If you own a brick-and-mortar business, you probably know the importance of local search optimization (LSO). When a prospective customer in or around your city searches for your business’s products or services online, you want them to see YOUR business and not a competitor’s. So, how can you can increase your Google local ranking?
Create a Google My Business Listing
If you haven’t done so already, create a Google My Business (GMB) listing for your business. Formerly called Google Places, this is the Big G’s online directory of local businesses, brands, organizations and artists. Click on the aforementioned link and follow the instructions to create your GMB listing.
Creating a GMB is completely free, with the only paid service being an optional Virtual Tour. Opting for a Virtual Tour, however, improves your listing by adding professional, high-quality photos of your business to your listing. According to Google, including a Virtual Tour improves conversion rates for local businesses by as much as 200%. Furthermore, this increased activity and online content may increase your business’s local search rankings in Google.
Verify Your GMB Listing
Although optional, it’s recommended that you verify your business’s GMB listing. Anyone can create a GMB listing, regardless of whether or not they are the actual owner or manager of that business. Verifying your listing shows Google that you are the legitimate owner of the business, which improves your visibility on Google Search, Maps and other related properties.
There are several ways to verify a GMB listing, although the easiest involves verifying your business website with Google Search Console. While logged into your Google account — the same account used to create your GMB listing — visit the Webmaster Search Console > click “Add Property” > enter your business website’s homepage URL > click “Continue.” Next, choose a verification method (e.g. HTML file upload, domain provider, HTML tag, etc.), follow the instructions and you’re done!
Assuming you include this same website in your GMB listing, Google will verify your GMB listing automatically. Of course, Google supports other methods of verification, as well.
Optimize Your GMB Listing
Of course, it takes more than just a generic GMB listing to dominate Google’s local search results with your business.
Here are some tips to optimize your GMB listing:
- Choose the fewest, more relevant categories that accurately describe your business’s operations
- Include your business’s hours of operation, and if applicable, also include its holiday/special hours.
- Include the payment types accepted by your business.
- Avoid cheesy stock photos, and instead upload real photos of your business and your staff.
- Post new content regularly on your business’s Google+ page. GMB listings and Google+ pages are closely related, so only focusing on one minimizes its benefits.
Respond to Customer Reviews
When a customer leaves a review — either on your GMB listing, Facebook Page, official website, etc. — respond to it a timely manner. According to Moz, 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews. But Moz also ranks online reviews as being one of the top overall ranking factors for local search listings.
Social media networking can and will affect your business’s local search rankings. Build a strong following on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, engaging with your followers regularly. By generating more Facebook likes, Google +1s and Twitter followers, you’ll have an easier time dominating the local search results.
Internet Yellow Pages
Submitting your business info to Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) may also improve its local search rankings. These are essentially local business directories, such as Google My Business, that list local business information. You can typically add your business’s NAP (along with other info), allowing customers to find you more easily.
But it’s not just customers who see these listings; search engines also crawl IYP, using this information to determine where and how to rank businesses and their respective websites in their index.
Some of the leading IYPs include the following:
- Better Business Bureau
Name, Address and Phone Number
One of the most important on-page LSO signals is name, address and phone number (NAP). Include your business’s NAP — in plain text format — on all associated websites, social media network profiles/pages, blogs, directories, etc. Google will crawl this information, using in its local search ranking algorithm.
When publishing your business’s NAP, use a consistent format. If you list your business’s address as “123 Parker Avenue Suite 6,” for instance, don’t list it as “123 Parker Av #6” in another listing. Nuances such as this may seem insignificant, but it can confuse search engines as they try to determine which version is correct and which is not.
Rather than “create” backlinks, use inbound marketing to attract them. Backlinks remain a highly influential ranking signal. The more high-quality backlinks pointing to your business website, the greater your chances of scoring a top local search ranking.
Don’t make the mistake of buying backlinks, however. Paid links are considered a “link scheme” by Google, and engaging in this practice could actually hurt your site’s search rankings. Publish high-quality, relevant content that encourages other websites and users to create natural backlinks for it. And remember, just a few high-quality backlinks from authoritative, relevant sources is worth more than hundreds or even thousands of low-quality backlinks.
To learn more about LSO and how to dominate the search engines for your local business, contact us today. Mankato Web Design is the industry-leading provider of digital marketing, web design and LSO services.