Dave Zuls – Local Search Interview

For this interview we’re talking with Dave Zuls aka Hawaii SEO who publishes a blog over at Hawaii Online Advertising.

Hi Dave why don’t you take a few minutes to tell everyone a little bit about yourself for my readers who may not know you?

I got my first full time SEO job working for a local Hawaii activity reseller. My job was to travel around the islands and experience the tourist activities. I would do something like ride a mountain bike down the volcano, go on a snorkel cruise, submarine ride, or whale watching and finish the day at a popular luau, dinner cruise or whatever. Then I would go back to the office the next day with the photos and write keyword rich sales copy about how much fun I had. It was a rough job but I guess someone has to do it. Now I work at a large Hawaii based airline that only flies too and from Hawaii.

Let’s pretend you aren’t involved in internet marketing for a moment, what kind of local searches do you find yourself doing?

Well… One day my wife and I wanted to check out a new restaurant… so my wife went to look up the address and phone number. She couldn’t find a listing and was getting real mad. She Said… “It’s like they don’t exist! – They’re not listed anywhere! – I’ve looked everywhere! – I’ve checked everything!”

I was puzzled. I asked if she had called Information & looked in the Phone Book? (NO ?!?) By “Everywhere” & “Everything” she meant that she had tried several relevant queries in both Google & Yahoo! but was unable to find the website or a listing in a local restaurant directory. The thought of calling information or opening the Phone Book never even occurred to her.

My wife is not a computer person either. From then on… I knew that Local search was going to take over in a big way sometime soon.

Let’s look at the marketing side for a bit. What sorts of things you believe local webmasters and internet marketers should pay more attention to when designing websites for local business?

That would be “Leveraging the location as a brand” Most locations have been marketed a certain way for a long time and essentially turned the location into a very strong brand that you can apply to your own business. Some locations have such strong brands that people adopt these branding elements for national products. For example: The Chevy Colorado, the Dodge Durango and the Chrysler Aspen. Coors has leveraged the Colorado “Brand” since they started.

So how does this apply to local search marketing you may ask. Brace yourselves… Here comes some Search Marketing Psychobabble…

In my opinion… Internet marketing involves two distinct thought processes on the part of the consumer.

Internal Search:
This is the preexisting “Mental images” or ideas in a person’s brain. This can seriously influence how a person perceives new information. The more preexisting information a consumer has, the more of an influence it will be when searching for new info.

External Search:
This is when the consumer starts to look for more information from the outside world via Search Engines and the Internet, etc.

In general… People are looking for decent match between the internal & external information.
(I don’t know what I’m looking for but I’ll know it when I see it.)

So… Let’s say you were searching for “Denver Restaurants”… You visit two websites that both have similar listings. The only major difference is the look & feel.

The first one is based on a generic Restaurant Guide template but the second one is Orange & Blue like the Denver Broncos, it has an image of the Denver city skyline with the Rockies in the background. It also has photos of recognizable Denver restaurants which are also famous local landmarks.

You would likely be drawn to the second website.

This is called a “Cognitive Consonant”. (Your knowledge, mental image or memory of Denver matches the look and feel of the second website) When your mental image matches the new information source, you’re much more likely to notice the new information.

“Cognitive Dissonance” is the exact opposite. This is when you somehow recognize an inconsistency between the internal and external information. (Somehow… you believe the generic website was built by someone who’s never even been to Denver and may not be a very reliable source of information.)

If you’re using a generic template for your local website, you’re likely loosing business to the website that was obviously designed by a local.

Incorporating the location’s preexisting branding elements into your website can make you appear to be much more local than the guy right across the street. (IMO) There is no need to reinvent the brand recognition state and city governments have spent millions of dollars promoting for the last several decades.

(IMO) These location based branding elements are what people expect and hope to see.

Let’s look into the future, where do you see the local search market headed in the next 3-5 years and do you see any big changes coming down the road?

I’m sure it will have a lot to do with the next generation of cell phones. I saw the iPhone presentation a few weeks ago and my erection is just now starting to subside.

I think GPS will have a big influence on how things work in the near future. You will likely be able define a radius around yourself before you do a search. Google will likely serve PPC & contextual ads based on your GPS coordinates as well. Behavioral targeting might also come into play with mobile devices. Your “Call History” may influence your Google Personalized Mobile Search results, where businesses you call tend to show up at the top of your Mobile SERPS. You’re phone might also start trying to figure out you’re age & gender based on your call/surf/search behavior, so advertisers can target your phone with better ads, etc. (Semi-creepy stuff like that)

You also posted a link to a panel discussion with Guy Kawasaki and a bunch of twenty-somethings a while ago. It was a real eye-opener for me to see how important the cell phone is to their lifestyle. (IMO) this type of dependence on mobile devices will only intensify over time.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today Dave, to read more be sure to stop by Hawaii Online Advertising or join his MyBlogLog Community

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