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Local Search Marketing Tactics

thurow-shari
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It's tempting to think of local search as merely a subset of a broader search marketing campaign, but best results come with tactics specifically tailored to the uniquely nuanced needs of searchers looking for local information and services.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, December 13-16, 2004, Chicago, IL.

Search engine marketers and advertisers are now able to tap into very localized target audience using local search engines, online yellow pages and other local search methods. This panel explored the different types of local marketing tactics available for both advertisers and optimizers.

Search engine advertising tactics

Stacy Williams, President of Prominent Placement, began by showing how local search has evolved. The "old way" of using search engine advertising for a local audience was to use two methods: (1) national targeting using local qualifiers as keywords, and (2) local targeting via national distribution. Now advertisers can now show their ads specifically to local audiences. "For example," she said, "you can select the town of Forest Park for distribution, and only the online visitors from Forest Park, or people searching for items specifically in Forest Park, will view your ads."

"Searchers do not always have to type in geographical or local modifiers to get local search results," she continued. Google, in particular, can identify searchers by IP address.

"Advertisers can reach local searchers in three different ways," said Patricia Hursh, President of SmartSearch Marketing. "You can reach more people with IP-targeted local campaigns than a national campaign with local keywords. IP-targeted ads deliver better CTRs and costs per conversion."

However, Hursh does not recommend completely abandoning national advertising. "National advertising can be effective for inexpensive brand building," she said. "Businesses might miss some target audiences if they only limit themselves to IP targeting."

A business owner does not need to have a web site in order to participate in Overture's Local Match advertising. For that reason, Hursh said, Overture encourages advertisers to promote telephone calls and walk-ins (at a businesses' physical location).

For businesses that have several locations in one geographical area, both Google and Overture offer solutions, but Hursh found that the listing process is a bit more complicated at Overture. "What we chose to do is start with a core address," said Hursh. "We are testing names and addresses in a pretty wide radius. If that works, then we plan on going in and doing more locations and deciding which radius is best. With Overture, you can list multiple locations in the same campaign and decide what radius you want from each address."

Many businesses have a target audience outside their main geographical area, such as a car dealership that is physically located outside of the Chicago metro area, but still targets the Chicago metro area. "On the paid side, it is the same for both Overture and Google," said Williams. "For Overture, as long as your business is within a 100-mile radius, you can draw yourself within that radius. For 'natural' or 'organic' search engine optimization, you can optimize a page about being a Chicago-area car dealer."

"We are going to have more advertiser choices and a convergence of several different products," Hursh concluded. "Currently, there are a lot of limitations with Google and Overture. I think that is going to change, and advertisers will have more choices on what information they want their audience to see. I think we will also see the pay-per-call and pay-per click products come together. Right now, they are very separate."

Search engine optimization tactics

"Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) now emulate the pure search functionality of web search engines," said Justin Sanger, President of LocalLaunch. "Visitors can now view rich content beyond standard contact information."

Sanger recommended that all business owners fill out business profiles provided by Yahoo and Verizon Superpages. Currently, these business profiles are free, and business owners can display more information in their listings for a monthly fee.

"Now is a good time to buy distribution on YellowPages.com," Sanger continued. "We see them taking the forefront. You can go in now and get some pretty cheap inventory." YellowPages.com provides a number of advertising options as well as featured directory listings.

Additionally, local search results often appear at the top of the main search results. The major search engines often have partnerships with local information providers, such as Ask Jeeves' partnership with Citysearch. Professional SEMs can utilize listings from local search providers so that they get greater search engine visibility and branding impact on the major web search engines.

Related links

Meet the Local Search Engines
SearchDay, Feb. 2, 2005

Yahoo Bolsters Local Search Business Listings
SearchDay, Dec. 8, 2004

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Local Search: Options & Tactics discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

Shari Thurow is the Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc. and the author of the book Search Engine Visibility.

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