Think back to before the Internet (if you can), and you might recall the halcyon days when the Yellow Pages ranked above all others as the go-to source for local business listings. Need a new barber who’s a bit closer to work? Look in the Yellow Pages. The florist closest to your mother’s house? The Yellow pages. A web design agency who understands the local marketplace? You get the idea… While the Yellow Pages are still very much alive and kicking on the web, the reality is that a few other online directory services have superseded “the book” in their abilities to generate visibility and exposure for local businesses. Namely, search engines like Google Places, Yahoo, and Bing have stepped up and taken the local directory winnings.
Ignore them at the peril of your search rankings.
Here are a few tips for making sure your business is maximizing its presence on these local directories:
#1: Claim Your Google Places Listings
There are a number of different sources from which search engines like Google collect information on local businesses and attractions. A primary source of information on these local establishments, as it turns out, are users of the search engine themselves. Google’s Mapmaker tool, for instance, allows users to do things like identify a business’s building on the map or add photos and other pertinent business information.
This means your business might be listed in Google Places online directory without you submitting any information.
While Google does provide a certain level of oversight to verify the accuracy of information posted about local businesses, the best way to ensure your information is accurate is by claiming your listing as the business owner. Once verified, Google logically sees your listing as more trustworthy. As a result, unverified listings are often buried in search results by their competitors who have verified their listings. This all goes for Yahoo and Bing, as well.
#2: Add Content to Your Listings
Think of the content in your local online listings in the same way you think about the content on your website. It should be high quality, engaging, useful to the user, and optimized (but not overstuffed) with keywords and by category. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow:
Be thorough with location information. Peter Schmidt, at HubSpot, recommends filling out an address, a local phone number (Google Places Local doesn’t like toll free, and sometimes won’t even let you enter it), and web address for your business location. If you have more than one location, create a listing for each location. If your business does not have a central address, but instead services on-site, you have the option to indicate such. Instead, Google Maps will associate your business with your service area.
Add high quality photos.Google recently added a new feature to its search, called Google Carousel, which displays featured listings across the top of the search engine results page in a highly visual, more engaging format. Travis Bliffen, with Business2Community.com, offers these other tips for making your listing more Carousel-friendly.
Share locally relevant content.Unlike Yahoo and Bing, Google has integrated its directory listings with its internal social network, Google+. This means that listings associated with more active Google+ Local pages (which Google now automatically syncs with verified local listings) will be more likely to appear at the top of search results. Local businesses can use this to their advantage, by positioning themselves as the local authority on issues and topics relative to their industry.
#3: Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!
Customer reviews are another major component in driving a local listing to the top of search results. Google Places has a built-in review feature where users can rate their customer experience. Yahoo’s online directory sources review ratings from Yelp and displays those with corresponding local listings. In short, reviews are the online equivalent of word-of-mouth, and these directories understand the power that carries.
Consider including a call-to-action button in multiple locations on your website, soliciting reviews from your customers on whichever platform your business favors. If you provide receipts or invoices to customers, you could include a QR code or memorable bit.ly link directing customers to provide feedback. Or, include a sign in your storefront (somewhere near the point of sale) indicating your business is on Google+ or Yelp.
Here’s a tip: always remember to word these calls-to-action in terms of the value of your customers’ feedback to your business.
A Few More Tips on Local SEO
Local directory listings all go toward boosting what some refer to as “local SEO,” which is the level at which many of our clients here at webFEAT Complete operate. Part of the SEO services we provide includes setting up and monitoring your local listings for our webFEAT Complete clients.
Here are a few other ways we think LOCALLY about SEO for our clients:
We make sure your business name, address, and phone number are listed on every page of your site (even if it’s just in the footer). Location-based searches like this. Local SEO does NOT like virtual addresses and toll-free numbers. If your business uses these, we recommend setting up a local number associated with a street address. Moz has a really cool local listings checker that we use to evaluate where your company is listed, and how complete, inconsistent, or duplicated your listings are.
Give us a call at (513) 272-3432 to speak with a web consultant about how we can optimize your local listings, and lift your website in search results.