Have you used Yahoo!’s new local-search function? If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check it out. They’ve upgraded it with fantastic features geared to make searching for local businesses and services a breeze. Some of these features include user recommendations and reviews of businesses, real-time updates on local event information, and the ability to search for businesses, events, and more within specific neighborhoods rather than forcing the user to wade through the search results for an entire city. In addition, the search engine company has also upgraded its mapping capabilities.
Users also have the option to receive updated search information via RSS – Rich Site Summary, otherwise known as Really Simple Syndication – feeds. This particular feature has, arguably, impacted the scope of the heavy-hitting search engines in Internet users’ lives the most. The race between Yahoo!, Google, MSN, and AOL for market share is never-ending, and each has added its own brand of improvements. The major search engines’ new local-search features are all fantastic for the end user, but what do they mean for local businesses?
In the history of local search, there has been a lot invested in the form of user-friendly improvements by search-engine companies, but these improvements haven’t yielded a noticeable return-on-investment (ROI) for the companies. You might recall search trailblazers Citysearch and MSN Sidewalk – these two engines were an early example of the race to improve search functionality – then again, you might not remember them at all. It wasn’t until Google’s explosion onto the search scene in recent years that the general public really became aware of the power of search on the web. Now “Googling” is a verb.
Much of the public awareness of Internet search comes from Google’s innovations in technology, but until recently, local search wasn’t really a consideration for most Internet users or the businesses featured in search results. However, the improvements that the major search engines are adding are changing that, and if you’re an owner of a traditional local business, you should be paying attention.
More functionality for users means more accountability for business owners. Now that patrons can voice their opinions about the establishments that they frequent, potential customers have an all-access pass to virtually unlimited information about a business before they ever step foot inside the door. The days of businesses relying on a fancy façade and some good ol’ TV ads are quickly fading. Now businesses have to be accountable for just about every step they take, no matter how large or small they are. If a patron of a restaurant or theatre or dentist or landscaper has a bad experience, they have the ability to tell a lot of people all about it quickly and easily.
The prospect of being scrutinized at every turn might seem like a frightening one at best, but there is a definite upside. Just as negative views can spread like wildfire, so can positive perspectives. If you’re putting a concerted effort into your customer service and integrity is integral to the way that you conduct business, you’re bound to get good feedback. And, now more than ever, good feedback with go further than it ever has before.
Perhaps more importantly, though, it’s up to traditional local businesses to make sure that they have online presences. I live in a mid-sized community, and I was surprised to find as many reviews about local eateries, mechanics, and events as I did. It’s not just businesses located in large cities that need to take heed. The proliferation of the Internet – and local search capabilities – is affecting communities far and wide. Since more and more people are utilizing the web to find the goods and services that they want, it only stands to reason that you should ensure your business is in front of them. These folks are your potential customers, after all.
There are a lot of ways that you can improve your online presence, but the first step of putting yourself in a position to grow your traditional local business is being aware that the Internet will affect your business one way or another, negatively or positively. It’s up to you to take control of which way you want things to go. Take some time to surf the web. Use the new features that the search engines are rolling out. Pay attention to what customers are saying about traditional local businesses. Accessing that information now will be invaluable to your success later.
© 2005 Low-Hanging Fruit
Author: Tom Swanson
Web Site: http://www.lowhangingfruit.com
Tom Swanson’s experience in sales, design, marketing, copywriting, multi-media advertising, and publishing have given him incredible insight into the world of marketing both online and off. Combining creativity with real-world, hands-on experience, Tom writes articles to help local businesses learn to strategically leverage their Internet presence and capture easy online profits. His articles include thoughtful, down-to-earth explanations of various marketing media and philosophies, and local businesses can take away simple tools, ideas, and techniques that they can implement to shape their local Internet marketing efforts.
If you’re looking for some high-impact content that’s chock full of information, look no further than the articles of Tom Swanson.
© 2005 Low-Hanging Fruit