If you track the rank of your business for Google local searches, you are well aware that the local search landscape has changed greatly over the past few months. The changes manifested in the Google Pigeon update are well known, but there are some adjustments you need to make to your listing that are not as well known.
1. Choose the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your overall core business.
It used to be ok, and recommended, to list all categories that applied to your business. Now that will hurt your ranking. Listing just the basic categories will help you compete in those core categories. Check your categories and make sure they have been updated for the new algorithm.
2. Business Name - Adding unnecessary information to your name ... is not permitted.
You used to be able to get away with adding keywords to your business name, and it actually helped. It can now hurt. Again, stick to the basics. Just use the name on your letterhead, and make sure it is consistent across the web.
3. Business Address - Use a precise, accurate address to describe your business location.
PO Boxes or mailboxes located at remote locations are not acceptable. That means UPS Stores or virtual offices like Regus. It used to be ok, but now it is explicitly against the rules, and if Google finds out, you will be penalized.
For more information on how properly set up your listing and optimize it to rank well, check out the Google My Business Guidelines.
Create listings on review sites like Yelp, and ask clients to review your services.
One peek at recent search results should tell you why:
Google gives Yelp many, many listings in competitive, money searches in the natural results. Sometimes all 10. Most of the time these listings are stacked at the top, from #1 down. If your business is unfortunate enough to have your main target search terms in SERPs that look like this, you either have to play ball with these Yelp bandits, or look for another source for leads.
Google reviews are also very important in standing out and getting leads, just in case the searcher scrolls down past the Yelp listings to the map pack. You need to be in that pack and have a decent number of positive reviews, at least roughly equivalent to the competition in your target SERP. Reviews will help position in the map pack, as well as click-through to your listings.
It is also a good idea to get reviewed on other third party review sites, because Google does use these in its algorithm, not only to gauge popularity, but also to determine theme, which needs to be consistent with your keywords for the strongest ranking signal.
External third party sites where your business might be reviewed are displayed in the "More Reviews" section when a user rolls over your map pack listing.
You, and your potential clients can also see the keywords Google has associated your business. It grabs these terms from third party review sites, your own website, and any place your business is mentioned on the web. These keywords may not always be relevant or helpful, and can sometimes be confusing or outright wrong. That's why it pays to pay attention to your businesses web mentions, and be proactive in providing Google a strong, clean signal about your business. If Google doesn't have a lot of information, it can do some stupid, confusing and counterproductive things. Whether it makes any sense or not, whatever Google's algo comes up with will be displayed on your listing in the "People talk about" section.
And on Google Maps:
This is Tip #8 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.
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Create listings on third-party internet directories such as Yellow Pages, Superpages and City Search, and ask clients to review your services on those listings.
Google scours the web for information about your business, compiles it, and uses it to decide what your business is all about. It doesn't even need links to your website anymore. It can also display some of this aggregated information directly on your listing.
You can make sure Google is correct in its decision regarding what your business is about by giving it a clean signal and many "citations."
A clean signal means consistent use of NAP (business name, address and phone number) as well as keywords referring to your business, both in the external listings you create, and your website.
The listings you create in directories like Yellowpages or Superpages are called "structured citations." "Unstructured citations" are also aggregated and used by Google. This would be mentions of your business on a blog, or on a news site that doesn't necessarily have a link to your website or complete contact information. You can't always control the content of unstructured citations, but consistent use of NAP and keywords in what you do have control of, can cut down the variation of terms used by those researching your business.
Reviews on third-party sites are increasingly important to not only your ranking in Google map packs, but also the conversion rate or those listings, because they can be displayed directly on your Google Local Business Listing.
* Bonus Tip: Don't stop! Create listings on directories on an ongoing basis. Use your competitive intelligence (Tip 5) to find new directories to add your listing to.
This is Tip #7 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.
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Create local listings on search engines like Google and Bing, and ask clients to review your services on your listing.
Google business listings have a messy and confusing history. These listings used to be created and managed on a platform called Google Places. They are being transitioned to a Google Plus, however you can still manage them and create new listings on Google Places. I'd recommend just managing and creating local business listings from Google Plus, and forgetting about Google Places, because it will be going away.
Here's a video to show you how to set up a Google Plus Local Business listing.
You'll need to verify your listing by either phone or with code send via post card to your business address. In my experience the verify by phone feature is seldom available lately.
I guess because Google is abandoning the "Places" name for its local business listings, it's OK for Microsoft to use it. So Bing local business listings are now called Bing Places. Sign up is relatively easy. Like with your Google listing, your Bing listing will need to be verified by phone or postal address. Bing has a lot less traffic, so this listing is less important, but is a good way to get some traffic for those just starting out.
This is Tip #6 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business.
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Google Plus/Google Places/Google Local can be confusing because of the constant stream of changes Google has been rolling out over the past couple of years. I get questions about this from time to time, so hopefully this video will walk you through the setup in a straightforward and understandable way.
Google Plus can be confusing, and I still get questions about setting up an account, so I've done a couple of video tutorials on the subject. Hopefully this will make it simple!