"You should be available in mobile, local, and now more than ever in social. Today's search engines are matching intent with interests. You must be found at the point of adding context to content." - Josh McCoy
The New Art & Science of LSO
(L)ocal (S)earch Engine (O)ptimization is morphing into Local Search Optimization or simply LSO, not just an easier to say acronym, but an entirely new art and science that mixes traditional local map optimization, SEO and citation building with the new best practices for getting your business listed, and found in the eyes of Google, Yahoo and Bing. This also requires an understanding of the emerging influence of Social Media, Mobile and Local Ranking factors, and making them work in your favor with white hat techniques. Earned media, the E in POEM (Paid, Earned and Owned), is the crux of the equation for a local business. Rather than obsessing over the perfect SEO on site factors and keywords like in the old days, it's more effective to focus on engagement. When key customer influencers in your community are talking about your business by reviewing it, liking/sharing your updates, retweeting, mentioning you in forums or checking into your venue, a real local ROI equation is playing out behind the scenes. Measuring this and implementing a strategy that speaks squarely to LSO across every facet of your company, is critical to driving clicks, calls, conversions and foot traffic.
Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto
LSO requires universal Accuracy of the NAP (Name, Address, Phone#), Completeness and Prominence. It requires bizarre things like literally receiving an old fashioned postcard in the mail to verify your business or getting called by a robot, both to facilitate punching in a PIN number! Can you believe that placejacking exists, where rival businesses claim each other's Google Places page in attempts to game LSO? Such is the Wild West of the local internet. Remember only 15% of local businesses are even in the game with a verified listing on the major portals. Google, Yahoo and Bing want to make sure you are really you and your listing is up to date and accurate. The more people that talk about you (prominence), the higher up you will appear in those coveted local balloons, as you're often competing for precious real estate on a 3 inch smartphone screen. According to Google, 92 percent of smartphone owners in the US seek (local) offline business info from their mobile devices, and 89 percent of them act on the results after initial lookup.
In SEO you have the big three KCL = Keywords, Content and Links. These ranking factors are still extremely important in Local Search Optimization (LSO). What is more important, is that you are well known throughout cyberspace at the listing sites dujour at a natural velocity that shows a population is authentically talking about you, building steam month over month. The conversations point back. Reviews are real and establish trust. This is why Yelp has played such a big part in Siri and it is posited that FourSquare check-ins play a role in local ranking factors. We call the aggregators, free and paid inclusion directories, listing sites, Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) and search engines...drum roll please — Local Search Portals (LSPs) to simplify the ecosystem, because in 2012, it feels like every day of the week there is a new site springing up with referral traffic like Pinterest, or turning into a local search engine like Foursquare. In an online world where PageRank is now just one factor of hundreds, one has to stay nimble to stay relevant, so there is power in keeping up to date on what the next hottest portals are, year round. On this blog, we will cover various real world examples of how proactively managing one's own local search presence can multiply revenue and serve as a cutting edge customer acquisition strategy, in and of itself. There is power in simplicity, and as you can surmise from the infographic above, simplifying this chaos is easier said then done. We believe the Local Search Ecosystem will become even more fragmented as we move toward 2015, so we are here to help demystify the space and be your trusty guide with simple strategies that work, so you too can cash in on getting results before your competitors!
Google as the Grandaddy
When I took a deeper dive into Local SEO to hone the focus of emerging LSO strategies for small business, the first blog I followed was David Mihm's. I was excited to see him update his famous Local Search Ecosystem Infographic (as presented above in this blog post) right before SMX West. As you can see, Google is the grandaddy portal in the middle, but mastering this map is counterintuitive. It is really best done by providing sensational service and allowing your customers to have a trackable, online outlet to rave about what you do. This is why a corner Italian bistro can wildly outrank an established chain in LSO. As a small business, to really GET inbound marketing, is not enough. Even if you establish a presence everywhere, you won't necessarily win on the LSO front, unless you shift your focus to empowering and engaging customer advocates who will promote like crazy on your behalf, making you rise to prominence. In essence, if you don't use it, you lose it. A temporary bump in the rankings from a weekend spent commenting all over the blogosphere, for example, is just a flash in the pan. Great LSO is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady, wins the LSO race. If you are a business that provides a great product or service and you would like to amplify your results on the web past some nice Places or Yelp reviews, you can by using LSO. The new focus in 2012 is to gain the first page for Local from any screen on tons of keywords year round so it is mission critical that you cast a very wide net to where your customers may be searching for you by establishing an active LSO listening presence and strategy. Citation monitoring tools like BrightLocal and Whitespark are fantastic for this too. Cover all your bases and stay tuned as the adventure unfolds on this blog!