Tips to improve Google+ local business listings in Google search.
Just like normal organic SEO, there are several best practices and tactics to be featured organically at the top of local search listings. It’s a tedious process and Take it Digital will be glad to handle this for any business that wants to sub the work out, but if you have the time and patience, here’s a step-by-step guide to manually do Local SEO on your own. Just to note, if your website is chintz, then any type of SEO is a waste of time. Chintzy websites do NOT convert or drive sales. A chintz website would include a website runs slow, bad usability, weak copywriting (i.e. keyword stuffing), extremely busy and hideous design.
Local SEO Step 1: Have a Website Optimized for Local SEO
Although it’s not required to be listed in the local search engine page listings, search engines seem to present local listings with business website references. Furthermore, a business’ website should also take advantage of onsite local SEO best practices. This includes Schema.org Microdata Markup, geotagged photos, geo sitemap, and more. When done correctly, Google will embed certain peaces of information called rich snippets within their results. (i.e. physical address, hours of operation, phone #, etc). We’ve included a screenshot example that shows this in action of a local retirement Google listing near us called New Port Inn.
Here’s a source reference about Microdata Markup and rich snippets straight from Google. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/99170
For the WordPress users out there, there are premium plugins on the market that make this fairly easy to accomplish. We will also mention that Take it Digital automatically implements these local onsite optimization tactics for ALL websites that we build. It’s also best practice to have a website with a good user interface/usability, SEO copywriting and plenty of lead generating best practices to be effective at Internet Marketing.
Local SEO Step 2: Claim your business on Google+ Local
Since Google is the #1 place that customers go to to find information, we recommend that search engine marketing strategist get listed on Google first. Web strategist should head over to Google+ Local, find their business and then claim it. To avoid creating a duplicated business listing, be sure to search for the business first before creating a new one from scratch. If the business is already listed, then there should be a link to claim it right on the actual “Google+ Local” business listing page. Also to note, you must have a personal Google+ profile in order to claim or create a business listings.
If the business is not listed, then create a Google+ Business Page. Also note, that there is a mandatory verification process that involves receiving a snail-mail postcard from Google HQ. This postcard will have a special code to verify the authorization. We’ve done this many times in the past and it normally takes about 5-10 days to receive the postcard.
Local SEO Step 3: Build citations to boost Local SEO
MUST BUILD CITATIONS! More quality Citations = Better local SEO Rankings
Developing citations is where all the magic happens. Citations are listings (mentions) from other popular local web directories about local businesses. These directories include information about business street addresses, phone #’s, hours of operation, customer reviews, and more. It is a very specific collection of information that search engine crawlers check on other popular directories to validate the accuracy of their own search result data. Google sometimes uses snippets of information from these other directories and actually include some of this info in their own search results.
Google crawler’s analyze this consistent pattern of business information and use it as a huge factor in their own rankings. This data is trusted, because just as Google does, most of these directories have strict guidelines and take huge steps in validating the accuracy of their data. This doesn’t stop fake reviewers such as disgruntled ex-employees and competitors from posting bogus complaints, however, if a business offers a solid product or service, then good reviews should outweigh the bad by leaps and bounds.
Be accurate and consistent when setting up citations
One of the most important things to do when building citations is ensuring consistency and redundancy of the information being submitted. Local SEO strategist must be sure that the basic information they’re submitting is exactly the same on ALL directories. Information such as Business name, physical address, website URL’s, etc.
Pick one format and stick with with it. BE CONSISTENT!
- Business Name: Let’s say a business has the word “and” in their business name. Sometimes the submissions might be mistakenly entered with an ampersand (“&”) rather than just typing the word “and”. (i.e.: “Dave and Busters” or “Dave & Busters”)
- Street address: Some businesses might use abbreviations in their in their street name. (i.e. Road vs Rd or Street vs St or Avenue vs Ave)
- URL’s: Some business websites are listed with the prefix “www” and some without “www”. (i.e., http://takeitdigital.com or http://takeitdigital.com)
Confirm your citations: Get directory verifications aka “owner verified”
Verifications are the last step in proving that the business is real and that the information being submitted has been validated by an authorized company representative (i.e. Business Owner or Manager). Many directories use a phone verification or postcard/snail mail with some sort of unique code. Some directories will even except credit card payment to speed up the process. To protect the business owners and directories from legal actions against falsified verifications, the authorized representative is required to agree to a legal digital document that they have permission to proceed with the listing submission. An evil villain or fake representative could face legal action for impersonating an authorized representative.
Short List of popular citation directories to “get listed” on.
Some of these citation directories have basic accounts which are FREE to list while some others have premium fees. We try to keep it simple and normally go with FREE listings, however, if you’re in a competitive industry within a saturated market, it might be in your best interest to fork out a little extra money for the premium services. Google+ Local sometimes includes snippets of data from “around the web” which includes FREE and Premium directories.
