Local Search Popularity Will Lead to Greater Local Advertising Opportunities

According to BusinessWeek, 55% of consumers used a search engine to find out about a local business in 2005. That number is expected to increase significantly this year and next.

I’m not a bit surprised. I’ve been saying for some time that local search will grow. And I mean it. The writing is on the, uh, bulletin board.

As local search grows, so too will local online advertising opportunities. Already, the opportunities are legion and growing.

Here are your current options:

Yahoo

Google

MSN

Ask

Yellowpages.com

Superpages.com

Citysearch

Or one of several other similar brands

See any commonalities? I do.

First, the top four are all search engines. They all offer local search as a subset of a larger product upon which the Web, in its current form, is built.

The other options, however, are online versions of an old product, namely, the business directory. Unlike print directories, these online directories do not specialize in any particular geographic region. They exist to serve a need for local advertisers no matter where they may be located. The downside is these services can’t optimize their websites for local search as the search engines can.

I believe the next wave of local advertising will consist of utilizing local business directories for advertising purposes. Such directories, if done correctly, can offer a more affordable alternative to search engine advertising and offer more successful geo-targeting than the larger directories like Superpages and Yellowpages.com. Here’s how:

Since local business directories are local, they can search engine optimize their pages for geographic keywords and zip codes. For instance, if you go online to search for a florist in your neck of the woods, you will likely get a search engine results page that consists primarily of florists located near you. But in order for you to receive a single Web page that lists several florists in the same geographic region, it would have be through a directory that was optimized for local geographic keywords, an unlikely prospect for a domain name that lists businesses from anywhere and everywhere.

So while local search may be growing at the search engines, small businesses will likely not be able to afford the high price of being assured a prominent position with paid search listings and when you consider that most searchers visit any particular website by way of organic searches, that makes business directories that specialize in local markets all the more appealing.

Just remember, you heard it from me first.

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