September 28, 2011
How To

Local Search Marketing: 6 tactics to take advantage of a search marketing category with less B2B competition

SUMMARY: Do you believe local search is a search engine marketing strategy best pursued by consumer marketers? Think again. According to MarketingSherpa research, local search is underutilized by all marketers, yet it should be part of any B2B marketer's overall search effort.

This article offers six tactics to help you get started with search engine business \"place\" listings, tells you how location-based landing pages can improve local search, and even provides a tip on how handling \"under-the-hood\" elements of your website can boost local search efforts.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

Local search should be a part of any search engine marketing (SEM) effort, although many B2B marketers mistakenly consider local search more of a consumer marketing tactic.

Research from the MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report - SEO Edition found only 35% of B2B marketers have claimed a local business listing, and a mere 23% optimize for local terms in organic SEO efforts, compared to B2C marketers' respective 43% and 36% for those tactics.

Even though local search is a valuable tactic, only 27% of marketers overall reported engaging in local search as part of an organic search strategy.

There are many reasons why you want to take advantage of local search, but if you would like just one, consider the SEO/SEM goal of owning your SERP, the search engine results page.

Think about the SERP as having limited real estate. When you can command more of that real estate by combining organic SEO tactics and pay-per-click SEM tactics, and then add local search tactics to that mix, the overall strategy will allow you to maximize your SERP real estate.

Do you need further convincing? Here are the first four listings in the Google Places category list:

1. Business to Business
2. Business to Business - Machine Shops
3. Business to Business - Manufacturers
4. Business to Business - Wholesalers

We had the chance to speak with two local search experts to provide you with tactics on applying local search to B2B search marketing efforts.

Kaci Bower, Research Analyst Primary Research, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), is the lead author of the 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report, both SEO and PPC editions. Kurt Krejny, Director of Online Marketing, Fathom, a digital marketing firm, oversees a team of SEM specialists working on link building, local search and other search best practices.

Read on to find out more about where to start with local search marketing, how to gain local search presence where you don't have a physical location, and under-the-hood website tricks to improve local SEO.

Tactic #1. Start with local search listing "101"

Some local search elements apply to any marketer regardless of whether the end customer is a business or an individual. Bower mentioned the figure quoted above comparing B2B and B2C marketers claiming local listings and, pointed out the two are actually pretty close.

"B2B marketers only lag B2C marketers by eight percentage points. In effect, they have more in common than not when it comes to finding the business value of a local listing," she said.

Bower offered this list of best practices that apply to all local search listing efforts:

o Include a local phone number with the listing (not a call center/800 number)

o Include a local address

o Optimize the listing description with target keywords

o Enhance the listing with custom details

o Associate the listing with a range of business categories

o Add the area(s) served, especially if outside the immediate area or zip code of the physical address

o Add videos to the listing

o Add photos to the listing

o Add offers to the listing (B2B companies regularly run promotions, so there is no reason they cannot showcase these on local business listings, as well)

o Use Google AdWords Express to raise the visibility of your Google Places listing

"Complete every section in the local business listings," she added. "Don't do the bare minimum. Put in the effort to do everything with your listing that is allowed. Optimize the aspects of your business listing data that would be highly relevant to target queries."

Bower also suggested claiming your local business listing in multiple locations, including:

o Google Places
o Bing
o Yahoo!
o Yelp
o Best of the Web

"Being 'everywhere' adds to your credibility," Bower explained.

Tactic #2. Optimize your website for local search

Claiming your business at online locations is important, but the place to begin your local search effort is optimizing your website said Krejny.

"Getting your address right in the footer of your website templates adds signals for the search engines to pickup that you are in that area," he stated. "And it also adds credibility so people see that you have a physical address and you are not just a company out there that is not sharing that information, and shows you have an office and employees."

Krejny also suggested creating dedicated pages for each company location that includes information such as:

o Detailed directions
o Hours of operation
o Phone numbers for the location

Krejny added you should review your search results at the major search engines and make sure your location information such as address and phone number show up with those results.

Other elements that will improve your local search rankings include mentions in incoming links and exposure in local websites. He said search engines will crawl that data and make the association between your website and your physical address providing a local search SEO boost.

Tactic #3. Create location-specific landing pages

You've claimed your business place at various search engines and online locations for the headquarters, and even for any secondary offices. The issue is even though you only have a few physical locations, your customers are found around the nation or even the world, and you are possibly competing for search traffic with companies physically located near your customers.

