Local Search Talk Series Part 2: Dev Basu Interview

Welcome to part 2 of our local search talk series. Yesterday I interviewed Miriam Ellis to kick off the series. Up to bat today is Dev Basu who owns a Toronto SEO firm called Powered By Search. Dev is a local seo whiz and just recently launched a local search guide on Work.com that is well worth a read for someone that is venturing into the world of the Local Business Center. Dev is a regular speaker (and writer) on anything search and is most definitely worth a follow on twitter at @devbasu or @poweredbysearch.

How did you initially get involved with internet marketing?

While working at Microsoft Canada I found myself to be in charge of the OEM division’s reseller marketing portal. With over 10,000 resellers at that point in time, I became interested in learning more about how we could reach these customers more effectively and a frequent complaint I always used to run into was that the marketing portal was ‘hard to find’ on the search engines. That sparked my interested in SEO and the interest matured with the launch of a online marketing blog called Dailymoolah that I launched back in 2006 (now defunct). The rest is history.

What made you loco for Local?

Being able to beat large scale sites in uber competitive industries via universal search is where it first started. Then in January 2008, the arrival of Google 10-pack changed my world. We were dominating niches about twice to thrice as fast as we would have been using organic SEO. Local was fresh, new, and very few people knew what made it tick, and that made me all the more curious.

Do you have someone who has helped you along the way in learning local?

Like most in this industry, we’re self-taught. That said, industry greats like Mike Blumenthal, Andrew Shotland, and David Mihm contributed greatly to the breadth and depth of my local search knowledge.  I’ve always put a heavy emphasis on testing, so self-learning played a big part too.

Now, your up in Canada. I like Canadians. How is Local Search developing in Canada vs. USA?

There’s definitely less to work with in Canada than in the States. For example, it still baffles me why Bing or Yahoo won’t let Canadian businesses submit to their local maps index. The search space is also extremely fragmented in Canada, and there aren’t any big players providing local search solutions to small businesses. Even on the IYP front, we have less publishers than the US and the big players like the Yellow Pages Group and Canpages still have miles to go in terms of improving their local search solutions and even their own SEO to the point where Merchant Circle is right now.

You recently launched Powered By Search, could you tell us about the company, why you started it, what type of client you are trying to serve,  and people behind the scenes?

Powered by Search is a labour of love that is growing very very fast. We’re a full service internet marketing agency with a specialization in organic search and local seo, although we cover the gamut in terms of internet marketing services ranging from press release optimization to conversion rate optimization.

I started the company because I wasn’t satisfied being an intrapreneur anymore, and because my practice had started to grow well beyond my own personal brand. Powered by Search serves two distinct client bases: Enterprise clients and small and medium businesses. We love providing local search solutions for national franchises as much as we love working with small businesses, and we currently have clients in the legal, education, services, hospitality, real estate, and health industries.

There’s an entire team of people behind the scenes including staff in Toronto, Montreal and overseas. Fellow local search specialist Shagun Vatsa (@shagunvatsa) is a critical team member, along with paid search partners Xurxo Vidal (@xurxovidal), Martin Perron (@mperron), and web design partners 3magine (@3magine).

If there was a short film contest for local search, your new Powered By Search video on your website would win it hands down. Can you please give us your acceptance speech?

I’d like to thank my amazing producer Jon Lim (@jonlim) for bringing life to my ideas for the video, and small businesses around the world for caring about getting found on the internet (we can do that for you). We wanted to do something different, fun, and educational, and this award means the world (locally of course) to us.

What is your favorite, and least favorite, part about being a local seo consultant?

My favourite part is watching a client’s eye’s light up when they see their business within the 7 pack. There’s a definitely a sense of satisfaction there in a job well done.

The most frustrating part of being a local seo consultant is putting up with Google’s discrepancies and anomalies such as reviews and citations disappearing for a month or more, accompanied by a sudden drop in rankings. Another least favourite part is playing the waiting game for citations to show up once you’ve gone ahead and built all the major ones.

What do you do in your free time…if you have any?

Free time? What is this free time you speak of? Kidding. When I’m not working, I like spending time with my girlfriend, family and friends, watch movies and tinker around with my iPhone. I’m also an avid food buff, and I love trying food from different parts of the world.

In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing local search?

Local search today is where organic search used to be prior to the Florida update. It’s fledgling nature has created many challenges for the average small business, as well as national franchises who have no idea how to maintain accurate listings that rank well. Fragmentation of business data is also a huge issue, and search engine anomalies cropping up ever so often don’t seem to help things either.

Can you give us an idea of what you think 2010-2011 hold in store for Local Search?

I think 2010 and 2011 will see a significant increase in the overall investment into local search, as business owners understand that the local search of old (also known as the Yellow Pages) just isn’t returning the same value as it used to. In the US, we’re also going to see some of the mid-sized or large players integrate with IYP sites and offer a partnered local search solution to SMB’s. In any case, we’re going to see a lot of saturation in the number of service providers offering local search solutions, and with increased awareness, local is going to get a whole lot tougher.

What is the best advice you would give someone that is wanting to learn about local seo?

Read the leading local search blogs religiously, understand the ranking factors inside out, and build a systemized process of understanding what citation sources influence individual industries.  Go to conferences, tweet local search experts, and test test test because local search is always changing.

Thanks a lot for taking time to do this interview Dev! I wish you luck with your recent launch of Powered By Search and hope to meet up in person soon.