Posted on December 19, 2006
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

More consumers than ever before are going to local online sites searching for businesses, reading user reviews, comparison shopping, and looking for deals.  You need proof?  During the three-day period ending the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday (because it puts retailers in the black), ShopLocal, a multi-channel shopping resource, reported an 84 percent increase in the number of consumers looking at local Internet sites for deals at offline stores and businesses. And that trend is not going away, with local online advertising predicted to increase 53 percent in 2007 to $2 billion.

If you have a small retail or service business — either offline or online — and getting local traffic is important to you, advertising locally online can definitely increase your foot traffic as well as your sales.

Almost exactly a year ago, published an article I wrote on the promise of local search called “The 411 on Local Search.”  Recently, I was asked by sister publication to write a follow-up piece. Instead of talking up the usual subjects, i.e., the local offshoots of the search engines (e.g., Yahoo! Local) and the online versions of the Yellow Pages, I wanted to find out how far local search had come in the past year and whether advertising on these local sites seemed like a good proposition for small businesses.

I was amazed by how much had changed in a year.

The latest trends in local search? Community sites, like Yelp and Judy’s Book, where users can read and write reviews — and find out about great deals at neighborhood stores and businesses — and new services like ShopLocal and MerchantCircle, which give local merchants all of the benefits of traditional print advertising but via the Web — and for much less than they would pay for print.

I encourage you to read my article, “Local Search Comes of Age,” and visit some of the websites I mention. And while I did not discuss the search engines, Yahoo! Local is still considered the dominant player in the field (at least according to a 2006 report from JupiterResearch) and Citysearch and also have their devoted users.

Before you advertise anywhere, however, be sure to check out rates and options — and ask other small business owners in your area or industry what site or sites they use and what kind of results they have gotten.

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