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Archive for June, 2011

Video Testimonials let your clients promote you and boost your search rankings

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

In recent months, we’ve discussed the Google “Plus-1” era. Letting users “approve” a given web page by clicking a button, it further democratized the concept of organic search rankings. Most web content development companies rejoiced at the idea that search rankings could be less about gaming “the system” and more of a meritocracy in which the most relevant, authoritative, respected websites climbed the ladder.

Ultimately, the “Plus-1” concept is just the testimonial concept broken down to its simplest form. Users were just giving a simple click of a button but, in the process, were saying “this website works for me!” the same way we’d hear someone champion a soap brand in an old radio advertisement.

We’ve also learned recently that the Google algorithms favor sites with high user engagement. Well, what if you could kill two birds with one stone? Why not try a video testimonial?

Video testimonials are becoming more and more popular among Internet marketers because (a) most hostable video content is “sexy,” new, professional-looking and generally engaging to a user and (b) testimonials in any form have long been effective. Impulse buyers may consume your product or service without hesitation but the tougher market to crack, the educated shoppers, search for proof. They want to see, hear or read about other people who are satisfied with what you have to offer.

Obviously, shooting and posting video testimonials isn’t the most convenient practice. It takes time and co-operative customers willing to show their faces online. Luckily, outsourcing the process has become a realistic option.

Companies like See My Clients will confer with you, determine what message you want users to glean from your satisfied customers, and go out to get it for you. They’ll conduct the interviews and complete a polished video for you.

Testimonials are one of the most proven, effective routes to attracting new customers. They also satisfy search engine algorithms by adding to your site’s user engagement and authority. So, what are you waiting for? Hand the megaphone to your happy customers. They’ll promote you — and boost your SEO– in a way no one else can!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO Expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Improve your call to action – TODAY!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Note the headline. I’m commanding you to make a subtle but important change to your website design. It’s a call to action – one of the most overlooked and crucial elements of web content development today.

Have you ever walked into a relatively empty store and seen the owner/operator acknowledge you with a nod, then return to his or her newspaper? It’s an infuriating feeling, right? The reaction is “Gee, doesn’t this person want my business? Where’s the love?”

Lacking a proper call to action in your site design is the equivalent. You’re showing your product and service but not encouraging anyone to actually use or consume it. It’s a big sales no-no yet a common mistake. In fact, you could argue that the call to action is the central purpose of having a website. You’re looking for actual conversions and to sell your product or service, so it’s essential that you tell customers what you want them to do.  Otherwise, your users become browsers instead of buyers, using your website to window shop instead of commit.

Calls to action come in many different forms, including phone numbers (call now!), requests for donation, actual checkouts for online purchases, downloads, registration forms or request forms.

Some general rules of thumb I like to follow:

1. Clarify the benefits. “Call now” won’t do unless the users know what they stand to gain. “Call now and get a free quote on your barbecue repair” makes it very clear.

2. Be concise. Calls to action can go from useful to inconvenient for potential customers in a hurry. Linking the word “buy” in your call to action tells users they can complete their transaction quickly and immediately.  Linking from a “click here” hyperlink without a benefit statement is a lost opportunity.

3. Above the scroll. It’s no different than a newspaper or magazine. Don’t make your call to action a last-minute footnote. Make it prominent and visible to users without making them scroll down the page.

4. Put them on key pages, not every page. It’s great to stay consistent and have a call to action on key pages – home, product and service pages. However, you don’t want to saturate your site and make it appear spammy by placing one on every page.

If you don’t create a proper call to action, it’s a shame, as you will have wasted many valuable resources. Imagine spending oodles of money on a pay-per-click Google AdWords campaign, attracting lots of great traffic, then forgetting to show them how or what to buy!

Let’s take a cue from the masters and give car salesmen and furniture retailers their due. Their TV ads may be tacky but they always have a big “CALL NOW” flashing on the screen. It’s a call to action.

Now go fix your own call to action or find a good web copywriter that can – today!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO Expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

What’s in a title? A lot, actually

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

And you thought mattress tags mattered.

Sure, mattress tags are important. So important that we’re afraid we’ll go to jail if we remove them. But any web copywriting enterprise or expert will tell you that some other tags – title tags and meta tags – are infinitely more important.

So much of search engine optimization boils down to the same crucial principle: making sure searchers can find your site in the first place, preferably on the first page of Google and other search engines. But there’s more to it. In the case of title tags and meta tag descriptions, having users find your site in organic search results may not be enough. If you want the right users to click on your page – or anyone, for that matter – your tags should be written to properly reflect exactly what product, service or content you offer.

