Google is indisputably the leader in local search. It delivers a great search experience, with a simple interface that returns relevant results fast. And it works whether the user is sitting at their laptop searching for a local business or standing on the street with their mobile device looking to buy something nearby, right now.
The goal of your local mobile marketing strategy is to make sure you’re seen by these customers who want what you’re selling. This is your to-do list for telling Google Maps search that your business is a real thing in the real world, worthy of a top spot in search results.
- Have an address. A street address, preferably in the city where you want to appear in search results. There might some advantage of being close to the “centroid” – the default central map marker for each city – as far as placement in local search goes, but let’s not forget users are likely to customize the search area in myriad ways.
- Be consistent about your NAP – name, address and phone number. Your NAP helps Google and other search engines to distinguish your business from others. Search engines get this data from not only your website, but also other directories and websites that mention your business name and address and contact info. NAP discrepancies can confuse the bots and spiders trying to compile info for the search engine, thus hurting your ranking. Monitor your NAP periodically for duplicates or outdated listings, particularly if you’ve moved, changed names or operate under different names (such as a licensed professional who practices under a different business name).
- Categorize. Choosing proper categories and sub-categories for your listings, Google+ and otherwise, go a long way toward putting your business in front of the eyeballs looking for you. You can usually choose a few, so try to pick a good overall category, as well as more specific ones and variations. This tool can help. Also, check how your competitors categorize themselves. Although categories differ among directories and websites, try to be as consistent with them as with your NAP.
- Put keywords where they count. Keyword-stuffed content is out, but placing keywords in your website’s title tags is still de rigeur SEO. If you want local search to crawl your website, put your city (and state or province) into the title description. In addition, consider whether your business name itself should contain keywords. It may be a toss-up between what is more important, the best local search ability or the best branding?
- Claim, and complete, your Google+ Places page. Add local business details to Yahoo! Local and Bing Local pages too, for that matter. Verifying your listing tells search engines your business is real, but actually filling out the info and adding photos, hours, descriptions, etc., adds an extra layer of credibility. This content is helpful for any address search and advanced search for a potential customer, too.
- Type your address and phone number clearly. Besides the fact that it’s annoying to try to copy and paste a phone number or address, only to find out it’s embedded in an image, web crawlers can’t index this data if it isn’t text. Ensure your contact info is in text-friendly format. Keep your phone numbers consistent among your listings and citations. If you have an 800 number, make sure your local number is prominent (and ideally the same) on your website and your Google+ Places page.
- Get lots of citations. Citations are mentions of your business name and contact info on the web, and don’t need to link to your website. Citations are very important in search engine algorithms, and both quantity and quality count. In general, more citations signal that the business is more established. Good quality citations come from trusted data sources such as YellowPages and Superpages, government records and public registries, data aggregator services, business directories such as BBB.org, as well as industry and association directories and media mentions.
- Get linked. The number of domains that link to your website and their relative authority still counts for something in SEO, particularly if you want to rank high in organic search as well as local. Building up quantity and quality of links is a long-term project, however, involve networking and create good, valuable, shareable content, such as blogs, articles, videos and resources.
- Get reviews and ratings. While social media activity and user-generated content associated with your business location (such as check-ins or geotagged photos) may have a negligible effect on your local search ranking, Google users expect to see ratings and reviews in results. While a couple of negative reviews will probably not affect SEO placement, generally positive reviews and ratings should help bolster your standing.
- Check your PageRank. There are a variety of online tools for checking your Google PageRank. PageRank is based on a variety of measurements about your website and is part of the algorithm Google uses to score every website, domain and webpage. The PageRank score you see may not be 100% accurate, but can be used as a general guide to how you’re doing to improve your local search presence. Try these tips and see how you do.