As you may have noticed when searching on Google over the last six to nine months, many search results have changed to provide a distinctly local focus. Searchers are given the option to define their location and are then served local results.
What you will see at the top of page one in most cases is a local map with markers representing local businesses and their Google Places listings. These mapped listings often supersede organic search results or they may be mixed in with organic search results. The content displayed for these results is a combination of Google Places page content and the organization’s website content.
So now the question for companies focused on a local audience is, how do you get to and stay at the top of the map? Here are six quick SEO tips to help you optimize your Web presence and get found in local search.
1. Optimize your website for organic search.
Search engine optimization (SEO) should always begin on your corporate website. Poorly constructed sites with limited or stale content will not rank prominently for a local search or otherwise. Update the content on your site regularly. Use the keyword phrases you want to be found for prominently in title tags, heading tags and body content. Also make sure your site has appropriate, prominent and easily accessible calls to action e.g. phone number/contact us form, information request, get a quote, etc.
2. Create and optimize your Place Page.
Every organization can create a Place Page at http://www.google.com/places which is effectively your marker on the Google map. This page will also be the page most people will access via their mobile phones, which is increasingly becoming the way people conduct local searches.
Do some quick research to see if a Place Page has already been created for you by searching your organization’s name followed by your town/city name. Sometimes services like the Yellow Pages or local directories may have created these pages without your knowledge. If this is the case, be sure to take ownership of your page by obtaining a PIN # from Google via phone or post card.
Once you’ve taken ownership, be sure to validate the content:
- Point the website address on this page to your primary website, not a landing page or directory listing, in order to derive maximum benefit
- Select as many relevant categories for your organization as possible
- Populate your Place Page with as much current, relevant and keyword rich content as you can
- Add your logo, several product or service related photos and videos to the page
By filling the top of the Place Page you push “Related Sites”, which can include competitive sites, lower down the page where they may not be seen by those who don’t choose to scroll.
3. Solicit and manage online customer reviews.
Google is increasingly using social signals, like online customer reviews, to determine organizations’ relevance and rank. Page rank is becoming less about what you have to say about your organization and more about what your customers have to say, which is really no different than the way it works in the real world.
Many directories including Yellow Pages, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google Places itself enable consumers to provide online reviews, which in turn appear in search results and on Google Places pages.
Organizations who are proactive in soliciting and obtaining reviews will benefit. Be sure to monitor your reviews in order to respond should there be any which are negative. A quick and effective response to a negative review can be as valuable as a positive review. Asking for reviews, provided you are offering a good service, will likely result in more positive than negative reviews.
4. Leverage relevant local directories.
Research and identify local directories that rank high for the keyword phrases you want to be found for. Many of these offer free listings and relevant local backlinks (inbound links). Consider paid listings in directories that appear on page one of Google for your keyword phrases or those which will provide more backlinks to your website.
5. Participate in social media.
Extend your local presence and reach through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, consistently pointing followers back to your website. Add social media links to each page of your website for people to follow you, like and/or share your content. Read: Social SEO: Creating a Conversation with your SEO Strategy
6. Measure and adjust your tactics, as required.
Utilize tools like gShift Labs and Google Analytics to understand how you are ranking in Google, locally or otherwise, for the keyword phrases you want to be found for. Identify which keywords are the most effective at delivering traffic and driving conversions on your website.
Google is putting a lot of emphasis on local search; effectively replacing the need for traditional Yellow Pages. Businesses have an opportunity to take control of their local Web presence. Following these SEO tips will help to get your business found in local search, particularly if your competitors are not up to speed on Google’s direction.