Local search is getting bigger every day. All the major search engines are now pursuing it and users are getting more accustomed to using it. What is local search exactly? Well it is more or less a way to search your local phone book, only using the search technology of major search engines. Basically people use it to search for small businesses or services that are offered locally where they live. Whether they want to find the phone number of a specific business, or find a business in a specific category, they turn to local search.
There are two main methods for using search engines to draw traffic to a site. The first method is to try to rank well on a popular keyword, you often deal with heavy competition when you do this, but the payoffs can be excellent. The other method is to have so much content that you rank well on more obscure searches, searches with little competition. Each individual search term might bring in only a little traffic, but with hundreds or thousands of them you could get traffic comparable to method 1.
Optimizing for local search is like method 2, basically you want to carry information on as many small businesses as possible. No one searches for any particular business that often, but if you have data on thousands of businesses the traffic should add up. So, to take advantage of local search as a content site publisher your goal should be to add business listings related to your content. Its true, not every content website is a good fit with business listings, but many are, and if yours is you can get an increase in unique visitors on the scale of a few hundred to a few thousand just by implementing business listings.
The fact is, it is far easier to get ranked under a company's name rather than getting ranked under the service that that company provides. For instance if you run a site on mortgages you will have a tough time getting listed at the top for "mortgage broker" but if you implement a database of mortgage brokers on your site you can end up in the top 10 results for thousands of small business searches all relating to mortgage brokers.
Additionally, there is so far very little competition from other content publishers in the local search arena. That might change now that I've written this article, but for now it is easy pickings.
So, all you need is a database of thousands of business listings, easy right? Well, if you don't want to do all that data entry yourself you can buy the databases already compiled. Oddity Software is a company that creates and compiles such databases, it's really an ingenious and useful idea. Their library extends beyond business listings though, they also carry content databases such as jokes or lyrics. Most databases can be delivered in practically any format you desire, from Access to MySQL to plain text, and prices are very reasonable. Scanning their database list spawns dozens of website ideas for me. Also, if they do not have a database you need, ask them for it, they're pretty good at getting requests filled.
So there you go, adding business listings is an easy way to expand your site, get listed on local search, get more unique visitors, and it isn't even that hard or costly. If you can find such a database to fit your site's content I would heartily consider using it.