Local Search

The biggest change for many SME operators is how to continually compete with larger established websites in search without the large marketing budgets.  The biggest point of advice in search don’t try and be everything to everyone, your website doesn’t have to be a one stop shop.

While it maybe nice to be the next Wikipedia and be known as the website for everything, if you have limited resources in the short term this may work, but is likely unsustainable in the long run.  It needs to be understood that if you focus your efforts on being a niche or specialist you will likely be more able to beat your competitors online.

Business needs to understand that online marketing in some industries such as “Travel” is a bloodbath and any newer websites that try to target a broad audience will likely fail.  With some research you begin to understand being a niche or specialist provider can allow you to compete with industry leaders such as Wotif, WebJet or RealEstate.com.au.  These larger general websites continue to struggle to dominate localised search and offer smaller niche websites an opportunity.

Search engines such as Google & Bing have been working to improve local results and improve the relevance of the results as this is growing area of importance for business.  A Google search result for “travel agents” lists 10 local results with a mix of large corporate, franchise and niche travel providers.  The local results show that even in competitive industries niche or specialist providers can compete against leading online travel providers Wotif & WebJet.

It is also important to understand how generic terms such as “pizza stores” show in Google local results, mostly local independent operators are listed with the only chain to get multiple local results listed is Eagle Boys . Eagle Boys are also listed as #1 in organic search results demonstrating that Eagle Boys is a company that understands search and local search as part of their web strategy.  While the addition of the store suburb, would be useful for the Eagle Boy results, they have listed the individual store contact numbers.

What is disappointing is that around the keyword “pizza hut” is that a majority of the local business results show a generic “Pizza Hut – maps.google.com.au – 1300 749 924”.  These generic results do not take advantage of the benefits of localised search results. The other failing is the engagement with visitors though user reviews, in comparison to the local results for “pizza store” which shows multiple user reviews.

While examining how companies are performing based on individual keywords results can be useful, it is important to have broad overview into how Australian internet users interact within your industry.  To get detailed understanding around how brand and generic search terms are driving traffic to the food and beverage area in the sub-category of “restaurants & catering” I spoke with market intelligence company Hitwise.

They advised that the top 1000 search terms accounted for 34.65% of search volume in that subcategory split by brand (842) and generic terms (158).  This leaves a massive amount of search volume outside the top 1000 for long tail and multiple keyword phrases that niche and specialist websites can target.

Generic location terms (1.57%) generated more than 5 times the search volume of Generic terms (0.29%) but less than paid generic(10.05%) terms.  The data also shows brand is very important within the “Restaurants & Catering” vertical for organic (31.33%) and paid search (11.81%).

A number of large restaurant & catering companies such as Pizza Hut are not currently running any paid campaigns but others such as PizzaLocal.com.au are running extensive paid campaigns targeting both brand & generic search terms.  The Hitwise data indicates that paid campaigns around generic needs to be central to any web strategy.

What is interesting is that within the top 100 search terms features niche restaurants such as Draculas on the Gold Coast & Matt Moran’s ARIA.  So how does paid search fit into how search can work better for SMEs?

I asked Queensland based Google AdWords reseller Hot Goanna how does local search fit into their paid campaigns for their clients.  They used a fitness company and a food delivery company for the basis of their analysis with local search accounting for 35% of search volume.  They said the typical advantage for local search terms is that the CTR were typically 70% higher, CPC was 17% lower and conversion rates were 45% better.  They found a higher ROI for clients running geo targeted campaigns using city locations as target areas using location and generic terms.

The most important part of your web strategy should be ensuring that you measure as many steps of the process as possible, starting with correctly implementing web analytics and enabling it to capture contact requests made through your website.

One previous client project had a reasonable understanding of what was driving sales by using a unique phone number but they were not measuring what was driving the online leads. By implementing goal tracking and conversion codes they were able to understand sources of conversions could be attributed to local search (30%) and to generic search (40%).

There are existing phone number solutions available for business to help measure and understand the success of their web strategies using virtual phone numbers, allowing multiple contact numbers setup redirected to your designated phone numbers.  Business can use multiple numbers to track inquiries from Yellow Pages, Websites, TV, Radio and even AdWords campaigns.

Add-on routing options available for these virtual numbers


While there are a number of solutions available using 13, 1300 & 1800 numbers for your business.  If you are utilising some of the many add-on options such as postcode routing these can quickly become expensive so may not be suitable for all business.  The typical consumer response to 1300 or 13 is lower as these are likely call centres and can also be expensive to call from mobiles.

The local contact numbers typically have the highest response rates but these had been expensive and complex to organise in the past. There has been an increase in virtual local phone numbers made available with software such as Skype.  It allows business to cost effectively to have local contact numbers and easily track any calls generated within the Skype business centre.  It does require some manual work to process but can be cost effective if done monthly.

So the points to consider are research your competitors to find your niche or speciality.  The following step before you start to promote your website is to ensure you have web analytics in place so you can begin to measure your results.  The next step is to examine how you will track phone calls, 13, 1300, 1800 or via Skype.  Once you understand your unique position, examine how your competitors are using Localised search and if there and how you can best compete.  You should continue to improve and adjust your campaign over time to get the best results.