Google Local Search and the Impact on Natural Optimization
With the advent of Google Local, a service that helps Web users find local businesses by typing in a search term and a city name, many questions arise concerning its impact on Natural Optimization.
Google Local tracks down local stores and businesses by searching billions of pages across the Web, and then cross-checking these findings with Yellow Pages information to locate the local resources Web users wish to access. In addition to local business listings and related Web links, Google Local also provides maps of the desired region and directions made available by MapQuest. This makes Google Local convenient for Web searchers and extremely useful for local businesses, if their sites are optimized for local-searches. If not, some businesses could be missing out on a tremendous increase in local site visibility and traffic.
Case-in-point: The Home Depot, whose Web site features its own Store Finder with zip code-accessed location listings. Type “Home Depot” into Google Local and while a list of local stores appears, no related local landing pages come up. In fact, none of the related Web links even direct Web users to Home Depot’s home page. Most large sites that have retail stores have a search feature or “enter your zip” option. Google and other Search Engines will never be able to index this content. For retailers looking to increase sales and traffic from their Web sites, this could prove to be a big problem.
The Home Depot is not alone. Countless other large and small businesses alike do not have city-oriented pages accessible through local search sites. Many are not listed in the top 15 return results for related keywords for Google Local, despite their location in the immediate proximity to the search location. Google Local ranks listings based on their relevance to the search terms the user enters, not solely by geographic distance. This means that unless your site has a city and/or county-oriented landing page for each location, Google will not be able to access your contact page, no matter how relevant your site is to a search term, or how close you are in geographic distance.
Natural Optimization specialists never really focused on the optimization of contact and location pages on websites, but now it’s becoming a vital tool to drive more qualified traffic to the sites. In order to make sites local search-ready, they should start creating sitemaps that include every store location and then build individual landing pages for each specific location with a brief overview of the store along with a map and detailed directions. Without this, Google does not have a path to index the pages and information. Doing this small step will increase your qualified traffic as well as increase sales in your retail store or business.
By making your keywords city-specific and including more location-specific information on your site, Google Local can access your contact information and, as a result, drive more related traffic to your site.
Take Hard Rock Caf. Their Web site is an ideal example of a site that is perfectly optimized for local Search Engines like Google Local. When entered in as a search term, Hard Rock Caf’s number one listing links to their home page’s restaurant location page. Search users can instantly access information on Hard Rock Caf in general, as well as learn more about location and contacts.
Local search is one of the most hyped areas of development in the Search industry today. Other Search engines including Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, MSN and CitySearch are hot on Google’s tail to perfect their own versions of local Search Engines. Soon, not having your site optimized for local Search Engines will make your business’s site obsolete. The impact of local search is already apparent, and it is still only in its infancy.
Rob Young, Manager of Natural Optimization and Creative Director of full-service interactive marketing and advertising agency UnREAL Marketing Solutions, has been with the company since its inception in 1999. Young oversees the SEO and Creative departments.