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Get Listed In Google Local

15:23 on Fri, 19 Feb 2010 | SEO | 5 Comments

Welcome true (SEO) believers to another instalment of Pete’s SEO Corner. This month, we’re going to take a look at local search in Google.

Edward and Tubbs

Horrific picture courtesy of cbc.ca

 

What is local search exactly? Isn’t country level searching specific enough? Well, you can actually get more specific than that, even down to the level of your city or town.

Google displays this in what it has dubbed the “Local business listings”. When searching for a term, you will sometimes find a small box embedded within the search results consisting of a small Google map and listings of various businesses. In the example below, a search for “photographers” yields the following results:

Google local listing

If the keyterm isn’t location specific, like “photographers” as opposed to “London photographers”, Google will attempt to pinpoint your location (known as geo-targeting) based on your IP address so sometimes it doesn’t get it quite right. The screenshot above shows results for London despite the fact we are based in Norwich which is a 2 hour drive away. Google will also geo-target results whilst you are signed in if you register an account with them and list your hometown in your profile.

Only businesses with brick and mortar locations can be submitted, so unless your site has a physical location then you won’t be eligible.

Unscrupulous reporting

 

Some SEO companies will claim to get your site to “1st page in Google” and charge you £200 for the privilege when all they are basically referring to is a listing in Google Local Business Centre which will take them all of 5 minutes to submit your site.

Although technically your site will be on the 1st page, your site will only be displayed to searchers locally.

While time is indeed money, I’m pretty sure you can take out 5 minutes of your day to save yourself a couple of a hundred quid.

Sign me up!

 

Google local business

Submitting your business to Google’s Local Business Centre is easy. Once you log in, clicking on “Add new listing” will take you to a page where you can key in details about your company.

Local business

Google maps will automatically move the marker to the relevant location based on your address although you can adjust it manually if it gets it wrong.

Ranking Factors

 

Just like the regular SERPs, there various factors which will determine how high your site ranks in the local listings. Although, unlike the regular SERPs, building links to it won’t help it much.

Category

The first thing is the category. It’s important that when entering the category, you use the most relevant keyterms for your listing. This is one of the factors which will determine how high your site ranks for a particular keyword so try your best to make the category match the keyterms you are chasing.

When entering in your category, Google will suggest some common categories for your site although you can also specify custom ones. Don’t be too overzealous in your attempt to insert keyterms though, I’m sure you’d agree “cheap photographers in London” won’t pass as a suitable category.

Local business category

Verification

Once you have entered all your details you will be asked to verify this listing. Google will give you the choice of either confirming the listing in one of three ways, a) via an automated phone call, b) text message or by postcard to your business address. Verifying your listing is important as it is one of the factors which will determine how high your listing ranks.

Local business validation

 

Reviews

Another ranking factor is the number of reviews your business has. Google compiles them in two ways: from trawling other review sites and also reviews on the Google local listings pages themselves. The number of reviews is a much greater ranking factor than the star rating so it’s a good idea to encourage customers to write a short review of your business.

Citations

In a similar vein to the reviews, the number of citations of your company around the web will affect your ranking. The citations can be seen under the “More about this place” section in your listing. A good way to find good sites for a citation is by looking at your competitor’s listings and find out where their website is being mentioned. The pieces of information which Google looks for in a citation are mentions of your company’s details such as brand name, phone number, address and URL.

Distance

Distance your business is to the searcher is also a factor. Google will rank businesses higher which are closer to the searcher’s location. Unfortunately, this is one aspect of your business you can’t change (easily anyway) but it’s worth it to bear this in mind.

There are many other factors which will affect your listing’s ranking although what we have covered today are the main ones. Now go forth and submit a listing if you haven’t already!

Comments & Discussion

(5 Comments)

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Nadya Romanova

Nadya Romanova • Years ago

HI
I cant write as eloquently as you guys but can you tell me.

We worked hard to get our site top of page one in a 'normal' local search.

Are we going to be pushed down because of this new Google thing?

Thanks

Nadya

Reply

Mark

Mark • Years ago

Hi Paul,

You made some good points, but it still sounds like there's some confusion between SEO'd "organic" listings in SERPs and PPC listings.

