Google has billions of searches per day and nearly half of them are local. That’s precisely why local search optimization for Google Maps is so important. The top three organic results in Google Maps are called “the local pack.” These are by far the most valuable positions for any local business with a physical location. How do you achieve a local search presence? There’s a strategy involved. But don’t worry. Gaining local search results is a bit easier than competing with organic search results on Google. Start by gaining a better understanding of how local search results work.
Leaning Tree Marketing can help with local search optimization.
To gain Google Maps search results, understand that there are “on-site” and “off-site” SEO signals. Ranking for Google Maps “local” pack search results are based on these signals. The most important signal is the “geographic proximity” between the searcher and your office or store location. (Also called, “geo-location.”) This means that results in Google Maps will change based on where the search originates from. If your business is in a high-traffic area, may get more search volume. On the flip side, high-traffic areas typically have more competition. This means that your “signals” need to be aligned and working in harmony. Otherwise, your neighbor could potentially get your leads.
So much can happen to your Google Listing when you’re not looking. For example, anyone can “request” changes to your profile. Sometimes, it’s Google requesting the change. Unless you tell Google that you don’t want these changes, they will eventually take effect and be published. Unfortunately, there are some highly competitive industries where someone may intentionally interfere with the online reputation of your business. They can actually deliberately destroy your chances of appearing in local search results. “Ghost” listings are one example of this. Profiles with a phony website link or phone number can and will jeopardize your local position. Duplicate listings are a problem too. It’s important to manage your online reputation and ensure that you are well-represented.
Optimizing for local search results is multi-faceted. Below is an example of the basic steps to begin that process. These are fairly standard steps that would likely hold even if there were a Google algorithm update after the publication of this page:
- Establish and maintain a highly optimized website including technical SEO. (Search engines should be able to easily crawl, load & understand site contents.)
- Determine your brand and ensure content info, (NAP), aligns exactly with how it appears on Google My Business. Remove duplicate or incorrect information.
- Address off-site signals such as Google Business Profiles, social sites, high authority online citations & directories such as Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn & the local BBB.
- Optimize website content with searchers’ intent; be what they are looking for. Use both short & long-tail keywords. Be creative!
- Ask for reviews and respond if you can; building authority in your product or services will make you a fierce competitor in your industry.
Below the local pack, there are more results that are not impacted by proximity. (Those results are either organic or paid.) More and more we see Google putting paid ads above the local listings as well. But paid ads are expensive and most people don’t click on them anyway. Organic results that appear below the local pack are more difficult to obtain. It’s a reasonable goal to have your business represented by all local, paid, and organic results on page one. But, why not start with what’s free? Get that working first. When your local SEO is maximized, it will have a positive impact on your Organic SEO, and vice-versa. Furthermore, maximizing your local and organic SEO, it will improve the efficiency of your paid ad campaigns.
For beginners, ensure that your website is technically sound. This means that it loads quickly, and can be both crawled and indexed by search engine crawlers. (Organic SEO) Secondly, your website content should be engaging. It should be easy to navigate, solve a problem, and align with the searcher’s intent. That’s the “on-site.” (In a nutshell.) For the “off-site” part, you’ll need to link to relevant and high-value citations and directories. The most impactful of the bunch is a Google Profile Listing.
Just don’t try to “trick” the system because the punishment from Google is no fun. You must have a legitimate “brick & mortar” location to partake!
A Google Business Profile is essential to appear in local search results. There are many opportunities to optimize a Google Business Profile. Make sure that you go through all of the steps and fill information completely. People refer to these profiles for hours, directions, website links, reviews, and other information. Add updates like special events and posts. Keep your upcoming holiday hours up to date. Sadly, many businesses fail to add details or maintain their listing. When this happens, it’s not good for local search efforts.
- Have multiple office locations? Add a profile for each. Yes, you’ll need to manage each one of them individually.
- A business that does NOT have a physical location may NOT compete for local search results on Google Maps local Pack
In addition to your business profile, there are also many opportunities regarding “off-site” touchpoints of a customer’s journey. For example, social platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, or review sites such as the local BBB will appear in local search results. To be competitive, expect SEO to be an ongoing task. Learn about your competitors, understand your audience, and be diligent with the management of your online strategy. Over time, and with the appropriate attention, and the right team, local search results will improve.