We’re here at #SMX West in beautiful San Jose, CA getting our SEO learn on. The hot topic this week – Local Search. The numbers vary depending who you ask – but around 20% of all searches and 1/3 of all mobile searches have local intent. So you’ve verified your Google Places listing. Now what? Some insight from the panel this morning Local Search Tactics featuring Benu Aggarwal, Mary Bowling (@MaryBowling), SEM Rockstar Bruce Clay (@bruceclayinc), Andrew Shotland, and Moderator Greg Sterling (@gsterling).
Google is showing Search Results mixed with Place Page results
You’ll see a different combination of Organic Results and Place page results depending on the topic, the city you’re in, the city you’re searching for, your device, your past searches, and your probable intent. For instance, you are more likely to see the “7 pack” – 7 Google places listings a list with pins next to a Map – if there is a city name in the search query. To add a little special sauce to the formula, Bruce Clay speculates that the placement now is also a bit random – maybe Google testing different displays? Bruce added in the session: “The only thing we know right now is that it moves.” So how do you optimize with such unpredictability? Below is advice from the panel on optimizing your Google Places listing to be more likely to show up in one of those coveted spots:
Optimizing Google Places Pages
On Your Google Places Page
- Make sure the information is accurate
This is number 1. Make sure you have only one listing for your location, the address and phone number are correct, and the dot on the map is in the right place. Report any issues you can’t fix yourself to Google via the link “Problem with this listing?”
- Use the exact business name
Don’t be tempted to use something like “The Best Widgets in Town – Frank’s Widgets.” Use your name as it appears across the web, and on your website.
- Use Proper Categories
You get 5 Categories to describe yourself, and should use all 5 opportunities. Google requires that your primary category be one of Google’s – but the other 4 can be custom written if you like. Mary Bowling of seOverflow also recommends choosing as many of Google’s categories as you can (at least 2). Google knows that Dentists “clean teeth” and Plumbers “fix faucets” – it’s best to align with their terms to experience the benefits of that knowledge.
If you do add custom categories, base them on how profitable that offering is to your business and the popularity of the phrase (a good rule of thumb is – if you search for that term, does Google show the “7 pack” of points on a map on the search results page). Also be sure to look at your competitors for good categories you might have missed.
One more tip from Mary: avoid non-related categories – separate into two listings if your business does two very different things (i.e. snow shoveling in the winter and landscaping in the summer).
- Reference Social Media
Reference your social media profiles and include photos and video to make your place listing more rich.
On the Web – Reviews and Citations
- Be consistent with Citations
Google considers a site that refers to you by name and address or phone number as a “Citation” – even if they never link to your website.
Make sure your site is listed with the same name, same phone number, same address, etc. on any site that refers to you. Any variation can make it look less than legit to Google’s algorithm, and will hurt your rankings.
These pages are especially valuable if your business name and address or city is in the page’s title tag.
- Submit your site to local directories and review sites
Google pulls ratings from different sites depending on the industry. Look at search results and reviews fed into your Place listing to get an idea of what sites Google sees as relevant for your business.
Make a list of the most relevant review sites and tackle them one by one.
According to Andrew Shotland, his company surveyed the top 20 categories in the top 20 US cities and came up with this list of top 10 review sites to consider:
- Yahoo Local
- Encourage reviews
It’s not all about quantity, but try to have at least as many reviews as the average top rankers. Perceived authenticiy of reviews is also really important, look for sites that have a vetting process – anonymous reviews have a tendency to look spammy or fake, which Google can recognize and fault you for.
You will sometimes get bad reviews, but that’s ok. Use those to improve your business. Respond to bad reviews – not necessarily because you believe you will win that customer back, but so future reviewers and visitors see that you are listening.
On Your Website
- Remember that you have to optimize your site for location as well. Claiming a Google Places listing is not enough. Specific things to note for including location information on your website from Benu Aggarwal:
- Include a Location Map
- Image names and Alt tags should have city/state keywords
- Display address and phone in text throughout your site, and in the footer of sidebar on every page
- Make sure your data is consistent with how you’re describing yourself on Google Places.
- Specifically, re-enforce the categories you’ve put yourself in – be consistent in your wording
- Optimize the categories you’ve included on your place page and your city location in other web content – press releases are eligible to show up in Google as News results for up to 3 days, videos and photos as well.
- Associate your website with you Places listing – include a link
- Encourage reviews – link to reviews sites from your site
Optimizing a Google Places listing can be summed up in one short checklist: Claim, Optimize, Clear up confusion.
Remember to keep your company name, address, and phone number consistent across the web. And the bottom line is: you need a strong business to support your local presence on the web – Facebook/Places/etc. won’t do it alone.
Want more from SMX? Follow us on Twitter at @SEMblog. And if you’re attending – find us and come say hi!