With the ever increasing use of mobile devices for internet browsing, local search results are becoming more important than ever. Google in recent years has changed it’s algorithm to rank results based on the searcher’s geographic location. They have even went as far as adding a map and an independent ranking of local results in the most prominent area of the page, just below the ads. With mobile devices, the business phone number is clickable making click through rates and conversions extraordinarily high for those websites that rank in these positions.
The 3 or so results shown at the top are not by chance or proximity to the user but a calculated ranking of businesses that Google “refers” based off a number of factors. These factors can be fine tuned to give your website an advantage over other businesses that are unaware of this. Google tends to give these positions to websites and businesses they feel are trustworthy and consistent. Here are a few ways you can increase your position in these results.
Directories and NAP
Let’s start with NAP. NAP isn’t about dreaming your search ranking will improve but making sure your Name, Address and Phone number are correct and consistent in online directories. You will need to submit (if you haven’t already) to the top local directories such as:
- Google My Business (formerly Places)
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Places
Make sure your NAP is consistent across all of the directories and you choose the correct category for your listing. It is best to use your real phone number and not a tracking number. If you are listed in other directories as well, you will need to make sure they remain consistent too. As a general rule of thumb, the more directories the better as long as the information matches.
On Page Signals
After you have completed your directory listings, now you need to shift your attention to your website. In the old days (like 2009), you could just put a bunch of local cities and towns in the footer and the search engines would rank you well in those areas. If you are still doing that, you need to remove them. They can actually do more harm than good since Google penalizes websites that stuff added keywords like that.
Keep all of your copy readable and write naturally. It is ok to add location names in the text as long as it flows naturally. You should make sure there are relevant keywords within the body copy that relate to your location as well as your industry. Just make sure you are not stuffing keywords, Google can tell and will penalize you for that.
The last thing to do on your website is to make sure your NAP is as consistent as your directory listings. A Google embedded map is a great idea and never hurt anyone. Also, we recommend to our clients that maps and phone numbers are clickable to make it easier for web visitors to get in touch.
In their effort to provide internet users with the best possible search results, Google has based a significant portion of their algorithm for local search results on reputation. The Googlebot is constantly looking at sites that have business reviews and take note of the businesses that are reviewed. While no one knows the exact workings of the Googlebot, there is much evidence supporting that there are several factors it looks at concerning reviews and these factors are weighted heavily when determining local positioning. These factors are:
- Number of Reviews – How many total reviews are posted
- Frequency of Reviews – How often reviews are added and are they consistently added
- Variety of Reviews – Are reviews posted on just one site or many different review sites?
It is also important to note that once you reach 5 Google reviews, you get the orange stars to appear next to your business name. This is great if you have good reviews since it draws the searcher’s eye to your listing. It is also believed that once you receive 5 Google reviews, you automatically will increase 1 position in the rankings.
So what can you do? Contact your customers and encourage them to review you all over the internet. Any website that offers reviews is good. You can even offer promotions to get people to leave you a review. One word of caution though, ask customers that you believe will leave a good review. It is very difficult and time consuming to get rid of too many bad reviews.
In conclusion, a well ranked business in the local search results can have a lasting effect on your business. If you follow these steps you can start seeing some improvement. If you are in a very competitive market or have a tarnished reputation, you may want to enlist the help of a marketing professional that will have additional strategies to bring you more business from the web.
Chart showing known factors for local ranking
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