In previous posts we discussed reaching out to your community and attracting mobile and web customers in your local marketing efforts. Now, we discuss how to take advantage of Google Local search. Increasingly, customers are turning from traditional directory searches (i.e., the phone book) to search engines (i.e., Google) to find local businesses like yours.
Getting to the top of Google Local results
When Google updates its search algorithms, businesses often worry about how these changes will affect their ranking in search results. Will all your careful effort into SEO and keyword placement on your website go down the drain? Not quite, but there are things you can do to enhance the chances of appearing among the top results. Google is now rolling out changes to Google Local, emphasizing photos and maps, as well as directory listings and reviews associated with your business. (Note: It’s sometimes also called Google Places.)
In some markets, when consumers do a local search for, say, pizza, Google Local displays a “carousel” of results across the top of the screen with a photo, business name, and number of reviews. In other markets, the results page shows a map on one side of the screen, with top results for that area listed on the other. When the consumer hovers over a listing, the map is replaced by a snapshot view of a photo, detail map, business information, and links to reviews and directions. To optimize your placement in local search results, it’s worth taking the time to claim your Google+ page for business, as Google Local tends to display Google listings first, then links to each business’s website. Plus, it’s free.
Claiming your Local listing
Google provides detailed instructions for verifying and editing your listing, but here are the basic steps:
- Verify ownership of your Google+ account, preferably using an email address that has the same domain name as your business website.
- Create or edit listings for each physical location of your business, following the quality guidelines: simple, straightforward, accurate entry of your address, phone number, website, categories, etc.
- If you serve customers at your business location, make extra sure your map marker is accurate. If you serve customers throughout a region, indicate your service areas.
- Add photos – Google will choose the photo to display in search results, so make sure all the photos you upload are attractive, in focus and professional-looking.
Verifying your Google+ listings makes it easier to correct inaccurate or outdated information on your business. However, like any local marketing initiatives, make sure to keep it fresh and up to date.
Whether on Google+, Yelp, TripAdvisor or other popular sites, consumer reviews may not be your favorite reading, but they are here to stay. Like old-fashioned word-of-mouth and referrals, reviews inform and influence your customers, and they DO factor into your search ranking. Besides offering your basic everyday stellar service and products, you can encourage positive reviews by:
- encouraging social media engagement through check-ins—which not only promote your business name to the customer’s Facebook and Twitter followers, but also can lead to reviews later
- asking each happy customer to write a review
- reaching out to previous reviewers, both good and bad, to thank them and/or follow-up with their complaint
Remember —reputations are built over time. Good reviews written by active users over a longer period look more real and trustworthy than a whole bunch of excellent ones written anonymously within a very short period. Though changes to Google search may seem intimidating, they help spotlight real, trustworthy businesses actively serving their community. Claim your Google Local spot online and attract prospective customers to your business.