Partially because of the way many website and content management system “dashboards” are structured, it’s easy to take these tags for granted. The little boxes where we enter the extra information aren’t part of our main content “body,” so they can feel like afterthoughts, right?

It’s important not to treat them that way. In the case of <title> source code, it’s crucial not just to put the title of your company or site, but to include a descriptive tagline or call-to-action with it. “Award-Winning Bakery in Toronto – Tommy’s Bakery” will give searchers a much better idea of what and where they’re searching than simply inserting “Tommy’s Bakery” as the home page title tag. Remember, if you don’t fill out the space, a search engine like Google will try to fill in the gap for you and likely won’t do it was well as you could.

It’s not as common in web content development circles to completely forget a title tag; description meta tags are the fields that get neglected more often. Once again, it may feel like an afterthought, but the information that appears under your title in search results pages is crucial.

Think about your own experiences as a user. Excluding established juggernaut sites like ESPN or CNN, how often do you click a search result that has no information below the title? We much more commonly choose the one full of rich and useful information and tells us more about what we’ll find if we click it. Meta tag optimization is key.

So, what’s in a title? Quite possibly, the difference between high click-through ratesand low bounce rates.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO Expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Search Engine Strategies arrives in Toronto

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

It’s everything you ever wanted to know aboutsearch engine optimization – but were afraid to ask.

Search Engine Strategies is the can’t-miss conference for any business owner, online copywriter or content development manager wanting to master the SEO game. Dream up every expert, every leader, every successful SEO in the industry and that person will likely appear at SES Toronto from June 13 to 15 at the Hyatt Regency hotel.

Now in its eighth year, the conference is organized by the Search Engine Strategies Advisory Board and the authoritative SEO website, SearchEngineWatch.com. The event will cover virtually every SEO-related topic imaginable, including link building, pay-per-click management, social medial, local, mobile, and more.

SES Toronto also includes keynote speakers Amber Mac and Tracy Smith, networking events and has sessions oriented toward beginners or advanced learners.

The event includes several “featured” sessions as well. “Meaningful SEO Metrics” attempts to answer the all-important question of ROI; what good is page rank if it doesn’t translate into conversions, right? “How to Win with Google and Bing” focuses on learning how to solve the algorithms and understand the SEO best practices for the search engine giants Google and Bing. “Keller Facebook Targeting Tactics” teaches you how to use social media like Facebook as powerful marketing tools. There are also sessions specifically oriented to different business scales, including enterprise, small and medium businesses.

If you can get away even for a few sessions that meet your own website’s biggest needs, SES Toronto will be worth your while. Nowhere else can you find a greater concentration of (a) useful tips, (b) cutting-edge demos, (c) authorities on the subject of SEO and web content development and (d) opportunities to connect with other industry professionals and forge meaningful business relationships.

Hope to see you there!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO Expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Keep your language plain and simple

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The United States government recently announced a new mandate demanding that federal agencies toss the jargon out the window and write in “plain language” so that bills and rulings become more accessible to average citizens.

While I don’t see the Harper government making a similar decision in Canada any time soon, I see an opportunity for businesses to follow suit here. And that includes any content development company, search engine optimization firm or, really, any business that deploys SEO.

Note that I used the term “search engine optimization” before diving right into the acronym SEO. If I didn’t spell it out, I’d be putting the concept in a very exclusive manner, literally excluding anyone who wasn’t familiar with the acronym. It’s an extremely bad habit. Not using plain language may target more of a niche audience but it absolutely shrinks your audience and, more importantly, greatly limits your chance of attracting new readers or “laymen” potentially seeking out your services.

Think about an industry like search engine optimization. How many TLAs – three letter acronyms – and buzz terms do we throw around today? PPC instead of pay-per-click. ROI instead of return on investment. CTR instead of click-through rate, bounce rate, and so on.

But SEO-oriented businesses aren’t the only culprits. Businesses of all sorts make the same mistakes, using too many “insider” terms. From a search-engine perspective, any company that does that is shooting itself in the foot. Think about how many layman users out there may want to learn more about your company’s offerings but only type in layman-type search terms when they use Google or Bing. If you don’t have enough plain language on your own site, you won’t have plain-language keywords – and people won’t find you in organic search results!

