Here’s a look at some fundamental local search features/tools that seem obvious, and that should be fully functional—but don’t exist, or don’t work. At least I think they don’t exist yet. Feel free to prove me wrong in comments, tweets, Molotov cocktails, etc.

Change the name of your Facebook business page. Perhaps your business’ name could use a little updating so you decide to change it. In most cases, you go to all of your profiles on the web, submit changes and over time they are updated—except on your Facebook page. Once you select a user name for your Facebook page, you can’t change it. I have heard that you can petition Facebook for one change but this seems pretty impractical. The option Facebook endorses is to delete your current page and create a new one with the new name. Too bad you had spent the past year building up thousands of fans on your old page.

Local keyword estimator. One of the problems with trying to target local queries for search marketing is that there is not enough volume around particular local service queries to generate meaningful data. Marketers try to get around this by creating paid search campaigns to see what kind of volume a particular query can generate, but it would be a lot easier if you could use one of the big keyword tools, typed “Pleasanton butcher” and got a report that aggregated this query with similar queries across every U.S. city to show the most popular variations when a city name is appended to the query. Bonus points for allowing me to filter the results by city size, location and cultural bias—perhaps tea party members search for local tea-bagging providers differently than latte-sippers, for example.

Local Twitter deals. I am sure this one is in the works, and there are plenty of services offering local deals via Twitter, but it would be great if a verified business could feed deals into Twitter and have them show up in a “local deals” list for users in their service area. Bonus points for being able to filter by product/service types.

Google maps analytics. A plugin or modification for Google Analytics that provides useful local/maps referrals without having to jump through hoops.

Competitive citation checker. Think SEOmoz Link Comparison tool for citations. I found this while writing this post. It hadn’t launched yet, so even though it may be live now, it doesn’t count.

CraigsList spammer (er, I mean Marketing Tool). Craigslist is one of the best marketing vehicles for local service businesses. It’s cheap and it’s simple. The problem is that it’s crowded and the chronological nature of the posts gets your ad pushed down pretty fast. I’d like to see someone build a tool that knows how to defeat Craigslist’s spam detection (or even better, a tool that is blessed by Craigslist and can bypass the spam filters) and allow a marketer to schedule new posts and take advantage of trending queries (Craigslist trends? Craigslist insights for local?). We’d only use this to make the world shinier and brighter right? And 10% of profits will go to feed families of mediocre marketers.

Centroid ranker. So the big local engines have all decreased the importance of centroid proximity in their map ranking algos, but location still makes a difference for a variety of reasons. I want a mobile app for businesses researching new office locations. It locates you on a map and shows you where your location will appear in the current set of local results for each of the different maps displays (Google, Bing, Mapquest, Yahoo, etc.) for specific queries (e.g. “pleasanton restaurant”). I guess you could do a mobile search and just look at the map that comes up, but if I have learned anything from my years on the web, it’s that same s#%t, different wrapper can work wonders as a business model.

Place page citation blocker. Citations on Google place pages can be helpful or hurtful, usually depending on how vocal your customers are. Google recently introduced the ability for merchants to respond to customer reviews on place pages, which helps in dealing with the great unwashed. But what about those citations that show up in the “details” section? Quite often I see lead-gen sites that businesses advertise on show up here with a “request a quote” link which takes you to a lead-gen page with a call-tracking phone number. So instead of just getting a potential customer call from a Google search, the merchant now gets a call they have to pay for. How about giving merchants the option to block these types of links?

SMB “pitch me” list. A common problem with selling marketing services to small and medium size businesses is they don’t have a lot of free time to take calls from the numerous services competing for their attention. Another common problem is the SMB typically does not have a lot of knowledge about web marketing in general so when they are ready to start buying marketing services, they don’t even know who to contact. How about something similar to the “do not call” list, except it’s a “pitch me” list that SMBs opt-into when they are ready to consider their options? If they are not on the list and you call them, you automatically lose half your Google traffic.

Fake address finder. A browser plugin that highlights listings with fake addresses that show up in Google Maps and tags them with a “WTF?!” emoticon. Paid version includes ability to purchase property, file with municipality to create an actual address and automatically create new place page to further screw up Google’s local database.

Do you have another genius idea for local search? Would love to see your thoughts in the comments section below.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • Trevor B Reed

    Wonderful article Andrew! The local scene is very important to small businesses and these proposed tools could be very helpful. We recently built a Google powered local search engine by sorting all local business websites and inputting them by hand. We are working on a way to automate this process while omitting spam, but it is still in the works. Do you think that it is possible to change people’s search habits when looking locally? Please take a look at ours and let me know what you think. http://www.searchingcharleston.com/

  • http://cartercole.com Carter Cole

    Centroid ranker tool is something I have considered writing after seeing it was big in “local search ranking factors” i have to finish next version of SEO Site Tools then you will have your centroid ranker :) (plan to use gmaps and places api to do some real cool stuff with detecting your listing)

    I havent tried it but after you broke CAPTCHA i think craigslist spammer would be easy
    the Fake address finder would also be pretty easy by calling the postal service address lookup service and verifying it exists

    talk to me on twitter im @cartercole

  • http://www.sefati.net asefati

    Interesting article. It’s looking into and article is worth linking to.

  • http://www.localsplash.com David Rodecker

    Great compilation of ideas Andrew; thanks for sharing. We’re in the midst of cracking the shell on one of these; its an exploratory trial, so it might end up a “miserable failure”…

    Love the commentary:
    “automatically create new place page to further screw up Google’s local database”… I think these tools already exist ;)

    “10% of profits will go to feed families of mediocre marketers”… You should run for government! Of course, you’d have to increase the percentage taxation a bit.

  • http://blog.mannixmarketing.com lisa

    Your fake address finder brings up a good point. How can a company that might have one central office location, but service several local cities have a shot at Google Local in more than one location. The short answer, they purchase a location but don’t actually occupy it. Is it possible that Google will expand it’s “local community” to encompass companies that legitimately service more than one city but don’t have offices there? That might completely defeat the current point of Google Places. But, it might be something for them to consider … like maybe increasing the 7 pack back to 10, having the first 7 be local and the last 3 be virtual?

 

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