Think of it as an upgrade from the often pricey, frequently overlooked, and increasingly outdated YellowPages ad. Since many small companies do not have the resources to track clicks and would prefer to create sales leads in person or via telemarketing, local search engines offer a more practical option than Google’s Ads and Yahoo’s Ad Sense.

Individuals in the 18-35 age range are several times more likely to turn to the Web for information on their surroundings than they are the YellowPages or even 411 information providers. That demographic is widening daily as folks of all ages are going online more than ever before. With the rising popularity of handheld PDAs, it’s probable that local search engines will soon become the most relied upon providers of information on local businesses.

While it is not necessary for a company to have a website in order to take advantage of local search, some businesses invest in basic websites consisting of just one to five pages and list them in the local search engines. For example, let’s say you own a hair salon in White Plains, NY. In an effort to increase business, you decide to have a template website created that provides some background information about your salon, its services, hours of operation, and some pictures of your salon and examples of your work.

Once your website is complete, you list it with a few of the leading local search engines. The benefit is that when someone visits one of these sites looking for a “hair salon in White Plains NY” the person will find your website, have the ability to see what kind of services you offer and other important information about your business, and will hopefully follow up with a visit or a phone call your establishment.

Several local search engines have popped up during the past couple years, with the most prominent being Yahoo! Local, Overture Local Match, Ask Jeeves Local, and AOL Local Search. Other sites like CitySearch and AOL’s Digital City have been in on this action for well over a decade now.

Overture’s Local Match allows advertisers to target customers in specific regions or local areas. They can select a geographic area surrounding their business (a radius ranging from 0.5 to 100 miles) and bid on keyword phrases relating to their products and services. The payment structure for Local Match is on a cost-per-click basis. In other words, the advertiser pays the bid amount after a prospect clicks on the advertiser’s listing. In addition to Yahoo Local’s free listings, they also offer Enhanced Listings that allow advertisers to pay a monthly fee in order to provide additional information such as the company’s tagline, a business description, promotional offers, photos, and testimonials.

Local search is especially helpful for those who do research online and plan to buy offline. Searchers have the ability to gather the information they need to visit local businesses for the product or service they are interested in. In addition, for those companies that have intricate eCommerce websites, local search caters to the individual who wishes to shop online, but wants to know that the business they are dealing with is nearby in the event they need to return an item or have a customer service issue.

An estimated 10-20% of searches contain local modifiers that can be interpreted as the user seeking some type of local information. When bidding on local search terms, it is important to understand the user’s intent. The goal is to provide the user with highly relevant results, in this case geographically targeted and pertaining to their specific key word or phrase.

For more information on Search Engine Marketing and Optimization, call us at 1-800-978-3417 or Contact Active Web Group and let us help you!

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