A counter argument could suggest that using insider keywords would attract a more knowledgeable type of user who is more likely to engage your site, click through and possibly purchase your products or services. But it’s not a one-or-the-other thing (wanted to say mutually exclusive but stopped myself!). You can have both plain language and expert terms on your site. Just make sure you ease readers into the more advanced content by explaining things clearly first.

So, ladies and gents, if you want to greatly increase your web traffic, whether or not you’re writing for SEO purposes, keep the language plain and simple!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO Expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Tags: 

This entry was posted on Monday, May 30th, 2011 at 6:28 pm and is filed under Plain Language WritingSEOWeb Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

What’s in a title? A lot, actually

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

And you thought mattress tags mattered.

Sure, mattress tags are important. So important that we’re afraid we’ll go to jail if we remove them. But any web copywriting enterprise or expert will tell you that some other tags – title tags and meta tags – are infinitely more important.

So much of search engine optimization boils down to the same crucial principle: making sure searchers can find your site in the first place, preferably on the first page of Google and other search engines. But there’s more to it. In the case of title tags and meta tag descriptions, having users find your site in organic search results may not be enough. If you want the right users to click on your page – or anyone, for that matter – your tags should be written to properly reflect exactly what product, service or content you offer.

Partially because of the way many website and content management system “dashboards” are structured, it’s easy to take these tags for granted. The little boxes where we enter the extra information aren’t part of our main content “body,” so they can feel like afterthoughts, right?

It’s important not to treat them that way. In the case of <title> source code, it’s crucial not just to put the title of your company or site, but to include a descriptive tagline or call-to-action with it. “Award-Winning Bakery in Toronto – Tommy’s Bakery” will give searchers a much better idea of what and where they’re searching than simply inserting “Tommy’s Bakery” as the home page title tag. Remember, if you don’t fill out the space, a search engine like Google will try to fill in the gap for you and likely won’t do it was well as you could.

It’s not as common in web content development circles to completely forget a title tag; description meta tags are the fields that get neglected more often. Once again, it may feel like an afterthought, but the information that appears under your title in search results pages is crucial.

Think about your own experiences as a user. Excluding established juggernaut sites like ESPN or CNN, how often do you click a search result that has no information below the title? We much more commonly choose the one full of rich and useful information and tells us more about what we’ll find if we click it. Meta tag optimization is key.

So, what’s in a title? Quite possibly, the difference between high click-through ratesand low bounce rates.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO Expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Tags: 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 12:23 pm and is filed under Google Best PracticesSEOWeb Design Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through theRSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

In Praise Of Plain Language

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

What is plain language?

Plain language or plain English is understood by a reader the first time they read it, allowing writing for a more specific audience. The three main goals of plain language are that the reader will find what they need, understand that information quickly, and then use that information to meet their needs. Clear and concise writing is however a little bit more than short sentences, simple words and logical organization as you will see down below.

Why use plain language?

Studies have shown that the majority of readers online are more inclined to scan a new page first rather than read it word for word. Increasing your content’s appeal is pivotal to increasing your web site’s readability and catching the eye of these “scanners”. After all, what’s the point of attracting traffic to your web site if they don’t read what it says?  Plain language encourages effortless reading, and when something is easy to read and understand, people will continue reading it. Show visitors your webpage is worth sticking around  by employing some of the following tips.

Plain language tips and techniques

•    Use the word “you”.
•    Use about half the words typically seen in conventional writing.
•    Use bulleted lists and highlight important keywords by bolding or colouring them.
•    Stick to one topic per paragraph.
•    Write understandable subheadings.  An example of this is the popular headline “Kids Make Nutritious Snacks”.
•    Write your articles in the inverted pyramid style: Try to get as much of the important information in the beginning of the text, leaving the least important aspects at the end, or “tip” of the inverted pyramid. If readers don’t have the patience to read an entire paragraph, they will come away having absorbed the most important things you had to say.
•    Using the active voice. The active voice is your more common, comfortable ordering of words, for example: “cats eat fish”, as opposed to “fish are eaten by cats”. The object (fish) receives the action of the verb (eat).

Plain language in everyday life

Plain language allows for much easier communication and understanding by users in a much shorter time. Many government and business professionals are beginning to realize the benefits of plain language and are changing their content to gear it more towards average readers and those whose first language may not be English. The days of impossible to muddle through technical jargon are coming to an end as complex writing can sometimes only create more questions and lead to misunderstandings.

About Writing Web Words Inc:

Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Content Development and Web Writing Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize the potential of their websites via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting, Social Media Marketing and other leading edge interactive marketing services.

