Search Engine Marketing: Google Local Search and Search Engine Optimization

A new feature has been introduced within the world’s favorite search engine. It’s called “Google Local”, and it can be accessed by clicking the ‘local’ tab right underneath the Google logo on their home page

The new service offers several interesting features including the ability to search via zip or postal code, by address and/or by keyword. For example, if you are looking for Florists in Seattle, simply type in your zip code (so Google knows where you are) and the keyword ‘flowers’ into the search box. You’ll be presented with a page containing several fairly accurate links to Florists near you, plus the distance from your location, plus a ‘zoom-able’ map and even directions on how to get there.

All in all, this is a pretty sophisticated piece of programming and the interface is very user friendly.

Let’s delve into the background of this new service and how the web site owner can take advantage of it. First of all, if your web site has not been optimized for the search engines, or more specifically in this case for Google, now is the time to bite the proverbial bullet and get it done. An optimized web site stands a much better chance of being found within Google’s listings. Not having your web site optimized to its full potential is akin to pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it. You’ll keep trying to fill it up, but never raise the water level. Optimization can plug the hole for you and help your web site gain more visibility. This in turn, will help raise your profile within the search engines and gradually your web site’s ‘water level’ will begin to rise.

There are hundreds of reputable SEO firms on the Internet and many resources on the topic of search engine optimization 1 (SEO). Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the process and you’ll find that it truly will make a difference when it comes to your web site’s ranking and visibility.

One of the most important parts of the optimization process for Google’s local search feature, is the inclusion of your address on your web site pages. The address plays a very important role in this equation. Let’s assume you have your address on your ‘contact us’ page. Fine, but can you prove that Google’s (or any other) indexing spider or bot, is reaching that particular page?

Your best bet is to incorporate your address on every single page of your site to ensure it has been absorbed. As aforementioned, a good SEO firm can point out these types of discrepancies and eliminate many more obstacles which may be hindering your web site from gaining maximum online marketing effectiveness.

The address component has now become critical, because Google is cross referencing this information with the Keywords you have selected for your web site’s main focus. Combine this fact with other key factors, namely, Meta Tags, your linking structures, and relevant textual content, and a large part of the visibility puzzle comes into view. All factors need to be considered for good SEO, but for the new ‘Local’ feature, the physical address and zip code have moved to a very prominent position.

I wonder how online malls, portals and other virtual businesses will cope with this situation? Lack of a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ presence may indeed become a deterrent to being found. Logically, how could a virtual site with no fixed address, show up on a map within local search results?

Google has teamed up with MapQuest in order to provide scalable maps and directions to each location. Mapquest, a wholly owned subsidiary of America OnLine, is a tried and true company that has provided geographic mapping information via the Internet for years. Several global positioning systems also use the Mapquest interface to provide visual maps to the end user. “More than 1400 business customers rely on MapQuest to location-enable their web, wireless and speech applications making MapQuest the undisputed leader in online mapping and a primary driver of the broader Location Based Services industry”. 2

The company is quickly moving into the realm of wireless data, streaming maps and directional results out to cell phones around the world. This is truly the next generation of search coming to fruition, i.e. Personalized Global Searching. 3

Combine the search reach of Google with the mapping and Data streaming power of Mapquest and two heavy weights within the Search Industry have suddenly morphed into Sumo wrestler status. A good business move for both parties. Good for the consumer/searcher too. Local search is getting bigger and more prevalent every day. Google’s new local feature proves that it is here to stay.

Do a favor for your web site (or for your customer’s web sites) and get the physical addresses onto those web pages (in plain text format) and for goodness sake have your web sites optimized. SEO has become an absolutely critical component in the visibility process. The new ‘Local Search’ features within the world’s top search engine should be proof enough of the changing face of the Internet.

Technology continually changes and evolves. Tweaking your web site to stay abreast of these changes is crucial to maintaining its visibility. Yes, it’s a constant battle to keep up, but these new local search guidelines must be followed to ensure continued success for your web site. Look at it this way: How will people reach your web site if you don’t make the effort to tell them where to find you?

Google’s local search feature is the newest tool in your online marketing toolbox. It’s sitting there waiting to be activated. Go ahead, plug it in and turn it on.