Over the past six months Google has put a lot of effort into adjusting their algorithms for local SEO. This may be the single biggest change I’ve seen to a Google search algorithm in years and has required new experiments, competitor attribute accounting, phone calls to colleagues, and many sleepless nights. In the old days local search was easy – make sure the website’s on-page factors were dialed in, submit the website to Google local and cross your fingers and hope the client’s brick and mortar location was close to the center of the city. These days it’s not that simple. Here are three first steps you should consider if you want to do well in local search.
Make sure your website’s on-page factors are properly optimized for “location + primary keyword phrase.” When determining how to choose the location to come up for (i.e. town, city, suburb, county, region, etc.) consider how you, your friends and colleagues search for local services. Ask them. Different parts of the country search different ways. For example, in Chicago people generally search for “keyword Chicago.” In my home town of Fort Wayne people tend to search the opposite – “Fort Wayne keyword.” Also, if you’re in a suburb, typically searches are done to include the nearest metropolitan area rather than the name of the suburb. However, this is not always the case so it’s important to ask around.
Your business probably won’t perform well for local search if you don’t tell Google about it first. Just do a search for Google Places and fill out the fields to include relevant information about your business. Make sure you include the phrase that your website is optimized for in the description and all other fields where it’s relevant. Also, it appears Google rewards business profiles that are complete rather than empty shells. Add pictures (include your geotargeted keyword phrase in the picture’s file name) and video if you have them. Never use a P.O. Box.
What are local search quality signals? These are other web properties which contain the same or similar information that resides on your Google Places profile. They provide Google with added confidence that you are indeed a legitimate business worth indexing. I like to group them into two areas. Area one represents those sites where people can leave reviews about your business. Websites like Yelp, Merchant Circle, “yellow page” type websites, Angie’s List, etc. all represent this type of website. Area two includes directories and social media (from Foursquare to Realtor.com). LinkedIn is a particularly powerful quality signal, because not only can Google index your company’s profile, but Google can also take inventory of all of your employees that link to your company’s profile. Thus, adding to Google’s confidence that you are indeed a legitimate business that is worth indexing.
What’s the best way to get your website included on all of these sites? You could go in and manually include your business to the hundreds of possible websites that will help your rankings and pay the fee dozens of them require or you could go to one website, pay one fee and be included in over 200 of the aforementioned websites. Which website is this you ask? When it comes to local search including your website in Localeze.com is one of the most powerful things you can do. Sites such as Google, Bing, Yelp, Foursquare and hundreds of other sites use Localeze.com to verify or directly pull data. Make sure you invest in their paid listing for $300/year and prepare to watch your local search rankings rise!
The above are just a few of the potential hundreds of search attributes Google catalogs when determining a website’s local search significance. However, depending on the competitive nature of your local search battle on the search engine results page (SERPs), the above three steps maybe all that your website needs to rank high.