Internet search has come a long way in recent years. From the early days of 'black hat' Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) -a term that refers to less than ethical ways of skewing search results - to the modern-day link farms, Google knows all the tricks and penalises those who try to work around the system.

But why should it bother Google? A couple of reasons...

Firstly, Google intends to be known as the authoritative search engine, a search engine that will deliver you the best results determined by your own search criteria, so if you search for a specific term on Google, the search engine will deliver results to you based on what Google considers to be the best site for the purpose. The company have developed complex algorithms to help them determine the importance of a site and these are kept away from the prying eyes of those who want to shortcut their way to the top of the search engines.

Various Google changes to the algorithms such as the Panda and Penguin reviews have affected some sites really badly, some disappearing from their coveted top positions – many never to return, so following the rules and guidelines for good SEO is paramount. The importance of high ranking in the SERPS (search engine results pages) cannot be understated; It's critical for websites to appear on Page 1 of Google, especially in one of the top three organic positions, as these spots receive 61.5% percent of all clicks from users, according to Chitika the online ad network .
Websites ranked number one received an average click-through rate (CTR) of 32.5 percent; number two had a CTR of 17.6 percent; and number three had a CTR of 11.4 percent.

Secondly, by being the number one search engine positions Google as the number one provider of paid for search advertising. Above, below and to the right side of the natural or organic search engine results are Google's paid for ads, delivered in a unique way. Advertisers can bid on specific keywords and when their ad appears on the search results page and is 'clicked', Google charges the customer for each individual click. A simple model that makes Google billions of dollars.

This is of course a simplified model for paid advertising, but does give you the general idea and why Google wants only genuine results on its search pages.

SEO and marketing is extremely complex and competitive on its own, but there's a new kid on the block who is fast becoming king of search for local businesses.

Local Search

Local Search is the new gold rush and businesses who adopt the basic principles of good optimisation practice will be the ones to profit from the upsurge in local mobile marketing.

In the early days of search, dominating the Search Engine results was relatively easy; all you had to do was stuff your site with the appropriate keywords, hit the right percentage of keywords in your metatags and bingo you would soon be number one for your chosen search terms.

Of course the search results would be fairly useless to most companies, especially if the services offered by the company dominating the search results were geographically limited. Having your hairdresser's shop in London appear in the Search Engine Results as the top result for people searching for the term 'hairdresser' in Argyll was very much a waste of time and effort.

Google realised this at an early stage and began developing Google Local in 2004, which was designed to offer relevant neighbourhood business listings, maps, and directions. Local was eventually combined with Google Maps.

Nowadays, geo-located search happens seamlessly; your browser detects the area you are conducting your search from and delivers the most appropriate results based on your location.

If you search for the generic term "Plumber", Google will deliver results based on where you are doing the search from and display results for Plumbers who are closest to your browsing location.

With the advent of smartphones and tablets, social search has really become key to business success. Mobile device users are geolocated either using the GPS settings on the device or by interrogating the Wi Fi Hub being used to determine the location of the person carrying out the search.

This local search functionality on mobile devices is extremely important to the local business as mobile device users depend more and more on their devices to provide them with information on nearby businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants and bars, or even local services such as the ubiquitous Plumber, taxi firms or associated products and services.

What makes it so important is this startling fact: 80% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours.

So the importance of having your business optimised for local search cannot be stressed enough, but most local businesses seem to be blissfully ignorant of the benefits of having optimised online assets.

If you need further confirmation consider these facts:

  • Sixty percent of local businesses don't have their phone number listed on their website home page.
  • Sixty-six percent don't have a contact form to enable consumers to request information
  • Ninety three percent don't have mobile-friendly websites
  • 1 in 5 searches is local, which means someone is looking for a product or service nearby.

By now you should fully appreciate the importance of local search and how it can positively impact your business.

Article by James McRoy of Glass Frog Digital Marketing.

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