The Irony: Great Content, Low Rankings

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

There are many aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and page ranking that are not directly impacted by the content of a website itself. So if you’ve got great content but still have a low search engine ranking, there might be a few more things left to take care of.

What is a page ranking?

Page rankings are numerical values that depict how important a page is in the eyes of Google. The mathematical algorithm used to determine these rankings is dangerous to look at directly and may result in a migraine, but an easy way to visualize it is by imagining pages casting votes for one another. When one page links to or “votes for” another, it can affect page ranking, but the importance of the page doing the voting is also taken into consideration. In general, more votes from powerful pages makes for higher page rank. Google prioritizes its search rankings by considering both on-page optimization and off-page optimization factors.

On-page optimization

This usually involves formatting and emphasizing (bolditalics and underlining) certain words, using keywords properly, correct spelling and grammar and internal linking, just to name a few factors that are in your control.  The meta tags – also called hidden text – that search engines looks at include title tags, description tags and heading tags as well as the keywords that may be found in the url, content, and the alternative text of images.  Depending on the search engine, keyword tags may also play a role.

Off-page optimization

If you’ve gone to town with keywords and other on-page elements already mentioned, but your page rank is still suffering, than off-page optimization should be your main focus. For the most part, off-page optimization looks at links, links and more links, including links to and from social networks, from high ranking and authoritative publisher websites, one-way inbound links using keyword-rich anchor text, and niche directory backlinks – website directories devoted to only one specific topic – can help to boost your search engine and page rank, especially for those in highly competitive online categories.

Quick tips for more back links:

  • Develop an e-zine or newsletter which can be submitted to e-zine directories resulting in a free link.
  • Join forums specific to your web site’s subject matter and place your URL in your signature. This will build your web site’s presence and have visitors reference your site.
  • Submit to search engine directories – it’s another free link.
  • Create and publish articles with your URL in them and submit these to blogs or start your own blog. If it contains high quality and/or unique content, than other blogs may begin to pick it up and back link to you
  • Offer to guest blog on related industry sites with a back link to your site.
  • Buy and/or rent high quality links.  But be wary of this method, as the search engines are often able to identify which links occur naturally and which ones have been bought; placing a low or no value on bought links.
  • Offer to promote other website owners’ products/services on your site in exchange for a linkback.  Oftentimes, you have to give something to get something.  Just make sure that your website is in a related category.

There are other ‘linking strategies’ out there but your goal should be twofold: first off, to acquire and secure quality backlinks.  Second, to  ensure that the site’s linking to you are relevant and useful to both you and your audience.  After all, what’s the point of getting a clickthrough to your site only to have the end user find nothing of value at the other end?

Happy Linking!

About Writing Web Words Inc:

Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Content Development and Web Writing Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize the potential of their websites via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting, Social Media Marketing and other leading edge interactive marketing services.

How to Add Fresh, New Web Content

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Fresh.dot vs. Neglect.dot: How to Add Fresh, New Web Content

Adding fresh, new, relevant content to websites helps draw traffic. Compare a website with fresh, new additions to a stale, neglected website. Then see how to add fresh content.

Many websites are created, launched, and… nothing. Their owners and makers leave the websites alone to wither and die. Let’s call these owners and makers “Neglect.dot.” What does Neglect.dot do?

Neglect.dot acts as though…
•    websites simply, magically draw visitors
•    Neglect.dot can tick “website” off its 5-year plan and then get back to its “real” business
•    stale, unchanged websites continue to attract hits over months and years
•    the web, Neglect.dot’s market, and its competitors will simply sit still—unchanged by current events, new opportunities, and fresh challenges
In fact, Neglect.dot wastes its initial, valuable investment in building a website and squanders the site’s business potential.  The odd visitor might wander over to Neglect.dot’s website (1) because Neglect.dot is the ONLY business in its field, in the world, or (2) to confirm that Neglect.dot still exists. But, how likely is #1 or #2 in 1, 2, or 3 years?

Fresh.dot
In contrast, imagine a website created and maintained by “Fresh.dot” – a website that…
•    offers fresh, timely, relevant content that draws new customers
•    existing customers bookmark so they can visit regularly
•    these loyal customers recommend to more potential customers
•    confirms repeatedly that the people at Fresh.dot really know their business and offer a great product or service
How does Fresh.dot do it?

