Improving Local SEO with Google Places

16 Apr

With the world going more and more global, over the last two years we have also witnessed web searches getting more and more local. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that Google Places has dramatically changed the way that local businesses deal with search engine marketing. Local SEO has become the latest ‘hot niche’ for location based businesses.

According to Google’s statistics, 20% of all searches contain local terms and keywords with 97% of consumers searching for local products and services online. And that figure is continuously growing, especially with the increasing number of smartphone owners.

Despite being a free service and being around since 2010, many businesses either find Google Places too complicated and do not quite get it, therefore do not really use it; which is a shame, as these companies could be missing out on 20% of their potential customers, according to Google’s findings.

What is Google Places?

Google Places is a search platform by Google, which allows companies to reach their most targeted audience in the exact geography they are offering their services and products.

Getting Started With Google Places

To get started with Google Places, a business needs to complete the following steps:

– Register with Google and create a Google Places profile;

– Verify your name, address and phone number;

– Create a company description which promotes your product or service;

– Gradually build a good number of customer reviews, which Google calls ‘citations”. These reviews can be from third party sites, but recently Google has prioritized reviews from within Google itself, so its better to ask your customers to review directly from your Google Places page;

– Link your website to your Google Places page

– Add images and videos to your Places page

Now let’s look into these steps and see what you have to know about them.

Your Google Places Page

Make sure you have your Google Places page 100% completed. Choosing the right categories is a critical factor for your ranking in Places. Keywords are the most important thing for categories, so make sure you get this right and do your keywords research beforehand.

Keep your customer in mind when adding data, photos, videos, links and offers. You should ask yourself whether it inspires trust from your customers and bring legitimacy to your business.

Name, Address and Phone Number

Make sure your name, address and phone number is consistent across all online references of your business. If it isn’t, be sure to update it. Google likes consistency in profiles and considers this a key factor in determining the legitimacy of your business.

Many businesses overlook this point, but ignore it at your peril as the web is moving more and more towards trust signs, which is tied to verifiable data such as name, address and phone number.

Reviews

Like it or not but the system is so cleverly designed that you can’t do these by yourself or get your friends, staff, etc. do them for you. The only option is to get them from real customers who will publish them on the set of sites trusted by Google which you need for your citations.

And it won’t do you any good if you have got 14 reviews from two customers. Your reviews should be from different users, with different IP addresses if you want Google to add any significance to them.

Ranking

Google Places provide two types of ranking results: Pure and Blended.

Pure results rankings

They are directly driven by your Places page and Maps algorithms and show less information (link, website, ranking, reviews). What matters here are your business category, keywords and location in the geography searched.

Yet, it’s all about the balance so don’t over-optimize your site, stuffing it with keywords everywhere or Google will ban your web page.

And it makes sense, as Google doesn’t wants to have its service discredited. Similar thing happens when you create duplicate records as Google splits the links which results in lower rankings.

Pure results ranking are also affected by the data on you website. It should be enough to prove what you claim to be so that search engines can find and trust your web page.

Critically important to pure ranking are business reviews as well. It is recommended that you have both positive and negative reviews in order to get more legitimacy and look more realistic.

Blended local results

They are a combined effort of your Google Places and Organic search listings. Besides the information provided by Pure local results, Blended results display additional information about your business.

But here’s the thing – even if you have a cleverly optimized Place page but fail to get it associated with your website you won’t get any blended results.

That’s why the keyword here is ‘website optimization for offering (products/ services) + location. After you do these, build links to support your optimization and help boost your rankings.

You will also need authority links from diverse sources and anchor text as well as authentic quality reviews with a balanced amount of keywords which have been gradually generated in the course of time.

Does this sound very different from what you have done so far? Yes, probably.

Until recently local SEO was perceived rather like a luxury service; nice to have but not necessary. The truth is that search engine optimization is continuously evolving and local SEO is now an important, developing niche.

If you’re a local business, then Google Places is just a stage in this evolution. If you don’t get it right, you could be missing out and will have to play catch up with your search engine rankings.

Granted it’s a bit more complicated than conventional SEO techniques, but the sooner you implement it (or outsource its implementation to a professional), the easier it will be for your clients to find you. After all, isn’t that the point?

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