Local Search

Enhance Your Google Local Listings

If you want to make the most of Google’s Universal Search results, you need to understand how to create killer listings in Google Local. Why? As the screenshot below illustrates, Google Local can and often will dominate what’s seen above the fold?

google local results Enhance Your Google Local Listings

With real estate like that, you can gather large amounts of traffic if you can list prominently for targeted keywords. With this as our goal, let’s take a dive into how to enhance your Google Local listings?

Claim Ownership ASAP

Google will add listings to their local results without any user submissions. It takes some creative work to pull it off, but it can be done. With that said, you need to check and see if your business is already listed in there. If so, you need to claim ownership if you wish to suggest revisions and verify all contact information.

Encourage Honest Reviews

You need to understand that local search is a socially driven tool. The more reviews and feedback users provide, the more likely Google will be to promote your listings. Consider reviews on local search to be similar to PageRank for organic listings. It’s not the main ranking criteria but there are enough parallels to suggest there is a connection. As the cliché goes? If there’s smoke, there’s fire.

So – Just how can you go about encouraging reviews on Google Local? First off, start by asking your customers. You will never get anything if you don’t go out and ask for it. Of course, while asking helps – motivating and incentivizing can work better. Reward positive reviews with a coupon, savings or free promotion.

These are just some random thoughts, but I think you get the idea. You need your customers to give you solid reviews, and by giving them something in return, you will accelerate that entire process.

Look Beyond Google

Google’s understanding of local search results reach beyond the information you provide directly to them.

For example Yelp, MenuPages and GrubHub are sources for restaurant data, and Google will show these sources in a listing. In a similar fashion, SuperPages can often be found providing data where Google is lacking.

Study your industry in other cities and try to research what tools and data sources are out there. Check on the “Details” tab of full listings to see where data could be pulled in from. In most instances the listings that show up on Google are on the partnered site verbatim.

Since I’m throwing out clichés to help make some points, let’s quickly use the saying “You need to spend money to make money”.

There are third party services such as Reach
Local
and LocalLaunch! that specialize in local search listings and their optimization. You of course pay these providers, but in return they’ll get your listings up to par with the competition and even provide some clear reporting on how effective your listings are.

Editing Listings in Google Local

Okay, now its time to get to business and start editing directly in Google Local Business Center. Here are some ideas, tips and suggestions to keep in mind on an itemized level:

  • Titles: Use common business names, not official ones that no one would recognize. If you can do so logically, integrate a primary keyword or phrase that people would be searching for. An example of a poor listing I came across was for “Big Tony’s Pizza #3 Inc” — Imagine then how “Big Tony’s Pizza and Subs
  • Addresses: You would be surprised at how many listings I’ve seen where Google tells me that a business is being displayed in an approximate location. I’ve seen restaurants on lakes, hotels in residential neighborhood, and a car dealer inside a military base. Do not rely on directional indicators (N, E, S, W, etc.) and spell out things like boulevard, street, avenue and others. Be as descriptive as possible, and check to make sure the location is plotted accurately and correctly. You can make corrections using the “Fix incorrect marker location” area of your listing editor.
  • Web Pages: Since we are talking about search engines, its common sense to connect your business to a URL. That said, many listings go without a URL bring connected to them despite the fact that they exist. This is yet another reason you need to verify your connection to the business!
  • Phone Numbers: Add in all the phone numbers that make sense. Restaurants could have a main line listed for business purposes, another for take out and delivery, and another still for an automated reservation system. Adding them all in will only help to educate your consumers and help make things easier for you once they want to do business with you.
  • Categories: These are vital to your success, so choose and update them wisely. Do not assume things are good as suggested either. In fact, test out how different categories will impact your listings over time, and work to implement the best approach across the board.
  • Hours & Payment / Photos: I have a rule of thumb here? Overwhelm Google. Add in a gallery of photos and be as descriptive as possible in these areas. If Google has to retain that data for you, you can be assured that they’ll want to push their users to it.
  • Custom Fields: Get creative and play around with this. Upload menus, sales and specials, seasonal rates or coupon codes? The options are only limited by what you can think up and add in!