Do Like Fresh.dot – Add Fresh, New Web Content

1.    Build for change. When you plan or review your site, design for at least one area of regularly changing content—a blog or “articles” or “recent news” feature.
2.    Make fresh, new content a responsibility and priority. Hire a pro and work with the pro. Choose a point person to know the website thoroughly and take ultimate responsibility for keeping the site fresh, focused, and coherent. Schedule for new content. As an organization, make a fresh website a business priority.
3.    Define your core and stick to it. Add new content that…
– complements your core business
– draws visitors interested in what matters to you both
– showcases your relevance to them
Adding new content does NOT mean jumping on the latest bandwagon, commenting on this national crisis or that star gossip, or plunking in hot new key words that draw only people who will never, ever become your customers.

Add fresh, new content that is relevant to your business, your potential customers, and today. For example:
– A headhunter could weigh in on the value of ethics in business success and how to identify high ethical standards among job candidates.
– A corporate teambuilding consultant might piggyback on Olympic fever with lessons learned from team and solo sport wins.
– An elevator company could update on new requirements for workplaces accessible to employees with disabilities.

Fresh.dot gets the gist and the content.  Now, for Neglect.dot…

Writing Web Words Inc:
Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Web Content Development Company that helps small and mid-sized businesses  maximize their online potential via SEO Copywriting and provenSEO Services.

Local Search Engine Optimization

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Local search engine optimization
Local Search Engine Optimization is critical for businesses that want to attract local search engine traffic and local customers online.

What is local search?
Finding an authoritative definition for the term ‘local search’ is challenging.  A loose definition could be ‘local businesses run by locals for locals’.  Put simply, let’s call a ‘local business’ one that’s in reasonable driving distance of where you live.

Why is local search engine optimization important?
A 2006 report conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings and WebVisible titled, ‘I Searched, I Clicked, I Contacted…I Transacted‘ revealed that:

  • 70% of Internet users report using search engines to find a local service;
  • 68% said they would use the phone number on the website to contact a vendor;
  • 35% had saved the phone number;
  • 27% searched a second time;
  • 23% has bookmarked a service vendor’s website;
  • 5% used a phone book to find the service vendor;
  • 59% verbally recommended the service to a friend or family member;
  • 38% e-mailed a link to a friend or family member.

In more recent times, a 2007 report by Nielsen/NetRating and WebVisible titled, ‘Message to advertisers: Search engines, not phones‘ noted that “search engines are where people are going most when doing shopping research—74 percent said they use a search engine to look for a local retail or service business.  That beats the number who still use the yellow pages (65 percent), Internet yellow pages (50 percent), local newspaper (44 percent), white pages (33 percent), television (29 percent) and consumer review Web sites (18 percent).”

How do people use local search?
By the time someone needs a product or service, there are usually 2 types of searches they’ll conduct; the first may be for a specific business name (perhaps they’ve used that business in the past, or it came via word-of-mouth): the second being more generic, perhaps a search for a product, service, or brand.

It’s important to note that at this point in the process, consumers are ready to make a buying decision, giving you ‘permission’ to market to them. This is rare, especially in an age where Anti-Advertising Legislations – Anti-Spam LawsNational Do Not Call Laws and popular Ad-Blocking Technologies – are on the rise.

For a consumer in ‘local search mode’,  a popular option may involve the use of a business-to-consumer directory; also referred to as ‘directive or directory advertising.’  Directive advertising is a form of ‘permission marketing’ and includes:

  • Yellow Pages Print Directories;
  • Internet Yellow Pages; and,
  • Search Engines.

Traditionally, ‘directive advertising’ has been dominated by The Yellow Pages Print Directories.  It is difficult to discuss search – especially local search – without giving mention to The Yellow Pages, which is synonymous with search.  It could even be argued that The Yellow Pages was the first Search Engine.

Local search – A brief history
The concept of local search has been around for 100 years: the first business-to-consumer print directory (The Yellow Pages) was published 1908.  Its longevity is based on relevance; more to the point, the fact that it delivers what consumers want – fast and relevant local business information.

How does local search work?
The local search process is similar whether using a print directory or search engine.

To break it down, Yellow Pages Directories sell ‘headings’ (known as ‘keywords and phrases’ in geek speak) and ‘markets’ (known as ‘geo-targeting’ in geek speak).

For example, a business may provide a service [insert your headings and/or keywords here] within an area [insert your market(s) here] that may be covered by multiple directories.  In order to reach consumers in each directory, an advertiser would need to advertise in those individual directories.

To be the first ad, or get on the first page, an advertiser will usually need a display ad; depending on the competition, the bigger and more colorful the ad, the better placement and visibility it will receive.

