19 Jun Google My Business and the Future of Local Search
Search is Changing
There is no doubt about that. As people change their search habits and search from mobile more often, they demand more from their search engine. They need to not only find a solution to their problem, but find a solution that is in close proximity to them. This provides a great challenge for Google. They know you are out and about and looking to make a decision. They also know that customers are trusting in Google to provide them with the most relevant and accurate answers to their queries.
In an attempt to pull everything together and organize all of the different touch points that Google offers to businesses, they have recently launched their “Google My Business” platform. This platform pulls together information from multiple Google profile accounts and seeks to make the processes of accurately indexing your company’s existence in the world online.
Eamon gives a nice overview of the changes as well as provides an example of what these changes look like.
‘My Business’ is a new product that was released by Google in mid June 2014. This feature is aimed at helping small businesses get verified presences in the search results. This is good news for anyone who has a growing company and wants a better presence on the Google Search Results Pages (SERPs), without having to spend an arm and a leg.
Benefits of Google My Business
The problem before was that Google +, Places, Reviews, Youtube, Analytics, and Insights required the webmaster to sign up for each product separately. As you can imagine, this was quite a nightmare. Unfortunately the only companies that thrived were ones with big marketing budgets that could hire someone to manage this process.
Only meeting the needs of large businesses was problematic for Google, because it aims to make things as easy as possible across the board – even for mom and pop stores. The internet giant has tried to do this by creating Google My Business. This solution is meant to make verifying your store and managing all aspects of the listing simple and hassle free.
The new, improved dashboard allows you to:
- Manage your Google+
- Get Google Insights (Google trends based on your business)
- Manage your business reviews (these will show up in the search engine results page)
- Give you access to AdWords and Google Analytics
- Manage your location and the information associated with it (operating hours, category etc)
The revised functionality now makes it easy to coordinate all these services in one simple, streamlined dashboard. This is good news for everybody, but especially the small business owner.
Let’s search “massage cape town”
For example, let’s search ‘massage cape town” in Google.co.za. When you hit ‘enter’ you’ll likely be met by something similar to the image below.
If you look at the above screen shot you’ll notice two things:
- There’s a map on the right-hand side of the search results. If your business is verified, and meets the criteria for this search query, your location should show up here.
- In the 4th position of this result page you’ll see 7 map listings. This placement priority makes being a verified business owner worthwhile, because you get easy rankings in a competitive position.
If we go a little further, and hover over one of these listings, we can see that Google will display the information you’ve provided via other Google products. For example, take a look at how Sublime Skin & Body’s Google Places listing show up in the SERPs. This gives great brand exposure as well as something we, in the internet marketing space, refer to as ‘a quick win’. (Read Eamon’s full article here)
Running Down the Checklist
In addition to claiming your Google My Business profile, there are some priorities you’ll want to cover before you worry too much about how your business ranks within your neighborhood.
- Establish a website. Strangely enough, you don’t need a website to rank in Google local search results, but having one can add to your authority, and as you’ll see in the next section, it can also improve your chances at ranking properly within a specific neighborhood.
- Use the Schema.org Local format to improve how your business’s website and location are seen in search engines. A KML file is also good to include.
- Establish social media profiles on any platforms you can, but especially Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Updating your social media profiles regularly will do wonders for your local rankings, but claiming them is the most important first step.
- Ensure your address and company information is formally consistent across all platforms and brand mentions. Even a difference in notation, like “St” instead of “Street,” can interfere with this consistency.
- Google My Business allows a descriptor in addition to your official business name. Make sure your descriptor includes your neighborhood’s name.
- Use the same variation of your neighborhood’s name, preferably the “official” name of your neighborhood, in every instance of your business online (if your neighborhood is known by multiple names or abbreviations).
- Include your neighborhood name in the description field of your Google My Business page.
- Include your neighborhood name on title tags throughout your website.
- Create a dedicated page on your website with a title that includes your neighborhood name.
- Check out Google MapMaker to see how Google defines the boundaries of your neighborhood, and submit any adjustments you feel are necessary.
Best Practices Moving Forward
Optimizing your local business for neighborhood-specific results does take quite a bit of setup, but there is an ongoing element you need to keep up with if you want to maintain or improve your search visibility.
Encourage your customers to post detailed reviews online if they enjoyed their experience.
Reviews on your Google My Business page are viewed with more authority than reviews on third party pages like Yelp, but all reviews have an impact. Positive reviews are much better than negative reviews, so give the best service you can and point your most satisfied customers to your Google page to post a review. However, don’t make the mistake of purchasing phony reviews: if you’re caught, your search visibility could face serious consequences.
Use a local citation finder like WhiteSpark to find the best citation sources for your area
Make sure to submit new citations regularly. Guest blogging is another valuable route to building your local authority—just make sure to include your neighborhood name in all of your local citation profiles.
Start a blog and get active on social media
Regularly post content that’s relevant to your customers. Don’t stuff your content full of keywords or you’ll end up hurting yourself, but do include your neighborhood name whenever possible in the body of your content and inbound links pointing back to your site. Consistency is key here—don’t attempt to post a mass of updates all at once and be done with it. Make new posts at least once weekly.
Consider working with an independent agency with experience in local optimization.
The setup process requires some technical knowledge, especially if your onsite optimization requires a major overhaul, and the ongoing process of building your rank requires a steep time investment if you want solid results. Depending on your resources and budget, an agency is likely the most efficient route to take.
What this means to you
As consumer behavior changes and as they adapt to mobile usage, they are using search engines different. Becuase of this, Google is looking to improve the accuracy and trust of their local search. In doing so they have provided one place for businesses to go to index and manage the digital presence of their business in one place. Business owners who want to increase foot traffic and discovery need to take action to show up in the new local search results.
About the Highlighted Authors
I am Chris MacDonald, serial entrepreneur and Chief Editor at Engage The Crowd. I curate the best and most informative content across the web for you to consume all in one place.
Eamon is passionate about all things digital. Read a full version of his referenced content here .