With the introduction of Google Places a couple of years ago, and now with Google's launch of Google+ Local and further integration of localized search results, SEO optimization has yet another twist to consider: how localization affects your SEO rankings.
You may first ask: What is "Local SEO"? For those of you not familiar with this term, let me provide a brief explanation.
What is Local SEO?
When you go to Google.com and do any search, you will notice on the search results page at the bottom of the left navigation, your location is listed. See the screen shot below where "Royston, Ga" is indicated as the location.
Google is using that location to customize the search results for you! Not only the paid results, but also the organic and Places/ Maps results. See the screen shot below to see how the Maps and Places details are customized based on the locations.
The order of the Places results (see screen shot below) is based on a combination of proximity to the searcher's location and on the Google+ Local Reviews.
So if you are not managing how you are presented in Local Search, you could be missing out on many sales opportunities when potential customers are searching locally.
How to Manage and Optimize for Local Search
So the next logical question is: How do I manage my Local Search? What else do I need to be doing? Here are some quick tips/ tactics for what do to do manage your Local Search rankings.
- Google+ Local: Claim your listing on Google+ Local. If you had claimed your Google Places page, it was automatically moved to Google+ Local, and you can manage your Google+ Local page from your original Google Places dashboard. If you have not claimed your space, find your listing on Google+ Local and go through the steps that Google outlines to claim your listing.
- Reviews: Quality and quantity are both important. Getting your customers to review your business online is important because you have 3rd party testimonials that Google is distributing for you, as well as it is an important input into how Google is ranking your business in its Maps and Places results. Note that having a more positive score (quality) is more important that quantity of reviews, but quantity of reviews is also an input into Google's algorithm. Keep in mind that you must have at least 10 reviews in order to have an "official score" on Google+ Local, so make sure you have at least 10 reviews from legitimate customers, and that those reviews result in a good overall score.
- Citations: A citation is any place online that your business lists its name, address, and phone number. It is important that every time your business is listed online, it is listed consistently and it matches what you have listed on your Google+ Local listing. That way Google can aggregate these as one, instead of thinking they are different listings. This means that you need to be consistent about what phone number you are using and how you abbreviate items in your address (e.g., using "Street" vs "St.").
- Local SEO Website Optimization: There are a few different tactics regarding optimization. How deeply you integrate these tactics is up to you. Some of them may seem redundant or overkill, but we figure that covering all of your bases can't hurt.
- Make sure your name, address, and phone number are located on every page of your website, in the same format as on your Google+ Local listing. Ensure that this information is included in text and not in an image file.
- Use your City and State names in your Title tags, Meta descriptions, an in the content of your site as appropriate.
- Make sure you website provider is making use of the Schema Local Markup, specifically the Place and Organization tags.
- Have your website provider include a KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file on your website. A KML file is created using the Google Earth interface and it talks with the various Google applications.
Google is using a combination of proximity, reviews, citations, and other factors to order Local SEO results. Do what you can to impact those elements you have control over, and your Local SEO rankings should improve, driving more customers to your business.
Sources: Search Engine Journal, The Definitive Guide to Local SEO.