David Kirkpatrick

Search Engine Marketing: Taking advantage of local search and local business listings

It’s a pretty safe bet that everyone understands the importance of search engine optimization for global search. But local SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) is something of a different story. Did you know Google estimates 20 percent of all searches now have a local intent? Have you taken any steps to address this shift in search behavior? If not, you are not alone.

While looking through the MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition, I found this interesting chart:

Click to enlarge

This is from the report:

Forty-three percent of organizations consider local search a critical or important factor for achieving search marketing objectives. Individuals and businesses are increasingly looking to local listings for shopping, restaurants, services, vendors and more. For these reasons (among others), appearing in local search results, which are listed at the top of the SERPs, can help a business stand apart from its competition.

What really stands out to me is that more than one quarter of the marketers we surveyed described local search as “not important” for search marketing objectives. That’s not even asking where local search fits into overall marketing objectives, just within SEM. To my mind, that is a large percentage of marketers overlooking a potentially lucrative area of search.

What you should know about local search

There are two areas of focus for local search marketing: local search optimization and local business listings.

The first step of any local search marketing effort should be claiming, customizing and enhancing the local business listing, such as a Google Place Page.

These listings are featured at the top of search engine results pages providing businesses that have secured the listing valuable search real estate. What’s amazing is that according to the SEO Search Benchmark Report, 41% of organizations haven’t claimed a local business listing, and another 22% aren’t sure if they have or haven’t claimed a listing.

This tactic is most effective for consumer marketing retailers, because many buyers are going to look for research and comparison information online while preferring to shop locally.

Local search optimization is using global SEO practices, such as keyword and key phrase optimization, to tailor the website to be found in local searches. Of course this is only worthwhile if the keywords or key phrases drive enough search volume to justify the optimization effort.

Tactics to improve local business listings

Here’s another chart from the SEO Search Benchmark Report with a group of tactics to improve local business listings:

Click to enlarge

As you can see, there are several tactics to utilize, although the majority of marketers only add a telephone number and optimize the listing with target keywords. Two of the stronger personalization tactics: adding an image and/or video are used by only 48% and 20% of marketers respectively.

Kaci Bower, lead author of the 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition, and Research Analyst, MarketingSherpa, says, “In terms of local search, a good portion of businesses that claim a local business listing do not fully optimize and enhance their local business listings with all the available options.”

She adds, “In other words, they are underutilizing the potential of local search simply because they do not do everything with it that they could.”

Related Resources

Take Control of Local Search Results: 5 Steps to Improve Accuracy and Boost Traffic (Members library)

New Chart: How Effective is Local Search? (Members library)

Search Marketing: The importance of an SEO Process

Search Engine Optimization: The SEO value (or lack thereof) of domain name keywords

Search Marketing: Three questions to help you think like your potential customers

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Search Marketing



  1. August 16th, 2011 at 14:18 | #1

    Then… what about those websites which is of country specific like .co.uk or .fr.

  2. Kevin C Greene
    August 16th, 2011 at 15:28 | #2

    I want to focus on a couple of key points that David talks about. The first is that ‘Google estimates 20 percent of all searches now have local intent.’ AND that ’41% of organizations haven’t claimed a local business listing.’ Obviously local search on the internet is important and yet too many businesses are not taking advantage of their listings. When I speak to small business owners most have a website and feel that that is all they need to do in order to be found on the internet. Claiming listings is easy and free in most cases yet far too many businesses wont do it. So often I’ve pointed out to small business owners that their listings are incomplete and they always say they will go claim them but I hardly see this happen. I’ve even created a step by step tutorial on my site on how to set up your Google Places listing (http://www.marklocal.com/places/) and still have a hard time getting owners to do it.
    David also says ‘There are two areas of focus for local search marketing: local search optimization and local business listings.’ Once you have your listings taken care of, the next best thing you can do to help your local search optimization is to add more content to your website. Don’t let your website sit static out on the web. Keep it fresh. Keep adding more keywords. The easiest way to do this is by adding a blog to your site and consistently adding content. Your blog posts don’t need to be long just useful to your potential readers. Weekly, monthly, quarterly even as long as you are adding content it will help your search engine results.

  3. August 17th, 2011 at 10:54 | #3

    Kevin — Thank you for the comment and the additional information on optimizing local search.

  4. August 17th, 2011 at 10:58 | #4

    Janelle — Google Places is not available worldwide just yet, but anywhere it is available a business can claim its local listing and go through the process of optimizing that listing. And, of course, optimizing a site for local organic search through keyword strategies should be a part of everyone’s SEM practices if the search volume justifies the effort.

  5. August 17th, 2011 at 21:01 | #5

    Great post. The tidal wave for local search is mobility. That’s an inflection point that many retailers are not leveraging the way they could. In addition to search phrases, there are also opportunities to localize based upon reverse ip look ups.

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