Local Search: Raking In Business From Your Own Backyard

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

So you’re in the mood for a pizza. You turn to Google (because no one uses phone books anymore). Instantly, 10 local pizza shops are displayed in your search results. You order. It’s a win-win. You have your pizza, and the pizza parlor shop has your business.

What made this so easy? Local search – a type of search engine query that’s intended to produce local information, often about nearby businesses, products and services. What it does is help customers in your own town, city and neighborhood find you quickly and easily.

All of the big players – Google, Yahoo and Bing – have local search capabilities. So do the Internet Yellow Pages, various business aggregation sites and review sites, as well as directories created specifically for different cities.

As you can imagine, there are several business directories for Monroe. One of the best is: http://businessfinder.mlive.com/MI-Monroe.

I want my local listing!
How do you get your company listed? There are two ways: Navigate the process of submitting your business information to each of the local search engines yourself or save some time and hassle by hiring professionals to do it for you. Either way, getting listed on local search doesn’t happen automatically.

So many directories, so little time.
It’s not a matter of if you should submit your business information to a local search directory, it’s a matter of choosing which ones. To help you make the best decision, consider:

Location. Be sure to understand which geographic region or regions the directory serves. Some are very specific, while other serve a larger geographic area. Check to see if you’re able to list your company within a radius of your zip code.

Price. Many directories are free, or charge a nominal fee to enhance your listing or include additional information. If it’s free, why not list? If there’s a cost, make sure you understand what extras you’re getting for your dollars.

Relevance. Make sure a relevant category exists for your business. Some directories focus on a single industry, like hotels.

If you own a gourmet restaurant, you don’t want to be listed under fast food. Be thorough. If the specific category doesn’t exist, don’t list there.

Popularity. One characteristic of a good local search directory is the amount of traffic it gets. More traffic potentially means more potential people will find you.

A quick way to determine this is to go to a web traffic metrics site, like Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/). The higher the ranking, the busier the site.

No matter what you’re selling – computers, sandwiches or shoes – local search can help bring local customers to your door.

That is, people who could possibly return again, generating repeat business, and who will tell their friends and family about your company. First, they need to be able to find you. Think about the last time you used a phone book, versus a search engine. Local search is where you need to be.

Bing, Bing, Bing! Microsoft’s Search Engine A Hit!

If you haven’t heard, Microsoft has released their own search engine in an effort to compete with Google in the search engine market. Originally the search engine that was going to be called “Kumo” has been released and the name is “Bing.”

Microsoft is off to a pretty good start according to the marketing research company that provides marketing data and services to many of the Internet’s largest businesses,comScore Inc. Microsoft has improved their search market share by 1.7 points to 15.5% in the week following the release of Bing.

So what is causing all these improvements, and catching the eyes of the public? What does Bing have to offer that Google hasn’t already thought of? Here are a few of the features Bing has integrated into the search engine. Interface features, multimedia features, instant answers, product search, webmaster services, mobile services, toolbars, gadgets, advertising, and many more.

So let’s talk about some of these features and what they mean to us – the end user.

The interface feature is one of my favorites, probably because it’s so appealing to the eye, and got my attention right from the  very first visit to Bing. The background image changes each and every day, taking you to the most remarkable places in the world, with vivid colors, and great angles.

You can even view the information about the subject of the image by hovering over the image.

Video previewing has never been so cool. By hovering over a video thumbnail, the video actually will automatically start playing, and give you a taste of what the site offers, before you actually click on the result.

The image search is very impressive as well, allowing image searching with continuous scrolling images, with adjustable settings for size, layout, color, and style.

In addition to its tool(s) for searching WebPages, Bing also provides search offerings for health, images, local, maps, news, shopping, translator, travel, videos, and xRank. Most of those are pretty self explanatory, but what about xRank?

XRank is a feature that actually allows users to search for celebrities, musicians, politicians, and bloggers. You can read short biographies and news about them, and track  their own personal trends and/or popularity rankings.

All in all, it sounds like a pretty good engine Microsoft has put together, but will it be enough to compete with the market dominator Google?

Google is the king of search, of course, but the problem with Google’s results is that they’re based soley on mathematical calcualtions, whereas Bing employs some artificial intelligence. Only time will tell. In the meantime, go check Bing out first hand via http://www.bing.com/ and decide for yourself.