There are many factors that determine how well your company will rank in Google’s “Local Search” results. Many of these factors are ever-evolving, as Google (and presumably other major search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing) continues to enhance its local search features and algorithms. Local Search is still relatively in an infancy stage and constantly changing and improving, but as mobile browsing via BlackBerry, IPhone, or other smart devices becomes more prominent, expect Local Search to play a more critical role in your business online marketing strategy. Whether you like it or not, Local Search is here to stay and search engines are quickly becoming the new Yellow Pages.
So What Exactly is Local Search and how does it differ from regular search engine results?
The best way to explain Local Search is to use some real world examples and screenshots. Let’s assume you’re a business owner in Lakeland, Florida and you want to hire a local Internet Marketing Consultant. You go to Google and you type in “Lakeland Marketing Consultant.” Here is what you would see:
Hey, look at that, Blue Lynx Marketing is ranked #1 marketing consultant. Depending on the search term, Google’s results will yield up to 10 local results with a “more results” option. Let’s take this example one step further and do a search for a more general, commonly searched phrase in which location would play a more significant role in your purchase decision. We’re getting tired and need a good cup of coffee. We go to Google and just type in “coffee.” Notice that I’m not typing in “Lakeland coffee,” just the general keyword “coffee.”
As Local Search grows out of its infancy stage, more and more searches are resulting in localized results including “dentist,” “plumbers,” etc. It should be obvious why it is important that your business takes the steps to be listed in these results.
Local Search levels the playing field for small business.
Local Search, also known as “10 Packs,” can provide great exposure for your local and independent business – assuming you take advantage of the opportunity. Before we move forward, stop for a moment and imagine how you would feel if your competitors were ranked ahead of you – or worse – you’re not listed at all. The good news is that many business owners have not taken the necessary steps to take advantage of this relatively new form of search. We’ve seen many of our client’s competitors spend thousands of dollars and resources to rank well in the organic search results, only to completely ignore local search. In many cases, the local search should have been their primary focus. This is your opportunity to level the playing field, especially if your primary market is local.
So how do you get your business listed on Google’s Local Search results?
Although Google’s exact algorithm is not published, there are some things we’ve identified that will help your business rank favorably in the Local Search results. They are:
Claim Your Local Listing! You might be surprised that the majority of businesses have not taken this crucial step because they don’t know how or they’re completely unaware. By claiming your listing, you’re verifying to Google that you are the rightful business owner. Even if your business is appearing in local results, you should claim your listing. Once you claim the listing you will be able to add or edit any of the existing information Google has about your company. In addition, you will be given access to see how many times your business has appeared in local search results as well as which keywords were used for your listing to appear. This keyword data is valuable, as it will give you an idea of what people are looking for. You will also learn how many visits to your website occurred and which keywords resulted in click-thrus.
Even if your business does not have a website, you can still claim your listing and benefit from the exposure of Google’s Local Search. NOTE: If your business does not yet have a website, please give us a call. Blue Lynx Marketing, Inc. specializes on building cost-effective websites for new and small business.
Claiming your listing is actually pretty easy. Just follow these simple steps:
Create a Google Account. If you do not yet have a Google account (whether through Google Mail or Google AdWords, etc.) you will need to create one. This process is free and easy. Just go to https://www.google.com/accounts/ and from this page you can create an account by using an existing email.
Once you have a Google Account, you’re ready to claim your listing. It’s important to note that you should expect to spend at least 30 minutes and be able to answer the primary telephone number of your business to complete the process.
Here you will enter the basic information about your business including business name, PHYSICAL location (no P.O. boxes), phone number, E-mail address, website address, and a short description of your business (200 characters or less).
After this has been completed, you will be able to include more details about your business as well as upload photos and videos. This next stage is very important, as you will be asked to specify the categories of your business. You will want to include every possible service that your business offers. You can also include your payment options, business hours and even give extra incentive for prospects to call you by including a coupon with your listing. Remember, this is the chance to include a good description of the services and products you carry. Selecting your proper keywords as they relate to your online marketing strategy. We also encourage adding a video and at least one photo (even if it is your logo).
When you hit submit, Google will provide you with the option to confirm the listing via telephone or postcard mailing. (In some rare cases, you will only be given the option to confirm via postcard). If you confirm by telephone, Google will give you a 4 digit code to enter into your phone keypad. As soon as you hit “Call Now,” your phone should ring within 5-10 seconds.
That’s it. You have successfully claimed your local business listing and are ahead of most of your competition. In many cases, claiming your listing and completely filling in the business profile information will help you rank high for your specific zip code. The more competitive your industry, the more resources and time you may need to invest to rank towards the top. Remember, the highest weighting factor is your actual location. Don’t expect to rank for Tampa if your business is located in Lakeland.
After you have claimed your listing, there are advanced strategies and factors to optimize your listing for Local Search. There is no way we can encompass every possible method of optimizing your listing without an internet marketing consultation and analyzing your site and business goals.
Although every business has a unique online marketing strategy, we can offer some general advice as it relates to a business focused on selling to the local market.
- Include your business address and summary of your services in your footer.
- Make sure your correct business data is listed in the major data providers and significant online portals and directories.
- Take advantage of the custom fields and include non-categorical keywords.
- If your business uses a 1-800 number, be sure to provide your local number as the primary number in your local listing data and also include the local number on your website.
- DON’T try to cheat the system! Multiple Business Listings with the same address will hurt your cause.
The more competitive your field is, the greater the need for advanced strategies (i.e. use of a .KML file, hCard Microformat coding, etc.) to be implemented in your Internet marketing campaign to ensure that you outrank your competition and attract prospects to your website first. However, it’s important to remember that your site must offer an incentive to get the prospect to contact you. That could mean a site packed with useful information for prospects, or something as simple as a coupon.
If you would like to discuss affordable ideas to improve the online visibility of your business, please contact Blue Lynx Marketing, Inc. We specialize in holistic marketing strategies for new and small business. Our belief is that every marketing dollar should be tracked and viewed as an investment. We’d love to hear from you and discuss your unique business goals and marketing challenges. Contact us today – (863) 286-1041.