SES Chicago: Summary of Local Search Tactics Session

Good summary of the “Local Search Tactics” session at SES Chicago on the SearchViews blog. The panel was moderated by Greg Sterling, with Stacy Williams (Prominent Placement), Patricia Hursh (Smart Search Marketing), and Justin Sanger (LocalLaunch!, owned by RHD)

Highlights:

  • Local search is highly fragmented. “Whether it’s standardization, mobile search, or some form of mashup, the panelists agreed that a wide-scale reinvention of local is imminent.”
  • Because of that fragmentation, local search has not delivered on its promise this year
  • Local search is changing user behavior and innovation is growing, but that innovation has not yet translated into equivalent return for local advertisers
  • Local is more about managing the off-page content than optimizing the merchant’s website.
  • “One of local’s biggest problems is that content becomes unstructured as it spreads. 2007 and 2008 will be about structuring business content in order to spread it through local search utilities.”

Justin Sanger suggested some ways merchants can be proactive:

  1. Generate your own reviews and ratings

  2. Ask close customers to generate positive reviews and ratings
  3. Optimize reviews for local search engine results pages
  4. Submit to all free listing services

What it means: I agree that the local market is very fragmented (especially in the US), but not just from the advertiser point of view. It’s very fragmented from the user point of view. Who’s more authoritative? Who delivers the best value? That’s why I strongly support multiple-entry-doors strategies like Ask.com’s in the case of Ask City and CitySearch. Many have questioned Ask about that double-pronged strategy but I believe that, in a very fragmented world, it’s better to cannibalize yourself than be cannibalized by others.

Harry adds: Market segments want different things too, teens with mobile phones and my grandmother need/ want a different local experience, but as intimated above, it’s all one database.