Posted on December 29, 2011

Local Search 2012: Get with the Program


Local Search is a specialization of search engine optimization that has exploded in 2011. Now more than ever, consumers and businesses alike are paying attention to the local factor of the world around them. This past year, approximately three billion online searches each month included local terms. With that volume of interested leads, it is impossible to ignore the opportunity to gain revenue and awareness in your local community in 2012. Local Search has evolved and progressed from it’s initial rocky launch in 2009 to becoming one of the most important strategies in today’s marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at the biggest advances in Local Search in 2011, and what it will mean for the coming year.

1. Local Search and Mobile Marketing Team Up

It is an undeniable fact; people are using their smart phones for just about everything these days. And one major thing they are doing with their phones is searching for businesses locally. A whopping 53% of mobile searches have local intent. With a climbing number of 28% of mobile users now owning smart phones, this number will only get higher in 2012. What this means in Local Search for your business: people are searching more often, and in more places than they ever have before. In today’s world, your next potential customer could be looking for “Glasses in St. Louis” and walking right past your door as they do so. Make sure your Local Search presence is robust, and mobile users will reward you with their wallets.

2. Apple’s Siri Makes a Grand Entrance

In the first weekend on the market, Apple sold four million iPhone 4S devices. What made it one of the best-selling phones of all time? Its ability for voice recognition features. Now, consumers with the iPhone 4S do not even need to search Google by typing in their requests, they just speak to their phones and Apple’s servers give them exactly what they want. The first thing to realize here is that if you are already nurturing your local search strategy, you should be all set for Siri. If not, what are you waiting for? What will be interesting to see in the months to come will be the impact that voice recognition software has on search terms. For instance, would you type the same exact phrase into Google that you would speak out loud? Probably not. “Find me a burger joint near me” is a much different search request than “Burgers near Miami, FL.” 2012 will certainly be an interesting year for keywords if people use Siri as much as they report that they do in recent surveys.

3. Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Non-Existent

One of the biggest changes for Local Search this year was the facelift given to Google Places. Google preformed a major overhaul of their algorithm this summer which directly affected ranking results. Along with this overhaul, Google changed their structure for reviews to keep in line with anti-trust laws. This means that Google reviews outweigh other review listings four to one. With such a severe emphasis on reviews it is crucial for local businesses to take their online reputation into serious consideration. This means knowing exactly what people are saying about you, on the streets and online. Make sure you are asking people to review you online, send out postcards, and make it easy for them with links on your website. If you have bad reviews, find out why, address concerns, mend relationships, and respond to negativity with logic and rationality.

The worst case scenario for a business in 2012 is to have no reviews at all. Remember that old saying, “Any news is good news”? Well Google took that to heart this year. What counts is the number of reviews you have, not how you are rated. So get aggressive about reviews, and you will see the impact in 2012. That is a promise.

In conclusion, it has certainly been a fascinating year of curve balls and ingenuity in the world of online marketing. With a roadmap for 2012 before us, and Local Search on the horizon, local businesses will have more tools for success than they ever have. The key is to be smart enough to use them. Local Search effects so many different areas of internet marketing, it’s time to give it the attention it deserves and get a start on another fiscally exciting year.