Tag Archives: local search

Local Search Marketing

Introduction

People often ask, “How do I get on Google page1?”

The answer, as with so many questions like this, is, “It depends.”

Since we at BlueTree aim to help local small businesses succeed using the Internet, our focus is narrow enough to be able to answer the question. We’ll do it in the form of a story. If you are a local business looking to improve your Internet search marketing, you could try a similar approach.

A Local Search Marketing Story

A couple of years ago, one of our clients was struggling. They run a children’s day nursery. Each child stays with them for a limited time, because soon they’ll go to school. And the nursery is similar to an airline: if they don’t keep their occupancy high, they lose money.

They really have to keep their sales pipeline full. The trouble was, their traditional marketing was failing and their pipeline was definitely not full!

Now, they’re on Google page 1. For a long time now, they’ve been in one of the top three positions. But here’s the thing: now over 50% of their new business comes from the Internet.

This Is How We Did It

We used a three-stage approach.

First, we made them a new website. The old one looked tired and its construction wouldn’t support the next phase of the operation. Google rewards a properly constructed website, built to recognised standards and to Google’s own search engine guidelines.

Second, we started to get them “noticed” on the Internet. By “noticed”, I mean getting links, or references, from other websites. Google counts and grades these links. A link from a good website is positive, and a link from a bad one counts against you. A link from a popular website is worth more than one from a website that few people visit.

We searched Google for business directories that list our nursery. We used searches that suited the business, like “childcare” and “nursery school”. We claimed our listing in all the top directories. Eventually, we claimed 40 in all, but you may not need to do so many. Make sure your content is consistent across all of them, BUT: don’t use identical wording, have a different description that contains the same message. Google doesn’t like duplication, it likes confirmation.

This gave us what we call, “in-bound links” to our website, lots of them. Gradually, we saw their search position rise.

Third, we started regular monitoring and continuous improvement. Things change. Company things, like our nursery won Ofsted Outstanding grade. Our competitors respond, and jump ahead of us, so we add some more content. It has to be something useful to our customers, remember. Then Google changes the rules. They do this all the time, but they don’t tell you how, you have to guess. There’s a global network of people guessing, and you can spend a lot of time keeping up. This is the main reason it’s worth paying somebody else to do it. They can share this time and knowledge over many clients.

The best thing to remember is that Google loves useful, unique content, so we’ve been adding more and more. Not too much, just enough to keep ahead of the competition.

What Shall We Do Next?

Let’s look at what’s changed in the Internet recently. Just a couple, out of many things:

  1. Over the last few years, somebody invented the i-Pad, the Smartphone, and tablet computers. This month we hear that, in the UK, mobile devices like these account for a staggering 80% of all searches leading to restaurant bookings, for example.
  2. The proportion of Google searches that are local: 43% and rising. You don’t need to include your town in your search any more. Google knows where you are.

For businesses like us, with local markets, this is important. How does this affect what we do for our nursery?

We optimise the website for mobile devices. Then we survey our customers and ask what social media they use, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn – or what?

As a result we set up Google Plus and Facebook business pages first. Then we’ll see how it goes. No point in wasting time (and time is money) on the others if that’s all we need to do!

How Do Facebook and Google Plus Help Our Nursery?

They give us a great way to engage with our customers. We publish interesting things on our business pages, like “Santa’s visit on Friday”. We encourage our customers to comment. We respond to their comments, build a rapport with them, so they keep coming back.

If our customers find it useful, we get some credit, some Facebook Likes, and we’ll climb back up the search results pages.

With Google Plus the effect is even more marked. For example, if someone is following you on Google+, the chances that they will see your posts in Google’s search results go way up in their search results. And so will their own followers. Wow!

Takeaway

The technology that supports local Internet marketing is advancing rapidly. Businesses with local markets can keep up, or fall behind.

Spend 20 minutes watching this TED lecture and get a clue about how Internet search technology has reached the position it has, and how it might develop in future. Then think about what you need to do about it.

Local Search Marketing Threat: Apple Maps

Well! Apple Shot Themselves in the Foot!

(We still think it’s worth signing up for Yelp. See below)

It seems that Apple Maps has delivered the company a bunch of problems they could do without! Places on their new maps that no longer exist, businesses in the wrong place, cloud-covered towns and who knows what other daft problems?

This picture of the Clifton Suspension Bridge appeared yesterday in the Western Daily Press and many other newspapers.

Clifton Suspension Bridge as it appears on Apple MapsNeedless to say, Apple promised to fix all the problems soon.

No threat to Google then! At least, not this week.

This update was added 21/9/2012. Read the original post below.

New Apple Maps

From now on, all new iPhones and iPads will ship with Apple’s new operating system, iOS6. Its new mapping system will displace Google maps on these devices. The change will also affect existing devices when they upgrade to iOS6.

Apple’s new offering, “May just be the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever,” or so they claim.

Whilst the system uses Apple’s own mapping software, its map data is licensed from TomTom.  It uses the business directory, Yelp, to respond to local searches.

Apple Maps

Naturally, Apple Maps has some superb features. These include interactive, 3D, highly-detailed, vector graphics maps, turn-by-turn directions, and real time traffic information.

great detail in Apple's Maps

Great Detail in Apple's Maps

It’s all fully integrated with Apple’s unique Siri, the intelligent speech recognition / activation system. Now it actually works in the UK!

There’s more information here.

Google’s Answer

Google has responded by announcing its “Ground Truth” project.

google example annotated with local data

Google example, with local data e.g. traffic restrictions and road names

Instead of relying on licensed maps, around 2008 Google started to build a whole new system – from the ground up. This combines its original map data with a huge amount of local data collected from Street View – still the best way to take a virtual tour of your destination.

Google claims that owning all the data is key, and without control of its licensed map and local data, Apple Maps will find it hard to compete. Some pundits predict Apple will return to Google Maps within two years.

So what?

With 40% of local searches performed on mobile devices, and 55% of those on Apple, this is likely to hit Google’s search market share.

Your Google Places page impressions could drop by up to a quarter, damaging your local lead generation activities.

So, with Apple Maps business data coming from Yelp, now’s the time to claim your business in Yelp’s directory. It won’t take long. And even if most iOS6 users switch back to Google Maps, it’s not a wast of time.

NB: We still recommend claiming your Yelp business listing, despite Apple’s gaff.

Don’t use exactly the same words in your Yelp entry as you do in Google Plus Local, use it to support your Plus Local page. Make it similar, perhaps with some different or extra business facts or differentiators.

Don’t have a Google Plus Local page? It’s easy. Find out how.