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Navigating the million-dollar question: What is local search?

Local search seems like a simple enough term: it’s search, that’s localized. But what does that mean, exactly, for businesses that want to show up in front of nearby consumers? Well, let’s take a deeper dive into the question, “What is local search?” to uncover the facts and get a clear answer.

First, the definition.

What is Local Search, You Ask?

Local search includes any of the online activities a business engages with to encourage in-person, consumer interactions. In terms of marketing, local search helps create visibility for a business within a specific geographical area. For example, if your business is situated in a certain city (or several cities), then you want your business to be visible online to people who are in the vicinity.

Since I’m ready for lunch, I’m searching for “pizza” on my smartphone:

What is Local Search Result Page for Pizza

What is the local search result for “pizza?”

The very first information I see is a map showing pizza places, followed by three business listings of local pizza restaurants. Why is Google showing the map and business listings at the top? Because it’s delivering results based on what it thinks is the intent of my search (I want to go eat pizza).

But it isn’t guesswork. Google (and any search engine, for that matter) uses data to help it understand the types of results consumers want to see when doing a search locally. For example:

  • 82 percent of smartphone shoppers conduct “near me” searches
  • More than 90 percent are likely to click on the first set of results

So a) there are tons of local searches happening, and b) being at the top of those search results makes a HUGE difference. Just those numbers alone tell us that showing up in local search results can deliver an incredible value for businesses that depend on foot traffic.

It’s Not Just a Search (Engine) Thing

Of course, local search isn’t only about increasing a company’s presence in search engines; it also includes getting accurate and consistent business information in important directory listings (Google My Business, Yelp, Bing, Facebook, etc.), optimizing your website for SEO and performance, getting online reviews for your business, content marketing and more.

And not all local search happens when someone is near your location. Sometimes, consumers do not live near your coordinates, but plan to be close to them in the future – like if they want to rent a car on vacation or book a cruise to somewhere far, far away.

Depending on the nature of your business – single downtown storefront vs. network of stores across the country – the exact definition of what is local search may be different, too. For the downtown storefront, all search may be local search. But for a large network of retail stores with hundreds of locations, local search is just a part of the search marketing strategy.

What is the same for all businesses using local search is the need for a solid foundation. Make sure your business information is accurate and consistent on every directly listing where you show up. Put more focus on customer service, which will naturally get you more positive reviews online. Be mindful about the content you publish; that it’s in line with brand voice and values. Make sure the user experience on your website is smooth and effortless. Lastly, make a conscious effort to maintain your local search efforts, so you not only become more visible online – but you also stand out from the noise around you.

For more thoughts on local search, check out:

Sheila Hart-O’Connor is a word geek who is passionate about all things digital. She specializes in advertising and marketing copy, with a lean toward SEO, social media, and blogging.