Top 5 Dos and Don’ts for Local Business Listings

Contributed by Alice Lee, Sr. eStrategist

Having seen a spike in local search with the new Google business listings display, local marketing optimization has also become a very important factor for SEO.  Although experts are still studying the algorithm of Places search, there are some local ranking factors which we believe are likely influencing Google Places ranking. Below are Milestone’s top five dos and don’ts for local search optimization:

Local Business Listing Dos and Don'ts

Top 5 Dos:

  1. Consistent UNAP
    Search engines tend to pull information from various sources to provide robust data about each business.  It is important to keep a consistent business URL, name, address, and phone number (UNAP) to avoid search engine confusion.  For example, the information you list on the website should be consistent with the ones on your local listing.
  2. Optimize Business Categories
    Category is the area where businesses can really optimize and provide information about all services. Through the increasing local searches, this would increase visibility of your business listings.
    Local Business Listing Dos and Don'ts
  3. Provide Incentives
    Utilize Google Coupons to promote special deals.  This is a FREE feature that comes with Google Places listings.  Google Coupons are easy to create and edit.  With incentives showing on the listing, it can increase the clicks from potential guests.
    Local Business Listing Dos and Don'ts
  4. Review Management
    Although it’s not officially confirmed that reviews are part of the ranking criteria, the quantity and quality of reviews would certainly leave good impression for your business and impact search results.  The best way is to encourage customers to post reviews about you and respond to negative reviews right away.
  5. Images & Videos
    People tend to respond to images and videos.  Google Places pulls relevant information from other sources for this section and displays the “From the Owner” ones first.  Business owners should utilize this section and provide business images, products, and even videos to improve the user experience.
    Local Business Listing Dos and Don'ts

Top 5 Don’ts:

  1. Vanity Phone Number or Tracking Number
    In order to keep your URL, Name, Address, and Phone number consistent, do not use vanity phone numbers or tracking numbers.  The use of vanity phone numbers and tracking numbers make it harder for search engines to match the data from various sources.
  2. P.O. BOX for address
    Google Places doesn’t like P.O. Box listings as addresses.  If you register a new listing with a P.O. Box the business listing may not be ranked for many primary location keyword combinations.
  3. Inconsistent Address
    Again, the inconsistency of address can confuse search engines.  For example, a Milestone client once tried to change their listing to a “GPS Friendly” address on Google Places and the traffic was down drastically for the time being and the listing stopped showing on the Places page.
  4. Dishonest Reviews
    Some small businesses think they can manipulate their online reviews by secretly posting their own.  Google, Yelp, and other review sites are able to detect the fake reviews.  It might even affect the rankings negatively.
  5. Change Business Names
    Do not add city, state “or other “keywords” to boost the searches.  Google Places is smart enough to figure out your location by identifying the address.  Keep the business name simple and honest.


Search Engine Land:

5 Responses to “ Top 5 Dos and Don’ts for Local Business Listings ”

Nice lists, Alice. I’d just suggest a minor change on the title – “Top 5 Dos and Don’ts for Google Places Listings” 🙂 Everything else is great! And it is cool that you mention the offers. They gained some visibility just lately and Google seem to be finally placing some importance on them!

I’d like to get your opinion: I have a few doctor clients that have actual business names for the practices. Problem is, their Dr. names are often picked up in Google and results in a new listing being created, with their Dr. name and address. I’ve always tried to run the Google Place listing under the business name but I’m thinking a better strategy might be Business Name + Dr Name (e.g. “Advanced Dental – Dr John Smith DDS”). People seem to be searching the Dr. name more than the business as well. I know it’s not consistent with the NAP but by claiming/deleting duplicate listings, I feel like Google will appreciate it. Thoughts?

Great post guys!
I’d like to add that onsite optimization is now pretty important as it now underpins your places page. Also a tip for getting traffic to your places listing is to create those offers and then post those offers with a link to your places listing on free classified sites like Backpage and Craigslist. = ) I’ve been doing this for my clients and many times those listings actually rank on the first page of Google giving my client an extra slot on the coveted first page!

Hi Nyagoslav & Russ – Thank you for your comments!

Hi Diego – I can see the benefit of having Dr Name on the business listing and I do agree that people tend to search that way. So the best way would be using “Business Name + Dr Name” as the business name. In that case, you might need to correct your NAP on other directories.

Informative post Alice, great job.

With regards to listing a P.O. Box as your address – I have addressed (no pun intended) this very issue with my local post office years ago and their advice was to use *their* physical location including my box number. Doing so, my address would look like any other multi-office business address.

Here’s the single-line format Google seems to like: 10 Post Office Ave; Box 12345

Works great for me and my clients…

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