How many local business websites fit on the head of the pin? That is, metaphorically speaking, the first page of Google?
This theory, posed by Trevor Sumner, president and co-founder of LocalVox Media, at the 2013 Digital Agency summit caught our attention.
So we decided to take a good look.
It's an important question: Most searchers (94% according to Chitika Insights) click results that show up on the first page and a full 33% goes to the first listing (Chitika again).
We searched a few categories in St. Petersburg, Florida, a medium size city of about 500,000 people with a healthy small business community, to see what happened.
We typed in keywords "St.Petersburg" and name of a local business category.
The result? In five out of the eight categories we looked at, there were zero local business websites displayed on the first page.
Yep, zero. The rest were paid search, IYP's, Yelp, Facebook, and Google maps and carousels - ie the Google+ page.
Even if we fudged a little (I didn't scroll all the way down, but then, who does?), it's literally impossible for millions of local businesses that need search "findability" to achieve it via their website, competing for at best one or two positions, if any.
Take a look at results for key words "St. Petersburg" and name of category:
Antique stores: 2
If you are still counting appearance on Google Maps or carousels as a local business website, that is no longer the case. Those are Google+ pages.
What else shows up? Lots of Yelp listings, Yellow pages, and other directories. Plus an occasional Facebook page or Amazon product.
The big lesson here for media companies: Findability starts with Google+ which is the easiest way to get any local business on the first page. To get even higher, you need to turn to paid search. And of course, you can double presence, secure it, or bump off competitors via sub-url's on Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook and other aggregators.
Takeaways here: For for local merchants findability is huge, and this is a great opportunity to knowledgeably enter a marketing relationship.
Our two reviews of media technology this week - one is Sumner's company LocalVox and the other is Local Market Launch - address some unique upsells in the findability space. Here are also two examples of how optimizing profiles on listings and Google+ can help competitive rankings.
Our conclusion, Sumner's assessment is fundamentally accurate. For a general search that includes the local geographic area and business category in the search words, there are three basic basic ways to be found the first pageh: Google+, paid search and directories/social media.
The local merchant's website is no longer one of them.