Chris Silver Smith will be speaking about “Local Search” at SearchFest 2010, which will take place on March 9th at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are available now. To purchase, please click the following link.
1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I am Director of Optimization Strategies at KeyRelevance (http://www.keyrelevance.com), a boutique search engine marketing agency in Dallas, Texas. As a strategist, I provide consulting service to both large and small companies alike, recommending search engine optimization (“SEO”) tactics that they may use in order to achieve higher rankings in search results pages and improved clickthrough rates and associated sales.
I’m particularly known for some of my past work as the SEO strategist and Head of Technology for Verizon Superpages.com http://www.superpages.com (company since spun off and known as SuperMedia) where I designed a number interlocking strategies to enable millions of pages to become indexed by search engines, resulting in significant additional revenue. I’ve also worked for Netconcepts http://www.netconcepts.com (recently acquired by Covario), providing product development strategy for their near-turnkey SEO service, Gravitystream. In that role I also provided consulting to many top Internet Retailer 500 sites.
I am a columnist for Search Engine Land’s “Locals Only” http://searchengineland.com/library/locals-only and I have a number of patents pending for local search and display technology applications.
2) David Mihm previously wrote that “citations” are really important for local search rankings (http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/general-marketing/local-seo-citation-is-new-link/). Do you think that with Google’s expanding its base of reviews (http://blumenthals.com/blog/2010/01/18/google-maps-now-adding-reviews-from-news-sites-hyperlocal-blogs-and-other-non-traditional-review-sources/), reviews might become as important as citations?
As Mike Blumenthal says in his post, “…a citation is a citation…” whether it’s also a review or not. So, from this logic, reviews are a subset of citations, and in that sense they’ll be important for local search rankings.
I’d add a caveat to this, however: Google Maps is fully cognizant of just how prone to manipulation reviews are. As such, they may choose to limit the influence reviews will have upon rankings, particularly following their algorithm changes of the past year and their increasing sources of information. They appear to be placing more emphasis now upon display of ratings information, including displaying info they’ve quantified from multiple review sources using sentiment analysis methods. The displaying of ratings and reviews seems to be emphasized while effect on overall rankings seems to be reduced. Google Maps may have concluded that rating/review info is important in display for the sake of user-experience and usability, while of limited value in ranking businesses.
3) How well integrated is local search with mobile search and where is it headed?
I’ve heard Greg Sterling state that “…mobile is local…” — perhaps he coined that phrase. In any case, I agree with it. There is nothing like the combination of local search capability with the small, portable computers that cell phones have become. The convergence of technologies involved is very much cemented, and so compellingly useful that it’s here to stay. Smartphones connect the physical world with the virtual world, and are helping to propel augmented reality experience from the realms of science fiction into our everyday world.
At this point, local search is very well integrated with mobile search, and is to be considered table-stakes for devices enabled with mobile search (not just phones, but also automobiles’ GPS systems frequently have the capability).
As for where it’s headed, location is going to be ubiquitous in mobile. While the consumer population in the past has had some qualms about devices “knowing” an individual’s location, the undeniable usefulness of such applications has been rapidly outweighing privacy fears to large degree. Within the mobile search experience, location will evolve to be something the enduser consciously thinks of less as it becomes more ubiquitous and embedded in everything.
From the viewpoint of small businesses, local marketing has become more diversified (fragmented, actually) and complex. As local business marketing becomes more about search and mobile, it will become even more complex. Fortunately, costs are still extremely competitive for online and mobile promotion in most cases, so it’s better to experiment with the new media channels in small doses rather than becoming overwhelmed in trying to master everything all at once. Probably the best advice for newbies to local search promotion is to “get your feet wet!”