A session on local search at WebmasterWorld's PubCon Boston covered some of the essential points on making one's business part of an Internet user's local experience; our Mike McDonald passed along the details.
"When's the last time you went into Yahoo Local to see what people are saying about your company?" Justin Sanger, president and founder of LocalLaunch, asked of the audience. "You should all be doing that."
He noted the shift from the directory model to the search model online, when it comes to finding local businesses. "Internet yellow pages are dead, in their current form at least," Sanger said. "What these things are becoming is local search utilities."
In that shift, Sanger noted entrepreneurs need to know just what is being said about them online. That's why he thinks those business owners should visit Yahoo and other sites that track opinions.
Jake Baillie, president of TrueLocal offered his perspective as a top SEO professional on the issue of being found in local search.
He noted how people look for certain terms, like product names or brand names, or even slang and industry-related words. "People don't look for accountants or tax preparation, they look for 1040," Baillie said.
Baillie also noted how regional phrases, like pop versus soda, should be part of the consideration when building a campaign. Knowing one's target audience, especially how they speak, is important.
Baillie, like Sanger, touched on the importance of tracking conversions. He suggested open source options for auto-generating coupons and creating unique graphics that can be tracked. [editor's note - perhaps Zixxo might be an option - see a review here]
"Look for local specialty/industry groups," said Baillie. "These people are just waiting to be bribed. They'll throw up a banner or a link - whatever."
(Mike's note: Too many people are wasting too much money on ppc programs for their offline businesses by not making smart decisions about terms and locality. Spending the coin you have to spend on a PPC program for generic terms is the result of business owners' poor understanding of how Google and other search engines work in relation to their localized businesses.)
Thai Tran, Product Manager for Google Maps and Local Search, noted a couple of ways small businesses can quickly get their content into the leading search platform.
By using Google Local, business owners can create and display a listing for free, and update it whenever they wish. Entrepreneurs who have a lot of listings to contribute should try Google Base and its bulk uploading procedure instead.
Next week, Google plans to release more detailed error messages about bulk uploads, and increase the number of messages displayed as well.