Local Small Businesses and the Search Engines – Geo-Targeting

“If you, as a local business person, choose to ignore the trend, you’ll miss a window of opportunity which will remain open only until all your competitors have jumped on the band-wagon, and the playing field is level again. Until that happens — as it will — you have the chance to get ahead of the rest, and establish yourself at the top. It’ll be harder later!”

Geo-Targeting – What’s that?

Something every local business operator should know!

More and more people nowadays are using Web search engines to find and compare local shops and businesses for their goods and services, and those local small businesses which are unaware of or ignore this fact are suffering an ever-increasing disadvantage.

Many people see little or no use for a local or regional business to have a Web site to promote their goods or services. After all, the Internet is a global thing, right? Wrong! There are several ways to promote a Web site locally or regionally, so that it brings in a disproportionately large volume of local traffic. Any business owner not using a Web site to promote a local or regional business is making a huge mistake, and ultimately leaving money on the table.

The factors now encapsulated in the field of search engine optimisation (SEO) are varied yet simple. Time and time again, however, Web site owners fail to see some of the most recent naturally occurring ‘common-sense principles’ behind an effective and successful SEO strategy. This article brings to light the most recent important change in SEO: Geo-Targeting…

The trend…

The increase in on-line purchasing generally has led to more consumers using the Web to look for goods and services in their local area. For many obvious reasons they prefer to deal with a local business than one far away.

If customers are looking to buy jewellery, and they are located in Essex, England, it is very common for them nowadays to append “Essex” to their search, or even “Southend”, if that’s the town where they live. So, instead of looking simply for “jewellery” they will search for “jewellery Essex”, “jewellery Southend”, or a similar variation of this.

“Local Search — using Internet search engines and on-line business directories to find local traders — is growing at an extraordinary pace. Figures in the US, comparable to the UK, show that 63 percent of all on-line users performed a local search in July 2006. This is a 43 percent increase year on year. On-line local searches do lead to customer action. The same study showed that 50 percent of all local searchers visited a local merchant as a result of their search behaviour, while 41 percent made contact off-line.” (Source: comScore networksmarketwire.com)

When it comes to consumers making a purchase, local search has more of an impact than national search. At the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo, held in London in 2007, John Myers of Latitude said that users are 30 percent more likely to purchase a product or service when it is related to local search. Speaker Grant Muckle from Touch Local said that 40 percent of all on-line searches are local in the UK.

The cycle…

These statistics are nothing less than phenomenal. At LocalShoppers.co.uk we think that the “art of shopping” is reaching a full cycle, but on another level. Before the Web, consumers bought locally, unless there was a good reason not to. The reasons are obvious: the travel time and expense saved by buying locally at, perhaps, even a higher price than in the next town compensated for the lower price there; likewise if the goods had to be returned for any reason, or the merchant had to supply spare parts, etc., etc.

With the advent of Web sites, consumers slowly but surely came to trust the technology, and now order goods from all over the world. Astute merchants, however, are beginning to realise that traditional shopping principles still apply. After all, they’ve hardly changed for millennia, and are entrenched in our psyche. It is these astute merchants, often small businesses and even ‘one-man bands’, who are jumping on the Internet band-wagon, and, knowingly or unwittingly, are driving the trend full circle towards shopping locally, merely by having a presence on the Web.

The future…

This is not to say that global shopping has had its day. On the contrary, it will continue to grow, but, now that the initial euphoria of being able to buy anything from anywhere is subsiding with blasé acceptance, people are coming back down to earth, and the in-bred habits of shopping locally are resurfacing. The big difference is that consumers will continue to use the Web as a tool, simply because it is there, just as they did after the advent of the telephone.

Indeed, the telephone can be seen easily as a direct precedent. It appeared first in only a few homes, and was a luxury. Then, as it became cheaper, it became more popular. Nowadays the telephone is an integral part of almost everyone’s life, and people use it to order goods and services quite naturally. Even schoolkids regard a telephone as a necessity! Now think about the on-line computer: Sound familiar? History is repeating itself.

An on-line computer has, of course, several advantages over the telephone: You can see what you’re buying; You can look for what you want at any time of the day or night; You can get far more information about the product or service, and about the merchant; You don’t need actually to talk to anyone; There’s a visible record of the offers being made, thus avoiding misunderstandings; etc. An important benefit of the on-line computer over the telephone is that comparison shopping is now so much easier and quicker. It’s human nature to want the best deal, and people are finding it on the Web. What better opportunity, then, is there for local businesses to display their wares than the one now presenting itself?

The local merchants and tradespeople who grasp the significance of the Web quickly, and take action to be a part of it, will be the ones who will be ahead of the game, and will already have an established presence by the time their slower competitors realise that they must follow them.

The opportunity…

Customers looking for goods or services are becoming more savvy. They now know that, if they search for “magnotherapy”, for example, they’ll get almost 100,000 results to choose from. If they type “magnotherapy essex”, however, they’ll get fewer than 1,000. That’s still a lot. If they enter their town in the search, like “magnotherapy canvey”, only about 100 results are returned. The more local the search phrase is, the fewer are the results.

Because consumers naturally feel more comfortable dealing with a local supplier, and they now understand how search engines work, it explains why more and more of them are performing such local searches.

If you, as a local business person, choose to ignore the trend, you’ll miss a window of opportunity which will remain open only until all your competitors have jumped on the band-wagon, and the playing field is level again.

Until that happens — as it will — you have the chance to get ahead of the rest, and establish yourself at the top. It’ll be harder later!