A Major Trend Is Underway In Search Engine Marketing
Organic SEO is out. It is all about Local Search now!
I’ve been marketing web sites for a long time. We used to use submit-it to manually signup sites for Alta Vista and Yahoo back before Google was born. I’ve seen trends come and go. The most significant trend now in Internet marketing is local search. Local search is where the Internet is headed.
Consider The Major Three Forces On The Internet Now
Local search is being born half from desire and half from necessity. These are the major forces at work on the Internet now.
1. The Internet has become more crowded
When I started in 1995 there were about 250,000 web sites. There were about 5 popular search engines. In 2016 there are about 1,000,000,000 web sites (one billion) and there are 2 popular search engines. A prominent listing is akin to winning the lottery. The numbers prohibit it. Spending money on on-screen SEO is not a good investment anymore. It was at one time but it is not now.
2. Maps (Phones)
We forget that maps (GPS) are a recent phenomenon. Maps have quickly become fundamental to everyday life. Maps are in our phones. Our phones are in our cars. Internet maps ARE the environment now. Whenever we need to know where something is we consult Internet maps. If your business is not showing up in Internet maps it is not showing up at all.
3. Social Media
I am old school. I am not a phone guy. I am a desktop guy. Still I cannot deny the importance of social media. While I may not be putting my life online I can see the trend in search engines. Search engines are querying social media sites like Facebook, Google My Business, and Yelp. Social media has become an interconnected web of popular open to the public web sites. There are about 15 generally accepted social media sites that form your public Internet persona.
These three main forces in Internet marketing are pointing us in one direction: local search. You can see it at both Google and Bing. They are tweaking their algos in this direction. It makes perfect sense and here is why.
Why Search Engines Have Embraced Local Search
Search engines have become a huge business. Ad revenue reached $100 billion in 2015. To sell ads you have to have users. To get users you have to be relevant. Search engines are in fierce competition for relevance. They want to make sure that whatever they bring up in a search is relevant. They have recently discovered that bringing up businesses in New York when you are in Los Angeles is not relevant. If you search for a product or service in Los Angeles you expect to see companies in Los Angeles. This is a fundamental trend in search that all businesses need to be aware of.
Facebook has had an affect on search. The explosion of popularity of Facebook is based on its content being relevant to its users. Facebook content is as local as it could possibly be. It is the user’s personal friends and family. That is as “close to home” as it gets. The more local the content is the more relevant the content is. That is the lesson Facebook has taught the Internet.
Search engines have taken heed. They know their success depends upon relevance. The Internet is a double-edged sword. You can be in the limelight one day and gone into obscurity the next. I remember when Facebook obsoleted MySpace in a matter of weeks. That is how quickly relevance can dissipate. That is also why local search is such a strong trend. Local search is the latest trend in presenting you the most relevant content possible. The trend toward local search is underway and it will only get stronger.
Local Search As An Internet Marketing Strategy
As a business your best strategy is to enhance your local search. That begins with an acceptance that you are not going to dominate the Internet at large. The idea is to stop thinking about coming up on page one for a search term because you can’t. It is a waste of money to even try. The better approach is to try to come up on page one in your local area. That is a concept that may work.
Dominating in your hometown is still a pretty good place to be. It is no different than being the popular local store that everyone knows about. You can make a nice living being known as the go-to place for something specific in your area.
The great thing is Google and Bing is asking us to take this local search approach. They want this locally relevant information in their search results. They are actively going to Yelp, Facebook and other sites to supplement their search results with local information. This is a great development for small businesses. It is a win for the search engines too. Locally relevant search is the hottest trend in the industry.
How To Manifest A Local Search Program
What I have found in developing local search is how touchy it can be. To be successful in local search you MUST have consistent information throughout all social media web sites. By consistent information I mean:
1. One business name.
2. One physical address.
3. One phone number.
4. One email.
5. One web site.
This makes sense. Search engines are basically machines. If you give your business address as 250 Pacific St. on Facebook and 250 S. Pacific St. on Yelp that can cause the entire house-of-cards to collapse. Anyone that has done database programming knows this. It is a mechanical match. If it does not match it falls through. Do not expect Google to implement fuzzy logic to pickup your mistakes. Business owners are constantly changing business names, using PO Boxes, getting rid of the old phones, and changing emails. These seemingly innocuous changes ruin local search. They keep Google and Bing from knitting together information from your social network. You have got to be CONSISTENT in how you represent your business on everything you do on the Internet. If you do things to hide from public view, like use a PO Box for example, you kill your local search. If you make inadvertent mistakes, like alternating between two phone numbers for example, it is the same thing. You hurt your local search.
As a general Web marketing strategy I recommend moving budget away from organic SEO and putting it into Local Search. Get your business into social media sites with scrupulously consistent information. Strive for relevance in your local area through social media. That is what the search engines want us to do. Local search is best for them and local search is best for us too.
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