We’ve been talking a lot about Local Search lately. Last week I gave a webinar on local search (attended, incidentally, by many Philadelphia colleagues as well as friends as far away as Aspen, CO…) and, two weeks prior, we unleashed “Local Internet Marketing Preflight.” This week, I had a gratifying consumer buying experience which really drove home that Local Search can really be a great leveler in the marketing wars between the low-budget Davids and the well-funded Goliaths of the business world. Here’s what happened… I spent a good deal of time this weekend searching for new outlets to indulge my latest hobby, bowling. See, I bowled as a child and — as I age and am less able to do more physically demanding tasks, like jog — I’ve been looking for things that will get me out of the house and provide a modicum of activity. And something I can do alone and get a little obsessive about. Bowling suits those criteria well. Living in downtown, my options are limited. Essentially, Center City Philadelphia has seen a flowering of “high end” bowling alleys, whose trademarks seem to be well-stocked bars and overpriced lane rentals. My last experience at one of those places left my wallet significantly depleted and my appetite to actually bowl still starved. I started doing research into local lanes. When I searched for bowling alleys in Philadelphia, not only did the boutiquey places show up, but a couple of local places floated to the top of the listings as well, one which was a mere 12 blocks or so from my house. After checking out their spare but well-designed website, I learned that the tiny 6 lane facility I’d found was run by a non-profit that uses the center to give a leg up to down-on-their-luck folk who are trying to reenter the workplace. Three days later I visited the quaint lanes — with their old-fashioned visible ball returns and well-maintained lanes — and thought they were ideal. And, was I pleasantly surprised when I found a flier delivered with my receipt which displayed a well-informed understanding of how to promote a local business online. The substance of the flier was a call to action, asking satisfied customers to share their bowling experience online at Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, etc. Getting back home and performing some more searches, I understood why this little tyke of a bowling alley was showing up well in both organic and local search results. Not only had they taken the time to create great local presences on the major search engines, they also had the third most reviews of any local lanes, behind only the well-funded high-end lanes and ahead of some of the corporately owned facilities. I left the lanes and the experience confirmed in my belief that local search really can be a “power to the people” leveler in online marketing. Oh, and if you’re in Philadelphia and feel like bowling a few games, that cute little bowling alley’s website is here.