Local Search Series Part 1: What is Local Search and how does it affect your business?

Does your business thrive on local trade? Yes? Then you’re in the right place.

Your primary marketing channel is probably good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Fantastic. This is certainly one of the most effective channels out there. Word gets around quickly within local communities and once you’re labeled as the ‘go-to’ for a particular product or service, there is – or rather was – often no real need to worry about getting future business.

But times are changing.

More and more people are turning to search engines to research a product or service – even after a recommendation from a friend – before they make a purchase. Search engines give us the luxury of comparing the quality, cost and reviews of almost any product or service available in the local area. Search engines help us make better informed decisions.

Moreover, the rise of the smartphone and with it 4G data has enabled consumers to shop “on the go”. This has led to a massive increase in the value of ‘Local Search’.

What is Local Search?

Local Search is a product of regular, organic SEO. It is different in that it provides results based on the searcher’s physical location.

Imagine, for instance, you suddenly want a bouquet of flowers to congratulate a friend on a promotion. What’s the first thing you do? You pull out your phone and Google ‘florist’ or ‘flowers near me’ etc. Google then returns a shortlist of suitable businesses in the local area, from boutique, independent florists to large supermarkets.

At this stage, what is more likely to influence your decision over which business to pursue? Cost? Probably not since it’s urgent. Proximity? Quite possibly – it’s urgent. Google Reviews? Almost certainly – those yellow stars beneath any search are attention-arresting.

You choose your florist, go to the store using GPS, buy your flowers and be on your way. Job done. You’re happy, the florist is happy and you’re friend is probably happy too.

This is why every local business should surface in Local Search results. A high local ranking will open up an entirely new channel of business, which reaches customers who are ready to make a purchase.

Two Types of Local Search Queries

Local search can be applied in two different ways. SEO thought leader John Battelle identified these as “discovery search” – where you want to find something new – and “recovery search” – where you want to find something you’ve seen before.

Consider, for instance, the query “Hatfield famous bakers”. We can assume that the searcher already knows there is a famous bakery in Hatfield (there is – it’s incredible) and has probably been before but can’t remember the name or how to get there. This, according to Battelle, is an example of Recovery Search.

Now let’s consider the query “bakers in Hatfield”. In contrast, the implication here is that the searcher knows, for instance, what they want but not who they want it from. This is what Batelle means when he talks about Discovery Search.

Search engines will filter or order results according to which type of search – discovery or recovery – is interpreted through the searcher’s query.

But there are many variables at play, which are changed every time Google updates its algorithm.

How Google’s new ‘Possum’ algorithm affects Local Search

The latest Google algorithm update (Sept 2016) has impacted Local Search a great deal. But according to Joy Hawkins of leading SEO website Search Engine Land, the changes are very positive for smaller local businesses.

For example, companies with an address that is technically outside of the city they market to are now ranking better for keyword searches that include that city name. The update has also tackled the issue of separate local listings for the same business, which is common with larger companies. This is for the user’s benefit since it is obviously not helpful if several listings for the same business appear when searching for a product or service.

However, it’s worth mentioning here that it’s not just Google you need to think about – other search engines like Bing! and Yahoo are also important when planning a Local Search strategy.

How can you start your Local Search campaign?

In the next part of this series, we will explore different ways of initiating your Local Search campaign, from registering with Google’s ‘My Business’ feature to creating a listing on paid yet popular location-based business directories. If you can’t wait for the next post, get in touch and we can arrange a free consultation!

VKN Digital will be hosting its first Business Development & Networking Event, ‘How Social Media, Mobile and Local Search will Impact Business Growth in 2017’, at the Great North Business Centre, Hatfield (Herts) on October 28th. We’d love to see you there. If interested, please follow this link for more information regarding content and tickets.

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