In case you haven’t noticed, local SEO is starting to dominate search. As a statistic over 20% of Google searches are at a local business level. And when you start looking at mobile devices that number jumps double. SERP’s are being filled with local listings. Now as social media sites are playing an ever growing role in your search engine rankings there are a few things you need to know, if you want your site to show up in the local search.
So lets take a look at a typical search that might take place right here in Dallas. The search term pizza Dallas returns the following results.
This is a typical mixed organic search result that most people will see when they do a similar search. Now lets take a look at the eye-tracking data from a similar search.
This eye tracking data done by Google reveals why local search is becoming more prevalent in SERP’s. Google can see that it’s what people are looking for when they do these searches. So don’t expect this to go away in the near future.
So then the question business owners are asking themselves is “if local searches are becoming more powerful how do I show up in those searches.” And it’s a great question. So lets take a look at how local search works.
First and foremost to be involved with local search you must have a Google Places page to be ranked at all. This is a very critical step and needs to be done correctly. It’s not just enough to go put you business address and name into the places detail and be done. Make sure you optimize your Places page. And optimization means populating everything within your page with information. It also means putting in rich media like pictures and video. And make sure to optimize with the correct categories. Think of it this way. Google places is like having an your own ‘internal’ website within the monster that is Google. So the first step is to optimize your Google Places site.
Once that step has been completed your next step is a different kind of optimization. It’s different because typically we would now go out and get relevant links for our business site. With local search the step is similar but what your looking for is citations. Citations are to local search what links are to organic search. Citations come from having your business listed in as many places as is possible. So where do you go to get your citations?
Citations can be collected in numerous ways but lets start with the most powerful and obvious. Those would be aggregators, Social Media sites, and local industry directories. Beyond that you can look at newspapers, local websites and local blogs and there are others as well. But lets concentrate on the big 3.
Aggregators are those sites that hold business information and offer specific infomration to help people choose businesses or services. In addition to helping your get citations, listing your business with aggregators will also help your organic SEO as well, so you’re getting a two-fer. And remember consistency with your Google Places page is key. Make sure your fill profiles out the same “EXACT” way you filled them out for Places. Here is a list of sites to start off with:
- City Search
- Superpages and Yellowpages
- Urban Spoon
- Angie’s List
- Yahoo Local
- Insider Pages
- Judy’s Book
- Yellow Bot
- City Search
For specific searches you’ll also want to be in the following areas:
- Trip Advisor
- Merchant Circle
- Urban Spoon
These are just a few. There may be aggregators that are more relevant to your business. For instance if you have a beauty salon then, “Find a Beauty Salon” would be a good place to start. Beyond this list if your looking for other aggregators to suit your needs you can simply go to Google, search your city and business type. A list of aggregators will certainly pop up.
Another helpful hint is to search your competitors. See where they are listed and follow those leads as well. You can get a look at a list like that by going into a search engine and searching for your competitors “name” and “phone number”. Make sure you go pages deep into the search to get as many as you can.
It’s no mystery that social media sites have gained a huge power with regards to search. And it is no different for citations. A good social media plan or digital strategy should have already demanded that your business go out and grab as many social media properties in your company name as you can, where relevant. If not, do so right away. You can do that by starting out at www.namechk.com.
Once you have grabbed all those properties make sure to fill them out as completely as possible. Make sure that they are exactly as you have your listing on Google Places. Do not vary what you do. This needs to be exact!
Local Industry Directories
Just like your competitors put your “city” and “Business” type in a search engine and it should return several local directories to populate. most will be free some will be pay. I would recommend for those just starting out that you don’t pay to be a part of a directory. There is simply to much to do and to many free services to worry about signing up for pay sites before you need to. Once you get your free directories optimized to a high efficiency then take a look at what your competitors may be paying for and get into those. Again consistency with your Google Places page is paramount.
It’s a Big Job
There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of directories you could put yourself in. But the key is to stay local. Google gives more relevance for those who stay local. Just like they would give you more “juice” from a link coming from a high authority site rather than a low authority site. So stay local.
Say consistent. This is a huge key. Make the most of your work by staying consistent with all of your efforts. If you listed your business on “Smith Ave.” on one listing but make it “Smith Avenue” on another listing your work may be for not. Stay consistant
Don’t get discouraged. This isn’t a quick process. It will not only take you a long time to do this correctly it will take a long time for Google to catch up to the listings. Google’s web crawlers can’t be everywhere at once. It may take a while to find the listing and give you citation credit. That could be weeks or months, just keep at it.
- Keep a master sheet with all your login information
- Keep your master business name address and other info on a spread sheet to remain consistent
- Write both Long and Short descriptions of your business for use in different places. Use those descriptions religiously
- Get Google Auto Fill for your toolbar if possible
- Know where to login to add your info. This is not always easy and finding the place to add your listing can be defeating. Check out tips on line if your having trouble
- Double check your info at each site. After submitting logout and back in and check your info. Do this immediately a lot of these sites share info so if you wait your bad information may already be spread.
- Put rich media (pictures and video) wherever possible. Keep and easy to get to folder on your desktop so you can access them quickly and easily
- Whitespark has developed a local citation finder. I’ve not used it long so I can’t comment on it’s efficiency but my early test look promising
- Universal Business Listing offers a service for $30 that puts your business in many listings. Don’t use this and nothing else. But this is a nice step