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The Evolution of Local Search: Why Social is Important

Published: August 10, 2013 Author: Clearpoint Tags: Social Media Tips and Tricks Series

For most businesses today, local marketing is more important than ever. The latest research from Nielsen finds that an astonishing 91 percent of adults in the U.S. own cell phones, and 56 percent of them are smartphone users. A further 34 percent own tablet PCs. Mobile searches have skyrocketed, with Google representing more than 90 percent of the mobile search market share.

Mobile Internet access has transformed the way consumers find and choose businesses, pushing local search to the forefront for many. Data availability and accuracy for information such as driving directions, contact phone numbers, hours of operation, and more is critical.

Increasingly, local search rankings are affected by social media content and presence. Businesses with strong social media footprints are coming out ahead in local search, and two of the strongest influencers for local results are Facebook and Google--both of which offer ways for businesses to strengthen their local SEO.

Facebook Graph Search

Earlier this year, Facebook introduced Graph Search, a new and highly personalized way to locate information on the most popular social network in the world. Unlike traditional searches, Graph Search focuses on the searcher's personal network, or social graph--tapping anything shared publicly or with the searcher on Facebook, including people, photos, videos, and content.

This new search represents opportunities for local marketers, especially considering the local reach of Facebook. A recent study by Mainstay Salire found that local Facebook pages, on average, have five times the marketing reach and eight times the engagement per fan compared to corporate pages.

In order to take advantage of increased local results with Graph Search, businesses can:

  • Claim a location page on Facebook (called Facebook Places)--or for multi-location businesses, one location page for each--and tie them to your corporate page, if you have one.
  • Check the accuracy of your location and contact information. It seems like an obvious step, but maintaining accurate local information is a must if you want to avoid frustrating potential customers--who will typically look for a business that's easier to find.
  • Look for duplicate listings for your business. With Facebook's check-in feature, customers who try to check in without finding a location page often create a new Place, which will be separate from your page. These created Places may contain incorrect or incomplete information. If you find any duplicates, ask to have them removed or merged with your existing page.

Google+ Local

Similar to Facebook Places, and perhaps more important for local search marketing, are Google+ Local pages. Formerly called Google Places, the local listings on Google Plus are vital for businesses to claim and control--largely due to Google's dominance of mobile search, and the fact that the search engine's algorithms weigh Google+ content highly.

Since the switch to the Google+ Local brand, this feature has been streamlined and is easier to use than its Places predecessor. If you haven't already claimed your business page on Google+, here's how:

  • Log in to Google+ Local with your Google ID.
  • Enter your business phone number to search for your listing.
  • If your business comes up, click on "Edit" to claim the listing. If it doesn't, click on "Create new."
  • Fill in your location, contact info, hours of operation, and other profile information thoroughly, including a brief, compelling description of your business.

Simply claiming and maintaining the right information on your Google+ Local page is enough to get you started in improving your local search results. If you want to increase your reach, incorporate Google+ into your social media marketing strategy by posting quality content and engaging with customers regularly.

Social media is essential for any business looking to improve local search rankings and appeal to the new generation of digital consumers. Take advantage of tools like Facebook Graph Search and Google+ Local, and start increasing your local SEO today.

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