When trying to reach local customers, businesses need to keep in mind the different ways that locals search for products and services using the Internet.
There are hundreds of different search engines, but some of the more popular ones are Google, Bing and Yahoo!
However, you’ll find that search engine algorithms exist in all sorts of ecosystems. In fact, most shopping sites have some sort of advanced search features these days.
Businesses should take a search engine optimization (SEO) approach any place that your products and services are listed.
Everyone searches differently
Predicting what keywords a user will type into a search box is very hard to do. This is why keyword research is so vital to any digital marketing activity. Here are some ways that consumers might search for local businesses.
Keyword with Cityname
This used to be the default Local SEO tactic. A business only had to try to rank for “lasik virginia beach” or “lawyer williamsburg va” in order to succeed. Some people still search this way, but it is not as prevalent in some markets.
Keyword with zip code
This was mostly used for either restaurants, movies or service businesses. I still sometimes type in “movies 23693” if I want to get local showtimes.
Keyword by itself
This has been growing in popularity as Google and other top-level search engines get smarter about the user’s location. Google, for example, uses either your IP address, or your Google profile (a lot of users search while signed in to their gmail account.)
If a user is on a mobile device, they’ve probably already given an app or browser permission to use their location. All Android smartphones require a gmail address, and a lot of other Apple and Windows phone owners are also signed in to their Google account.
Given that Google likely knows your physical location, they’re going to first return search results that are for businesses closest to you, that have a verified physical location. Often these businesses are verified, claimed listings on Google+ Local and Google Maps.
If you didn’t get the memo from the above paragraph, let me state it again:
Mobile is something you cannot ignore.
In fact, if you care about attracting local customers at all, you should make it a primary part of your local marketing strategy.
Apps like Yelp and Foursquare are indeed search engines, but they are also a hybrid of social network, GPS utility, and even contain a gamification component.
Also, a lot of businesses live or die based on their reviews from sites/apps like Yelp and Trip Advisor.
If you’re one of these businesses, make sure you claim and optimize your listing there, and stay on top of your reviews.
A lot of people actually search on Social Networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for local products and services. Whether they are performing a search or just asking friends for a referral, this is a place your business needs to be seen and heard from.
So How Do YOU Search For Local Businesses?
Are you still using the yellow pages? Do you use Google to find everything? What do you type into the search box when you need a local business, product or service?