Decoding Google's Local Search Algorithm - 13 SEO Signals
Local SEO is a challenge for hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world. Many new discoveries have unfolded since Google changed their local algorithm nine months or so ago and the below is a rollup of some of them. Aside from the below 13 considerations make sure these three first steps for mastering local search are part of the local optimization plan. The below images have numbered sections which correspond to the appropriate consideration.
- Company Name – Try and work the primary keyword phrase in the company name field. Even if the primary keyword phrase is not in the company name, consider a title that would read like this: “ACME Corporation – Descriptive Primary Keyword Phrase.”
- Address & Phone Number - Always include a real brick and mortar mailing address and never use a P.O. Box. Also, try not to use a toll free number and stick with the local area code. These are signals to Google that the business is truly legitimate and local.
- Logo - Make sure to upload a logo for the company and that the file name contains the primary keyword phrase.
- Domain Name - It is considered a plus if the primary keyword phrase is in the domain name.
- Categories, Hours, etc. - Include as many categories as possible, making sure they contain at least a primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. keyword phrase or variations of them. Also, include your business hours of operation and include content for any other pertinent fields offered.
- Review Snippets – Google’s local algorithm scours the internet for websites which may contain a review of a company. If they find some they may be included on a Google Local page. It is in a website’s best interest to pursue as many reviews as possible because they seem to carry a significant amount of weight in the algorithm.
- Photos & Videos – The more the merrier. Make sure any video or image uploaded has keywords in the file name, title and description.
- Details – It is very important to fully complete Google Local listings. Many companies leave some of these fields blank. Even if a field seems irrelevant to the business try to be creative using the field. Also, make sure to include as many keyword phrases as possible while keeping the content meaningful and not appearing as spam.
- Offers – People like getting offers and deals. Google knows this and probably rewards listings that offer deals. Try to come up with at least three deals.
- Reviews – As mentioned above these are very important for local rankings. However, before a business can secure a review that business needs to be listed on review sites. There are two ways to ensure that a business is listed on many of these review websites as possible. The time consuming approach would be to do several local searches in big cities and take an inventory of which review websites Google is displaying. Then go into each site and make a business profile. The quickest way to ensure a business is listed on up to 200 of these websites is to sign up for Localeze which is the primary database for many of the review websites. The cost is $300 per year. Also, look for industry specific review websites. The medical and contractor fields are littered with them (Angie’s List, Vitals.com and many others).
- Reviews by Google Users – Even though Google displays reviews from other websites it is still important to have some organic Google reviews. Pursue those as well.
- Related Places – Businesses have little control over this area. However, the results displayed provide valuable feedback. If there are very few results it either means there is no competition or the important keyword phrases chosen aren’t being pursued by other businesses for some reason. If that's the case reexamine the primary keyword phrase and make sure it's being searched enough to justify it.
- More About this Place – This section gives a clear list of other web properties which contain branded search signals to Google. The more branded search signals Google identifies the more secure they feel that a business listing is indeed legitimate. In order to maximize branded search signals a business should make sure they are included in directories, review websites, social media (especially LinkedIn), press releases, etc.
Before diving into sculpting a company’s Google Local listing determine what the primary geo-targeted keyword phrase is. After that, do a search in Google for it and take note of the first three local results. Then take notes and compare elements one through 13 above on each listing and build a local search optimization plan around the top three results. The top three listings will act as the benchmark for success. If a listing has 20 reviews the plan should contain a goal of 30 reviews. If a listing has four coupons consider adding five and so on and so on. For additional help with search engine optimization download our SEO Cheat Sheet.
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