search user. Clicking a point on the map will show the entry for the business. Even better, you can completely control the content displayed for your entry, providing just the right Direct Response Marketing techniques within the search engine itself, before the user even clicks the link for your website. This is amazing stuff!
Probably the best known and most common version of Local Search is Google Maps. (You may even have noticed Maps information appearing in your regular Google searches.) As an example of how it works, try this on your computer: go to maps.google.com or maps.google.ca. If you haven’t already done so previously, use the “Set default location” link to centre the map on your address. Once you have a default location set, all you have to do is enter a type of business into the search box, and you’ll get a list of the closest businesses to you, highlighted on the map. While it may not be a complete list, you’ll agree it’s certainly easier and faster than trying to find businesses the old way.
In the search box, you can also enter a search like “real estate near XXX” where XXX is any address you specify. You can be more general and search at just the city level, if you prefer. And as you move the map, you’ll notice that the listings on the map will change to adapt to the area displayed.
On a smartphone, like a Blackberry, iPhone, or one of the new Android-based phones, Local Search can be even more effective. This is because Local Search can identify the location of the search user automatically from the smartphone’s GPS system (which has become standard on all new smartphones). In fact, Local Search is becoming the default search method for smartphones for this very reason.
Here’s an example to explain why. Suppose I live in Chicago in the dead of winter. I’m in the market to buy a new home, and while I’m out walking my dog in the neighbourhood, I come across a “For Sale” sign on a property. I’ve loved this old house from afar for years, and now that it’s finally on the market I don’t want to waste any time talking to a realtor. Unfortunately, though, a recent snow storm has damaged the sign, so badly in fact that I’m only able to see the first name of the realtor, or maybe a part of the company name. Well, no problem. I’ve got my iPhone, and Local Search. My hands are cold, and I don’t want to type a lot, but I don’t have to. Instead of typing “property for sale Chicago Bob” or something similar, all I might have to do is type “realtor”. The Local Search on my phone already knows where I am, from the current location of my GPS, and it will instantly show me a list of any realtors near my location. If I spot Bob’s name in the listings, or the name of his company, I can then instantly see information about Bob’s business, including his message about “free special reports for homebuyers – 13 Things You MUST Know”. He might even have a photo of the house I’m looking at. Plus, I can see Bob’s address and phone number, and if I’m really keen, I could click that and instantly call Bob’s office to ask him about the home for sale. And remember, this is all from within the search engine. I haven’t even visited Bob’s website yet!
Local Search is the NEW “no-brainer”, and it couldn’t be simpler or more inexpensive to set up. All you need to set up your business on Google Maps is a free Google account. (Which, if you use Gmail, you already have!) Click the “Put your business on Google Maps” link” that appears below your default location. You’ll be taken to the signup area for Google accounts. If you already have an account, simply sign in and you’ll arrive at “Google Places”, where you can very easily enter the information for your business on the information forms.
Another way to sign up that involves even less work is to look up your business address on Google Maps. Google is in the process of importing business information from other sources like the Yellow Pages. If you find the entry for your business already on the map, click the “more info” link, then look for the “Business Owner?” link at the top right of the info panel. You’ll be able to claim your business on the map and control the entry from there, and you may have some of the data entry already taken care of for you (though you can, of course, change anything you like).
Local Search is “the new Gold Rush”. Get out there and stake your claim NOW.