"I am talking about those who have paid for clicks (or put in a lot of man hours) in the past to get to the top of the SERPs"

If you're paying for clicks, then Google Local won't be appearing above your placement. I can understand the frustration some people have had if they were #1 in "vanilla" results and then got pushed down by a local box, however I would say this is all part and parcel of being a good SEO.

Further have been providing optimisation for blended "universal" search results for a long time now, images, local listings, video sitemaps, shopping results, all of them are changes which are going to happen so you have to roll with the punches and adapt your SEO strategy.

The way I look at it, if the results aren't manually decided, there's an algorithm at work and with enough knowledge you can optimise for it.

On comparison sites, I really don't think there's as bigger difference as you think. You can opt out of Google entirely if you wish by not bidding on the Adwords platform and blocking the spiders with your robots.txt. Both offer a paid service - in fact, Google is doing it's own comparisons which you need to join the Google Affiliate Scheme for to be included in: https://www.google.com/comparisonads/ukcredit

Google has realised a long time ago, that the quality of its search results are its life blood. So I would argue that enhancing user relevance means increased profit as a direct result, not a bi-product of the former.

Reply

Paul Quincey

Paul Quincey • Years ago

Actually, I'm part of the audience of which you speak because I am new to SEO too, so this is why I am so happy to read this blog which is very informative.

On your points, yes the Google Local listing doesn't appear above a "current" PPC ad. I am talking about those who have paid for clicks (or put in a lot of man hours) in the past to get to the top of the SERPs, only to be later shoved further down the list by Google Local.

Drawing a simily between Google and price comparison websites seems a little disingenuous, because they charge a commish for referring users to the providers of goods or services. The provider can opt out and spend that money on a search engine ppc campaign instead if it wishes.

But it seems like Google is trying to be Yell.com, not a search engine. It wants to be all things to all men and then expects everyone (including those who make it so profitable) to be happy about it.

Like all corporations Google is trying to make more money. If it provides a better service to the site's users that is a bi-product of trying to make more cash not the main incentive. The problem seems to be that until recently with the rise of Facebook, it seemed that Google was the only game in town and had a captive audience, and a captive customer base.

But there is a symbiotic relationship between Google and its advertisers who are paying for these clicks. And the reason I thought this might be relevant to the article is that some of those same PPC clients of Google are most likely also your potential or current clients too.

Reply

Mark

Mark • Years ago

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the comment(s)! Pete's guides tend to be straight to the point, as they are covering the part of our audience that is new to SEO, so entangling ongoing debates about the topic tends to make the articles harder to read, rather than add to the quality.

Although I find the debate interesting, the Google Local debate doesn't hold much water with me for a few reasons.

Firstly, I think Google can quite rightly put the case forward that, in this instance (there are some things they do I'm not a fan of) they are serving the user interest. Generally when you are searching for [company/service] +[location] a local listing, with map and contact info is exactly what you're looking for - and Google is saving the end user a step in the process.

On your point of people paying via PPC to get their place in the SERPs, I have never seen a Google Local listing appear *above* a paid listing at the top of the page. The paid results will always display on the right hand side and at the top when needed. You'll never get a case whereby the local result is followed by the sponsored placement.

Also on this note, as you're paying per click, you could argue that this doesn't factor into your CPA, with users opting for your ad if the local listing isn't what they wanted.

So, as Michael would say in his article, yes I am siding with the Googlers on this one. I don't think the user should be forced through hoops of having to visit the target website to get the information they need.

I've got a lot of respect for Michael, but I'd be interested on his thoughts for comparison websites. Surely these are in a similar boat? By comparison sites "giving away" the information on price, it is denying the end website to use their data for product recommendations or related offers on their site, which will only be shown in the end transactional actions.

It's a long debate on how Google best caters for both webmasters and users. Think this way - if you asked a searcher (with no knowledge of SEO/PPC) if it annoyed them that local listing sometimes showed in preference of PPC, what do you think they would say?

Reply

Paul Quincey

Paul Quincey • Years ago

It's interesting that you have regurgitated information without any mention of the debate that seems to be going on: Is Google hijacking traffic?
http://www.wolf-howl.com/seo/google-hijackingtraffic/
Don't forget that those people may have already paid Google via a PPC campaign to get where they are on a SERP, only to find their listing stuck underneath Google Local. If I were one of those people I would be extremely peeved.

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