Krejny said one strategy to meet this challenge is to create state- or city-level landing pages to correspond with your overall keyword strategy.

He offered an example of a company that does a lot of business in Florida, but doesn't have an actual office in that state. To create a local search optimization campaign, that company should build a landing page based on its Florida business. This landing page would:

o Focus on clients based in Florida
o List the location of those clients
o Include testimonials from the clients
o Add video to support the page content

"Ideally, you are taking the history of your company and how you have helped people in that space (location) by creating content around it," said Krejny, "and get that content to rank in a search engine search [for that location]."

When you can get those industry- and location-based keywords to appear in organic searches, you can compete with companies with brick-and-mortar presences in those locations.

Krejny added his team has successfully utilized that strategy to cut into local search traffic.

"You create all those content pages on your site, and you are really casting the net out pretty far to obtain more organic search traffic that is highly relevant," he said.

Even though your physical location might be elsewhere, the location-specific landing page shows customers and search engines you help businesses around the country.

Tactic #4. Add location-based keywords to pay-per-click

This tactic is part of the overall "owning the SERP" search strategy, and it is also a great complement to the location-based landing page tactic.

Krejny stated if you have developed a strong state-based landing page with information about satisfied clients and content that shows your national reach, you should tailor keywords to both the state and key metropolitan areas in the state.

"Although you are not going to rank in the 'places' or be able to use the local business extensions, you can still capitalize on the fact that people are searching those keywords and tying them to a location."

Bower added you should make sure the landing page is relevant to search terms beyond just location.

"Adding location can help give businesses a leg up for queries that are location specific," she said. "Just make sure to use highly targeted ad groups, as in a small number of keywords that trigger one specific ad that drives to one relevant landing page."

Bower provided an example, "If you are advertising, 'Corporate Legal Services in Boston,' the landing page needs to specifically give information about corporate legal services in Boston, not just general information on the business' corporate legal services."

Tactic #5. Turn remote employees into business place listings

To be very upfront, this tactic is a little controversial in terms of staying within the spirit of business place listings at search engines.

Krejny said a company with remote workers across the country -- such as salespeople working out of home offices -- can consider those locations "branch offices" of the business and submit home offices to Google Places and Bing to grab localized traffic around those locations.

He added you can create content pages on the website to leverage these expanded locations.

Bower countered with, "If it doesn't feel right, then don't do it."
And she added, "If it is not explicitly condoned by Google Places, I would avoid it. It's not worth running the risk of having your listing removed."

She did offer advice on how to approach this particular tactic, "It’s important to consider the purpose of these local business listings. They are to help local businesses. Is a company legitimately doing local service in an area, as in meets and conducts business with customers in that area?"

Bower continued, "If that’s the case, then perhaps -- and I stress perhaps -- it would be in the spirit of the local business listings to have a remote employee claim a business listing for that location. They can choose to hide their personal address and just display a service area."

Tactic #6. Utilize microformats for location tagging on the website

Microformats are an under-the-hood website code semantic markup that wraps information -- such as contact details, events, location and more -- with tags that make it easier for search engines tie that information to relevant searches.

This extra layer of Web content tagging can produce better SEO results.

Krejny provided an example of a client that conducted health screenings around the country, but did not perform the screenings at locations it owned or operated out of. The screenings actually occurred at churches and community centers.

Each health screening "event" was wrapped in microformats on the client's website. So when someone would search for "health screening" and add a zip code, the microformat coding made it much more likely the search engine would find the client's website.

Microformat coding is a powerful way to get location information noticed by search engines.

"Using the microformat code, we are getting that data pulled right into the search results," said Krejny.

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Useful links related to this article

1. Chart -- local search tactics B2B compared to B2C
2. Percentage of marketers engaging in local search

Google Places (Maps)

Bing (local)

Yahoo! (local)


Best of the Web


MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report - SEO Edition

Take Control of Local Search Results: 5 Steps to Improve Accuracy and Boost Traffic

New Chart: How Effective is Local Search?

Search Engine Marketing: Taking advantage of local search and local business listings

Search Marketing: The importance of an SEO Process

Google as a Grocery Store: Use SEO and search engine marketing in tandem to boost lead generation

Search Engine Optimization: The SEO value (or lack thereof) of domain name keywords

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