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Stephen Logan

Is Local Search Optimisation Now Essential for Business Websites?

19th Nov 2009 SEO, Local Search 3 minutes to read

When it comes to the future of search engine optimisation, local search looks primed to become indispensable for any business website. Whilst SEO focuses on what it is that your business offers, local search roots that information to a geographic location [see: What is Local Search?].

With the mobilisation of Internet connectivity people aren’t just going online at home or in the office. As such, consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile phones and PDAs to search for businesses and products within their immediate vicinity. This means that wherever we are, whether we are familiar with the surroundings or not, near continuous access to the Internet ensures that we are only a search away from getting directions to the nearest store, bank or hotel.

This is backed up by recent research performed by TMP directional marketing, which measured the effectiveness of local search on consumer activity. In their findings it was revealed that 32% of consumers with Internet-enabled mobile phones would search for local business information. That’s just shy of a third of all current Internet-ready mobile phone users, a market that is growing and is likely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.

Ensuring Local Search Visibility

The local search market is undoubtedly vibrant, and not without good reason. Internet consumers aren’t always looking to shop online, they want to visit a store, talk to the business and actually get a sense of what it offers. In the most part a website is simply an online portal for a business, although ecommerce sites are an obvious exception to this. It is a way of providing the information that customers or clients may require with a view to finalising any business offline. Essentially it’s the Internet wing of your marketing department, which comes with a free map for visitors; so how you present this information, preferably through emotive, engaging content, can often make or break a deal.

With this in mind, where are you most likely to look for the services or products that you are looking for? Do you want to get search results that reflect the whole of the UK, or would you prefer the emphasis is put on more local matches? Well, in the most part, the answer is that we would all prefer to deal with businesses in our immediate surroundings.

The major search engines have acknowledged this, by introducing a local business search results alongside the aforementioned ‘free map’. This prominent placement within the SERPs is no accident. Google and their competitors listen to the needs of their users and have adjusted their results pages and algorithms accordingly. Online often works to compliment the offline world; in the case of local search, the more relevant the results and the higher the standard, the more likely it is to result in a conversion without users having to look elsewhere – the ultimate target of both the business and the search engine.

Portability, Speed, Convenience and Local Search

Now that local search results are firmly embedded within Google SERPs (as well as Bing and Yahoo it should be noted), the importance of optimising a website for its physical location is hard to ignore. Returning to my earlier point, the convergence of a desire for local convenience and the increase of Internet-capable portable devices, could significantly impact the amount of interest your website generates and customers you get as a result.

For further confirmation of how seriously Google treat the up and coming mobile search market you need look no further than their recent purchase of AdMob [see: Google Invest in Mobile Advertising with Purchase of AdMob] and the development of their own Google mobile phone [see: The Google Phone Is Very Real. And It’s Coming Soon – from TechCrunch].

Keywords and SEO won’t die off, far from it. However, local search isn’t something that people should be taking lightly. The way the world interacts with the Internet is changing, consumers are demanding instant results and search engines are working hard to provide them. Google are focusing a lot of their attention on the speed of websites [see: Could Page Load Time Become a Ranking Factor on Google?] as well as their own SERPs with the introduction of Caffeine; if you want potential customers in your vicinity to find you first, local search optimisation is a must.

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