Local Search and Mobile Optimization

November 11, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences


It’s sad that I’m left totally out of breath just from walking up the stairs to this session, right? I know. I’m embarrassed for myself, too.  Sad times. But, it’s time to talk about one of my most favorite things in the world – local search.  With a bit of mobile added in for flavor. Huzzah!

Up on stage we have the awesome Michael Dorausch (who stocked me with Vitamin C yesterday!), Darrin Clement, David Klein, and William Leake.

Up first is Michael Dorausch, whose name I still can’t spell even though I’ve known him for years.  Maybe one day.

Michael says that local search is the redheaded step child of local search. Rhea is the redheaded step child of Outspoken Media.  Cause of the ginger. Get it?  Don’t worry, the jokes get better later in the day.

Desktop Shopper: These are the people we’re most familiar with. They do research online. They may have come to five different Web sites before they came to your office.  That’s the bulk of who SEOs and SEMs go after.  We’re used to them.

Cell Phone User: Totally new animal. There’s nothing casual about this. They have a “get it now” attitude. People are looking for quality vs location. If you’re looking for pizza on your phone, are you looking for the best pizza or the closest pizza?  People are looking for the closet pizza with a name they recognize.   Location + Brand = FTW!  Can you build your local brand so that people are going to recognize it?

Have you used your mobile phone to find a place to eat in the past 30 days?   Twitter says yes. Yelp is their friend.  They’re also using their phones to write reviews.  Michael used to have a no cell phone policy. They’ve since gone 180 degrees. They’ve turned on their WiFi and encouraged people to get online and use services like FourSquare and Yelp.

Wireless Audiences: This includes cell phone users.   Do a search for your keywords on your phone and see who shows up.  Do a search on your GPS and see if you come up there.

Apps: If your target market is using mobile Yelp app you better be listed and hopefully well reviewed on Yelp.  The same goes for those using Google Maps.

Search Engines: It’s SEO like its 1999. It’s the basics.  Well though out “old school” SEO still produces results for local.

Data Gathering: Track your phone calls and where your walk ins are coming from.  They do call tracking. With 6,000 phone calls, three questions were asked — your name, phone number, who referred you? Everyone say their ‘friend’ even though they were finding Michael through local search or Google maps.   They’ve seen many cases where girlfriends are doing searches for boyfriends.   They ask, who’s your gf? Is she a client? The guy says no and they have to figure out where she came from.

Twitter was the fourth most mentioned referral source in the category of local search. If you’re NOT on Twitter, he suggests you start engaging there.


  • Don’t forget traditional SEO for Desktop Users
  • Do Page Profiles for Desktop and Mobile
  • Use call tracking and training
  • Ask walk ins questions
  • Rinse, repeat, profit

It sounds like basic stuff, but sometimes you need to be reminded of it.  This is the stuff that works.

Next up is Darrin Clement. He’s going to talk about data.  My brain just whimpered. I heard it.

The Internet changed the game of local targeting. Mobile is changing it further.  You must be relevant to your users. Distance is subjective. It’s being redefined by the user.  Context matters, not just geography.   Best may lose to closest or closest may lose to best.  You’ll travel to a better neighborhood for pizza.

Types of Local Geography

  • Radius-based
  • Census-based: geographic units defined by censor bureau.
  • postal-based: zip codes, postal routes, etc.
  • Point-of-interest proximity: how far are you from the Empire State Building?
  • Social-based: Neighborhoods, city blocks, time-sensitive coagulation.

Challenge: Applications need defined areas but users don’t see borders. Neighborhood level is ideal for urban and suburban local search.

For search marketing, you want to appear for searches that are intuitive to your target market. People naturally think in terms of neighborhoods and named communities (informal or formal).  Sometimes gated communities, residential developments, etc, are considered neighborhoods.  Some are geographically large, others small.

Example: Real Estate Search

  • Loopt uses neighborhoods to help people socialize by neighborhood.
  • Dex lists results by neighborhood.

You need to focus on neighborhoods. Social media inherently contains local context for connections. Distance isn’t the relevant factor. It’s corners or points of interest.

How are Neighborhoods Defined?

