Google, the powerhouse of the internet, makes regular updates to its algorithm to help deliver the best results to its users. One of the biggest changes occurred in 2014 with the pigeon update that prioritized local search results, forever changing the layout of the SERP, or search engine results page.
With over 77% of global internet users favoring Google as their search engine, it should come as no surprise that these changes had a big impact on small businesses.1 Local brick-and-mortar business owners must optimize all of their listings to take advantage of the potential visibility that comes with that prime spot, the local listing result.
1. Take Control of Your Current Listings
Before you can start expanding on your local listings, you have to see where you’re starting from. Search for your business name to find existing listings and start to audit your current presence across the web. Is your address consistent? Are your photos up to date? Are you using your local phone number? Is your website URL formatted the same? For example, if your address is 123 Main Street, do you list your address that way or as “123 Main St.”? Choose one type of formatting and stick with it across all profiles. Claim any sites where you are listed but you don’t own it and update those as well.
2. Fill Any Gaps
Now that you’ve cleaned up your profiles where you already existed, it’s time to fill in the areas where you don’t have a profile. Step into the shoes of a potential customer and choose a few keywords or phrases that you’d associate with your business. For example, if you are a baker, you might choose the term “bakery,” “best croissants” or “birthday cake.” Take those terms and put them into Google with the phrase “near me” following it (e.g. “best croissants near me”). Then examine the results. Take account of sites that display results that your business is not included on.
Here are some of the most widely used sites for local listings. Use this list to help fill in the gaps and have easily accessible information of potential customers.
- Google local listings
- Bing local listings
- Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List
- Chamber of commerce (or local equivalent)
- Local newspaper websites
3. Build up Your Reviews
Positive reviews can be a great driver for local SEO success. Remember how we mentioned that Google caters its algorithm for the best user experience? Reviews are essentially user-generated content, so Google prioritizes and utilizes them to help decide on rankings. Google will pull data from trusted third-party review sites. Once you have over 150 unique reviews and your rating is at least 3.5 out of 5, they will include it in your SERP.2 Listings with review signals are more likely to be clicked on than those without, so hitting this benchmark could greatly impact your online activity.
If you are already at this benchmark but don’t see your rating appear, you may have your ratings disabled. Follow these instructions from Google to enable rich snippets.
If you need help building up your review base or leveraging the one you already have, find out how to maximize review sites for your business now.
4. Go Back to Basics
While Google’s algorithm is constantly updated, there are some SEO best practices that stay the same year after year. One of those is clean metadata. Metadata, or the information that Google picks up from your site to include in the SERPs, should be a short but clear description of your business and its location. The more concise you are, the more likely you are to connect with the right customer.
Use a meta tag and title tool to ensure each is within the limit and avoid the dreaded ellipses. The metadata is essentially a mini ad for your page — don’t let your message be muddled or truncated.
1Allen, R. (April 13, 2017). Search engine statistics 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from https://www.smartinsights.com/search-engine-marketing/search-engine-statistics/
2Sheetrit, G. (November 16, 2017). The complete guide to dominating local search optimization in 2018. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/302443