There is a lot of information out there about local search and SEO, but the first step is, of course, understanding how it all works. If you wanted a quick and easy guide to give you an overview and send you in the right direction to learn more, this one’s for you.
Guide to Local Search
Yahoo Local, Bing Places, and Google+ Local Differences (and What about Yelp?)
The three major search engines for local are all very similar. You create your own business page, or business listing, and it will show up on a SERP as a local result. These results stand out on a page and look different than your typical results page, so they stand out. You are also working with less competition, so you have a better chance of ranking in front of a very targeted audience with local search.
Below are two different ways that local listing stand out on Google. Some queries use the new Google carousel design:
Other queries use the older design:
The way that the local search results are displayed varies slightly from search engine to search engine, but the idea that local search results are less competitive and are more relevant to users still rings true across the board.
Once again, you do not have one local business page that works for all search engines. If you want to get involved with Yahoo Local, you need a Yahoo Local page. If you wanted to get involved with all three engines, you will have three separate local pages (more on this in the next section).
The History of Google Local
This is unfortunately probably the most confusing aspect of local search, but the confusion seems to be ending because Google is just about done making changes. In short, you used to need to setup a Google Places page, but then they came out with something called Google+ Local Pages for Business and then two existed. Now, they have merged the two and your new term is Google+ Places.
Essentially: Google Places page + Google+ Local for Business = Google+ Places
How you actually get started creating this Google+ Places page is discussed in the next section. Trust me, it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
What About Yelp?
Yelp might not be considered one of the major search engines, but it is definitely a major search engine when it comes to local search specifically. Yelp is a network full of reviews and information about different businesses, and many people turn to Yelp before a “major” search engine. Yelp is also known to show up as an organic result on a local search query on Google, Bing, etc., so it should absolutely be part of your local strategy.
Below is a screenshot of a Yelp business page (showing Yelps fairly new design):
Yelp makes it easy to check-in on mobile so users can share with friends on social media and allows businesses to make special offers for users.
How to Determine If You’re Already Listed Somewhere Online
One thing that throws beginners off quite often is the fact that you might need to “claim” your listing as opposed to create it. Even if you didn’t put your business online, your business could still be a part of a search engine. This means that someone has already listed your business and the basics; however that person cannot make any major changes. You then need to claim your business.
There are a few different ways to determine if you are listed somewhere else online:
- Do a simple search of various names of your business (one word vs. two, etc.). Remember that some of these listings will have the wrong name but will still be associated with your business, so do more than just a name check.
- Use tools like Yext  and Localeze .
- When getting started, most search engines will pull up businesses that match your criteria and let you know right away if you’ve been listed or not.
Extra Tip: Don’t forget that local search matters a lot for mobile!
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you need a local strategy (hopefully not, but just in case), the mobile considerations should change your mind. I talked with Scott Langdon, Managing Partner of HigherVisibility, who explained that, “People are much more likely to search for a local query on the go. You want your business to show up because people are likely already in their cars and looking for something quick and easy. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a good chunk of the time.”
It’s worth noting that all of your “normal” SEO efforts will transfer over into your local strategy. The only difference is that local SEO offers a few extra options for small businesses to really be successful. In other words, you may have been able to get away with showing up in local search in the past even if you didn’t focus on local specifically. Unfortunately, those days are pretty much over. Using some of the tips above will be crucial to ranking well on a local SERP.
Although it might seem overwhelming, I recommend taking it one step at a time. Start with Google local and Yelp, get comfortable, and then move to Yahoo and Bing and focusing on mobile. It’s actually not so bad when you go step by step.
Do you have any advice on local search?
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