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How Do You Get the Average Surfer to Use Local Search?
Equally as important as how you engage the SME in Local Search is how you get the average surfer to use it.
Beyond a SE putting a tab on the search page, or popping a couple of their own Local Search listings at the top of a serps, what else is there?
Of course there is always building a good Local Search site and hoping it shows up at the top of the serps.
Local offline advertizing? We get some TV ads here for a local "directory" site, that's close I guess.
I am curious, do mean how do you get the general populous to start using local on-line search services such as Google Local, Yahoo!local, etc.?
In my experience, it takes a lot of traditional advertising to let people know it's there and what it can do. It also helps if the "Local Search" is associated with an already familiar local brand.
It will continue to be a tough nut to crack until everyone (and I mean everyone) has internet access, preferrably a high-speed "always on" connection.
It's just too easy and familiar to grab the print YP.
To help move things along Yahoo, Google and MSN could advertise to local businesses and services, framing local search as a necessary business consideration to compete in the new economy, and a cheap method of local advertising as an adjunct or alternative to yellow page ads, newspaper ads, classifieds etc. I'd expect such an approach, if done well, could motivate acheivement of general usefulness.
When SEs first appeared do you know of a website that "educated" users about SEs? I certainly didn't. Webmasters looked at how to be prominently displayed in each SE/Directory and left the search marketing/advertising to the SEs/Directories themselves.
Now that search results are in the millions of pages and "business" is lumped - and often lost - in with "content/research" and "personal/vanity/hobby", etc. localising is simply an easy additional revenue stream for the SE: filter out the "business" category that is historically used to paying for advertising and then filter by location and charge them for the privelege.
Examine each SE/Directory offering in Local Search and model/market your site(s) as appropriate. Almost all the SE are "into" Local as are the multitude of "yellow page" and "business directory" sites so pointing users to a particular one or three is likely to be an exercise in frustration.
The game is the same but with some midfield goalposts added for fun.
Market your site(s) - including to general and local SEs/Directories - and leave their advertising/marketing to them. Unless they will pay you well for your work on their behalf.
I've been doing a few experiments myself and reporting the results on a local search blog which I started because I thought it would be an interesting area to watch develope.
I'm just an average surfer and not a search engine expert so I really want to have an intuitive local search feature which will guide me in a user freindly way to the info I need.
So far I think Yahoo local is definitely my preference but I'll be looking at what MSN is offering in the next couple of days.
I typed my query plus zip code and up came the results.
How would the AVERAGE user do it? I would suspect they'd mess it up and end up ordering viagra by accident.
Ask Jeeves has done a good job idiot proofing their interface so that you don't have to rtfm to know how to use advanced searching techiniques like plugging a zip code into your query, lol.
Do a search for "Italian Pizza Your Town" and compare the results from AJ with the other three. IMO Ask Jeeves presents the least cluttered and most logical presentation of information.