Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Local Search Tools For Small Businesses

Search marketers have tools at their disposal to help raise the profile of small businesses and gain more insight into local markets.

Two of my favorite tools offer help with local directory listings; my other two favorites are Google programs that allow online marketers to overlay search data with location data and provide interesting insights into local search.

Universal Business Listing
This directory service saves you an enormous amount of time and effort by helping you distribute your business information to many local search platforms, directories, and portals across the Web.

Create an updatable profile on its Web site and it will periodically push the data out, not only to sites like Google Maps and Yahoo Local, but also to a myriad of other local and local/social Web sites and Internet yellow pages, such as Superpages, Insider Pages, YellowBot, Kudzu, Judy's Book, MerchantCircle, and the like. UBL will also deliver information about your business to 411 directories, navigation systems, like OnStar and TomTom, and Internet portals, such as AOL.

In addition, a listing with UBL quickly gets your data into the InfoUSA database, which is itself a trusted source of widely-shared business information. You get great coverage, while saving valuable time creating and updating profiles in all the local places you need to be.

While you can purchase very similar services at numerous places on the Web, Universal Business Listing charges only $30 per year, making it a real bargain for local brick-and-mortar enterprises.

This tool is a great time saver for local business owners. Simply enter a business name and ZIP code on the home page and the program will search for listings in four influential local business directories: Best of the Web Local, Yahoo Local, MSN Live Local, and Google Maps.

If you aren't listed, click on the links provided to go directly to the page on each of the sites where you can add details about your business. If your listings can benefit by enhancing them with reviews, photos, videos, or citations, GetListed will also tell you that. Advanced features include a dashboard for the convenient monitoring of two or more brick-and-mortar businesses, instructions on how to add photos to your listings, and articles to help you with marketing local enterprises on the Internet.

GetListed is intuitively easy to use and gives you a great deal of actionable information with the click of a mouse. The developers, David Mihm and Patrick Sexton, plan to continue adding features to this awesome new tool, so keep an eye out for future enhancements.

Google Trends
This very handy Google tool shows you trends in search and allows you to visually compare search trends for multiple terms. You can't see any solid numbers, but you can view charts that clearly display the "winner" in search volume for the keyword terms you're researching.

You can choose the month or year for which you wish to see data. The trend lines are tagged with instances of significant news events pertaining to your search terms to help explain spikes in interest.

This example shows that the term "bikes" is searched for three times more often than "bicycles."

It also shows the top 10 locations for those searches, according to what regions you ask to see. For this example, I chose the United States, so I was shown the relative search volume for the 10 states and 10 cities with the most searches for "bikes."
I then clicked on Colorado and was shown the 10 towns in Colorado where "bikes" is searched for most often.

From this data, you can see that a sports store in Durango can benefit by bidding on both "bike" and "bicycle" in its paid search campaigns, while one in Steamboat should stick to "bike."
No matter what stage of marketing you're in, from doing initial research to fine tuning a mature campaign, Google Trends can help you see search in ways you may not have yet imagined. Spend some time discovering its capabilities and it may become a standard weapon in your online marketing arsenal.

Google Insights for Search
This is another interesting, though somewhat complex Google tool that I�m certain you can glean thought-provoking information. Spend some time checking it out. For instance, it allows you to see Google Trends-type information according to locations and time frames and to compare the search trends in those locations and times to each other.

For example, if you're a tennis instructor in the D.C. metro area wondering where to concentrate your AdWords spend for the upcoming season, you could use Insights for Search to help with your marketing decision by asking the tool to show you the search trends for "tennis lessons" in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., during the timeframe of your choosing.
click to enlarge
(source: ClickZ, Mary Bowling, 3/12/09)

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