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Optimising Local Search For Your Business

A couple of weeks back it was reported that Google was amending how local businesses are highlighted in it's search results.

The key changes included:

  • Reduced number of local businesses display from 7 to 3.
  • Phone numbers and addresses removed from local listing.

The consequences of these changes reflect that:

  • The reduced listings make it even more competitive for maintain a prominent local search ranking.
  • Your website not your phone number will be the main contact point listed for a person searching for your product or service.
  • How important it is to optimise your website for local search.

So this felt like an opportune time to cover how businesses can optimise their online presence for local searches.  

Working on the task of search engine optimisation there is no such thing as a quick fix or a flick of the switch.  However following some of the following best practice methods will ensure that your company's online presence is enhanced.


Claim Your My Business On Google

First search for your company on Google Map Planner to find any past listings of your business and remove them to avoid them messing with your search ranking.  Depending on the level of content on the listings you may want to transfer ownership of the page and update or simply remove it altogether.  For example if much of the content is correct and you have some reviews it would be worth transferring ownership to save time and maintain the existing content.  For help with transferring a business page, visit the My Business help section here.

Google's My Business, formerly Google Places allows you to create a comprehensive listing of your business on Google.  It will be your most visible listing as it will appear alongside any searches for your business.  

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Start by clicking on 'Get On Google' at Google My Business

The Google My Business page provides a completion progress bar at the top of the page to help guide you through the setup process.

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Things To Pay Attention To:

  • Use quality photos that reflect your company.
  • Schedule regular periods for updating changes to company information.
  • Complete 100% of the required information.
  • Verify your Page.

Verifying You Business Page

During the setup process Google will require you to enter your street address to provide for local search that pinpoints your business.  Make sure to double- check where the pin shows your business and amend if required.  Once this is done Google will send a postcard to your listed address with a code to verify the location.  Enter this verification at the 'Verify Now' link at the top of the page.


Optimise Other Listings

With the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, Localist, and more you have some major contributors to your business's search ability.

Using Google Analytics you can take a look at referral websites that are contributing a significant amount of traffic.  Pay attention to these directory listings and ensure you maintain up to date and complete information.  

Encourage reviews by asking your customers in store or online via social media or in an after purchase email.  Consider offering an incentive like a monthly prize to those that provide reviews.  

Claim and complete as many listings as you can as they all have the potential to contribute to customers finding your business by search.


Ensure Mobile Friendly

We are forever reiterating the importance of having a mobile friendly website.  Not only has Google made it plain that they will penalise website's not optimised for mobile, but as the amount of mobile search traffic increases so does chance that a potential customer is going to search for your product or service on their mobile.  When they do find you on their mobile they are going to be frustrated by landing on a site not responsive to mobile.

Search Engine Land referred to a report by Google that '56% of mobile searches on smartphones have local intent'.  That is to say that a person on the go is more likely to be looking for somewhere close by to purchase.  By having your location listed across numerous online directories and Google's My Business you are giving yourself the best chance of a prominent position in local mobile searches.  


Harness Your Website's Search Power

Including local elements across key pages of your website will add strength to your local search ranking.  In addition overall best practice SEO tactics will help improve how your site rates in search engines.

Areas To Focus On:

About Us

  • What the business does.
  • Where the business is located.
  • Who is part of the business.
  • Social media accounts.


Page Authority

Page authority is a metric designed by Moz to provide a scale that estimates how a page will rank in search.  

Areas that influence page authority include:

  • Technically sound overall website SEO, ie site map.
  • Quality content that gets linked to from external sites.
  • Links back to previous blog posts.


Alt Text For Images

Because images are not readable by search engines, alternative text for an image is a way of providing information about an image.  This information is useful for search engines to produce results that are relevant.  

Adding your location as alt text can add strength to your local search ranking.


Load Time Of Pages

Page loading speed is one of Google's search ranking influencers.  As Google places emphasis on user experience, a slow page load speed is going to get penalised.  You can evaluate Page Speed with online tools here


Ensuring your business appears prominently in search results will influence the share of customer's attention you receive.  Putting in place these tips will put you well on your way to an improving ranking.

[Photo credit: Got Credit]