How Will Local Search Affect Big Brands?

We hear so much about local search these days and how it’s becoming a larger part of the overall search experience — from simple searches with local IP-based geo-targeting to ads inserted within a Google maps search.

But what does local search really mean for big brands? Depending on the industry you’re in, it can either be a huge part of the mix or an insignificant time-waster.

For example, if you have a chain of stores throughout the U.S., or even the world, having a local listing for each store may drive more people to them. If you’re competing in an overly bloated market, such as insurance or real estate, it may be overwhelming to try and compete within the search engines.

This is why it’s more important than ever to understand the possible benefits of being listed locally. The process should be very simple: can you substantiate a listing within local search? If you don’t have a local “store” per se, it may be difficult to prove.

This is a small list of criteria that the search engines look at:

  1. IP — where are you hosted? This is most important for ranking is specific countries.
  2. What is the physical address listed on your site? If you only have one main address, it will target this address. It may be possible through the use of subdomains with separate addresses to be listed in different cities, but this is a difficult and tedious process. It can add additional frustration if the subdomains aren’t linked to appropriately from the primary site — i.e., not one link!
  3. It may be possible on a single domain to rank in each city, if there’s enough supporting address information for a given city. For example: Pizza New York City will not have enough information to substantiate a ranking. However, Crust Masters Pizza xxx 8th Ave., New York, NY 10xxx may have the chance of showing up if there’s enough supporting evidence that this is the most appropriate page to show. This can be proven with inbound links.
  4. How many other listings do you have in this particular city? If you only have one, and there isn’t any unique content about this particular pizza shop — say a review — it may be difficult, even with the links, to prove that this listing belongs.

After you look at this list and make sure that your listings are easy to look at and understand, look at where this information lives on the site. If it lives 10 or so clicks from the home page via a path such as “my big list > smaller list > by state > by city > by burrow > by district > by zip> possibly merging districts > etc.”, you may have trouble. Yes, the landing page may have a decent user experience, but the click path from the most important page — the home page — is so far and time consuming to get through, in most cases it won’t rank.

Understandably, in some countries this is extremely difficult. I’ve seen taxes levied on some countries by listing a local office while all business was going through another office within another country. Thus, providing such information is not at the top of the hot things to do locally.

On a brighter note, companies that use subdomains in multiple countries instead of top level domains have the ability to enter address-specific information within their Google Webmaster Tools, to show up in the local results of their specific countries. This is a great tool for companies that can’t show address information on their Web sites.

Knowing the potential upside of getting your local entities listed can help you decide whether or not it’s worth the time and effort. If you think like a search engine, you might figure out your chances of doing well in local SERPs (define).

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