As the years have progressed, so have we seen the inevitable rise in search personalisation in order to deliver relevant results by the search engines. Additionally, we have seen an increasing rise in the use of mobile devices to access the internet and conduct searches, including a corresponding rise in the search for local services, with applications such as “Where’s my nearest…..” driving traffic through mobile devices.

Relevancy is the core mantra that you hear the search engines repeating, and that will continue indefinitely if they are to continue to provide what searchers seek and maintain market share. Delivering relevant results has meant that search engines are now using geo-location factors in the SERPs to ensure that people are finding the products and services which are closest to them, and businesses are having to make sure that all these factors are also included in their search marketing strategies in order to access the local markets potentially available to them.

The growing awareness of environmental factors which affect consumers’ purchase decisions, and the planet, are also a minor contributing factor into the growth of local searches.

The research done into what people are searching for on the Internet, and defining the reasons for search has helped the search engines understand the importance of delivering search results that fit, broadly, into two categories. These two categories affect how results are delivered in the SERPs, and although many of your average Internet surfers will not have noticed the changes, nor even less understood the purpose for them, the effects on search behaviour are noticeable from an SEO point of view.

Put very simplistically, there appear to be two major reasons for people to search the internet:
a) to find a particular item or place to purchase a service eg shopping
b) to find information eg to conduct research

(There is a third reason, which is communication eg joining a community, sharing knowledge, or distributing information eg videos, podcasts, photos and so on, but this is a primary motive for being online, rather than a motive for searching.)

Search personalisation has grown comprehensively in the last few years, with the advent of regional and local search facilities eg google.co.uk, ask.co.uk and so on, to allow nationwide rather than global searches. Additionally, maps and shopping results now top the search engines results, leading people to the sites who have realised the incredible value in listing through geofactors and by individual product. Whether rightly or wrongly, most consumers would prefer to trust and hence buy from a company based in their own country.

When people are shopping online, be it comparing prices, seeking suppliers of products, or making an actual purchase, the cost of shipping or travelling to a retail outlet to examine the goods affects the purchase decision. In the case of seeking a service, whether that is a restaurant, a search engine optimisation company, a petrol station or a cinema, then people are going to prefer a company based locally ie not in another country.

In the next article, we will discuss how you can ensure that your site comes to the attention of your local searchers, and that you are included in the SERPs for local search.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.