The new recycling's here! The new recycling’s here!
The Real Yellow Pages® was delivered to my house this week, placed on the ground next to our mailbox and considerately tied up in a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get wet from rain or condensation. The bag provided a convenient handle for me to carry it from the mailbox to the house, where I immediately placed it in our recycling bin. It was a poignant reminder for me of how the world changes — my reaction was a far cry from the excitement Navin R. Johnson felt when he looked up his name and declared "I'm somebody now!"
What’s even more saddening to me is how many companies limit their marketing budget to purchasing display ads only in this space. I suppose they’re worried about how to be found by the customers every business needs to be successful, but the tagline under the book’s logo — The Original Search Engine® — should provide ample clues about a better, more efficient way to accomplish that goal. (Nothing like providing free advertising for your competition!)
The benefit the Yellow Pages previously provided was that it was an easily accessible directory of businesses for people who needed to determine what local service provider or retail outlet they might want to call or visit. But consumers no longer thumb through a printed book for that information. While smaller, local companies may consider the idea of showing up in a search engine’s top results for a competitive product or service category an impossible task, the reality is Google and other popular search tools are specifically designed to help searchers find local options. It’s all a reflection of the prevalent consumer behavior: 46% of ALL searches on Google (3.5 billion/day) are local.
In fact, 97% of consumers look online for local business solutions. According to a study by Forbes, 61% of the people performing a local search called the business they found, and 59% visited the brick-and-mortar location. As we (I’m a consumer too!) learn the tricks to find what we’re looking for, our searches start to reflect that: there has been a 900% growth in the last two years of searches that include the phrases “near me” or “close by.” In fact, 82% of smartphone shoppers conduct these searches now.
Local search engine optimization provides a method to optimize your digital presence for the increasing number of searches occurring with local intent. It optimizes your content and improves many offsite factors that will improve your business’ visibility on review sites, search engines, map results and local listings.
Optimizing your business listing online isn’t rocket science and doesn’t require any “special sauce,” but it does require an ongoing investment of time and effort. Creating a Google My Business (GMB) page for your business is a great start, and gives you the tools to manage your online presence across Google’s various properties, including both search and maps. Even more importantly, ensuring the consistency of your business’ information throughout the entire digital landscape will help you capture the attention of the “zero click” searcher, someone who finds the information he or she is looking for — such as your address, phone number or operating hours — and acts upon it without ever clicking through to your website. (A recent study confirmed that 50% of consumers use the information on search engine results pages in this way.)
Combining a local SEO effort with traditional organic SEO (configuring the backend of your website and your content to focus on specific keywords and topics your target audience is most likely to be searching) will maximize the impact you can make toward achieving your business goals. Local SEO increases your chance of appearing in results for searches with local intent, while organic SEO increases your chance of appearing in results for searches specific to your services and/or products. By employing both strategies, you cover a wider variety of searches and increase the possibility of appearing in the results for the audience you want to reach. Without a solid organic SEO foundation, it’s also extremely difficult for any local SEO efforts to be successful, as most search engine algorithms factor both in their results.
Ultimately, a combination of organic and local search engine optimization provides a great way to capture an audience that consistently heads online for inspiration (not to the Yellow Pages). Shoppers want their buying experience to be fast and easy, and your digital presence is the best way to provide that to them. Whether you invest the time to do it yourself or find a partner you trust to do it for you, make sure you prioritize making your online properties easy to find for your customers. Otherwise you just end up feeling like The Jerk.