  • No universal definition
  • usually not regulated
  • most neighborhoods are abstractions
  • consensus of perception

What does that mean for businesses? You have to think like a consumer.  Use ad platforms that offer various layers for local search, combining names, attributes and geography. Build keywords off neighborhoods.  Choose platforms that enhance distance-based algos with neighborhood boundary intersect and real-time point in poly for mobile apps to balance distance with neighborhood quality.

William is up next.

Most searches ultimately have local intent. Most things people do on the Internet eventually result in a face to face transaction (you can insert your own joke. I did in my head.)  90 percent of purchases are made within 50 miles of a person’s home (Kelsey).  The home is a local purchase.

Google 10 Pack (now seven in most cases)

Integrated Map: Shows as a blended result. Can expand your search results to get more info without leaving the page. If you’ve optimized for local, it doesn’t matter how ugly or bad your Web site is.  You’ll still show up in the 7 Pack.

Google now searches locally based on IP address if the keyword is a service.   Users don’t have to put in a geographic location anymore. Google puts it in all by themselves.  This may not be so good for you if you’ve done well with traditional SEO.

How to Submit Your Company

  • Register individually with Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Register ALL your addresses – if you have multiple locations, you can optimize for multiple keywords.
  • Be as robust as possible when registering

[If you need help, our Small business SEO post may useful. It breaks down all the different sites you should be creating profiles on and how. Darrin also mentions using GetListed.org which ROCKS and can help show you where you’re listed, where you’re not, and which profiles could be better completed.]

When you’re filling out your Google Business listing, don’t just put in the basics. Also add information about payment options, photos of your product, videos, additional details, etc.

Local/Map SEO is a four step process

  1. On Page Optimization: include “City, State” in Title tag. Use your physical address on the page. Customize by page for multiple locations. Don’t overdue inclusion of keywords. Your content should be interesting enough to entice a user to link back.
  2. Citations: a mention of your business name and address on a Web site even if it’s not a link. Search engines do not only look at incoming links to help determine local search rankings, but also citations.  Citations help search engines validate information they have about a business. The more people talking about that company on the Web, the more authoritative it may be. You can get citations from local search directories, places like Yelp, etc.  Find more by search for [your city + directory].  The BBB is a good place to also go for citations.
  3. Link Building
  4. Reviews: The importance of reviews is growing. Not just for SEO, but for every local business. Google’s not looking to see if the review is good or bad, they just want to see that you have lots of reviews. You want reviews. You want to solicit them.  Talk to the people who are leaving happy and give them a push card asking them to review you on Yelp.  Cherry pick the customers and offer them something of value for their time. If someone is yelling at you and threatening to kill your unborn children, you probably don’t want to ask them to  leave a review.  #justsayin  You can also ask partners and vendors to leave reviews. They don’t have to be customers.

One of the best ways to spam Google with Local was brought to us by Google.  You just have to create cheap MFA sites with citations baked in. Nice.

Next up is DK. He’s going sans PowerPoint.

A few years ago he decided he wanted his site to do well for [san diego chiropractic].  He came to PubCon and met Matt Cutts. He learned he needed to get links in order to rank well in Google. The more links you have, the better you’ll do for your key terms.  You have to know HOW to get links.

The most valuable thing you can do is be good at getting links. He drew cartoons of people at wordcamp and that got him lots of links. He even got a link from Matt Cutts. Then he started a poker tournament associated with PubCon and that got him lots of links, too,  There’s a sequence of things you have to do.

How to get links:

  1. Communicate with the people who CAN link.
  2. People need to know your URL. Make it obvious.
  3. They have to know what the content of the site is.
  4. You have to do something that’s worth linking to.

We’re doing a live “how to come up with linkbait” session.  He talks about Robert Drysdale (no relation to our Drysdale). Robert then comes from behind and tackles DK and they mock fight for awhile.  No, seriously. They do.   Apparently, Robert tackling DK is supposed to be worth writing about and linking to him with some jiu-jitsu-related anchor text.  I’m not that impressed.

And just like most interactions at PubCon, we end a tad awkwardly and with two grown men fighting.

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