This post is less about local search, and more about local sites, but of course, they do go hand in hand. The last few days I was in the midst of Hurricane Gustav. I live 60 miles north of New Orleans. I chose to stay, mainly because it would have been too much of a hassle to pack up the 4 dogs, 1 cat, and 1 bird. We would have evacuated if it had been mandatory for our area or if Gustav hadn't weakened as it got closer, but since it did and because it wasn't mandatory for my area, we decided to stay. What does all that have to do with local sites? Hang in there and you'll see.
I live in the country, so the only "high speed" net access I have is via satellite. Let me tell you - satellite sucks; high speed really means not quite low speed, and if it rains, you're out of luck. Astonishingly, though, despite the hurricane and all the associated rain, I *did* have an internet connection some of the time. And during that time, I was looking for hurricane information for MY area.
You see, the media has only one focus - large, metropolitan areas - because the threat of mass extinction is just irresistible I guess. So, if you don't live in New Orleans, but you are in the same hurricane path as the city is, then you will be ignored by media. You will almost certainly get nearly no information about your local area. Once every few hours, you may get a 10 second mention, and you'd better hope you were listening/watching at that precise moment. And you'll just have to trust me on this one - during a hurricane - what happens in one place is usually VERY DIFFERENT than what happens in another place just an hour or so away. So knowing what is happening in New Orleans is USELESS information much of the time for folks like me who live close...but not real close.
So, I turned to the Internet in hopes of finding out better information for my particular local area. I immediately went to weather.com. That site was mostly useless. If I lived in another part of the country, and just wanted a quick 2-second glimpse of what was going on in Gustav's path, it would be sufficient. But the "generalness" of it all made it useless to anyone in the affected areas.
Eventually, I discovered that the local TV stations' associated web sites were the best source of information. In particular, I spent most of my time at the New Orleans NBC station, WDSU. Although its TV station was mostly focused on New Orleans proper, the site itself did a halfway decent job of including surrounding areas. It's interactive radar screen is the best I've seen anywhere. The details and interactivity for local regions is amazing. I spent a fair amount of time there. In addition, the home page has links to surrounding parishes (parishes are the same as counties for all you non-Louisianians). I was able to click on my parish (Washington), and get right to the social network-type page for my area. In fact, if you go there right now, you'll see my comments on that page.
That's the kind of local interaction that is VITAL at times. Big media, and big, mainstream web sites very often fail a large portion of an affected area's population. I understand why they do it, but a FAIL is still a FAIL. When someone gets it right, it needs to be applauded and a shout out given. So that's what I'm doing right here, right now. This is a shout out to a web site (WDSU) that did some things right. It could still be improved - but it was a lot better than so many others that completely ignored the hundreds of thousands (or more) people affected by the storm who DON'T live in New Orleans.
If you have a site that does local well, make sure the people who can most use it, knows about it. That's what my message is really all about. If I hadn't been told by someone about the WDSU site, I wouldn't have known about it - and I would have missed out on information I needed to have.
If your site is local...socialize it, get into all the local directories, optimize for local search, and get it known! Some people's lives might even depend upon it.