The Rise And Rise Of Local Search
In the past two months we've noticed that businesses that rank well in local search results are gaining an unusually high volume of enquiries from customers on mobile devices. It’s not just a percentage or two higher – it’s huge.
So is it good fortune? No. It’s all to do with the recent move by search engines to interpret your intention when you search.
What’s your intention?
These days, search engines understand that there are three types of searches:
- Navigational queries
- Informational queries
- Transactional queries
Navigational queries are searches carried out to find a particular website or webpage. For example, you might search “Kochie’s Business Builders” to find this website.
Informational queries are searches carried out to find particular information. For example, you might search “when was the Sydney Harbour bridge opened” to find your answer (the answer is 1932 by the way).
Transaction queries are searches that indicate intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase. Transactional search queries may include brand or product names, may be generic (like “24 hour plumber Geelong”) or may actually include terms like “buy” and “order”.
Mobile signals a different intention
So, how does a search engine determine the intention of your search? Simply put, it uses all of the information at its disposal to take a best guess.
In the early days, it was all about semantics – looking at the words you typed in to your query. But more recently, search engines have been able to draw on a host of other data, and have been able to customise results based on your assumed intention.
As an example of how this works, let’s consider a person who searches “pizza”.
Searching from a desktop, algorithms interpret this as an informational search – that is, a person who types ‘pizza’ is likely to be looking for information about pizzas – how they’re made, their common ingredients, how many calories, etc.
Consequently, the results returned are generic and informational, including results such as Wikipedia.
Searching from a mobile device, Google has started making the assumption that this is likely to be a transactional search – that is, that the person is likely to be looking for a nearby pizza restaurant.
And so, using the GPS location information from the mobile phone to pinpoint the location, they’re showing local business listings of nearby businesses. If you’re a business with a local listing, this is gold dust!
Taking advantage of the situation
So how can your business take advantage?
Aside from investing in professional search engine optimisation, there are three main areas you can work on to gain visibility in this space.
LIST ON GOOGLE PLACES
If you've never heard if Google Places (AKA Google Plus), you absolutely need to get on it now. It’s a free service that acts as an online directory, giving customers simple, valuable information about your business.
It’s also the basis of Google’s local business listings, and the key to taking advantage of the current situation.
EMPHASISE YOUR LOCATION ON YOUR WEBSITE
In the past, your products and services were the critical factors to highlight on your website; well, certainly from search engine optimisation point of view. Whilst they’re still the biggest factors, we’re now seeing value in increasing the prominence of location information on your website.
By including and optimising your location information on your website (preferably on more than one page) you give yourself a head start on local search listings.
ENSURE CONSISTENT INFORMATION ACROSS THE WEB
If you're building your online presence, there is one major factor to get correct right at the start: ensure that all business details you plan to use are clear, correct, and consistent.
To determine whether yours is a trusted local business, search engines are cross-referencing information from many sources (including your own website, local directories, yellow pages, and many more).
Ensuring that the information is consistent is a strong signal to the search engines that your business is established, and trusted, and worthy of displaying in the search engine results.
With a prominent local search listing, you could be one of those ‘lucky’ businesses gaining a high volume of enquiries from customers on mobile devices.