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Getting Your Business To Rank on Google Local Listings - Help and Optimisation
The Holy Trinity of Google Local Search
Google Local is the great equaliser for local businesses. It's not only useful for town centre shops to compete with online shopping, but it also allows other small businesses to compete with larger chains. If you want to see this in action, just google "coffee shops" and you'll see your local independent cafes right up there with the likes of Starbucks.
But adding your business to Google local, or claiming your listing might not be enough to get you on the first page of google, especially if you're in a very competitive sector. So what do you need to do to get your business amongst the fortunate few who get featured on the first page? As is always the case with the big G, there are a number of factors which work together to make a positive results and here are the ones I've found have a good effect.
Major Factors in Ranking Highly in Google Local
Being Located in a Town Centre
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's definitely part of the mix. Google has a patented algorithm which calculates the distance from the central point in town (of their definition) and considers businesses based in the town centre to be more relevant to the query that those out of town. Of course, Google's definition of town centre will vary according to the town. Larger cities such as London, Paris, Washington and New York will have districts and therefore several central points within the metropolis. Generally, if you were to Google Cafe in London or Cafe in Kensington - the result you would get would be quite different.
Having A Google+ Page
Having a business page on Google+ still isn't a drop dead requirement for being listed on Google Local in the search results, however I'm absolutely sure that if you're working in a competitive sector, then it's something you should be investing in. Not because there's plenty of people there who'll engage with your posts, but because Google will trust you more if you have one. The Google+ Community grows every day and is filling with Facebook drop outs who are looking for something better, and frankly it is better. But it's not Facebook - if anything it's a combination of Facebook and Twitter.
Like it or not, if you have a Google+ Page for your business then google will trust you more.
Setting up the Right Categories in your Google Local Listing.
Your Google Local listing used to be in a separate location, however since the advent of Google+ it's now combined into your Google+ Business Page. Click Edit Business Information and complete all the relevant business information including categories, hours of business and the areas that you cover. Click edit on each section so you don't miss any opportunities to provide full information.
Actively Posting on Google+ and other Social Media
Google openly announced that "social signals" would soon play a part in their algorithm for ranking search results. From what I've seen so far, they may be prioritising Google+ social signals over and above other networks, simply because they have better access to the data, but Facebook and Twitter are definitely being factored in too. Linking from your Google+ Page to fresh content on your website is my favourite way of getting pages indexed quickly and easily with the added bonus that it helps with other ranking factors at the same time.
Verification & Trust
Verify Your Google+ Page & Your Google Local Listing
Whilst completing your Business Name, Address, Telephone Number and Business Category is important, it's all for nothing until Google has verified that you are who you say you are. If you think about it anyone can fill in a form on the internet.
Google have a team of verification experts who trawl the new and existing listings for inaccuracies and downright fibs. They'll also send you a verification letter to your address if you request one - and I strongly recommend that you do. (Phone verification is also available)
Getting Great Reviews
Whilst number and quality of reviews doesn't seem to be an proportional factor at the moment, it's definitely in the mix. So having the most number of reviews doesn't guarantee that you get to the top of page one's local listings, but having no reviews at all, and none of the above seems to get you a fair amount of anonymity. Collect your reviews carefully - sending an email out to all your customers with a link asking for reviews will get your reviews deleted - google have an app for that too.. The key to getting (and keeping) your reviews is to gain them slowly and over a consistent period. So make asking for a google review part of your daily routine with your customers and ask them in person.
Link Your Website to Your Google+ Business Page and Google Local Pages (and vice versa)
You've probably already added your website to your Google+ Page, but did you know that you can show google that you definitely own your website by linking back?
It's called the related publisher tag and it goes in the header section of your home page. Just google "rel-publisher" and you'll find a very helpful blog about what it is and how to add it. This reciprocal link is Google's way of checking that you are who you say you are and increases their trust of you, your website and your Google+ pages and listings.
Remember that there are three separate things here that must be right:
1. Google+ Page
2. Google Local Listing (click Edit Business Information on your Google+ Page)
3. Website verification (rel-publisher tag) and link between 1 & 2 and 3.
This is the holy trinity of Google Local Search Results - get these right and it's should all fall into place. Good luck and please comment below and let me know how implementing the above has helped your local business!