How to succeed in Google Local Search? As a local business, getting to the top can be life-changing. Whether you’re a dog walker in London or a Chiropodist in Yeovil, chances are that people looking for your services will, at some point, search online. Like you, your competitors are quite likely to have their own website, but how many of them are making the most of it?
Depending on the industry it’s generally the case that the competition is relatively low, meaning that with some time and patience you can vastly improve your online visibility.
Local Search Domination
Let’s start by doing a search on Google for something we know there are lots of – “Jewellers in London”. You can see from the screenshot below that the anatomy of the SERP (search engine result page) is vastly different to a standard search.
We have a huge section at the top dedicated to Google Places which shows the exact location of the businesses that Google deems to be most important for our chosen search phrase. On the right hand side, there is a map which includes markers and a click-through, while at the top and below the map we see paid ads which include contact information.
The emphasis given to these businesses is huge, but how do they get there? The answer is a mix of local citations (which we will come to later), making sure that their site is optimized in a way that lends itself to local search, and a Google Places listing, which is where we’re going to start.
This part is actually the easiest; all you need to do is go to the Google Places for Business page and create an account. You’ll need to enter details about your business – including the name, address and telephone number – and then wait for a verification letter to arrive in the post. Follow the steps it contains and you’re done.
There is one important thing to note here: your business details. From now on you need to use them in exactly the same way everywhere you reference your business online. If you put a gap between the area code and the main part of your telephone number, do the same next time.
Every tiny detail needs to be exactly the same to give you the best chance of achieving those top rankings. A great way to do this is to use a service like Evernote and create a note with your business details in it – that way you can just copy and paste, no matter which device you’re using at the time.
On Page Changes
Now, while you’re waiting for the verification letter to arrive let’s sort out your site. I’m going to limit this to three simple tweaks so as to minimize the impact and time needed to make the changes. If you can’t do any of this yourself, get your web designer to help. If that’s not possible, a freelance service like oDesk will help you find someone with the skills needed to help you out. This is what you need to do:
- On your homepage change your title tag to ‘Business Type in Location | Your Business Name’. An example of this for a jewelers would be ‘Jewellers in London | CS Bedford’.
- In the footer of your site include your business details (copy and paste!) inside an address tag. This could look something like Business Name, Business Address, Business Postcode
- Finally, make sure that the text of your homepage uses your business name a couple of times, and also mentions that business type from the title tag 2 or 3 times. Make sure that this is natural and makes sense to someone reading your page – the last thing you want to do is confuse your visitors.
An optional extra is that once your Google Places listing has been confirmed you can add a snippet of the map to your contact / find us page. This not only makes it easier for potential customers to see where you’re based but also gives an extra indicator to the search engines that you are who you say you are. I haven’t seen any proof that this makes a difference to rankings but it certainly won’t do you any harm!
All we’re really talking about here is links to your site. Each link, as long as it’s from what Google would see as a reliable source, is like a vote and as a general rule the more votes you have, the higher the page you’re likely to rank.
For this example, we’re going to concentrate on getting links from local directories – places that allow you to list your business with all of your contact information. Sense of these are free, while others charge. Expensive doesn’t always mean better, so I would personally start with the cheaper options and work your way up to the more expensive ones depending on your budget.
Remember to add your details in exactly the same format as your Google Places listing, and be sure to keep an eye out for any verification emails and phone calls. This is a fairly mundane task so doing a little bit here and there is the way to go and helps to make sure that you don’t appear to be spamming when all of a sudden you start getting lots and lots of links from different sites.
Pro Tip: A great resource to help find local citation sources is Whitespark. Seriously, give it a go – you won’t be disappointed (and in case you’re wondering, I’m not affiliated with these guys in any way, shape or form).
Remember to be patient. The changes you make here aren’t going to give you an instant life-changing event. If you do things properly your rankings should increase gradually, but it does all depending on what your competitors are up to. If you’re unsure of the best steps forward, ask someone – there are plenty of SEOs around who’d be more than happy to help… Just do a search for SEO in ‘Your Town’!
Guest author Matt Beswick is an SEO and Web Consultant based in the UK. As a self-confessed web geek, he specializes in link building and outreach and you can find him at mattbeswick.co.uk.