One of the highlights for me during last week’s Search Marketing Expo East was the number of excellent local search sessions offered. The Ranking Tactics for Local Search panel (liveblogged here) was especially informative and featured local search experts Mike Blumenthal, Mary Bowling, David Mihm, Will Scott, and Andrew Shotland offering tips to the audience on how to improve their rankings in local search.
Here’s a bit of what I took from the panel
Your Name, Address & Phone must be consistent
Many small business owners don’t realize that the local search space is connected. The information Google, Bing and Yahoo Local serve up about your company is not only taken from what you’ve implicitly told them, but from what they’ve gathered from third-party providers like Localeze, InfoUSA, and others. In order to be deemed relevant to a local search, you need to make sure that your information is accurate and consistent through all providers. Not correcting bad information in your Yelp listing may mean that it’s an outdated phone number that will be showing up in Google, leaving customers with a dead end. Control your information.
Your name, number and address are your local thumbprint on the Web – standardize them. They’re one of the engines’ biggest signals in ranking and determining relevance. If you’re not sure what information the individual directions have about you, check out GetListed.org.
Optimize your Google Business Listing
Did you know that you can’t be included in Google’s Ten Pack results if you don’t have a listing in Google Maps? It seems obvious, but I don’t think I ever really put that together until Mary mentioned it during her presentation. As such, it’s really, really important that you not only create a Google Maps listing but that you take the time to optimize it, as well.
Mary broke down several important components to your Google Maps listing, including:
- Use your main keyword phrase and complementary terms in your profile description.
- Grab the long tail by including product numbers, when possible.
- Use your categories effectively. Google gives you the option to pick five. Use pre-established categories for the first two, then try including your best product keywords in the others, but watch these regularly.
- Create attributes without keyword stuffing. You want a human to want to do business with you after they’ve read it.
- Create citations. Look at competitors and see where they’re getting citations. Citations are Web mentions that include your business or Web site. They don’t have to contain a link. Look at this information with a critical eye.
- Get reviews. Google pulls reviews from all across the Web so it doesn’t matter where customers are leaving them, just that you’re getting lots of ‘em.
Mary commented that the goal of your Local Business listing is to build trust and relevance. You want to use on-page optimization to make your location clear, placing your full street address and local phone number on all pages of your Web site. Make it absolutely unmistakable for Google to know where you’re located.
Location prominence is the new PageRank
Local prominence was a new term for me. Essentially, each engine has a separate index for local queries, one that is often very different than how they rank non-local queries. In Google Local Search, location prominence is basically akin to the old school PageRank. It’s what you have to prove in order to earn your rank.
During his presentation, Michael Blumenthal outlined four things the engines were examining when ranking sites locally:
- In-bound links from documents that mention the business with full or partial name or address
- In-bound links with business name in the anchor text
- Business name in your title tag
- All or part of your business name in your domain name
According to Mike, they’re more about ranking the location than ranking the Web site. Really interesting stuff.
I’d encourage you to read the session recap for more nuggets of information. The speakers really did an incredible job.