With Google Places coming out of its cocoon and transforming into the butterfly that is Google+ Local, many rightfully wonder what changes to the Local ranking algorithm may have occurred and what optimization tactics are still considered relevant. While it’s true that many social factors will come into play, I feel that there are still many Local “Best Practice” optimization techniques that will help you improve your Local visibility.
As an SEO that works mostly with small businesses, this update has put me through a wide array of emotions. At first, I was offended, offended on behalf of my small business, blue collar workers, who have no interest in being Socially active in any Google+ circles, preferring to get their hands dirty through hard work. That’s right, this shout-out goes to all the mechanics, florists, roofers, and fence installers. On the flip-side (which made me slightly more content), it’s probably safe to assume that if my blue collar clients aren’t socially active, then neither is their competition.
I’ll also assume that when potential clients for my clients are searching the web for their services, the odds are good that they won’t have a friend in their Google+ circle that recommends a specific roofer or a fence installer, and the most impact will be had by real reviews and Local SERP visibility.
Recently, Google released the Venice Algorithm update that highlighted such changes as, “Improvements to ranking for local search results” [launch codename “Venice”]. This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal. I’d say it’s fairly safe to assume that with the Google+ Local release coming on the heels of the Venice update, the same optimization algo factors will definitely apply.
That being said, here are some basic truths and Google+ Local optimization tips that will help increase your visibility in Local SERPs.
1 – Landing Page Optimization
With the recent Google Venice update, the following statement has been released:
“Now take a look at the site page your Local listing directs users to, paying close attention to the title tag, meta description, and content matter of the page. Is this page as relevant to your + Local listing as it can be? If not, it’s time to optimize. Here’s an example of a well optimized listing for hotels in Nauvoo, Illinois.”
That attractive title tag leaves no question regarding the services of the company in the minds of search engines and potential vacationers alike.
Helpful Tip: If your company provides multiple services, make sure your listing is connected with the most relevant service page, which should be chock full of information and attractive Call to Actions.
2 – Fixing NAP Consistency
NAP – Acronym describing the company name, address, and phone number associated with your business online.
For local business owners, your + Local page is often your main presence in the SERPs . + Local Search Results have a modified ranking algorithm that looks for citations and user reviews as a means of gauging popularity of a listing. Now, popularity can be dictated by a Mention. Anytime your business is mentioned online, it acts as a citation. A mention refers to the existence of your company’s name or its location address anywhere across the web. This could be in an actual business directory, or it could be in a forum post where someone replied about where the best peaches are grown (assuming you’re in the business of growing peaches or are conveniently located next to a peach grove). While you may not be able to control what address someone else lists as your business, you can control the NAP of your business on the different Local Search Sites.
Incorrect and Useless Citations/Mentions
Having varied NAPs will not give you additional credit for the main NAP format listed on your site or your + Local page. This means citations that have a varied NAP will not count and grant you additional repute from a Mention.
Pesky Duplicate Listings
Variations in NAPs on Local Search sites result in Duplicate Listings for your business. It has been determined that the duplicates appear due to the way Google+ Local obtains it data. They often use third-party sites to find business information such as NAPs. Here’s a little more detail about how Google+ Local gets data:
- via data providers (for the US – InfoGroup, for Canada – YellowPages.ca, for Bulgaria – GoldenPages.bg, etc.)
- via third-party trusted sources (Yahoo, Citysearch, Kudzu, Urbanspoon, Qype, Panoramio, Flickr, etc.)
So when Google goes to these trusted sources to get their data and finds an inconsistent NAP for your business, a wild duplicate listing appears. You’d think Google could easily see that since the NAP is so similar, it must belong to the same business. The answer to that is a resounding no. While Google’s algorithms are light years ahead of their competitors, these algorithms are still programs, and different values are interpreted as different values, no matter how similar they may be.
Fixing Incorrect NAPs
No one wants to endure the weeks of waiting that is required to claim and delete duplicate listings, but you still may have to do so, which is why the web’s brightest minds have created tools like Yext, which shows NAPs from Local Search Sites across the web. They also allow you to manage all of these listings from one central hub, making changing your NAPs much less of a hassle than it once was. Another (albeit less favorable) option is to manually claim each rogue listing and put an end to the chaos once and for all!
Well…the sad truth may be the war on duplicate listings is an ongoing one, but taking control of your listings on respected Local Search sites is an incredible step towards NAP consistency and greater visibility for your + Local page. Pick a NAP format and stick to it!
3 – Real Reviews from Real People
Everyone knows that one of the most important, yet hardest to attain, parts of a successful + Local listing is obtaining REAL reviews. The emphasis on real is due to the fact that many individuals who employ black-hat review tactics are being identified and ousted by companies that function to expose these wrong-doers.
A few ways to get reviews for your + Local listing:
Follow-Up Emails - Sending follow-up emails with a link to your + Local page is a great way to get reviews from satisfied customers. Be warned that this tactic is a double-edged sword, as an unsatisfied customer is much more likely to post a negative review than a happy customer is to post a positive one. This means matching quality of services with the expectation of receiving an exemplary recommendation from a client.
Hand-Outs - The age-old practice of handing out flyers asking others to do something has been mastered and perfectly executed by high school students running for some type of Student Body position. Of course, you cannot expect your clients to already know how to add reviews to your listing, so clear and concise instructions on how to do so must be provided. Accomplishing this through a flow-chart or step-by-step guide is a tried and true method of obtaining legitimate reviews.
While undoubtedly the articles will come pouring in regarding new tips and tricks to help your Google+ Local visibility, it’s important to recognize that some data is just too important to not be included in the Local ranking algorithm. Another great resource for some staples in the Local ranking algorithm can be found in the article by Tabita Green about helpful + Local resources. If you stick to these basics, you’ll be in prime form to dominate the Local SERPs.