Local Search 101

Ever since the Internet was first developed and then introduced to the masses, it started affecting the information industry and business dynamics slowly and gradually. The last 10 years have seen an immense change in terms of how customers are increasingly exploring the web to search for information regarding businesses – consequently, affecting how businesses develop their online strategy and how they operate.

Many studies and statistics have proven that the Internet has become a major research tool for customers when they are looking for companies online. In fact, it is reported that 97% of consumers tend to use the Internet in order to research about products and services. Further, according to a study carried by comScore, almost 54% of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone book and yellow pages.  

Thus having an online presence has become fundamental for businesses today in order to beat the competitive forces. For a strong and effective online presence it is eminent that businesses pay due attention to local search and what it entails.  

Local Search


Local Search – What Is It?  

Local search, also known as local SEO (search engine optimization) aims to deliver results to the searchers based on their location. In the simplest of terms, local search is any activity or task that is carried out to find information regarding a business or its products or services within a specified geographical area. This task is carried with the help of a credible search platform that includes search engines like Google, Bing as well as online local directories like InsiderPages, Better Business Bureau, and SuperPages. In short, local search is the online version of how customers refer to the phone book and printed yellow pages to look for a product or service with the intention of purchasing.  

Over the last couple of years the concept of local search has risen and accelerated to new heights. Especially with the advances in technology which led to the development of laptops, tablets and smartphones, it has completely revolutionized the way searchers and prospective customers search for information and discover local businesses.    

Local Search Optimization – Why Is It Important?  

Google is perhaps the most popular and widely used search medium online where people (read potential customers) look up for a local business that sells products they are searching for. In fact, according to a study by Chitika, around 43% of total Google search queries are local and this percentage is predicted to rise continually. This shows that almost half of the searches made by users on Google contain a reference to locality. Keeping these facts in mind, it makes sense for businesses, whether large or small, to have a local online presence.  

However, there are various other reasons as to why it is important for businesses to optimize for local SEO. Here, take a look at a few of them.  

Search engines are becoming smarter and increasingly valuing ‘locally relevant’ results

Search engine algorithms today are immensely sophisticated and efficient when it comes to analyzing and displaying data for the searcher’s query on its search engine result page (SERP). The algorithms within the search engines are designed in such a way that the searcher doesn’t need to enter their location in order to receive locally relevant results. While in the past, you might have had to add your city, district etc. in the search phrase to get relevant results, it is not the case anymore. For instance when searching for local SEO companies in the area (let’s say New York), instead of using the search phrase ‘best SEO firms in New York’, customers simply search for ‘Best SEO firms’ and they get the relevant results.   

Thus, because search engines are becoming way smarter and search results are becoming increasingly localized, it is paramount that businesses optimize for local SEO in order to connect with prospective customers.  

Smartphones and other similar gadgets are becoming mainstream  

The growth of smartphones and other mobile devices like laptops and tablets is one of the major reasons as to why you need to develop an optimized local search strategy. This is because around half of the searches on mobile device have a local intent. Further, of all the searchers using smartphone for local search, 77% of them contact the business and 59% of them visit the store/outlet the same day.

The popularity of these gadgets means that there are even less barriers between the digital and the physical world as these devices allow users to carry out on-the-go searches . This means that if they are travelling, they can look for entertainment nearby with the help of their smartphones. With the introduction of modern mobile devices like Apple’s iWatch, it is only a matter of time that local search becomes the norm.  

Online reviews are becoming common

Thanks to the Internet, the practice of online reviews and comments by customers regarding a company is becoming increasingly common today as anyone and everyone can contribute. These reviews play a critical role in local search as people tend to read up on reviews before deciding to make the purchase. Many local directories like Yelp allow enterprises to publish customer reviews to connect with more potential customers.  


Local Search – How to Optimize for It?

Simply establishing a website or an account or two on social media sites for your business is not nearly enough to make connections happen with customers via local search. Local search optimization, say for example SEO services New York, is much more than this. In order to ensure that your business in fully optimized with respect to local search, you need to be more aggressive as well as specific with your tactics and strategies. Because search engines are becoming more and more efficient when signaling out locally relevant results, you need to be clever with your local SEO strategies so that your business gets to appear on the SERP.  

Here are a few tips and strategies on how you can optimize for local search.  

