Search Engine News came out with their monthly report of the latest SEO news. I found one topic of particular interest so I thought I would share it with you… Google Local!
A lot of us don’t think about Google Local being something that we have control over. I talk to a lot of people who think their listing just magically appears in the local 10-box. This is going to be a comprehensive overview about how to optimize for Google local as well as Yahoo and MSN.
The Google 10-box typically appears when a searcher adds a geographical location to the beginning or end of their search. Here’s an example of a what a Google 10-box looks like. It appeared when I searched for “it works tampa” (without the quotes).
So what does all this mean for you? Let’s take a look…
Facts about Local Search
- 30% to 40% of search is local. What that means is 30% – 40% of people doing searches are adding a geographical location such as a city, state, zip code, county, etc. to their search query. Google, in turn, wants to interpret those local searches correctly and bring back the most relevant information to the user.
- The Google Local Algorithm is different from the regular search results you typically get. If your company is in a competitive market then the 10-box is going to show up. If your industry is not competitive the 10 box more than likely will not show or perhaps the old list of 3 results will be returned.
- What is relevant in maps is not always relevant to the blended search results. The algorithm is based on the actual facts that they have about your business. Google also bases their results on the “trust” they have in the information about your site. They trust some sources over others.
- Searches in Google Maps return local business listings and not your website. It’s not about your website but your Google Local profile. However, if you’re in a competitive industry then Google will use the strength of your website to boost rankings. The proper optimization of your website for local terms will boost trust in the info you have listed in your Google maps listings. In other words, you need to have your site optimized correctly so your Google local profile will have more relevance.
- It is possible to rank well in maps without having a site. http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml There is an article here that will help you learn more about ranking and local search. (Local Search Ranking Factors Survey)
- You must have a listing to get in the local listings of any of the major search engines. If you don’t find a listing, create one. If you do find one you need to claim it and verify it immediately. Accuracy is important to the Google local algorithm. When you are done setting up your local account use the phone verification process for the fastest way to get into the local listings. Once you go through the phone verification process, Google will usually update your changes in a day or two. It could take weeks if you do it by mail.
- Categories: A new feature in Google local is to create your own category. Be sure to categorize yourself when setting up your profile. If you don’t, Google will do it for you. Hint: Don’t let Google control aspects of your online business that you can handle yourself.If your best key phrases don’t match any of the categories listed, then by all means create your own so that you can better target your audience. This is a very good tactic for when the categories don’t match what you do. More than likely your competition has not added their own information to your researched category.
Hint: You should be using keywords and phrases that have actually been researched to better target your market. Don’t just guess at your keywords!
- Descriptions: Optimize your descriptions. This is important, think of this as your FREE maps ad. You want to use your main keyword phrase and any complimentary terms in this description. Your business listing is going to get indexed by spiders that are hungry for information about you. Use your main key phrase, location terms and make this appealing by giving it a strong call to action. For example, “Call now for your free quote.” Basically, what ever action you want them to take, put it in the description.
Hint: Use testimonials in your descriptions.
- Maximizing your Optimization: Enhance your listing as much as possible. The type of information that a searcher is looking for is exactly what you are able to put in your profile. Add as much info as allowed. There are places to put your hours of operation, brands, services, special offers, and other convenience factors that a searcher might want to know about you. You can also put coupons and discount offers here. It is recommended that you make up some kind of coupon just so you can take advantage of this area. There are a lot of sites out there that are compiling coupon info.
Hint: Be creative and use your researched keyword phrases.
- Give yourself attributes: You can also be very creative here. You can put brands, products, services, locations and more. Look at how others are doing it to get good examples. This gives more information to your visitor. The attributes feed into Google base so you should be using your researched keywords here as well.
Hint: The attributes list in alphabetical order so keep that in mind.
- Add photos and videos here: Take control over what people see about you by uploading your own images and videos. Choose photos wisely. Your logo is a good start. Make sure your images are clear and if there is text in the image, make sure you can read it. You have the option of uploading 10 images and 5 videos so take advantage of it if you can. Google will pull photos from random places where the algorithm thinks it applies. This could be a big mess so maintain control here.
Hint: Refer to previous hint on not letting Google control aspects you have control over.
- You want to make sure you’re standardizing the info that appears across the web so Google will see it as relevant. Make sure your company name and address match the phone book listing which is highly trusted by the search engines. Standardize your information by going to the source. Big data aggregators compile, verify and classify information about local businesses and provide it to Google maps. Check and correct your listings at these sources. If you don’t, their data can make your listing info revert or drop off. Hint: A good one to start with is the Local business listing guide by ecommerce optimization.
- Ratings and reviews: These are very important. People want to see what experience other customers have had so they can better decide what company to buy from. High ratings equals high click through rates. Searchers have the ability to sort listings by their ratings.
Hint: encourage your customers to rate your site, your service or their experiences with your company.
Remember: Pay attention to your own industry. What works for one type of business doesn’t always carry over to another. Google may be the top search engine but it’s not the only search engine. Take the time to complete the local profiles for Yahoo and MSN as well.
Steve Scott is the CEO & Director of Training at the Tampa SEO Training Academy. He has taught SEO skills to people from around the world and currently offers his hands-on search engine optimization training workshops in Tampa to individuals and businesses of all sizes. Corporate SEO training classes and consulting are also available.