Today there are over 10 billion unique searches done each month collectively over Google, Yahoo and the other engines in the United States alone.
20% of Desktop queries have local intent
5% use the city and/or state name
2% use informal terms, like neighborhoods
0.5% use ZIP codes
50%+ of Mobile queries have local intent
Based on Google's market share, there are more than 2 billion unique local searches per month on Google specifically from desktop computers in the United States. Google, Yahoo and Bing, have made dramatic shifts in how they represent results and most trends point to local. On top of that data, mobile search is absolutely exploding. Nowadays many of our searches are being performed from a mobile device and mobile searches primarily pull their results from local Search Engines.
How You Appear in Search
Google is constantly updating the design and form factor of their SERP’s (search engine results pages) to represent local pages within the organic search results along with a review rating and other “rich snippet” information regarding the listings. In organic search you will see a normal organic result followed by three local results. By optimizing your listing properly you can have multiple results show up within the same SERP.
Google Maps and Google Business Listings are Key
There is no longer a results column within Google Maps, everything is represented with local business markers. The only major call to action right now seem to be that the listings with the most prominence have their names popped up and bolded next to their business marker. When the business marker is clicked, the search bar switches to the business listing’s information. The listing now shows the location’s address, hours, phone number, website, directions, reviews, photos, categories and a street view & save button. If the listing is a verified Google+ local business it would also represent a link to the corresponding Google+ page.
This is such a major change from the older style of Google Maps that used to have an Organic results page and a Maps results page. Essentially all of the same principles that used to apply for ranking in Maps still apply, but for ranking organically within the maps listings that Google pulls in from their local listings.
If you click on the “reviews” link from the maps listing it will take you over to the listing’s Google+ Local listing page. This listing shows all of the rest of the information that is not represented on the miniview listing from the Maps Results page. This is where users can go to leave a business local review. This is where we want to push customers to go in order to get local reviews on our Google local listing.
Once a site is verified and linked properly between Google Business, Google+ and their website any +1 that goes to any of these properties will be applied to each property, increasing the authority of each property greatly. Also a high +1 count is a large trust signal for potential customers. So having a large +1 count will help with SEO as well as click through rates
What to Optimize on Your Listings
Business Name: A listing’s business name should be the same on each local listing as it is on the business’s website. The name should stay the same globally across every local listing.
Address: Include a full address in your listing’s information, this is the most important piece of information you will optimize. Do not use a PO box for your company’s address, this used to be an effective technique if the location did not have a brick and mortar at the center of a city to make the listing rank higher for that city though this has been highly penalized and effectively cut out as a tactic.
Phone Number: Make sure your phone number is a local phone number and not a toll free or 1800 number. Having a local phone number is a large ranking indicator to Google, showing where you are in reference to your area code.
Website: Simply link to your website. If the business has multiple locations it is often a good practice to create individual NAP pages on the website for each individual location and link to those locations in the website field from local listings. This tactic gives a more hyper targeted approach and shows engines that your listing has extra relevance.
E-Mail: Fill out this information with an info@, sales@ or other form of contact for the company, whatever makes the most sense. This email should be used universally for all listings.
Categories: Pick as many categories as available that can justifiably correlate to the business. The more optimized categories a listing has the more chance it has to show up under different search criteria. Try to shy away from creating custom categories as much as possible, though it is accepted under certain engines. Google has recently switched from custom categories to fixed categories that need to be optimized as thoroughly as possible.
Hours of Operation: Hours of operation have a significant impact over search presence under certain pretenses. Some listings have been known to exclude certain businesses from searches when they are marked as “closed” for that time, or promoted when they are marked as “open” for that time. All listing’s should have the same Hours of Operation information.
Description: A listing’s description will usually show up as a “quote from the owner” or something of that sort. This is a chance to put in the business’s slogan, branding, unique service offering, vital information about the business or use keywords for better search presence.
Images: Listing engines will typically give enhanced exposure to listings that have been optimized visually with images, there should be at least one logo image that can act as a “profile image” for the listing followed by other high resolution images. Try to max out the image count, as many as the listing will let you upload.
Videos: Videos, like Images are usually used to visually optimize a listing, and give unique exposure that would not otherwise be present. If the business has any relevant videos, they should be uploaded to any local listing that allows it.
Reviews: Reviews are harder to optimize than anything else on a listing seeing as they are user generated and not editable by business owners. This is why a business should always monitor their local listings for new reviews, to flag inappropriate reviews or reviews with conflict of interest (from competitors or things of that nature) and to reach out to people who give negative reviews to try and set things right. Often when a reviewer leaves a negative review on a listing and has been helped significantly and reimbursed for the problem that they negatively posted about they will alter their review or remove it. Negative reviews are one of the most potentially fatal points for any local listing.
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