What is local listings optimization?
A business always wants to attract customers to their website. Depending on your business it often helps if those customers are also local to you. Local listings optimization is the art of optimizing your information on the internet to make sure that your business shows up well whenever someone searches locally for your business. This may be a search on Google Places, Yahoo Local or many of the other sites along these lines.
Google still dominates the search market so you want to make sure you list your business with Google Places. You will have to create a Google Places account at their Business Center.
Enter all the details for your business accurately, this is critical, you’d be surprised how many businesses have a wrong street address or an incorrect phone number in their listings. And you’ll be even more surprised at how many companies have their own name wrong! Google does cross-check the information you supply against other sites for consistency so matching up your details globally will increase your ranking. If you find your business is already listed, contact Google and claim it for yourself.
Let’s talk about consistency, the matching of your information all across the internet. The mechanism itself is simple: every time information in your listing matches the information on other sites, your Google listing is given a “citation”, and the more citations you get, the higher your business ranking. Consistency between sites builds trust, so build out your profile with enhanced content, starting on one site, and expanding to others, using the original as a template.
Maximize citations and you will achieve the highest possible ranking. But you can’t depend on just those citations, you will also need as much positive feedback and reviews as you can get. Motivate your satisfied customers to go out on the internet and write a positive review, explaining why they’re so pleased to buy from your company; ask them to post on several sites. Cross-industry reviews matter less than vertical industry-related sites, so know your industry’s niche authority websites; they’re the equivalent of trade journals for local listings optimization, but with reviews written by your customers.
For restaurants, the review sites are TripAdvisor, CitySearch, and Zagat. The service industry websites are InsiderPages and Kudzu, as well as CitySearch again. Don’t think you can boost your ratings from within your own website because Google recognizes your own URLs, and will weed them out when creating your local search visibility scores. So, get those positive reviews up on the internet, and your local position will be greatly improved.
The other details about your business are important too, everything from your email address to the services provided to your business hours to your business’ payment options. Make sure you are consistent about these items in all the profiles you create. Even such things as photos and videos count, it shows your business is active in your industry.
Look at the listings and profiles for your competition! What are they including that you’re not? Add that detail to your profile! What do you have in your profile that they don’t? Use that information opportunity to expand on what they missed, and become more relevant to the industry keywords used in searches.
Let’s move on to Google Maps. Your presence on one of these local maps at the top local position gives your business online authority and that’s a large part of your local listings optimization. You’ve already re-checked your street address, now is your website address correct? The presence of your URL in clicks from other sites is used by Google to rank you in your local listings optimization. If your website address is inaccurate, you get no ranking at all.
When considering local search visibility, how far is your business from the geographic center of the area being searched? It used to be true that this factor weighed heavily in your Google Map local position ranking, but, because Google has realized the arbitrary nature of this factor so less weight is given. However, do keep an eye on the brand-new Google geo-location tools based on a browser’s IP address.
Look at your business description or the description of your services. Do you use local keywords in those narratives and titles? Adding local keywords, where relevant, will help your rank. With Google Maps the use of geo-targeted keywords can add power to your local search visibility. Searches will highlight your business when your profile matches a geographical keyword pairing of a city name and a business type, for example, Boston Bakeries.
If someone types in Bakeries in Boston or something similar your listing will do well and show up in bold. Keep in mind though that this type of local results are very different from the normal Google search results and the pay-per-click listings. The best way to convince Google your are indeed a local Boston Bakery is to go outside Google and to put the same detailed information in Linkedin, Yellow Pages, Ziplocal, Weblocal, etc. And look at those businesses in the top position of those map listings in order to learn why they’re there. With that information you can update and optimize your profile to compete with theirs.
Monitor and Track Your Listings – Watch For Errors
Always double check for errors on as many sites as possible. Update and correct those wrong entries! It may take some research to find the site’s correction process and the contact, but remember Google looks at other sites’ information about you and if it’s wrong over there, then it won’t match over here.
Now it’s time to track your local search visibility. Use Google Places Dashboard, which shows the performance of your listing, the keywords used to find your site, and the location used in the search. Monitor and adjust in order to improve how often your listing is viewed and how often that view converts into a lead or sale.
Reputation Management – Monitor Your Reviews
Then there’s the basis of your local reputation: online reviews. Monitor and manage your reputation. Search for the name of your company and its location using every major search engine, including the local ones. Do this at least once a month. In this way, you’ll get a heads-up on what people are saying about your business. Setting up Google and Yahoo alerts is a great way to get automatically notified when your company name or relevant keywords are being mentioned and indexed.
Some Potential Things to Avoid
Let’s talk about those pesky negative ranking factors. Avoid them at all cost! Do not use a 1-800 phone number in your profile, be sure it’s local. Avoid the use of multiple phone numbers that you think you might use to track your different profiles, again, you need consistency. Don’t use an area code that is non-local, or a Post Office Box. Avoid over using keywords, this can be considered spamming and negatively impact your rank. We also try to make our listings as informative, relevant and easy to understand as possible for your potential customers first, then make it work well for the search engines.
The cliff notes version is pretty straight forward. Make sure your information is accurate, relevant and consistent. Then put it on as many listing sites as possible. Once you are listed monitor the results and improve your listings, consistently, in order to improve their performance and rank.
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