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Local Search Marketing

Local search marketing is the online placement and promotion of a business through geographically-targeted search engines, directory sites, and online Yellow Pages. Consumers find a locally listed business by inputting geographic information such as the state, city, or zip code during an online search. Results are displayed by proximity to the search query. Consumer ratings and reviews may also be provided.

Businesses that take advantage of local search marketing can gain traffic, ad clicks, and conversions. Local search engines and directories are growing increasingly popular in the consumer market: Forbes.com reports that online local search revenue was $3.4 billion in 2005, and could reach as high as $13 billion by 2010.

Keyword selection

Keyword selection: using local modifiers
Selecting the appropriate keywords to use in the title and description of a business listing is arguably the most important aspect of local search marketing. The keywords that are selected are different from those keywords used for general search engine listings because they are modified to a particular geographic region. As such, they will contain local modifiers (e.g., area landmarks). For example, a user may input the keyword "London hotel" when using a general search engine like Google. However, someone using a local search engine such as Google Local Search may input "hotels near Buckingham Palace" instead.
Keywords selection: using local slang and topics
Keywords used for local search engines may also incorporate local slang or topics/issues. While a user in the Unites States may input the keywords "Seattle bars" when looking for a drinking establishment in Seattle, a user living in the United Kingdom will likely input the keywords "London pubs".

Local SEO

Once the locally-targeted keywords are found, search engine optimization (SEO) is performed by inputting these keywords into local search engines such as Google Local Search, Yahoo! Local Search, and MSN/Bing Local Search.

Google Local Search/Google Maps
Google Local Search, also called called Google Maps, displays business listings along with expandable map markers when a user inputs a business description and geographic location (e.g., restaurants Seattle, WA). A business must first be listed through Google's Local Business Center. After signing up for a Google AdWords account, one may also create a locally-targeted pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign. The final step involves the creation of a business ad. After the process is completed, local users will find the business listed both in the left-hand column area of Google Maps as well as on the map itself. If a PPC campaign is in place, the business will be listed in a separate area at the top of the search results.

Yahoo! Local Search
Businesses can be listed on Yahoo! Local Search via the search engine's Local Listings Center. Much like Google Local Search, Yahoo! Local Search displays the business listing with a corresponding map marker. Additionally, online consumers are encouraged to submit business reviews that are displayed along with the listing. A business can sign up for an enhanced or featured listing for a flat-fee; such listings incorporate additional benefits such as a business logo/photo/description (enhanced listing) or premium placement (featured listing). Yahoo! Search Marketing also offers Local Sponsored Search, a pay-per-click (PPC) listing option.

MSN/Bing Local Search
MSN/Bing Local Search displays business listings on the left-hand column of the page along with a map containing expandable map markers. Sponsored listings are shown at the top of the business listings column; however, they are provided via MSN/Bing's partnership with YellowPages.com. One may submit a business listing by going to Bing's Local Listing Center. Here, the business URL, hours of operation, photos, etc. can be submitted. After submission is complete, a confirmation code is sent by postal mail. This code must be entered in order to activate the business submission.

Local directory submission

Business profiles may also be submitted to local search directories such as Yelp, Local.com, ThinkLocal, and CitySearch. Because local search directories employ human editors to review the submissions, it is imperative that business profiles be keyword optimized within their descriptions and web pages without resorting to black-hat SEO techniques (e.g., keyword stuffing). Different directories have different requirements for submission; however, the work involved in submitting to local search directories is worthwhile because it results in direct traffic. Also, obtaining external links from such directories increases a business's web site ranking and subsequently, its position on various search engine results pages (SERPs).

Similar to submissions posted to larger search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, businesses may "upgrade" their listings on local search directories by paying for sponsored ads, enhanced listings, or featured search results placement.

Local PPC advertising

Local PPC advertising is a popular method for paying for targeted local traffic. With PPC advertising, the advertising business posts a keyword-optimized ad on a local search engine or directory that is linked to the company's web site or designated landing page.

Pricing structure
PPC ads typically have two pricing structures: per-per-click/action, where the advertiser is charged per individual click on the ad, or pay-per-impression, where the advertiser pays per number of ad displays or length of time that the ad is displayed.

PPC ad creation
PPC ads that are targeted to local markets can be quite effective in generating traffic and conversions. The advertiser creates the PPC ad and its designated landing page, decides on either cost-per-click/action or cost-per-impression pricing, and bids against other advertisers for the same keywords using an auction-style bidding system. Final ad placement on the SERP depends on keyword competition and ad price paid, as well as factors such as landing page optimization and relevancy to the PPC ad.

Online Yellow Pages

Finally, submission of a business profile through online Yellow Pages directories such as YellowPages.com, USYellowPages.com, SuperPages.com, Yahoo Yellow Pages, Switchboard.com and MagicYellow.com may be performed in order to attract local customers.

Online Yellow Pages submission may be performed for free or for a flat monthly/annual fee. Submission of business profiles through online Yellow Pages sites helps build page rank via site backlinks and targeted local traffic.

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