Conclusion

While simple from the surface, Google Local is a great tool that will continue to shape how information is served up to users. The coolest part is that these listings are yours to edit and change freely, so you can test things out and draw your own conclusions.

In the end, just realize that you need to commit the time to make the changes, and you should be passionate about what you’re doing. If you can maintain that approach, your listings and business will be rolling in no time!

Involved in the industry since 1999, Eric currently manages organic optimization at a Fortune 500 organization. In addition to contributing here on Search Engine Journal, Eric maintains a blog and consulting business at www.ericlander.com.

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29 thoughts on “Enhance Your Google Local Listings

  1. Thanks Eric! Exactly what I was looking for. Google even has the ability to upload bulk business locations.

  2. Eric, thanks for laying it all out like this. I used http://www.onlineinlocal.com for my business listing for the same purpose. The reviews are the key for sure though. I’m amazed at the power of search everytime a new customer comes in and says I found you online. Now I just need to make sure I”m doing everything you highlighted…geez! – Charles

  3. The biggest problem with encouraging reviews for a place with few reviews, is that with some sites, particularly Yelp, other readers will look in your business for reviews and see these people with no profile pictures, and just one positive review and think they’re fake which can be quite damaging to a site’s reputation.

  4. Great point Tien, and one I hadn’t thought of in depth while writing the article above.

    I guess the real thing to weigh then is the negative impact of newbie reviewers against the positive impact on local search results and traffic production.

  5. Thank you Eric, great article.

    I believe the only problem with this feature is spamming the reviews with affiliate links.

    For instance take a look here.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=hotels+amsterdam&ie=UTF8&ll=52.384899,4.898014&spn=0.023941,0.058022&z=14&iwloc=A&iwd=1&cid=52372743,4894133,3939774160205641711&dtab=2&om=1

    A popular hotel in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, this hotel is listed on the top of “hotels amsterdam” search with google maps, total of 321 reviews.

    When you take a closer look at the reviews you notice a lot of them have a link to booking.com with a affiliate code in the link.

    When Google sorts out these kinds of new spamming I believe this could be big in search, otherwise this is doomed to failure.

  6. I’ve been strongly encouraging my clients, etc to take greater charge of localized listings, and this article answers some questions I’ve had for a while .. the post from Tien also has me thinking about the value of having a variety of comments/reviews when possible .. nothing smells funnier than a review writen by the business owner or their cohorts ;)

  7. I never knew you could optimise for Google’s ‘local service’, I guess you learn new things about SEO everyday. Although, it isn’t too useful for my own sites needs :)

  8. I NEED HELP FAST! My website doesn’t come up anywhere. People want to leave a review but they can’t find me. Can you please give me some direction on what to do?
    Thanks.

  9. Thanks Eric,

    You guide us very well in how to use local listing for getting more and more local and most probable convertible traffic. Local listing can have more effect on your sale because it will be reliable, easy and interesting to shop locally rather than online.

  10. Eric, I’ve been amazed at how useful the Google Maps listings as well as other local directories have been in driving traffic to my clients sites. So useful in fact, that we’ve been offering to create these listings for free in order to show customers the value in local directories versus say cost per click campaigns which are getting more and more competitive everyday. Thanks for the info.

    1. Your post is very useful. Is there a way to include url for custom fields in Local Business center? I tried to add specific webpages in my Local Listing custom attributes..but google wont accept it there. I have seen other listings with links to “Menus” and “Nutrition Value” and the like! Is there another way to do it?

  11. For Wonderful Windows and Siding there are a bunch of listings. Any idea on a quick way to claim all of them as the business owner?

  12. I think the local business listings are a great tool. It is always worth creating some content to support the list in terms of a google map with you locations on or some photos on flicker. It is also worth checking out which sites google is pulling its third party info from and making sure you are listed on those site.

  13. I use to be really good at this and have been out of the loop for a while. Things have changed a little but the basics are still the same. Good content and good service is key.