Why The “Location Wars” Spell Trouble – & Opportunity – For Local SEO

There has been a lot of hype lately about “location wars.” It all sounds pretty great, particularly if you have a fetish for war metaphors—but what are people talking about, exactly? In a nutshell, the pundits touting the coming location wars are proclaiming that the world is now going to be checking in everywhere just for the hell of it. Maybe you’ll get a half-priced soup and sandwich deal round the corner or something. Maybe you’ll be able to impress your friends that you ousted that guy on the third floor as Mayor of the local adult entertainment establishment. So what?

It seems certain that as demand for interactive mobile experiences grows, the Foursquares and GoWallas of the world will thrive. If you are a business that relies on location it would behoove you to understand these models and figure out the areas of opportunity. But for we luddites who may be reluctant to leave the house, the near-term challenge is what does all of this stuff mean for your site getting traffic from Google?

According to one report Foursquare is averaged one check-in every second in January. If you check out Foursquare’s recently relaunched homepage, you’ll notice a lot of these check-ins include “tips” which are short notes about a location like this one about a bowling alley:

Usually, every Saturday night from 8pm-10pm, they have glow in the dark bowling where they turn off the main lights and put black lights on along other dance lights and play music.

Sounds like the place to be right? Well it’s absolutely going to be the place to be on Google because search engines eat up this kind of content like candy. If the check-in trend continues, Foursquare and the other check-in services are going to have a lot of unique text associated with a lot of different businesses. If these companies invest in some boring old website SEO they could be on their way to dominating organic search results for local businesses.

All local search sites tend to have the same basic contact and service data about a business, but most suffer from not having much more than that about the majority of businesses in their databases. Check-ins and tips are to local business reviews are what Tweets are to blog posts. The amount of effort required is so much easier and the mobile/gaming factors encourage mass adoption. Sites that amass the unique content for the most businesses will win at the SEO game.

I think the following stats about the number of business profile pages reported indexed in Google over the past 24 hours pretty much says it all.

  • Yellowpages.com: 219
  • Superpages.com: 553
  • Yelp.com: 928
  • Foursquare.com: 11,300

Now this comparison is a little unfair because 1) Foursquare is global and 2) Google’s site: query is not necessarily accurate, but it’s indicative of how quickly these services can start to fill up Google’s index. If your business relies on organic local search for a significant amount of traffic it may indeed be time to get your own location war on.

Further reading about the “location wars” (mostly from TechCrunch)

  • Location Isn’t A War Between Two Sides, It’s A Gold Rush For Everyone?
  • The Location War May Be Even, But Foursquare Dominates Twitter
  • In The SXSW Location War, Loopt Hopes The Correct Weapon Is Events
  • The Location War May Be Even, But Foursquare Dominates Twitter
  • On The Eve Of SXSW’s Location War, Plancast Gets An iPhone App
  • Foursquare And Gowalla In A Dead Heat In The Location War
  • In The SXSW Location War, Loopt Hopes The Correct Weapon Is Events
  • SXSW a battleground for mobile ‘location war’
  • So who won SXSW’s ‘location war?’
  • With New Ovi Maps, Nokia Seeks Location Heaven
  • ‘Location Wars’: What Does Geocentric Tech Mean for You?
  • Check-In Fatigue. Or, Why I’m Rooting For An All-Out Location War.?
  • Just In Time For The Location Wars, Twitter Turns On Geolocation
  • Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

    Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


    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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