In addition, once an advertiser inserts their business information in the print directory, it is mirrored – to a degree – in the Internet Yellow Pages, under the same heading and market.

This advertising model has been very successful for TheYellow Pages, benefitting consumers (able to find local businesses); advertisers (able to choose which markets to advertise in); and The Yellow Pages (able to cross-sell and monetize multiple headings and markets).

Prior to the Internet, Geeks, and Search Engines, chances are you simply ‘Let Your Fingers Do The Walking’ when you needed to find a local business or service.  The fact that it has over 90% brand awareness helps make The Yellow Pages one of the most recognizable brands in North America.

The commercial web
Things have changed since 1908; other advertising mediums; print directory competition; and the biggest change for ‘local search’ yet – and Yellow Pages – the Internet.

Like The Yellow Pages, Search Engines also offer ‘directive advertising’ and business-to-consumer information.  But how do The Yellow Pages and Search Engines like Google compare on a local search level?

Despite growing search engine usage, The Yellow Pages are still with us and still relevant; even as other print media usage and ad revenue numbers continue to shrink. In fact, The Yellow Pages and Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) usage and ad revenue outlook, according to the The Kelsey Group, is rosier than its print media cousins.

The Yellow Pages have always focused on print and display advertising – some would say at the expense of their Internet Yellow Pages.  On the other hand, recent online competitors did not have the luxury and stable revenue streams offered by an established print directory, thus; were forced to focus solely on their exclusive web properties.

The results speak for themselves, with the rise in the 1990’s of Internet juggernauts like Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

Also around since the mid 1990’s – but taking a backseat to print – are the Internet Yellow Pages, which have lacked the visibility and reach of major search engines; rather, depending on print ad revenues to provide shareholder and corporate value.

In comparison, competitors like Google have gained online visibility and reach, but have lacked local search content. One of the early knocks against search engines like Google was exactly what people liked about the Yellow Pages – relevant and local search results.

The early days of search
The early days of online search often produced frustrating results.  For example, a search for [Pizza in Toronto] could return random results.

On the other hand, a search for [Pizza in Toronto] in The Yellow Pages Print or Internet Yellow Pages would – and still does – serve up a wide selection of local Pizza Parlors [in Toronto] with convenient contact information.  Just what the searcher ordered.

It is only within the last few years that Yellow Pages has promoted the local search value of its Internet Yellow Pages; dubbing itself ‘The Find Engine’ and running a number of targeted television commercials, radio spots and other media to emphasize the point.

As for Google, it strives for ‘Relevance’.  The more relevant the search result, the higher the usage, which translates into higher and more profitable ad revenue.

In essence, Yellow Pages wanted what Google had (a wide and powerful online distribution platform and audience), and Google wanted what Yellow Pages had (a rich database of local search and relevant businesses to bolster local search results), and in 2004, the first deal of its kind was struck.

Google goes local
In March 2004, Google introduced ‘Google Local’, confirming what Yellow Pages had known and played off for years; that when it comes to searching for businesses, products and services, people prefer to search and transact locally.

As Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer web products notes, “A lot of times when people are looking for something, they want to do it on a local level.”

Google’s local search strategy
As part of its strategy to deliver relevant local search results, Google leveraged third party business information providers able to deliver local search content; one of these being Yellow Pages.

In a September 21, 2004 new release, Yellow Pages Group(YPG) announced “a strategic agreement with Google that will make its business listings available on Google Local Canada, a new local search service that can be found at http://local.google.ca. As part of the agreement, YPG’s 2.4 million Canadian directory listings will be available on the new Google site, helping to provide users of the service with comprehensive local search.”

What does this all mean?
It seems that the bigger and more popular Google has gotten, the smaller it has gotten.  Smaller in the sense that its algorithm can now help a searcher pinpoint to within a very short distance the name, phone number, address, directions and more for a ‘local business search.’

As for Yellow Pages, not only does their information now have wider distribution vis-à-vis the Google deal, but they can also enter into other cross-promotional deals with Google.

For example, on October 9, 2007 Yellow Pages Group (YPG) announced that it had entered into a new strategic agreement with Google to become the first Canadian based reseller of Google AdWords™.

This leaves the door open for both companies to leverage and strengthen each others existing technology and distribution platforms.

For the time being, a basic business listing in Google’s local search platform is free, as is a basic business listing in The Yellow Pages and Internet Yellow Pages Directory.

Note: Part 2 of this article will deal with local search engine optimization and how to optimize your site for Google’s ‘local search’ platform.

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