Enhancing your local business listings for SEO is a valuable extension of your garden variety on-page SEO. A surprising number of your competitors are more focused on their website than their Google My Business or Facebook page. However, the ones who know how to get into local listings have a startling advantage.
Today, 80% of internet users are connected via their mobile phones. They run searches with common phrases like “best coffee in Wilmington” and “coffee shops near me,” knowing that Google knows their location via GPS or IP address.
You want to be the best business in the vicinity when these searches are performed. You want to stand out. You want to be found.
The most influential ranking factors for being found locally on Google are having a high quality profile, links from authoritative websites, positive customer reviews, relevant categories to match your web content, and NAP citations around the internet.
In this article, we’re going to show you how easy it is to claim your business on Google My Business, get into the internet’s favorite directories, build local links and citations, and get reviews.
Get A Local Listing On Google My Business
As with all forms of SEO, the key to being ranked first in Google is to be relevant, even off-site. In terms of local listings, Google is able to differentiate between local and global searches. It knows if you’re looking for a place to buy a coffee (local) or recipes for brewing your own coffee (global) and will display local results accordingly.
How Google Displays Local Listings
When Google detects a local search, it displays a “3 pack,” the top 3 results. On mobile, this is a designated area that shows the top 3 relevant nearby businesses. On desktop, the 3 pack is sometimes displayed to the right of search results. The pack is shown before your typical website results, and most users click the first one. The pack displays the business’ name, address, category, hours, star rating, and number of reviews.
When the user clicks on one of those local results, a card pops up with more information, including pictures, a description, a link to your website, a phone number, and reviews.
You want to make sure all this information is optimized and there are no duplicates of your business with incorrect information. So how do you do that?
Claim or add your business by going to https://www.google.com/business/. We recommend logging on with the same account you use for Google Analytics and AdWords, as your Google business account can import helpful insights from these tools.
Update Your Local Business Listing for SEO
Update your information to make it match what you have listed on your website. If your business address, phone number, and name doesn't match, Google may not be able to identify your business across the web and you may lose out on SEO points. Consistency is paramount.
Google probably has a street view of your business as the default picture of your business. Replace it by adding high resolution pictures of your business and your products. Google lets you add a logo, a profile picture, and a cover photo. Make it clear what your business is about and entice customers with high quality photos.
Choose the most specific and relevant category possible. Moz cites “Incorrect business category” as the number one negative ranking factor.
So how do you know what the correct category is? Google will drown you in category options, making it difficult to choose the best one. Check out http://blumenthals.com/google-lbc-categories/ and search your service.
Google My Business Category Example
As with on-page SEO, you want to choose long-tail keywords to reduce competition and remain specific and relevant. So, if you’re a restaurant that mainly sell hot dogs, you don’t want your category to be “restaurant” as you’d have to compete with every other restaurant nearby. Instead, you may want to choose “hot dog restaurant.” Do you offer cart services? Google associates synonyms with some categories. If you identify as a “hot dog stand,” then people searching for hot dog cart services will find you, too.
Local Listing SEO via Directories
While Google My Business is arguably the most viewed and important directory, Google draws much of the value of your listing from other directory listings. If Google finds that your business is listed on multiple authoritative websites, it will increase your local listing rank.
Create a free listing or claim your business on these websites. We can’t emphasize this enough: make sure your listing is consistent across all directories! We should also note that paid local listings do not carry any more SEO weight than free listings.
Top Local Listing Directories
Citations and Local Link Building
Get your name out there! Actually, your NAP.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone. This is your “citation.” A structured citation helps with SEO even without a link - as long as it’s consistent.
One way to ensure a consistent citation around the web is by using a tool like Bright Local or Schema to find where your business is mentioned and cleaning the citation up manually.
Putting this code in your footer makes your citation structured and easy for Google to read across all your pages:
- <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness">
<p itemprop="name">COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<p itemprop="streetAddress">ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop="telephone">PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop="latitude" content="LATITUDE" />
<meta itemprop="longitude" content="LONGITUDE" />
Get More Local Citations and Links for SEO
Often the websites that agree to post a citation will be happy to oblige a link to your website as well.
Link building is one of SEO’s challenges. You have to get creative. Ask yourself: What would make someone want to link to your website? What would make you want to link to someone else’s website?
5 Ways To Get More Local Citations
- Get onto local websites by getting in the news. Host a community event and ask your local newspaper or blog to report on it. You can also host a Meetup and get links and citations from there.
- Make sure you’re registered on social media sites like Facebook and include your NAP and a link to your website on your page. Create share-worthy content with links back to your website.
- Offer a discount to local, relevant organizations in exchange for a link and/or citation on their website.
- Find out if a local college or university has a career center and offer internships or jobs to students. They’ll post your contact information on the school website.
- Find out where your competitors are getting links from. You can find their citations using BrightLocal or Moz Local. Try to get links from the same sites.
Don’t Get Penalized By Google
Avoid link farms. If a directory has nothing but random links or links that are not local or even in English, this is not a site with high authority in Google’s eyes. In fact, Google is quick to penalize sites with toxic backlinks. Think quality over quantity.
If you find that your listing has bad reviews, address them. See if you can make the customers change their minds. Often, a simple apology or coupon is enough to convince customers to rethink their reviews.
Alternatively, drown them out with good reviews. Never fake reviews, but feel free to ask your existing customer base to write you a review on Yelp and Google. You may also want to put up a Yelp or TripAdvisor sign in your window to inspire people to review you.
Google claims it doesn’t show bias in search engine page rank when it comes to reviews, but there is no question that it does. Furthermore, star ratings are the first eye-catching images in search engine results and they appear in Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more. Offer high quality customer service and products to receive great reviews.
SEO Local Listings Results Show…
That you’re a modern, active, and dedicated business owner. Keeping this information up to date will help consumers find you at the exact time and near the very place they are seeking your goods and services. They will also help drive traffic to and improve the SEO of your website.
Remember that on-page SEO is equally as important in showing Google what your business is really about. Keeping keywords specific on- and off-page will help visitors find you on the web and on the road.
Need a competitive edge over your competition? Ask us how we can help you with SEO today.