Register for a business page on Google and Bing

It is inherent that you optimize for major search engines, Google Yahoo and Bing. For this you need to register on Google’s Local Business Center, Yahoo’s Local Search and Live Search Local Listing Center as it directly appears on their SERP. Here are some tips on how to make use of your business page effectively:

-Be specific. Choose fewer categories and specific keywords in the description of your overall business.  

-Ensure that your business location and contact number is correctly mentioned on the page. Also add the physical address of each of your divisions.    

-Don’t forget to add your website.

-Add a link to your Google+ Local page.

-Feature reviews, quality images and videos of your products and services.  

Register your business in major online local directories

Local search is more than just search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing. There are many other sites that are created and designed for the sole purpose of local listings. Not only are these online local directories an easy way to establish your online presence and access greater connectivity with potential customers, but they are also at times free to register. Thus, you can register on these sites free of cost.  

Here is a list of a few of the most notable business directories (yes, they are absolutely free!) where you should register your business to make local connections.  

Yellow Pages: Yellow pages is known for offering listings as well as advertising solutions for businesses.  

Yelp: You can add photos, coupons and a brief information regarding your business at Yelp to help customers get to know about you.  

Citysearch: This directory provides a thorough information to customers regarding businesses and entertainment around them.  

Manta: With worldwide business listings, Manta is extremely valuable for business owners to register their business. It also offers statistics on how many people have visited your business profile.  

Foursquare: Being on a funky and trendier site, foursquare allows users to track ‘check-ins’ by their friends as well as discover businesses near to their location.   

Local: Apart from listing local businesses, local also lists events and various business deals happening nearby.  

Before deciding on the online directory, make sure that they cater to your local market.  

Build a strong social media presence

If you haven’t already created profiles on social media sites, it is time that you do so. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ are incredible platforms to connect and engage with people.  


What does it have to do with local search, you ask?

Here’s a fact by comScore you may find useful; out of 10 consumers, 7 are more likely to buy from a local business if it has a social profile with up-to-date information. Take a look at a few tips mentioned below on how to use social media to optimize your local search.  

-Choose the right platform that is suitable to your business.  

-Post engaging content. make use of videos, infographics, images etc.  

Be mobile-friendly

The dramatic shift to mobile web usage means that your website and other online accounts should be mobile-friendly. Here’s how you can ensure that your local search strategy is connected with smartphones and other similar gadgets.

-Publish and distribute your business data in a way that it shows up on relevant searches carried through mobile browser and mobile applications.

-Develop a mobile-friendly website. You can do so by either creating a separate mobile site or going for the responsive design which is flexible in the sense that it adjusts to the screen size of the device you are using to access the site.  

-Also, get listed on the mobile applications of various sites and portals so that your business information can be accessed if searchers are using the apps.

Encourage your customers to leave online reviews

Reviews are another significant aspect of optimizing local search as they directly affect your ranking. According to a Bright Local Consumer Survey, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Not only do customers trust the reviews, they also tend to love reading them.  

While there is not much you can do to control online reviews (after all, you can’t buy them or solicit them from customers… well actually you can buy in some cases but it is not always the best option!), you can however focus on improving your business and providing an impressive customer service – the positive reviews will come naturally then. Once you have gotten good reviews, you should post them on various local channels and directories.

Build citations

Citations are central to local SEO. While it is important to appear on the SERPs, you should know that people tend to use various other online sources, applications, directories and portals in order to find information. The information on these sites contain your business’s Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). This information and listings on other websites is known as citations which act as a validation for your business. As such it is preferable that your business has plenty of citations. Not only do citations increase your online visibility, but they also influence local search as search engines are getting better at tracking and monitoring local citations.  

Thus, the greater the number of citations a business has, the more is their chance of higher ranking. The only thing worse than having no citations is having bad citations which are inconsistent in terms of website, address etc. So, make sure that your NAP is consistent across all directories.  

As competition is escalating and becoming dense, it is becoming more and more important for business owners to have a local SEO strategy in order to be found locally online. While it is true that developing an optimized local search strategy is not a walk in the park, the tips mentioned above are relatively simple and easy to follow. However, if you are a bit unsure of how to get started, you can always seek professional help from an agency. We, at AOK are adept at handling all kinds of Internet marketing strategy, including local search engine optimization.