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Going Local with Google

Local search engine optimisation (SEO) is a big deal in the digital marketing world and unless you have no local interest whatsoever you will probably want to take the simple steps outlined below to make the most out of it.

In a nutshell, local SEO allows you to reach out effectively to two types of customer: local residents and those travelling through with a mobile device.

Before going further, if you take just one piece of advice from this article then let it be this: claim your business on Google My Business. It is the closest thing to a ‘no-brainer’ in the digital world; here’s why:

Google My Business and the Three-Pack

Claiming and verifying your business on the Google My Business platform is about as simple as it gets – and it is free (and no, there is no paid equivalent that can boost your presence).

Google My Business is linked in with all other Google services such as Gmail, Maps, Drive and the rest so if you have a Google account (which is also free) then you simply need to go to https://www.google.co.uk/business/ and sign in. It is important to fill in the fields as completely and accurately as possible (the reasons will become clear further down).

Once you have set up your business, Google just needs to know that you are indeed its rightful owner and not some shady saboteur. To do this they will post out a postcard to your business address which contains a verification code. Once you have entered this onto your My Business profile it will become verified and listed shortly afterwards.

So how does Google My Business increase your visibility to locals or visitors to the area?

Whenever you perform a Google Search for certain products or services – on desktop or mobile – you will notice a map displayed together with a list of three relevant businesses. This is the so-called Google ‘three-pack’ with other relevant businesses hidden under a ‘more places’ button.

The three-pack may be at the top of the page or, in some cases, below some paid ads but they always appear above the main ‘organic’ search engine results and contain their own website and directions links. Many people will either click these links or open up the full directory to see other relevant businesses. When considering the size of the screen on a mobile device it is now very likely that you could appear top of the Google listings yet never be seen because your customers are going straight through to competitors who have verified their businesses on Google My Business.

As with the ordinary search algorithm, Google’s My Business search algo is secret but they have spelled out exactly which three factors it seeks to balance: relevance, distance and prominence.

Relevance

To be deemed a relevant business your My Business listing needs to match what local residents or visitors are looking for. That means selecting the appropriate business categories (these are a bit limited but hopefully Google will extend them one day) and including relevant keywords in your business description. This is why your listing needs to be complete.

Distance

Ensuring you enter your full address will allow Google to accurately determine how close you are to someone searching for your type of business. It is also vital for your Google Map listing and Directions link on your My Business entry.

Prominence

This is perhaps the most difficult area of local SEO to manage but Google have provided some ideas of how it measures a business’s prominence. Some of the signals are identical to those used in general SEO such as backlink profile, content quality and SERP (search engine results page) ranking. Others are specifically local in nature. One of these is your presence in local directories and it is widely understood that consistency is vital here.

Online directories will all store at least your business name, address and phone number, often referred to as your NAP profile. The hallmark of a real, established business is a consistent NAP profile that does not change every other month. It is understood that Google regularly compares the NAP details on My Business with a number of trusted local directories and gives added weight to those businesses that appear the same across the board.

Google explain that it is the balance of ranking factors that decides who makes the three-pack and who doesn’t. For example, a highly relevant business will often appear above a geographically closer alternative. This is why you should spend time completing all parts of your My Business profile.

Looking After your Customer

One ranking factor that impacts on your prominence score is your reputation with Google users. You will notice that there is a star rating associated with businesses listed on My Business and the quality and quantity of these reviews form part of the prominence score. In fact, Google explicitly states that good reviews, “will improve your business’s visibility.”

Little details like ensuring your business hours are accurate will help avoid unnecessary poor reviews. While you are setting up your My Business listing you might want to think about creating or refreshing your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) policy. One common tactic is to ask for feedback and to direct happy customers straight to your review page while contacting unhappy customers immediately to offer reparation.

As always, if you need any help with your digital strategy we at Vu Online will be more than happy to talk to you about it.

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