National Company, Local Focus
Google has made some serious updates to how they display local results. They are now displaying localized searches for queries that do not contain a location modifier. While they have been doing this for some time now, it has been seen in even more types of searches, including Google Suggest Search, a search for "weather", on your mobile smart phone with Google using your location, and generic terms like "pizza, doctor, and movie times".
Since Google has been increasing their ability to pick up on local signals, they thought it best to update how they display those results on their search engine results page. If you are unaware of this change, it was quite significant. Some of those changes include moving the map to the right and displaying the local results more like the tradition search results. Because of these two changes it has become imperative that even national companies have to have a local focus online.
Improving Your Chances with the Locals
Local SEO is very similar to traditional SEO, but there are certain signals that you should be aware of in order to improve your chances with the Locals. For the sake of brevity, we will only focus on three of those signals; Google Places, consistency, and reviews.
Have You Seen My Google Place?
The first thing you can do to dramatically improve your chances for showing up in localized searches is to create a Google Places listing. The best part about Google Places is that it is free. Both Yahoo and Bing have local listings too, but I find them to be either very hard to work with or consistently broken. Creating a Google Place listing is very easy to do and can be completed within 30 minutes or so. The first time you create a listing it may take a little while before it is approved, since you have to verify you are the true owner/guardian of the business. This can be done by phone or via snail mail. Once you have verified your listing you can then go back in and finish adding to the listing. There are some other great things you can now do with this listing, but we will save that for another post.
I Should've Made a Left at Albuquerque
Just as Bugs Bunny always had an issue using his map to get anywhere, Google needs constant and consistent reinforcement of your business. This is done through keeping your business name, location, hours of operation, and etc all the same across all of the various places on the internet that have and can have your business listed. Some of those places include YellowPages, Local directories, Linkedin, and Facebook. When I mean consistent, I mean to the letter. If your address is 101 Main St., then make sure it is 101 Main St. and not 101 Main Street. While we are able to clearly tell that it is the same, and Google probably can too, that consistency needs to be there. It only reinforces to Google that it is in fact at 101 Main St. There are thousands of places on the internet that your listing can be, so it takes time to get these updated.
The Best Pizza in Town
Google's ability to pick the most relevant sites over and over again for billions of searches has been built upon the notion of votes of confidence. This is most notably referred to as PageRank, but in all reality those links are just votes in a popularity contest. Using the same system of voting, Google has put a lot of weight into the reviews each Google Place listing receives. Getting good reviews can be hard, but anything you can do to get your customers to write a positive review will help in increasing your position in the localized search results. There are even some 3rd party sources that Google incorporates into its algorithm; Yelp, Yellow Pages, Insider Pages, Dine, and more. While these 3rd party reviews are not as powerful as a review written directly within the Google Places account, they do provide 'supporting evidence' to Google that in fact your listing is the best and most relevant.
Local SEO is a Must for Everyone
As noted above, Google is placing more and more focus on localized search results. Your company may be national and may have overlooked optimizing for localized searches in the past, but now more than ever is the time not to overlook the importance of local searches. With the change in how Google displays localized searches and providing local searches without the need for a location in the keyword, you too need to take control of how your company is represented in these search results. As stated above this can be accomplished, for the most part, by applying what was written about above to your business location(s). If you need help with anything stated above please don't hesitate to contact us by adding a comment, calling us at 1-262-364-0010, or filling out the contact form.