Wot No Google Local Search

chad
Wot No
google
Local Search

The character on the right appeared in the most unusual places during Word War II asking similar very basic questions. You might have called him Kilroy if you are in the US or Chad if you are in the UK.

The comment is particularly surprising currently since there is a great deal of discussion and concern about Google Local Search and how it works.  You may therefore be a little surprised to find that it does not exist.  It is widely acknowledged that providing local results when people search for stores or suppliers is very important.  Not least because you can then show relevant advertising close to the point of purchase decision.

It is even more surprising because the opposition does provide local search facilities.  Just type in local.yahoo.com and you will be shown the following search screen.

local yahoo

It is very similar to the format for a Yellow Pages search for local suppliers.  It would seem to be the natural way to help people find what they are looking for in their neighbourhood.

With Microsoft’s new entrant Bing, you can also arrive at a somewhat minimal local search page by typing in local.bing.com.  This is presumably a work in progress since it is somewhat sparse and even enigmatic.

localbing

Now try to get a Google Local Search by typing local.google.com and you are in for a disappointment.  Here is what you see. 

localgoogle

The word local does not appear at all.  Google has decided that you really preferred to do a search among their Maps.  Indeed it is impossible to find a link to Local Search on any of the desktop PC search pages.

Google has accepted the much bigger challenge of trying to guess in the Universal Search Page whether or not you may wish to be seeing local results.  If Google guesses this is so, then towards the top of the search results they will show a block of local services that may fit your search.  Why they have gone this route, only they can say.

local google results

The only place you can find a link to Local Search is on the Mobile Search Results web page as shown on the right. Even then, you are just served up a list of local results without any opportunity to give a more precise indication of where you are located. Given the interest in Local Search and the need to get it right, this guessing on the part of Google hardly seems adequate, since it is not very reliable. Perhaps it is time for Google to follow the others and provide the obvious way for people to do Local Searches.

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The Google Local Business Center

If you have not heard of the Google Local Business Center and most of your customers come from your local region, then you now have a high priority task today.  When prospects search for suppliers, Google will often now attempt to give them a list of local suppliers.  That’s particularly true if the searcher is using google.com and it is presumably only a short time before it applies to other Google searches like those done with Google.ca.

It works for all the common products and services where you might be looking for a local supplier.  You will usually find a block of ten local suppliers that is listed at the fourth position in the Google keyword search results for the particular product or service.  To an extent it may mean less business for Google as fewer people then click on the Sponsored Link (Adwords) advertisements at the top and down the right-hand side through which Google makes its money.

If you were previously relying on your natural occurrence in the Google search results (what is often called the organic search results), then your entry is pushed even farther down the page unless you can guarantee to be in the top three.  Perhaps that is the lever that will push many local businesses to buy sponsored link AdWords ads in order to appear on the initial screen (above the fold).

Google has now added a Local Business Center User Guide, and it includes a short video introduction to the service.

Mike Blumenthal is a keen watcher of the Google Local Search scene and he offers the following assessment of the  Local Business Center User Guide.

The Guide is a step in the right direction, is well organized and provides additional useful information. That being said, Google needs to “step it up” to bring the LBC into the realm of usable by the small business person it is intended to serve.

It is true that there is a degree of confusion here and for Google it clearly is a work in progress.  If you need any help in ensuring you are visible to your local customers then please contact SMM.

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Google May Not Find Local Restaurants In Canada

As previously mentioned, Google has announced that it will offer local search results for many items where it guesses you may want a local supplier.

How exactly does it do that?  Here is the Google explanation.

How do we guess your location? In most cases, we match your IP address to a broad geographical location. You can also specify your likely location using the "Change location" link on the top right corner, above the map. We try to make our guesses as good as they can be so that whether you’re shopping for [groceries], [sporting goods] or [flowers], or looking for your [bank], your [gym], or the [post office], you can just say what you want, and we’ll try to find it right where you are. You can also search for specific stores or street addresses near you, like [cornelia st cafe] in New York, for example.

That seems to work very well if you do any of those searches using google.com.  In addition the Adwords ads that appear on the search page are correct for my location.  Here for example is the search for restaurants that appears at the #4 position using google.com from my location here in Langley, British Columbia.

langley bc restaurants

Where it does not work correctly is if the search is done within seconds from the same computer using google.ca.  The Adwords ads that appear on the search page are still correct for the Langley location. However the general search results show restaurants all across Canada and here is what appears at the #4 position as the block of ‘local restaurants’.

lasalle qc restaurants

The correct IP is easily identified by services like ipaddresslocation.org as Langley, BC. The Adwords ads are also correctly showing local restaurants around Langley, BC. 

You get exactly the same results if you try searches for any of the other shops or services  mentioned in the Google quote above.  In all cases, it is only the main search results and the block of 10 local results that is not involving the IP location.  It is probably using an outdated Google cookie planted at least 18 months ago when I did indeed live in Lasalle, QC.

Presumably at some time the Google search via google.ca will come in line with what should be done as demonstrated by the google.com results.  I’ll keep you posted when Canadian local search results for restaurants is working as it should.

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Local Search Is Top Of The Mind

Everyone is talking Local Search. Indeed Michael Gray has over 20 interviews with SEO experts and they’re all discussing Local Search. Google too seems to have the same fixation and has now put a Local OneBox on all searches that appear to be local, as Mike Blumenthal observed.

googlelocal210x313.jpg

Matt McGee points out that this approach doesn’t seem to work out too well in many cases. Local Search may be ‘top of the mind’ but it’s also top of the SERPs pushing the regular results almost ‘below the fold’. Here on the left you can see an example of this. A search for Industrial Design Montreal produces only 3 names within the Local OneBox. That is hardly likely to satisfy most searchers in a field where Montreal has so much to offer.

Of course the real lucrative battlefield for Local Search will be on all those mobile devices. Perhaps a different use of the screen real estate may be even more appropriate there.

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