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The question often arises, “Can you compete both in local search and global search?” Of course, the answer is “Absolutely.”

The key is to claim your Google Places and Bing Local listings while continuing to optimize your website for organic search. Where you want to dominate in local search is on Google Maps and Bing Maps. To do that, you want to claim those listings. Be sure to include address, phone number, hours, and other locally identifying information in those listings.

With global organic search, you just do all the normal things you would do on your website and off site to rank your web pages. I’d also encourage you to open up a Google+ account.

On Google+, you want to link to your website’s home page. When you set up your Google+ account, you have a Links section. That’s a good place to link to all of your websites. Just link to each website once. And if you are a contributor to third-party websites or blogs, and you should be, then list those links in the Contributor section. Ask the owner of those sites to follow the Google guidelines for Authorship.

You can rank locally and globally. You just have to focus your efforts on organic search for your website and make your local search efforts focused through Maps.

Googler Jeremy Sussman explains in the following video how Google Maps uses location, relevance, and prominence to rank a business in Google Maps. Watch the video and we’ll talk about what the relevance factor means.

So what is meant by “relevance?”

Relevance in Google Maps means you have done everything you can do as a business to ensure that your Google Places profile matches the search queries that people use to find businesses like yours. Factors that determine relevance include the category you put your business into, keywords you use when writing your description, and other traditional SEO factors.

Of prime importance is category. If your business is a restaurant, you don’t want to categorize it as a butcher shop. That’s a no-brainer. But even subtle differences can make a big difference in Google Maps. For instance, an auto repair shop that does not do body work does not want to list itself as a body shop.

When you write the description for your business, be sure to use keywords that are naturally associated with businesses like yours. Don’t spam, but use natural writing methods to describe your business using the right keywords.

Other items that could affect relevance are how you write your offers within Google Places, whether your domain and business name have a keyword in them, and whether or not you use your business address in your listing.

Relevance is an important factor in Google Maps search. Learn how to make it work for you.

A news release from Google caught my attention today and it reignited a train of thought related to niche search engines. In the past, real estate agents were able to upload home listings to Google Maps. From February, that service will disappear because Google are doing away with the Google Base API.  One of the reasons that Google provided for no longer supporting real estate included this little gem:

….due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites…..

That one sentence tells us two things – first, users were not using Google to search for real estate, and second, that Google acknowledges that property search engines are doing a good job.   And they are. Worldwide, almost every country has a niche real estate search engine that has been set up by the real estate industry.

Real estate is not the only industry, although they are one of the most successful. Motor vehicles and travel have also been successful at setting up their own niche-based search engines. In fact, think of a niche and there is bound to be a dedicated search engine. The question is this: Can these search engines help your business? In short, the answer is yes – most definitely.

Niche-based search engines are often less competitive than mainstream search so optimizing your website can be a little easier. They also have the added benefit of dedicated traffic. If someone visits a real estate search engine, you can bet they are looking for real estate. In most cases, they are also looking to buy. Traffic from niche related search engines are more likely to convert into sales because of these factors.

At present, apart from a small number of very popular niches, niche search engines aren’t as popular as mainstream search. That will change as they prove their worth, and that will be a real bonus for businesses everywhere.