The major web platforms are looking at targeting users with local functionality. Many see this as a major growth opportunity in 2011 due to the higher use of smart phones. Google is especially focused in this area as of late, arguably more than ever before. As online retailers, who may not have heavy connectivity with their brick and mortar counterparts, local SEO may not seem like something that provides much – if any – online traffic. But it does. Especially with recent Google changes.
If you haven’t noticed, Google changed the way they display their local searches. They appear to show up more often, and resemble traditional natural search listings. The result is that other non-local listings are getting pushed down under the fold, and more local listings are being clicked.
Each listing provides 2 destination links: the main link (which leads to your main site), and a places page.
When you show up in the local searches, the main link provides pretty good traffic. In most cases, the searchers that click a local link were looking for local information. The destination of this link doesn’t satisfy, but it’s a chance for your homepage to capture the users interest and maybe persuade them from getting off their couch and driving to the store to buying online.
The other link, Places (formerly called Local Business Center), is a nice thing to have because it provides opportunity to really sell your local store. You can provide an exclusive coupon, or promotion. Within the Places page, there’s yet another link that you can control.
There’s opportunity with this link since you control it. Maybe design a landing page displaying synergies between your web and brick and mortar stores. Can you buy online and return the product in the store if you’re not satisfied? Promote that here. Do you have exclusive in-store printable coupons? Display that here. Experiment with this traffic, and develop something special knowing that these are local-minded shoppers (at least they were at the time of entering their first query into Google.
I was recently asked in an email why I consider SEO a marketing channel. Among several things, good marketing and advertising work to get messages out about the value of an item, and provide you with information. Most subscribe to this definition. Marketing helps those who are interested see if they really want and need it, and helps inform producers.
So does Google.
SEO helps those people who have interest, and are qualified enough to make a digital inquirey, find this information. SEO also helps create that two way, open engagement that more people are expecting of the maturing internet.
I work with a lot of huge brands, typically in the ecommerce space. It all holds very true for them. Doing SEO work is about caring for the customer more than the product. Hopefully the product was made with an audience segment in mind; SEO is bridging the gap using the internet’s elected hub – Google.
Yes. It’s textbook marketing taking you back to college. But it’s breathing on land now, and doesn’t require gills. The nervous system hasn’t changed. The song remains the same.
Once you make the site technically crawlable and findable, you need to make it work. Sure, you can pass it off to merchandisers or usability or any other group that should have an interest in what to do with the search traffic you deliver, but they won’t know what brought them there like an SEO will.
As far as I’m concerned, marketing is part of the broader definition of SEO in the modern age, still keeping it your most powerful acquisition channel by far… If done right.
According to Hitwise, 81% of the searches done on Bing and Yahoo resulted in an actual visit to a website. Google only showed a 65% rate. This suggests that either Bing/Yahoo is more relevant and providing the best results more often for the bulk of users, or that people search differently with Google. I’m assuming the latter.
I think most people who use Google expect to do a little digging. I think the results you’re given require you to refine your search, and as a Google user, you’re used to that. You’ve come to expect that.
Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim says, “Google offers more opportunities right upfront to refine the search by time, type of result, even result loca tions. Because of this, I’d bet many people take a second or third try at finding exactly what they want before they start clicking through.” That makes sense. I also think without the options, google users would be more apt to refining their search anyway.
I believe Google’s results are more detailed in nature and require your queries to be more specific as well. I feel like I get broader, safer results out of Bing. Thats what theyre going for per their marketing, but it feels a little “Fisher Price” to me. Not my style. Maybe Bing users are more casual.
Google and Bing have segregated the search audience. Like democrat and republican, NFL and MLB, or beer and wine, the two parties are different, and will continue to be shaped by the structure of the engine to some degree. It’s interesting, really, just how big a role search engines play, and what we can tell about people who use them. It’s not just an information retrieval system, but an extension of your brain. Much like a car.
Usually when we learn from examples, we learn from someone’s success. Sometimes it’s good to look at someone who did it wrong. The shortest job stint in my life was for one year, but despite my unhappiness, I did learn some good primary lessons that are still effective today.
Let me introduce you to Slim (name changed to protect the careless).
Slim wasn’t much of a businessman. He started out as a blue collar type with a hobby collecting a certain kind of collectible. As the market swung, Slim’s hobby started turning into a passion for a lot of other people in the area. Slim began supplying merchandise related to this hobby at local shops. He was soon able to open his own store.
As the internet and ecommerce grew, interested searchers started using Google to find retailers who were selling these collectibles online. The small town shoppers who loved the brick and mortar store weren’t the only audience Slim could reach. To his credit, he partnered his physical store with an ecommerce store. Opportunity abound!
I worked for Slim doing SEO. His pay rate was insulting, but because he was becoming semi-popular in his genre, and I was able to negotiate a small commission on sales, I thought it was worth a shot. I should have recognized the cheapness as a sign of things to come.
I found a new feature on Google. If you click advanced search on the search page, you have a ‘reading level’ option. In the drop down, you can choose to annotate your search results. When you search, you can now see the reading level Google thinks these (and your) pages are at.
As a father of a six year old, this seems interesting. It could potentially help me find pages that he would understand and enjoy. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work as I had hoped. Apparently my about me page is at an intermediate reading level. Hardly. So is sesamestreet.com. Wow.
Maybe this is just more Google fluff, and maybe it will improve. But it has me wondering about the signals and algorithm that determines this labeling. Are there any clues here for the reverse engineers to understand more how Google thinks? Likely, Google would be very careful putting this out… but still.
Update: Looks like Google gave us a little insight. Looks like a model was built off decisions made by teachers. I’m now thinking this is simply another algorithm strand layered into the Google rope.