- Yelp for Business: Very popular review site. iPhone’s Map app also scrubs this directory.
- YP.com: Easy and quick local citation.
- SuperPages: Easy and quick local citation
- Bing Places: Yes there are Bing users out there and they also have Local Results.
- Yahoo Local: Yes, people still use Yahoo too and another FREE local citation.
- InfoGroup’s Express Update: Sends citations to Search Engines, GPS Manufacturers, and top local directories.
- Local Chamber of Commerce: Difficult to impersonate, solid local citation.
- Better Business Bureau: Cost money, some prefer their ratings, and a great citation.
- Angie’s List: Great for review citations.
- Duns & Bradstreet: Some companies require a D&B business credit rating for government contracting.
- State Registry: Required by most states to be registered. Solid citation.
- eLocal.com: Easy and quick local citation.
- Localeze: Apple’s Map app and some GPS manufacturers scrubs data from them too.
- Nokia Maps: Yet another map and local citation
Local SEO Step 4: Ask for review to further improve citations
Now that we mentioned a few popular directories to be listed in, there’s still more work to be done. Now it’s time to ask for testimonials. The easiest way to get a testimonial is to simply ask for one politely. A true loyal customer will be more than willing to help out if they really enjoy your services. Whenever a customer compliments how great the services were, respond with a thank you and ask them if they would be willing to write a testimonial. Ask the customer to write a review on Google+ Local, Yelp, CitySearch, Trip Adviser, etc. These are a few of the many popular directories that Google crawls for citations and rich snippets. Google likes diversity of reviews and citations, so we must mention to point your customers to various directories for customer testimonials.
Feature testimonials on website and link to “review directories”.
It’s also a great idea to place a testimonials page on a business website. Recite some of the testimonials from various directories and add an action link that says “Like our services? Leave us a testimonial on Google+ Local”. We also suggest rotating various directories around to spruce up the citations on other important directories; i.e., Yelp, Yahoo Local, CitySearch, etc. Perhaps swap out a different citation directory each month.
Local SEO Step 5: Take advantage of Social Media and develop Social Triggers.
Develop brand and create social media channels to improve Local SEO.
If your local business is already established, we highly recommend creating social media channels for your business. This is not only good for Local SEO, but this is also good for traditional SEO and for branding in general. An engaging and somewhat active social media page will improve local as well as create additional local citations. Not only should the businesses page be established, but it’s also recommended to occasionally share links to your own business website and try to push engagement. Engagement develops social triggers and search engines LOVE social triggers. Always remember to interlink your pages from your website to your social media channels and vice versa.
We recommend that ALL local businesses develop the following business pages on these social networks…
- Google+ Local page: Try to promote engagement & +1’s
- Facebook Page: Try to promote engagement (i.e. comments, likes, check-ins)
- FourSquare: Promote community engagement, Check-in rewards
- Twitter: Retweets, replies, and favorites on business accounts.
- Linkedin Business Page: Create conversation on Linkedin. Share blog articles.
- FoodSpotting: (For Restaurants) Users take picture of restaurant dishes.
- Yelp: Considered a local directory, but also developed into a review social network.
Promote mobile check-in apps to boost Local SEO.
The word on the street is that local business brands that have LOTS of social check-ins such as Facebook or FourSquare check-ins, will also get a little extra bonus in the Google business local rankings. Google+ is even sporting a local check-in feature on their own mobile apps. It does make complete sense though, but we’re NOT sure if this is true. It still doesn’t hurt to promote check-in apps. After all, customers that check-in will almost always share their check-ins with their social networks … That’s FREE advertising!
Blog, share, & engage with social media channels.
They also say that local brands that have a large social media followings also get a little perk in local SEO rankings. This doesn’t mean fall for the scam artists out there on the web and buy fake “followers”. It will be way more interesting to watch money be flushed down the toilet if that were the case. The right way to do it is to write on a brand’s blog and share the latest articles with social media channels. Writing interesting and valuable content on a local brand’s blog will share itself if it’s compelling enough. Webpages and blog posts that get shared often on social media channels will send these things called social signals to search engines. Social signals are the hottest topic in the web marketing world right now, because social signals are also included in search engine ranking algorithms.
Local SEO Recap and Takeaways.
We’ve done everything that we mentioned above and 100% of the time, we’ve ranked #1 in Google local business results by following those steps. If you do the same, I will almost promise that you’ll get the same results. If you have a question, feel free to comment below or contact us.
- An optimized website with structured data improves Local SEO
- Being listed on the most important citation directories improves Local SEO
- Optimizing directory listings (i.e. adding photos, picking relevent categories, descriptions)
- Having quality reviews and testimonials will improve Local SEO
- Writing awesome content that creates social triggers improves Local SEO
- Social check-ins will improve Local SEO
- Traditional onsite SEO strategies improves Local SEO