The search engine is just that: an engine in the cloud, its programming pistons generating the power to be discovered. Such is the purpose of local Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Local SEO is a suite of tools that help a business be discovered by people nearby. It is not the industry’s next fad. It is not a quick fix for Vanilla Jane website content. It is a necessary innovation in response to the evolving Internet search world.
According to Forbes,, in the years 2011-2013, Google popped out algorithm updates like machine gun bullets. Panda, Penguin, and other algorithms shifted because Google grew tired of spam links and obese websites that duped the search engine and hassled web visitors. In the future, search engines will not return results based on popularity, but on relevance.
With that in mind, consider this:
One in three mobile Internet searches have local intent, something like “masseuses in Tampa Bay” or “sell my car 65401.” One in five desktop Internet searches have the same. In other words, the World Wide Web is increasingly used to hunt for local businesses, attractions and services.
Mix those statistics with this one, provided by Google in 2007: 97 percent of Internet users wield the web to gather shopping information, and of that 97 percent, about half will then purchase their goods or services from an offline merchant. Thirty-three percent of mobile searches are for local information or services, and as Surojit Chatterjee, head honcho of Google global mobile ads, says: “The time between intent and action” – in other words, the decision to buy something – “is shorter on mobile actions.”
The math is simple: Every month, billions – yes, billions – of searches are conducted with the intent to research online and buy local. MIT corroborated this in 2005 by showing that for every dollar spent online, five or six went to offline purchases influenced by online information. Search engines have replaced the telephone operators, the Yellow Pages, even the chatty neighborhood gossip.
The customers are there. But are the businesses?
Most businesses have a web presence of sorts – a Facebook profile page, private website, a WordPress blog, etc. But can those businesses be discovered by users? Or do they hold a megaphone to a deaf audience?
Some take the 1950’s way out: advertisement. They post SERP (Search Engine Results Page) text ads, YouTube video commercials and Twitter customer updates. Yet 80 percent of Internet users reflexively bypass SERP ads. Facebook banner advertisements suffer from low web traffic, let alone lead conversion. And up to 90 percent of users never look past the first page of search engine results.
With apologies to Nietzsche, banner advertisements are dead. Meanwhile, leads derived from organic results are up to 10 times as effective as direct media advertising. As Dale Carnegie said, “Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers,” and success will follow.
Not surprisingly, Google has a more organic solution: Google Plus Local (formerly Google Places). It is a hub with spokes radiating out to Google Web Search, Maps, Mobile Search and the search engine’s other children. With an account, complete with photos, service hours, contact information and other data, a business automatically has a findable presence throughout all of Google. More than four million businesses have been claimed by owners using Google Places. Other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo, provide other local-oriented search engines and maps.
The market is catching on. In May 2012, BrightEdge reported that 77 percent of search engine marketers believed that local SEO would become ever more important the next year. Then 2013 found them right. So has 2014. And so will 2015.