Author’s Note: I talk about ranking your business in Google Maps and Search, but these same tactics can be applied to Bing Places for Business and Bing Search.
“Hey Siri, where’s the closest pharmacy?”
“Ok Google, call the closest mechanic.”
“Hey Alexa, where can I buy a microwave nearby?”
Sounds familiar, right? This is local search in the 21st century.
Remember back in the day we searched for local businesses using a directory or phone book?
Now, thanks to the Internet and Internet of Things (IOT), finding a local Mexican restaurant, a grocery store, or an experienced electrician is easier than ever before.
But as an entrepreneur or small business owner, how do you improve your chances of ranking your business on a local search engine results page?
In this post, you’ll learn about the important factors influencing your business ranking in search results, show you how to set up a Google My Business page step-by-step, and list several essential local SEO tactics to help your business appear more often in local searches.
Let’s jump right in!
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Last year, Moz announced the results of its 2017 local search ranking factors survey. In particular, Moz took a closer look at factors that will help businesses appear in “local packs” which refers to the top 3 business listings that appear in Google results.
These ranking factors also influence “local finders” which Moz defines as “the complete list of local results that appears when the “More places” link at the bottom of a local pack is clicked.”
According to the Moz survey, the most important factors to consider if you want your business to appear in a local pack or finding (in order) are:
- Google My Business Signals: These signals include the proximity of your business address to the point of search, selecting the correct categories, including your primary keyword in your business title, etc.
- Link Signals: These include inbound anchor text, acquiring backlinks for domains with high page authority and quality, etc.
- On-Page Signals: These include a consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP), local keywords in titles, your website’s domain authority, etc.
- Citation Signals: These include NAP consistency on Internet Yellow Pages and other online business directories, the number of citations, etc.
- Review Signals: These signals include the overall quality of your business reviews, the diversity of reviews, review velocity, etc.
- Behavioral Signals: These factor in your click-through rate, the number of clicks to call your business, check-ins, etc.
- Social Signals: These take into consideration user engagement on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter,and Google.
Notably, the survey also makes a distinction between “foundational” ranking factors and “competitive difference makers”. Foundational factors are elements that are absolutely essential in order to be eligible for ranking.
In contrast, competitive difference makers are the elements that, after you’re eligible for ranking, will take you a notch above your competition. However, it’s important to note that any successful local SEO strategy will need to optimize for both ranking facts. Below are Moz’s top 5 foundational and competitive difference makers.
To continue reading Moz’s 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors survey results, click here.
Setting Up Your Google My Business Page: A Step-by-Step Guide
To have your business show up in Google Search and Maps, you’ll need to create and optimize your Google My Business page. A Google My Business page integrates with several Google services, like Google Search, Google Maps, Google Analytics, Google Insights, and Google Reviews to give business owners more control over their business listing, and users the ability to find crucial information about your business.
If you haven’t made a Google My Business page, here’s how to get started:
Visit the Google My Business homepage and click the green “Get Started” button.
Next, enter the name of your business. It’s important that you list the name of your business correctly. In other words, if the official name of your business is “Boulevard Brewing Company”, don’t list your company as “Blvd Brewing”.
On the next page, enter your business’ address, including country/region, street location, full city name, state, and zip code.
You’re an online e-Commerce business or you don’t have a brick and mortar location, select the “I deliver goods and services to my customers” option below. This way, your business will be listed as a “service area business” on Google. You can also set your service area based on the zip codes or cities that your serve.
Move on to selecting a primary category that describes your business as accurately as possible. So, for instance, if I owned a store that only sells carpets, I will probably choose “Carpet store” as my primary business category, instead of, let’s say, a “carpet cleaning service”.
However, make note that if you owned a grocery store that also has a cafe and butcher shop, do not list “cafe” or “butcher shop” as your primary category. You can add additional categories later, although you may have to re-verify your business after adding or editing a category.
Finally, if you don’t see a category that’s a perfect match, unfortunately, you can’t create a new category, but I recommend selecting a primary category that describes your business generally. For instance, there’s no category for a “growth hacking agency”; instead, I would select something that covers my business generally, like “marketing agency”.
The next step allows you to list a phone number and website for your business. Although you don’t have to list a phone number or website, it’s absolutely crucial to have if you want a good chance your business will rank high in Google Maps and Google Search. Make sure you add your business’ website and the telephone number for your business, ideally not your home or personal cell phone number.
The last, and arguably the most important step is verifying your business. As Google notes, verified businesses will appear more often in Google Maps and Search results, allows you to monitor and respond to customer reviews, share posts and photos, and track important analytics metrics.
Based on your listing, Google will offer different ways of verifying your business, including:
- Requesting a postcard: This method requires receiving a verification pin code in the mail, which takes about 5-14 days to arrive. You’ll likely have to select this option if you have a brick and mortar location.
- By phone call or text: You may have the option of verifying your business via SMS message or a phone call with your PIN code. Double check the phone number you listed is correct before selecting this option.
- Email: Some businesses can choose to verify their business via email. Again, make sure the email you listed is correct.
- Instant verification: Instant verification is available for businesses that use the same email account for other Google services, like Google Search Console.
- Video verification: The video verification option is available in select regions that have a hard time receiving direct mail, but allows business owners to make a video call with a Google My Business representative and show either their workplace or vehicle.
After you’ve selected your verification method, you can begin setting up your Google My Business page. From here, you can add a profile picture, edit your hours of operations, add photos or a virtual 360 tour, and other details about your business.
How to Optimize Your Business Page for Google Maps & Search
With your Google My Business page set up, there are a few ways you can immediately optimize your page for search:
- Make sure all of the information about your business is completely and accurately filled out. If your business or location changes, make sure to update that information as well.
- Include your business hours. Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar location, list the times when you’ll be available every day, including special hours for special events and holidays.
- Once your page is verified, make an effort to get your current customers to leave positive Google reviews. Google will often rank businesses higher if they have more 5 and 4-star, genuine reviews from customers. Create a link that you can share with customers to write reviews. If you get a 1 or 2-star review, don’t ignore it. Google encourages you to respond to reviews, including the negative ones, to show customers that you value their feedback and continue to build brand loyalty.
- Include local SEO keywords in your company title. For instance, if a business is listed as “Jacob’s” you have no clue if it’s a restaurant, a hardware store, or a deli. Optimize your business title for search by including a descriptive keyword like, “cafe” or “coffee shop”, and, if appropriate, a local keyword, like a city, street name, or neighborhood.
- Avoid using 1-800 numbers on your business page, if possible. Ideally, when you add a phone number to your Google My Business page, the number should have an area code that matches your business’ location or service area.
- Get your business listed and backlinks to your website on other reputable, trustworthy websites, like local business directories (i.e. Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Yellowbook…just to name a few), publications, review sites, etc.
- Add content to your Google My Business page. You can add photos of your products or store, add a virtual tour of your location, or add posts promoting products or special offers.
- If you have more than one location, do not add multiple addresses to one Google My Business Page. Instead, create new business pages for each location. You can distinguish each location by adding a city, area, or street name, like “Washington Sports Club”.
- On your website, make sure you have a dedicated contact page that has the exact same details on your Google My Business page.
- Speaking of your website, follow SEO best practices to optimize your website for mobile and desktop search. Get started with these 24 essential SEO growth strategies.
- Help website visitors find your business by embedding a Google Map of your business’ location on your website.
- Adding Schema markup code to your website to help search engines identify NAP, and other information about your business on your website. If you’re uncomfortable with computer code, consider hiring a freelance web developer on Fiverr to add this for you.
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