With the internet and online world being a big and almost essential part of modern life, the traditional ways of reaching other people are being replaced. Phone directories, newspapers, direct mail, print ads are not as effective as they were anymore in marketing your business.
Nowadays, when people search for your local business or finding a solution to their problems via buying products and services, they go to the internet. Their destination is usually the search engines, specifically Google. Google holds around 66% of share of total search, while Yahoo and Bing combined have less than 30%, and so we shall focus primarily on getting prominent Google listings. The basic principles also apply to Yahoo and Bing.
Google gives search for local businesses a boost by incorporating “Google+ Local” results in their search results. Whenever a user looks for services or merchandise that is served by local businesses, or when Google predicts that a user is looking for local information, Google shows results listing businesses 5 miles away from where users do their searches. In many cases, Google shows these results even higher than their normal or “organic” rankings.
A search for pizza in Edison, NJ for example shows this result:
The Google Local search results consist of the listing, the phone number, the location map, Zagat rating and the number of current reviews. Indeed this gives richer information than any phone book can ever offer. Google Places results also give a link to your website, or your “Google+ Local” page.
Clicking the number of “Google reviews” brings you to the business’ Google+ Local page. For example, when you click on the “8 Google reviews” text for Edison Pizza and Italian Restaurant (the first result), it brings you to this page:
Your Google+ Local page is a web page that Google gives you as a tool to promote your business on the web. It shows your business name, your address and phone number, hours of operation, photos, directions, and a link to your website (You do have a website don’t you?). Prominently, you get reviews from customers who use Google+, and from Zagat:
Users can also +1 your page, share your page in their Google+ page, or upload public photos. Your Google+ Local Page appears in Google search results. Importantly, reviews and recommendations from people within your circle in Google+ are included in your Google search results when you are signed in.
You can get insights about your page that help you make smart business decisions through the Local Business Dashboard.
Among other information, the dashboard shows you impressions data, number of times people interacted with your listing, top search queries that drive traffic to your listing, and zip codes where driving directions come from.
Although your Google+ Local page contains enough information about your business, it does not replace having your own website because you get more flexibility presenting information from your website. Also, users get the impression that you are a reliable business if you have a professional looking site, and Google might also have a ranking boost if your business has its own website.
Your concern is how does your business gets to be listed in these results? Or better yet, how can you get high rankings from the listing to ensure that your business gets the best visibility. Studies have shown that people click through the first rank results are substantially more than those than the second result, and so on.
Google Local results rank business listings based mainly on relevance to the search term used, as well as the geographic distance indicated by your search (example, “barbers in newark, nj”), or where you are doing your search. Google knows that 80 percent of customers of your small local business come from people who live or work five miles from your location.
There are also other factors that go into the ranking, which Google keeps confidential. There are, however, best practices that seem to help in getting a high rank in Google Places results.
Here is a step-by-step guide to create a Google+ Local page, and even rank highly in the Google local results:
- Search for your business name in Google. If you see a link to your page through the number of reviews, click on it. The link will take you to your Google Plus page.
- On the rightmost rail, below the map, you can see text that says “Is this your Business?” and a button that says “Manage This Page”.
- Make edits to your page and add photos to make it a great addition to your marketing tools.
- If your business is not listed, claim your Google places page at www.google.com/places. Fill out all the information that Google is asking for. Google will ask you to verify your listing by phone or by mail.
- Within your website, make sure that your address and phone number is prominently seen in text (not graphics). Use your local number if at all possible.
- Make sure your business information is consistent in the internet. Search for all mentions of your business on the web, and see if your address, phone and business name is the same on all listings like in Yelp.com, CitySearch.com and other directories and yellow pages sites. Update any inconsistencies. This will make Google become more confident about the information they put out there about you, and thus may result in a higher ranking.
- In your Google+ Local page, find out if the categories you choose produce a Google Places search result. Test and see which ones work best for you.
- Get local positive reviews of your business. Some places where you can get reviews from customers are in the Google Plus page itself, as well as third party websites like Yelp.com. Also, keep in mind, that bad reviews may affect your ranking. Be sure to respond or address the issues brought up on your bad reviews.
- Along with positive reviews, citations are also important to rank well in local search. Citations are mentions of your business name and address on other web pages, even if there is no link to your website. These web pages include other web yellow pages, SuperPages.com, local chamber of commerce or your local business association. Multiple citations may help you rank high in Google Places.
- Claim your businesses in Yahoo and Bing as well.
In addition to optimizing your local listings, you should optimize your organic search engine presence as well. If you have no time and inclination and would rather concentrate on your business, you can get services for Local Search Engine Optimization experts.