Charting the Industry: Local Info Focus Puts Spotlight on SEO

A study by Pew Research released in Sept. 2011 shows that the younger set relies most on the Web to get local information (well, except for weather), highlighting the importance of local SEO strategies.  Source: Pew Research

A Pew Research study shows that Americans turn to a wide range of platforms to get local news and information, and where they turn varies considerably depending on the subject matter and their age.

The study, released Sept. 2011, finds that the majority of Americans, including more tech-savvy adults under age 40, also use a blend of both new and traditional sources to get their information.

Overall, the picture revealed by the data is that of a richer and more nuanced ecosystem of community news and information than researchers have previously identified.

Yet the study also shows the emerging role of the Internet as people seek local news and information. For adults generally, the Internet is a main source for information about restaurants and other local businesses, and it is tied with newspapers as a top source for material about housing, jobs and schools—all areas that place a special value on consumer input. Yet when one looks at the 79% of Americans who are online, the Internet is the first- or second-most-relied-upon source for 15 of the 16 local topics examined.


What does this mean for PR professionals? Perhaps a bigger emphasis on local SEO efforts, particularly for communicators from small to midsize businesses that sell products or services to local audiences, says Laura Kempke, senior VP at Schwartz MSL Boston.

“SEO is likely one of their most powerful tools for attracting customers,” says Kempke. “And the survey indicates that adults of all ages, not just young people, are going online to look for information about local businesses.” (See chart.)

This makes it imperative to use SEO for local outreach, says Sally Falkow, social media strategist at Meritus Media. “Now that Google displays the local pack of listings above the No. 1 organic results, even if you have done a stellar job with your SEO and your site is listed at No. 1, if you’re not in local listings, your competitors will be ahead of you,” says Falkow.


Falkow recommends creating an account on Google Places and populating it with as much information about the business as possible, add images and drive great reviews of your offerings. “And do the same with [Facebook’s location features], too,” adds Falkow.

Additional SEO hints from Kempke include:

Highlight your company’s location on your Web site. A larger business will typically bury its address and contact information, but a company marketing locally should make the address much more prominent and display it on the home page in HTML text. 

Google isn’t the only game in town. Bing Business Portal also allows you to display not just information about what you offer and where you’re located, but special promotions as well.

• Don’t forget mobile. Your Web site should be built with the needs of mobile users in mind. Beyond that, consider using Foursquare, which rewards customer loyalty.


Laura Kempke,; Sally Falkow,