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:
Top 5 Dos:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Top 5 Don’ts:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- “9 common ways to bork your local ranking in google”(http://searchengineland.com/9-common-ways-to-bork-your-local-rankings-in-google-99336)
- “What not to do on local business websites” (http://searchengineland.com/what-not-to-do-on-local-business-websites-81650)
- “Local SEO primer how to rank google place search”(http://searchengineland.com/local-seo-primer-how-to-rank-google-place-search-54847)