Everyone Googles: Optimizing Your Local Search Engine Rankings

By: vibethink

April 2, 2014

Answers At Our Fingertips

Nowadays everyone Googles. Or Bings or Yahoos. When you want to find the answer to a question, you pull out your phone, tablet, or laptop and search for it. Many people have a search engine set as their default browser home screen anytime they hop online. Where there was once a rigid alphabetically organized Yellow Pages book there is now a free-form, ever-changing results screen organized by relevance.

Search Meets Storytelling – read more about our take on storytelling.

With the amount of competition for the highly sought after front page of the search results, you might think that your local business doesn’t stand a chance. Luckily, search engines want to provide the best and most relevant experience for their users and this includes helping them find the businesses in their area. This is where local search comes in. When someone searches with a location-based query (like “dentists in Charlottesville”), the search engine recognizes the searcher wants local results and is happy to populate the page with local businesses and reviews.

Why Local Matters

Is it really that crucial to appear on the first page of the local search results? In short, yes. People searching for the product/service you provide are your ideal customers. Think of these active researches as the low hanging fruit when it comes to reaching your audience. They want your product/service and you want to give it to them. You just need to make sure you show up as a viable option when they are doing their research.

Local results will often show up with the associated maps and reviews. When someone is searching for local options, location is a huge decision maker. If there isn’t much difference between several businesses in the consumer’s mind, more often than not they’ll look at the map and choose whichever one is closest to them. Reviews are a way to hear from others in the area who have had a positive or negative experience with the product/service. We don’t always believe what a company says about itself, but we become more trusting if it is also echoed by unbiased community members.

Factors Involved in Local Rankings

While there are numerous factors that affect your local search rankings, here are three points to get you started:

1) Local Profile
This is your profile on Google Places, Yahoo Small Business, and other search engines. Make sure you claim your local profile and optimize your business categories and address to provide the most accurate information for researchers.

2) Citations
These are pages that display your NAP information (Name, Address, and Phone number). Having this information across your own website is the first step, then the more citations you get from authoritative and trustworthy sources in your industry, the better. External citations can come from Yelp, Zagat, or other Internet Yellow Pages.

3) Reviews
These are reviews by customers on your Google Places page, other search engine pages, and review sites like Yelp and Foursquare. Search engines will take into account the number, quality, and frequency of the reviews to show the best companies to their users. Good reviews matter for your company, encourage your customers to let you know what they think of your product/service.


Further Reading

This is just the beginning of Local Search Engine Optimization. Here are our thoughts on some articles for those curious to read more:

Moz: The 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors
Reviews were rated as the third highest factor in deciding local search rank. Maps will continue to play a large role in local search. Keyword stuffing in the business name continues to negatively affect your local ranking.

Search Engine Journal: The Definitive Guide to Local SEO
If you get your clients locally and have a physical address in a city you need Local SEO. Positive reviews can trump citations and your business location in relation to the city center has a big impact.

Search Engine Watch: 6 Ways to Accelerate Your Local SEO Success in 2014
The internet should celebrate community and wildness. There are even more opportunities to capitalize on Local SEO with Google’s Hummingbird algorithm. SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) will continue to push Local SEO to the next level.

Search Engine Land: Best & Worst Ways to Influence Local SEO Rankings
Work to make sure your NAP information matches across sites. Avoid keyword stuffing in your business name, incorrect business categories, and multiple Google Places landing pages with similar titles/addresses.

Search Engine Land: Three Steps for Crushing Multi-Location Local Search
First identify your local market opportunity. Then optimize your listings to make sure they are accurate and consistent. Finally continue to update your business information like store hours, holiday hours, and location data changes.

Google: SEO Guide
A larger overview of how Google suggests to get started with SEO. Includes tips on the basics, how to improve your site structure, what crawlers look for, and mobile SEO.