Workshop Summary: The days of flipping through a big fat yellow book to find a local business are quickly coming to a close. After all, why settle for a simple phone number when an online search can also net you menus, pricing, hours and consumer reviews? In this workshop, Matt McGee, SEO Manager at Marchex will walk attendees through the most popular local search engines and will show you the best ways to leverage them to promote your business online.

Then first thing Matt talks about is the industry - who's playing, who's winning, and what's next. Some of the main players include the major three engines - Google Maps, Yahoo! Local and MSN Local. As far as local or niche specific, there is also CitySearch,, Yelp, Upcoming, Angie's List, ValPak, Verizon SuperPages, and many others.

Who is winning? Google is well out in front with Yahoo, MSN and Ask heading up the rear. Google Maps is getting about 1.56% of the overall traffic Google receives. However keep in mind that Google maps is integrated into regular search results produced from relevant search queries. MapQuest on the way down while Google Maps is on the way up. Yahoo! Local is also pretty close to Google depending on which statistics you are looking at.

Where is it going? Spending is estimated to double by 2001. It is also becoming more prominent on mobile phones. For example, there are 50 times more Google searches from the iPhone than any other mobile device. The iPhone does make surfing the web a much more pleasurable experience than other mobile devices. There is a growing trend of small business shifting traditional print advertising to online. Also video is becoming a popular tactic. National advertisers are adopting local strategies. Pay per call is also becoming a key tactic. Finally we are seeing better neighborhood-level searching.

Next Matt talks about what is actually in the algorithms. There is the process of Recall - the identifying of possible matches and then Rank - the process of putting matches in order.

Possible recall factors includes accuracy and trust of your business data, use of search engine's local business centers, your address, your business name, categorization of your business and location prominence of search terms. Ranking factors include traditional SEO, your business name, your address, categorization of your business, listings in local and Yellow Page directories, reviews/ratings and user-generated content.

Why do results some times vary? Could be differing search intents, various recall algorithms, different mapping requirements, various data sets and even various data centers.

Matt moves on into actual SEO and PPC tactics that web site owners can use to make sure they are represented well for local searches. Beyond just putting your address on every page, you should work to make your pages more local - things like placing local phone number on pages, making sure you have a location/directions page (how to get to our office) and not just a map but some textual direction as well, use geographical locators (zip codes, area codes, etc.), and where appropriate, place geographical keywords in title tags of pages.

Some bonus tips Matt provided include making sure you have pages for each location if you have multiple locations, link to local profiles to boost them in the SERPS, include brand names and city locators in copy and put address on single line (mobile SEO tactic).

As far as PPC tactics, use geo-targeting (monitor for effectiveness) and look into advertising on the local sections of Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

Matt reminds us not to forget to fix/add listings to all the local/niche search sites and encourage ratings and reviews on sites such as Yelp.

Finally, Matt moves on to actually finding local customers and starts out with some problems with SEO and PPC. One problem with SEO and PPC is after you have set up everything, all you can do at times is sit back and hope. Even though SEO and PPC require ongoing effort, it is mostly a passive marketing tactic. So where can you actually go out and get local customers? Social sites with local elements.

Social Media Sites:

  • Local Groups on Flickr - not only photos but discussion as well.
  • Facebook - has networks based on geographical location.
  • StumbleUpon - has local element to it under "People" link. You can even break it down to men or women.
  • Yahoo! Answers - all sorts of categories, even local.

Local Blogging Services:

  • Outside.In - local blog aggregator service.
  • Placeblogger - another local blog aggregator service.

Forums/Mailing Lists:

  • Newspaper forums
  • Yahoo! Groups
  • Google Groups
  • Freecycle - network of people who recycle things.

The following is a list of some of the main local/niche search services where you should make sure your business is represented.

Does any of this work? He provides the example of Pink Cake Box who had a Flickr photo stream that CNN came across and then gave them some national exposure. He also demonstrates how his involvement in Yahoo Answers brings a significant amount of visitors to his blog. Finally he tells a story of how his wife used Freecycle to get rid of some old kids stuff they had and made people come to her real estate office to pick their stuff up. She picked up a new client out of that experience.

Business Database Providers:

Yellow Pages:

Local Directories:

  • CitySearch
    Search for your business. If listed, click "Own this business?" link to claim free listing. If not listed, only way to be added is paid advertising.
  • InsiderPages
  • Kudzu
    This site began in Atlanta and has its deepest coverage there, but is working to expand to cover other major cities. Free submission is available through 2008.
  • OpenList
    This site provides city guides and other (mostly travel) related business information. Use the Contact Us link and choose "Add a Listing" from the drop-down menu.
  • Yelp
    To add a new business to yelp, you must write a review at the same time you add the business listing.

Local Events Directories:

Local Coupon Sites:


Note: These are raw notes taken while live-blogging sessions at the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference in Houston, Texas. Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors.

April 22, 2008

David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.

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Search Engine Guide > David Wallace > SBM Unleashed: Local Search Workshop