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RISMEDIA, March 4, 2008-Do you know what local search is? If you just started having a grasp of search engine marketing, sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to learn something new. Companies are starting to act on strategies to get a good foundation that will make them a strong competitor for years to come.

One of the starting points of local marketing is understanding what it is and is not. While regular search marketing is about getting top results on sites like Google and Yahoo!, local search marketing is about having results on dozens if not hundreds of geographically related sites.

A second major point of why local search is a hot item revolves around the buzz phrase “user-generated content.” Sites like Yelp and CitySearch allow hundreds of different data points to be collected so that visitors can rate local businesses up and down. That commentary and voting creates a continuously updated source of information that is attractive to larger search sites like Google, but it also attracts consistent human readership due to the interaction happening on the site.

A third item that is encouraging growth for local search in 2008 is the evolution of the technology. Internet sites can now target visitors through much more precise IP addresses (a code that defines your point of origin), and we are also beginning to see information being shared across advertising platforms – ranging from wi-fi triangulation, cookies relayed through a multi-site advertising network, profile sharing on shopping/social sites, or even comparing your mobile phone information to your browsing habits. As that type of data gets refined by marketing analysts and developers, sites begin to produce an almost unnerving ability to send you a marketing message created personally for you.

Number four on the list-online marketers are getting more savvy with the understanding that some personalities don’t like doing business online, but do prefer to find information online about where they can do business locally. Several portals and services have shown up to aid shoppers in finding information so that they can buy a physical product locally. Some examples are ShopLocal, TheFind, and Where2GetIt.

The fifth point encouraging local growth is hardware. There are more laptops and cell phones in general use than ever before (that alone isn’t news.) Yet the “big push” by cellular companies this year is to enable wireless data (e-mail, Internet, chat) and GPS-mapping services on as many units as possible. This trend hit the Asian community last year when a large variety of GPS-enabled phones hit the market. By 2010, most cell phones will have GPS. Unlike traditional computers and hardware, cell phones are replaced and upgraded every 12-18 months (upgrades are usually done when a contract is renewed, a report by Strategy Analytics showed that there were 1.1 billion cell phones sold in 2007.)

If you take these five ideas and wrap them into one equation, you can begin to understand how several different industries are interacting to create an amazing convergence for local search. More detailed and refined user generated content will create more visitors, which will create an opportunity for many professionals to benefit from a stronger business foundation of establishing a good strategy before competitors do.

The opportunity created by this evolution is to look at your business model and your local community, think about where information if being created, who is looking for it, and how you can benefit from acting as the portal for knowledge everyone is looking for.

To learn more about local search, see 3net Social Media Marketing Blog.

Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid-1990s, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide, Monster.com, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

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