Local Search - Searching by Geography
by WebAdvantage.net

As more and more brick and mortar businesses market themselves 
online, search engines ("gateways to the Internet") have reacted 
by becoming more like an advertising platform and less like a 
simple directory. In fact, a few (Yahoo, MSN) have morphed into 
whole "portals" providing online users with options galore. 
Still, no one can deny the power of search which remains the #2 
reason people go online behind checking email. 

What hasn't necessarily worked well to-date, however, is the 
online marketing of local-only businesses. The 'Net is not 
necessarily conducive to finding a painter in Stony Point, 
New York. 

Now, with the advent of new developments, some of the largest 
purveyors of search, namely Google and Overture, are out to 
change all that...and likely to take a financial bite out of 
their off-line informational counterparts along the way. 

Will phone book yellow pages, direct mail, local radio and 
newspapers take a hit if search goes local? We've compiled the 
information surrounding this subject from Google and Overture 
localized testing to breakthroughs in geo-targeted search 
advertising to changes that can be made to your web site to 
optimize for localized search. 

* Google and Overture Lead Localized Search * 

Last month both Google and Overture released beta test versions 
of their geographic search solutions. Overture is currently 
testing localized search on its newly acquired property, 
AltaVista. It's also testing a handful of geographically-specific 
advertisers. Overture's local search demo allows users to enter 
a keyword and then the state, city, or zip code of the location 
they're looking to pinpoint. 

While Google's local search (called "Search by Location") is set 
up similarly, they have also partnered with MapQuest in order to 
be able to show local matches on a map. If you're looking to get 
in a golf game around the Queenstown, MD area, a Google location 
search for "golf" and "Queenstown, MD" yields 326 results and 
maps 10 of them. Here are the Google Local Search results. 

Google's Search by Location reveals tidbits of how it generates 
its results, which include site content with zip codes, town 
names, and addresses. Notice the second listing on the above 
search result page is for a bed & breakfast. It "made the cut" 
because its site content aligned with the parameters of the 
search. If you are a local business that would benefit from 
these kinds of related searches, it seems it would behoove you 
to include keyword content not just related to your specific 

* Localized Search and Advertising Potential *

While ads are currently missing from the current Google Search 
by location, don't expect that to last forever. The ad dollar 
potential in mapping plus localized advertising is enormous. 
Google could get ad revenues from "mapped advertisers" in 
addition to pay-per-click Local AdWords, much as it does right 
now. Overture already estimates that local-search web advertising 
will be a $1 billion market by 2008. Not a bad chunk o' change 
is it? 

Clicking on either ad brings the user in seconds so much more 
information than a yellow pages or AAA travel book ad does. 
Plus, the advertiser could enhance the user experience by 
offering special coupons to be redeemed on location or any 
number of other promotions they couldn't do otherwise because 
of limited space or time in other forms of localized advertising. 
Giving the searcher the ability to click directly to a web site 
is like giving them a yellow pages dedicated entirely to their 
own business 

* Optimizing Your Site For Local Search *

Along with basic search engine optimization (SEO), if you have 
a geographically-specific business you should be looking at 
localized SEO as well. Things may change in how the search 
engines eventually refine their local search technology, but 
it can't hurt to do a few simple things...and get a jump on 
your local competition. 

1) Add your address in a prominent place on your web pages. 
Many sites use the very bottom of their pages for their address 
listings. Address location didn't use to matter. Localized 
search may change all that, so consider including all or part 
of your address nearer to the top of your page. 

2) Add city and state information to your meta and title tags. 

3) Add local information to your site's content. As demonstrated 
in our local golf search example, links to, and information on, 
other businesses and attractions in your town may end up helping 
to promote your own site. 

* Obstacles in the Way of Local Search Success *

Of course there are obstacles to successfully pulling off local 
search. In a study released by The Kelsey Group which surveyed 
search and directory executives, the top four perceived obstacles 
cited were: 

1) Most small businesses lack a web site so won't show up in 
   local search results 

2) Small businesses won't be able to bid for keywords against 
   national chains 

3) Pricing models for localized search may be too complex for 
   small businesses to grasp (versus Yellow Pages) 

4) Local search may be too labor intensive, like today's normal 
   search results. Do small business owners have the time to 
   keep up with localized SEO? 

It may take a while for Google, Overture and the others to get 
their localized search solutions polished and refined, but you 
can bet that it's going to happen, and probably sooner than 
you're ready for. If you're not thinking about it now, get 

Read Part Two of this Article, Local Search - The Future of 
Internet Yellow Pages at: 


AOL has also beefed up their local search functionality, 


LookSmart is also making waves in Local Search 


WebAdvantage.net is a full service Web Marketing, Search Engine 
Optimization, and eBusiness Consulting Firm. A review of our 
marketing services can be found at:

Subscribe to our WebAdvantage.net Internet Marketing Tips at: