Local Businesses: How to Rank Your Business’ Website in Google Local Search Results
With recent changes to local search, business have to rank in the "three-pack" of mapped results to get noticed. Here's how to do it.
Ahhh. The good old days! It used to be fairly simple for local businesses to rank high in Google’s search engine results. Local search is typically much easier to rank for than a national company – there’s less competition in your local area. However, Google has made changes to local search that makes it even more difficult for businesses to rank high in local search results. Here are some tips to help your business rank higher.
Changes to Google Local Pack
When you search for a local business on Google, you’ve probably seen the now familiar local pack show up in search results. This pack of local businesses used to display seven local listings, but Google has since limited the results to showing only three local businesses and including a “More Places” link to more local businesses. (As you can imagine, very few people click on the “More Places” link – so the top three spots are where you want your business to appear.)
But now Google is going to make it even MORE challenging for local businesses to rank high organically in local search. As confirmed at the recent SMX Conference, Google will soon add a paid ad at the top of the local pack, limiting the number of organic search results down to a coveted two spots.
This means that local SEO is about to get even more aggressive with businesses fighting for the top two spots.
Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business Page
One way you can increase your odds of showing up high in local search is by claiming and optimizing your Google My Business page. To see if your business has claimed its Google My Business page, visit www.gybo.com/business. If your business hasn’t claimed its Google My Business page – get to it! It’s more important than ever to claim your listing, making sure to complete all the information requested, add photos, business hours, write a keyword optimized business description, select your business category, etc.
Having an optimized Google My Business Page can significantly increase your chances of showing up higher in local search results.
So what about a Google+ business page? Google+ pages are now managed through the Google My Business platform. Even though Google+ seems to be slowly disappearing in the importance factor, it’s still a good idea to claim and be active on your business’ Google+ page. Most social media marketing platforms (like Buffer and SproutSocial) allow you to post to Google+ as one of your social media options. So post to your Google+ page – just like you would Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. If you’re active on Google+, that can also increase your chances of ranking higher in Google search results.
Online Reviews: The New Social Proof Factor
Online reviews are increasingly becoming one of the most important assets of your business –and is a key ranking and customer acquisition factor. If you’re not actively going to your customers and asking for an online review, you’re missing out. Google shows star ratings for businesses within search engine results – and even in some pay-per-click ads. In the search engine results pages (SERPs) you’ve probably seen online directories in the listing, prominently showing the star ratings of a business, too.
Surveys from leading companies, like BrightLocal, show that consumers actively look at a business’ reviews before they make a purchasing decision. In fact, more than 88% of consumers read online reviews about a business.
Even Facebook allows users to leave a review about your business. So if you think reviews are something you can ignore – you’re wrong. If you’re not sure of the types of reviews that are out there about your business, you can run a free online visibility report that will show you the online reviews – good and bad – posted about your business. Now is the time to start looking at reputation management and marketing. If you don’t have the expertise in house, hire a reputable digital marketing agency that specializes in reputation.
Online Business Directories
Online Business Directories, like Yelp, MerchantCircle, YellowPages and others, are important to your business. Here’s why local directories matter: it’s true that people typically don’t go to YellowPages to do a local search, but Google pulls in online directories’ information into their search engine results. That’s the beauty! Get your business listed on these directories, optimize your business description, add photos, your business hours, etc. and your business can show up on Google search results because of these online directory listings.
First, find the top online business directories to get your business listed on.
When you’re setting up your online directories, be sure to fill out the Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) with consistent information — the EXACT same name, address and phone number of your business. (This means that “Road” is seen differently than “Rd.” on these directories and search engines.) It’s recommended that you do a search on Google for your business and see how Google has your NAP – and then use that NAP on all the other directories AND on your website.
Watch out, though, link farms do NOT count as a quality online business directories – and these toxic backlinks can actually penalize you on Google. So be careful. There are approximately 100 quality online directories that the search engines look at to bring in local business information. Find only the quality directories and get your business listed on those.
Ranking in Local Search Is More Challenging Than Ever
So it’s true. Ranking high on Google for local search is getting more and more difficult. Now you’re not only fighting your competitors for local rankings you’re also competing against Google AdWords customers who are also going to be bidding on the top spot.
Now more than ever you need to seriously look at your local search strategy, refine it and put as much effort into it as you possibly can. Good luck!
**Sherry Bonelli, Digital Marketer and Presenter/Speaker, has been a digital marketing professional since 1998. After launching her first ecommerce website in the late ’90s, Sherry has been featured on the TODAY Show, ABC News, CBS News and other newspapers and radio outlets. She is currently the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency located in Cedar Rapids, IA. She can be reached by visiting http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com or by calling 319.409.3287.