As Google has resolved to make local businesses a larger part of its search strategy, the field of firms selling optimization services to those businesses appears set to grow as well.
On Monday, YouInWeb announced a new search engine optimization (SEO) service targeting small and midsize businesses (SMBs), with a patent-pending process that the company said is geared specifically for Google Instant and the higher profile that local businesses now enjoy in the search engine's results. Both Google Instant and key changes to how Google displays local businesses in its results launched in 2010.
"That opened up some innovation in the SEO realm," said Andreas Hjelming, who serves as YouInWeb's CTO and COO. Hjelming said his startup plans to capitalize on the big bets being placed on localized search by Google and other companies. "That's our bread and butter at this point."
A beta version of YouInWeb's service launched in November with roughly 25 clients. (Google Instant launched in September.) The company said all of its beta customers achieved page-one placement in localized Google searches. YouInWeb currently has between 30 and 40 loss-leader customers and hopes to close a round of funding in February, according to Hjelming.
In the simplest terms, YouInWeb builds profile pages for its customers to foster higher rankings in local searches. The patent-pending portion of YouInWeb's platform is centered on a Q&A section, which Hjelming said drives keywords, related links, and the other fodder for local search relevance. Hjelming added that the difference between YouInWeb's profile page and the multitude of other profiles available to businesses -- a Citysearch profile, for example, or Google's own Place pages -- is that it's not intended to have any front-of-the-house marketing value. Rather, it's strictly intended to move a business higher up the search food chain.
"The profile-building part of our business is just for SEO purposes," he said.
Hjelming pointed to one of its beta clients, Sloss Law Firm, as an example. Search "entertainment law 10001" or "entertainment law New York 10001" and the firm's YouInWeb profile returns as the top natural result -- just after Google's own Place pages, of course. Sloss maintains its own website, but it's the YouInWeb profile that garners the prime placement. The profile includes a link to Sloss's official site. Hjelming said that YouInWeb's Q&A process can be deployed directly on a company's site if it prefers to do so rather than use the profile page.
The vagaries of search marketing, however, surface quickly with some minor tweaks to the Sloss example: Search "entertainment lawyer Manhattan" and Sloss is nowhere to be found on page one (or the next four pages, either).
YouInWeb said it's also working to define a strategy for "hyper-local relevance" in searches on mobile devices. Google Instant went mobile in November.
In the meantime, YouInWeb appears confident in its approach to local search: Hjelming said the company won't charge clients a dime until they're satisfied -- quite literally, in this case -- with the results.