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Local Search Optimization: Like SEO, But Different… (Part 1 of 2)

The realm of local search is a burgeoning and rapidly evolving space. And since everyone is local somewhere, it’s a topic worthy of some consideration – whether you’re the mom-and-pop sandwich shop, or the multinational drugstore chain. This post is the first of a two-part series, in which I’ll introduce the concept of local search, and highlight some of the unique differences between optimizing for visibility in local search results versus traditional organic search results. Part two of the series will delve into some tactical “nuts-and-bolts” of local search optimization.

Before I go much further, let’s define what I mean by “local search”. Local searches are those made in pursuit of something tied to a particular geography, often with the intent of taking some sort of action offline. Really, you can think of these as the sort of queries one might have made (or still make) within printed yellow page directories. In response to the increasing use of search for local purposes, search engines evolved to serve up specialized results when they think the searcher is interested in a local result. Because of Google’s 72% domination of the internet search market, I will almost exclusively addresses optimizing for visibility within Google’s answer to local search – Google Places, which are displayed via Google Maps search results.

Google Maps Search Results

Search results for "brew pub ann arbor", serving up Google Places listings.

Local search is, in a certain sense, the great equalizer of internet search marketing. At times, traditional, purely concept-driven SEO might be seen as favoring the “big guys” – those who can afford substantial and wide-reaching SEO undertakings to establish their authority on a given topic and propel themselves to the top of the SERPs (content generation/syndication efforts, linkbuilding campaigns, sizeable online PR, etc.). Local search, on the other hand, favors, well… localness. And you don’t have to be big to be local.

This essential difference in the thrust of local search (compared to more general organic search) is driven by a distinct set of factors. Those factors prioritize the local significance and legitimacy of a business just as much as its topical relevance. As I mentioned above, Google will return location-driven Google Maps results on the SERP when it’s fairly certain the searcher is performing a local search. Those search results are populated by listings within Google Places, so much of the focus of local search optimization (for Google, anyway) is placed on tuning up those listings. Once you’ve tackled that, the key is making sure other aspects of your business’ online presence (local directory listings, customer review sites, your own landing page, etc.) are in proper alignment with your Google Places listing(s).

In my next post on this subject, I’ll go over ways specific ways one can demonstrate the legitimacy, topical relevance and overall significance of your local business to Google, resulting in improved visibility in local search results.

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About Jeremy Lopatin

Jeremy was Director of Product Development and head of the SEO team at Pure Visibility until November 2013. You can find him on Google+, LinkedIn, and on Twitter as @jeremylopatin.

One Response to "Local Search Optimization: Like SEO, But Different… (Part 1 of 2)"

  • Nick Stamoulis
    August 26, 2010 - 9:01 am Reply

    A presence in local search is so crucial for the success of business owners. Making sure your local listings are complete in all aspects is very important to growing your business.

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