Internet Shakeup, Learning Local Search

No shortage of Internet-related news this week: one of the top 10 spammers was arrested, meaning inboxes can rejoice, YouTube will be offering up music videos by EMI artists, and Google raises privacy advocate eyebrows again with street-level photographs that get too close for some to be comfortable.

This week has also seen us spending a lot of time getting to grips with the ever-shifting sands of search trends, the latest being maximizing the way we take advantage of local search. Thanks to some extraordinary articles by SEO by the Sea, I think my mind has stopped spinning about this increasingly important complementary aspect of Internet Marketing. What have I learned? Well, let’s see if I’d pass the test.

Put your company contact information on the web.

Seems like a no-brainer, but Google Local can’t figure out where your business is without you telling it (sort of reminds me of Google Can’t Index Your Intentions). However, we’ve been very good about this, for a variety of reasons throughout the years not related to local search. Yet, our local search results just weren’t popping off the page. What gives?

Define your company contact information properly.

Ahh — the secret revealed. Google prefers you to say field: value, i.e. phone: 123-456-7889 rather than just listing your phone number, so something like this:

Hall Marketing Web Services
15 Pleasant Hill Rd. — P.O. Box 6877
Scarborough, Maine 04070-6877
1-877-HALL-WEB (Toll Free)
207-885-0694 (Local) – 207-883-8189 (Fax)

Becomes:

Hall Marketing Web Services

Physical Address: 15 Pleasant Hill Rd. Scarborough, Maine 04070-6877
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6877, Scarborough, Maine 04072
Phone (Toll Free): 1-877-HALL-WEB
Phone (Local): 207-885-0694
Fax: 207-883-8189

A little clunkier, but we’re opting to use the format only a page specifically targeted for local search anyways.

Then there’s the issue of user intent.

Another challenge to Local Search at the moment is the fogginess when completely different words may mean the same thing, or determining whether a user is searching for a business name or a general category. At the moment, this is something Google is running at full speed to try and improve upon, which may end up being quick a shake-up for search in general, not just local.

At the moment, we’re shooting to cooperate with Google as much as possible, and if we’re rewarded with a One-Box result at the top of our major keywords, all the better. While Local Search is still incredibly rough around the edges, it keeps improving at an astonishing rate and soon will be regarded as important as traditional organic search, if not more important (for certain kinds of businesses).

And what about Viral?

Finally, I stumbled across Eric Klintz’s blog, the Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP. It’s a pretty impressive title, and while generally major corporate blogs are a little on the tame side, his blog has some really great insight on marketing strategy, as well as generally interesting analysis of things like Web 2.0, viral marketing, quality copywriting, etc. A notch above, and it certainly succeeds in making me think about HP a little differently.

So, keep your eyes on the YouTube, keep at your business blogging, and link out and be linked alike.