The new “Google+ Local” is the subject of many blogs and forums with the ongoing question of “how do I rank in local search results?” being a popular topic. In my last blog, I explained the importance of building your Google+ profile. This is part 2 with some reminders and some other things you can do to ensure you rank in Local search results.
Categories are a vital part of your listing in local results on Google as well as other local listings like yell.com and Thomson Local. The aim here is to ensure each of these sources are consistent in associating your company to the correct and most accurate business category so it is easily identifiable. There are various categories and sub categories to choose from and, depending on your Google Places account, categories can be chosen from a drop down menu or customised.
As the places dashboard is being updated, the options you have for categories is different depending on which version of the dashboard you have. If you're still on the old view, you can customise the categories, if you've been upgraded, you can't.
If you have a pizza restaurant, don't just choose restaurant, pick a sub category too, like pizzaria. If you are a solicitors firm who happens to specialise in divorce law, choose family law as a sub category of solicitor. These are general examples from memory, so what you see is likely to be a little different but you get the gist. Categories are probably more important than you think so don’t mess it up.
A physical address in the city being searched
For each listing in Google+ Local, your business must have a physical address and that address must be a place a client can actually visit, not just your home or accountant’s address. If your business doesn’t work in this way and you send your team to visit customers at their locations, you need to set up a service area for your listing. Be warned that Google claims to carry out checks of the street view on all listings and their quality team will remove those that don't comply with the rules!
Consistent, high-quality citations
These are mentions on the web that contextualises your company as a local provider of services. In the past, link building was seen as a major part of SEO success but as you know, that is redundant. What has survived though, is the need for mentions and links from high quality sites that are relevant and useful.
Google still crawls the big local directories to find businesses so it’s still important to be listed on the likes of Yell and Thompson Local. Official websites such as government bodies and schools are highly regarded – does your company get involved with charity events or school activities? Are you a member of a local chamber of commerce or association? If so, make sure you are listed on their web pages as a supplier, partner or member - they are great signifiers of local trust in your business.
Your name, address & phone number featured clearly on your website
It is imperative that the address & phone number of each location is not only clearly stated on the website but that the details match those on local directories. This even applies to the difference in Street vs St, 0117 327 0171 vs 01173 270 171 vs +44(0)1173 270 171. The existence of a local area code rather than an 0845 / 0800 number can make all the difference.
Your location as a keyword in title tags and headlines
Local SEO. It’s really important. Just as we advise you to include search terms in your URLs, you should also include the location relevant to that page. It is also important for the location to be found in the titles and headlines of each page to ensure the success of the position in local search.
Reviews on both Google and third-party sites
I mentioned this before so this acts as a reminder! Securing reviews should be a priority, all the time. Google uses third party reviews as well as those on the Places listings to confirm the relevance of the search results, thus contributing to search success. Note that reviews should be from real people who are regular review writers rather than a surge of reviews written by random people. Even bad reviews can be dealt with using great customer service and often work out as a positive. The one below is an example that even a company with great customer service might find hard to remedy, but you're unlikely to see many like it.
Are you writing blogs on your website? As Google continuously strives to become more “personalised”, it’s important to link authorship of blog posts to a profile page on the company website and a personal Google+ profile. You’ll likely be ranked higher for associating a person to your content.
This explains how to set up the Rel Author tags:
Search engines are using on-page markup in a variety of ways to help them improve search results. By adding code that relates to your location to your webpage, you allow Google to determine the location of your business and rank it higher in local search results. Visit http://schema-creator.org/organization.php to find out how to create the code for your organisation.
Get all these things right, keep the reviews trickling in and keep posting to your social channels. While you steadily build up your online profile, Google starts seeing you as a useful resource that is here to stay, not a fast and furious spammy marketing punt. It’s a bit like building a house, get the foundations right and build on it in a consistent manner and you’ll get something strong and valuable at the end. Rush it, and it probably won’t last.
If I’ve missed anything or you have something to add to the list, I’d love to hear from you.