With over 80% of people using search engines to find local information, it is impossible to imagine a brick and mortar business that couldn’t benefit immensely from local search. On the other hand, having no local search presence could potentially end a local business.
According to comScore/TMP, Google grew their local search market share from 15% in June 2008 to 26% in June 2009.
What is your share of that traffic and potential leads ?
If you read and apply these 10 tips your Google Maps traffic will have no where to go but up.
1. Business information on the web must be consistent accurate, accurate and up-to-date
Without consistency of your business information across the Web, your Google business listing will never fulfill its potential. Simply put, that is because Google relies on information it finds on the Internet to improve the relevancy of their results. Customer reviews and mentions of your business information on the web play a big role in how Google ranks listings — it is important that Google associates them with your business. Inconsistencies in how your local business is presented online can make this impossible, which in turn can significantly reduce your local search visibility.
Right after you claim and verify your business in Google local business center, make sure that your business info is correct with Google’s trusted data providers like InfoUSA, Acxiom, Localize, or Yellow Pages. Check those first, because they supply data to a very large number of business directories.
Risk factors that can trigger inconsistencies are change of address, phone number or business name. At the end of the day you want to get rid of all inconsistencies.
2. Claiming and Verifying Your Listing.
It’s clear that most listings in existence have not yet been claimed, which means that you get an upper hand just by claiming and verifying your listing.
Since Google is placing a lot of trust on information they get from the business owner via GLBC ( Google Local Business Center ), don’t forget to be as accurate as possible when filling in your business information.
3. Consolidate your presence on Google Maps
Some local businesses will have more than one Google local listing even though they have only one physical location. This usually happens without the fault of their own and most of the time even without their knowledge as result of the listing creation and verification processes.
At the same time, it’s against Google’s guidelines to have more than one listing if you have one physical location because you are not representing your business as it appears in the offline world. To avoid any problems that might arise from this, you have to consolidate your local listings. Essentially, this is done by claiming all your listings, moving all enhanced content in the listing you wish to keep and then deleting the rest.
4. Categorize like a champ
I can’t emphasize enough how important is proper categorization in Google Maps. It can make a difference between a poor listing and a great one. Google will suggest categories as you type and you will have to use one of those predefined categories to classify your business.
Choose a more general category that accurately describes what your business does as the mandatory one. You can choose more predefined categories if it makes sense for you. But reserve a few fields for custom categories because Google doesn’t always come up with the most specific categories
To make your categorizing more effective try to:
- Keep categorizing consistently across the web.
- When choosing custom categories think about how would a user that wants a specific type of service you offer search for it.
- Be specific when necessary
- Keep categories from overlapping
Description field should be used to emphasize what is unique about your business and to inspire trust. All that in less then 200 characters. Having something remarkable about the business in the description is a must. Maybe you have the oldest company in your town, or a patent for something.
6. Pictures and Videos
Images and videos are ideal tools for making listings compelling and bringing their conversion rates up. Google allows 10 images and 5 videos to be added to your listing. Some types of images that would help your listing in many ways are:
- Your Logo
- Brands Carried
- Pictures of your establishment
- Logos of associations you belong to (like the Better Business Bureau)
- Your Video Commercials or Interviews, etc…
7. Details (Hours of operation, payment options, additional details)
- If you offer financing for your service why not say so?
- If you’re open late, you should let people know
- Use additional details fields to be ultra specific about what makes your business unique
Coupons have always been a great way to promote products and services, however in Google Maps they are possibly the only reliable way to track business generated by your Google listing that couldn’t be tracked otherwise ( by call tracking, or web analytics software).
9. Spread the word
Even Google recommends this one. Your local business information should be found on many:
- IYP sites
- Niche directory sites
- Local Business directories
- Any trusted site possible
Google claims that they rely on mentions of your business information on the web to improve the quality of search results. That means the more mentions of your business on the web Google associates with your listing more certain they are that your business is real, in operation, and important. Google rewards this with greater local search visibility.
10. Get Reviewed
Reviews and Web citations (mentions of your business) are extremely important for similar reasons.
Encourage reviews and make it easy for people to review you. Make it a part of your routine to ask for reviews from happy customers and point them in the right direction.
You can also ask for reviews in your email signature, business cards, on the bills you send out, etc…
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About the Author:Vedran Tomic blogs about internet marketing, search engine optimization, and local search in particular at SEO Rabbit. He is an in-house SEO at Basement Systems .