A screenshot of a local iconLocal search is hot.  Apparently 2012 is The Year of Local according to National Advertisers.

Google says 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. Wow! But what about the other 3%? Do they ever leave their houses?

Google just revamped their whole local search business to embed it in Google+, so something must be going on around here and maybe they are after that other 3%.

If you ask me, I’ll whisper that local is pretty hot right now mostly because global is passé and people want their technology to be more relevant for their everyday local lives. This represents a huge opportunity for local business. I have a tendency to believe Google’s stats too because I always search for products online first before checking anywhere else. I never go to the yellow pages and hardly ever pay attention to the junk mail which I use to line the bottom of my parrot’s cage.

I know there are others doing the same. Checking online that is. Here’s an example: “where to buy shoes” has more than 40,000 searches in Canada each month and there are more than 8,000 monthly searches for “where to buy a hat”. More than 18,000 searches for kids furniture makes me think if I was selling furniture for kids I would want to have a solid Google places listing so I could get even 1% of those people buying a crib or a swing  from me and not that major brand store on the outskirts. Support your local merchant, I say.

So what does this recent change to Google Places really mean? It means if you have a retail store and actually have a product to sell and you haven’t optimized your site for local search, there is money out there flowing away from you.

I will not bother to repeat the same Top Ten Tips, or Top Fivers, or Three Steps to Optimize for Local that you can find all over the web, but will say one thing. Don’t ignore the opportunity to maximize your exposure in local search. It is essential business 101 these days.

Not convinced? Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t repeat but these need repeating. Think on these four insights out of a recent GMSlocal’s marketing report:

  1. 20% of all searches are for local products or services and when using a smart phone it rises to 40%.
  2. Last September, Foursquare reached one billion checkins and if you don’t know what Foursquare is, then yes you may be losing opportunity which means losing possible revenue.
  3. A 2011 comScore study indicated that 50% of consumers select a local business based on ratings and reviews by others. What’s your rating?
  4. A 2011 Harvard Business review study concluded that each star rating added to a Yelp review equaled a positive revenue impact of 5 to 9%

Like I said above Local is Hot. Don’t get left behind!