As we mentioned in some recent articles, Google is currently paying an awful lot of attention to its local search / Google Places listings when it comes to delivering search results. To such an extent, in fact, that the place listings are trumping natural, organic results.
With the sudden domination of the places listings, the obvious solution is to make sure that you have a Google Places listing, and that it’s a quality one. In short, you need to optimise your listing much the same way that you optimise your website for organic search results.
Optimising For Local Search
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for optimising your Google Places Listing.
Create A Google Places Listing
If you want to appear in the local search results, the first thing you need to do is create a Google Places listing. Visit the Google Places site, and sign in with your Google account. (If you don’t have one, follow the link on that page to sign up for one.)
Once you have your account, create a listing, and fill in your business details, then activate your listing. As I suggested, you can’t take advantage of Google Places unless you actually have a listing.
Make Your Listing As Comprehensive As Possible
The more complete your listing is, the more Google will like it. Make sure that you fill in as much related information as possible (and relevant), including adding pictures, providing payment and business hours information, and providing some extra information for visitors.
The more complete your information is, the more likely that people will see your listing, and the more likely it is that people will click on it.
Reviews & Citations
Reviews and citations are to Google Places listings what links are to your website. Whenever anybody views your Places page, they have the opportunity to write a review about your business.
The more reviews you have, the more likely it seems to be that you will rank higher in the Place search.
Even more important than the reviews, it appears, are your sites citations. Nobody can add these to a Places listing. They are automatically added by Google, whenever it finds other sites where your business is mentioned.
The more credible and authoritative the sites which cite your business are, the more importance is given to the citation. Citations from industry related sites are better than citations from unrelated sites, for example.
For maximum effectiveness, citations should meet the following criteria:
The more comprehensive the mention of your business is, the better. Ideally, a comprehensive citation would include your business name, your address, your phone number, and your website URL. The more information it contains, the easier it will be to link it to your listing.
This refers to consistency between citations. If all the citations have the same phone number and URL for you, this will be better than if there are multiple different details for your business. The same applies to all your other details. If you have more than one location, then you should have separate listings in order to differentiate between citations, and keep them consistent.
The more relevance the site which discusses your business has to your business, the more weight will be given to the citation. If you’re a web design company, and your business is discussed on a leading web design site, that will be more relevant than if you’re discussed on a site about cars.
If you’re based in a certain area, and sites based in the same area discuss your business, then their proximity to your place of business will give them added credibility in terms of the value of their citation.
Update Your Site
Make sure that your location is part of your site. Consider altering your meta data, (the keywords and description for your site), and your title tags to include your location. It can be helpful to have your address and phone number on multiple pages of your site, and you should always ensure that you have a contact page which contains all your details, including the physical address and phone number.
Use Local Directories
Make sure that you’ve submitted your website to a variety of local directory sites. Local directories will count as citations, and their proximity to you will increase their importance as far as the weight of the citation is concerned.
Have Consistent Online Exposure
If your site already appears in local directories and the like, you should go and make sure that all the details are still correct. They should always match both your website, and your Places page.
Get Reviews & Testimonials
Ask satisfied customers to put up reviews on your Places page, or to publish their testimonials about your business.
The Importance Of Local Listings
The focus on local listings presents a valuable opportunity for the small business. With their prominence in search results, it’s possible for smaller businesses to compete against the big corporations who spend millions on search engine optimisation, with a much smaller optimisation budget.
The level to which Place listings are currently dominating search can be seen in the screenshot in our recent article, “Is Google Becoming A Directory Site?” On that screenshot, you’ll see how every result visible on the first page of the search engine results without scrolling, is either a PPC advertisement, or a Local Places listing.
With the rate at which Google changes its algorithm, we can’t tell how long this will remain true, but their focus on the Place listings suggests that they’ll be paying a lot of attention to it in the near future.