This is a guest post on local search marketing from Lauren Bradley of Liftdivision.com
If you haven’t noticed, Google drastically changed its local search results late in 2010. Prior to the change, when a user would type in “Plumber St. Louis” the results would show 7 listings at the top next to a map.
After the change, the local search results take up the entire first page (for most searches) pushing organic listings way far down.
This change is powerful for small business owners. If you simply type in “shoes” to Google, it will most likely return shoe stores closest to your current location.
Google has made it pretty simple for small business owners to set up and optimize their Google Places pages. These are the pages that help to determine local search rankings. Many local business owners do not want to mess around with setting up and optimizing their Google Places page because 1. they don’t know where to start or 2. don’t have time to set it up.
I have simplified the process as much as possible for these reasons. If you do anything to help build your online presence, complete the following five steps.
Step One: Verify and Claim your Google Places page
Verifying your Places page as the owner of the business is important if you are at all concerned about controlling information about your company that is on the internet. As a verified owner, you can edit and add information to your Places page as you wish.
Verifying it is simple, after finding your Google Places page, there is a link in the top right corner that will either say “Owner verified” or “Business owner?” After clicking on that, you will be walked through the process of claiming your Places page.
Step Two: Consistent NAP
Maintaining a consistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) on your Google Places page and across the internet plays a strong role in rankings. Everything on your Places page from the name of your company to the suite of your office needs to be consistent with your website. Saying Suite 210 on one place and then #210 on another is inconsistent. This seems minor, but does play a role.
Step Three: Keyword Optimized Categories
This seems intuitive, however the number of business owners who list their categories incorrectly is a little shocking. If you have already done some keyword research for your company, this is where those words come into play. If you haven’t, you should have a decent understanding of your products, services and how your prospects might be searching for you.
Use those keywords when filling out your categories. As you type in words, Google will make phrase suggestions for you to choose from. I would recommend picking at least two Google suggested phrases of your five categories. It is important to also fill out all 5 categories.
Step Four: Natural & Complete Description
Completing your description is something you should put a few minutes of thought into. If you sell pastries, put a little more thought into your description than just, “Your neighbor pastry shop.”
What’s unique about you? Do you do something different than others?
Google gives you this opportunity to talk yourself up to your prospects. So do it. Don’t stuff it with keywords. This about writing to impress the reader and not the search engine.
Step 5: Collecting Honest & Legitimate Reviews
Word of mouth advertising is the most profitable, powerful and persuasive marketing tactic. Google has set up a review system that allows your current clients to talk about you and your services. Not only does this give your prospects more information about your offerings and personality but Google also uses this as a “voting” system when determining rankings.
Keep in mind that you are not wanting to scam the system or seem at all spammy. It is important to collect legitimate and honest reviews from your clients. Lift Division has created a way to collect and leverage customer reviews in order to grow your business in 2011. The ONE Thing is a white paper that explains the importance of collecting reviews from your customers.
Local online marketing is constantly changing. It is important to verify and optimize your Google Places page so that you can stay ahead of the curve, and not get lost behind in the dust.