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November 17, 2011

4 Ways to Make Sure You Beat the Competition in Local Search – A SPN Exclusive Article

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Google Place Search (formerly known as Google Places) rules local search. Just try it. Go to Google and type in “Personal Injury Attorney Your City.” The first seven listings in the “natural search listings” are all Google Places pages. Since 20% of searches are local and the majority of their over $30 billion in revenue comes from small businesses, Google has decided to go hard after local small business advertising.

They started by creating 50 million Google Places pages using aggregated data from online directories and the Yellow Pages. These pages are mobile optimized and attached to Google Maps.

Only about 8% of local businesses have actually claimed their Google Place Search page. Even less have fully optimized their pages. However, this is changing fast. Local businesses are getting hip to the importance of Google Places pages. If you have a local business, the first place potential customers will start to find you is on your Google Places page from their smart phone. You want to make sure you are at the top of the list for your category. Here is how you get a jump on your competition in local search:

1. Stake Your Claim!

Google made the Google Place Search Page now you need to claim yours. You need to claim it because it is possible that the information listed is not correct and the more completely you fill out your page the higher it is ranked in searches. In order to be able to add information to your page you need to claim it first. Google verifies your claim to the page by sending you a postcard by snail mail with a confirmation code or by sending you a message on your phone.

Here is a short article on how to claim your Google Place Search Page.

2. Complete All Information on Your Google Place Search Page

Now that you have claimed your page you want the information to be accurate and complete. Is the address the same? Have you changed phone numbers? You want to add pictures, videos, links to your website, reviews, coupons and as much pertinent information about your business as possible. You want to do this for 2 reasons. First you want your customers to have the most accurate and relevant information about your business. Next you want to completely optimize your Google Place Search Page because optimized pages get ranked first. The better optimized your page the higher it ranks in local search and you want to be first right? Remember, most likely your customers will find your Google Place Search page before they will find your own website so you want this to be as attractive and complete as possible.

3. Citations Citations Citations

Citations are listings and references made to you in other local directories. Google aggregates links and reviews from other local directories and places them in your Google Places listing. This also is a factor in determining your rank in local search.

So you want to be listed in as many other local directories as possible to increase your rank in Google Place Search. Also, these directories, such as Yelp, are highly trafficked directories in their own right and people will find your business directly there as well.

Here is a list of 15 local directories where you can get your business listed quickly. Here is a more complete list of 100 local directories.

Submitting to each of these directories making sure the information is accurate on each is a very tedious task. Here are a couple of services which will do the submissions for you: Localeze.com and Universal Business Listing.

Another trick is to use YouTube as a citation source. On your YouTube video description make sure you include the same name address and phone number that is on your Google Place Search Page and include local tags in the tag section and Google will pick this up as a local citation.

To get even more citations you can use a free service called Whitespark which will give you an even more in depth list of local directories. If your niche is highly competitive, these extra citations can mean the difference between getting a top listing, or not, in Google local search.

4. Get as Many Reviews as Possible

The number one rule with reviews is that they have to be real. Do not just put a bunch of phony reviews on Google or anywhere else. People are smart, Google is smart. You will get busted. This could end up with you not only losing credibility but having your page penalized. Plus, in some cases it can be illegal.

Some business owners have their customers write hand written reviews right there in the local business. They then upload the scanned version of the review with a link using a service called Posterous. With the customer’s permission you can also just input the review online right then and there. Many customers have smart phones and they can place the review directly online themselves while they are in the establishment.

You can even incentivize your customers to give you a review. Maybe you could offer 10% off or a coupon if they place a review online. Be careful, some directories allow this others do not. Check the TOS of the directory you are placing the review on first.

The more reviews you have the higher you are ranked on Google Place Search. Also people look at reviews before making a purchase. This is something that really needs your attention. If you do happen to get a negative review many directories will let you respond. Keep up with this, your business depends on it.

I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on local marketing. Your comments are welcome.


Matthew Meyer is the owner of Quickregister.net Marketing Blog and the author of
101+ Ways To Get Backlinks To Your Website. Please visit his blog to pick up a free copy and to learn more about local marketing.

10 Responses to “4 Ways to Make Sure You Beat the Competition in Local Search – A SPN Exclusive Article

    Hi Matthew, thanks, nice article. I do a lot of local business SEO and would simply re-arrange a few of your steps here…I would

    1) Create citations (allow Google to pick them up before you create and verify your Google Places listing) and then…

    2) Go onto Google Places and create your listing.

    3) Make sure you fill everything (as much as this can be a bit of a pain in the butt) 10 Images – 5 Videos etc etc.

    4) Wait for the postcard.

    5) get the Google verification code and then log back into Google and enter your code.

    6) Wait a couple of weeks and hey presto, you should be right up there at the top…

    7) Optional step is to place a link on your website to a) your Google places page and b) your biggest and best citation (yellow pages or hotfrog etc) and get your customers to review your business on both.

    I have done this on my website, you can check it out here – http://www.webagents.com.au – the more citation and Google reviews, the better. :) Thanks again.

    Matthew,
    Thank you for the article.
    Living and working in Portugal, Europe, I would have to say that the number of businesses that have claimed their places has to be less than the 8% that it is in the USA.

    I run an internet real estate agency without a fixed address and when I tried to register my business, unfortunately Google wanted to send my activation pin to a physical address.

    This has stopped me from registering in my local area, although for a while my first account was showing.

    In relation to position of search, you are completely right, as I came out right on top.

    In relation to trying to fool Google, ie with reviews and or addresses, yes they’ve thought of everything.

    Once again, thank you for the article and I shall be visiting Quickregister.net Marketing Blog after this post.

    avatar SEO Bedford says:

    Indeed Google Places is the place to be if your business is aimed to serve a certain or multiple locations.
    Many thanks for that huge list of local directories, I’m always on the look out for those. Thanks again.

    Really useful post. I’ve found that custom categories can also be a useful way to get high up on google for certain keyword phrases. Be interested to know your views on that.

    Webagents, Thank you for your tips. I like the idea of getting the citations first then setting up the Google Places page. I appreciate learning from your experience. Thanks Matt.

    avatar David Reed says:

    If i put my citation info in a forum signature does that count as a citation?

    Hi David, I do not think you will get picked up as a citation from your forum signature. However, you can get one from YouTube. Make sure you include the exact name address and phone number that you have on your Google Places page in the description of your YouTube video and include local tags in the tag section and this can get picked up as a citation by Google Place Search.

    Don’t forget Qype & Yelp – websites need as much local coverage as possible to rank well in Google’s local search; and these only really work on citations.

    But thanks for the Google Places reminders.

    I am disappointed with Google Places.
    Our website http://www.distanthillsspean bridge.co.uk comes up as “F” ie number 6 on the search when i search for “B&B Spean Bridge” . This is despite having claimed the listing, fully populated it and refreshed it. Some of the other sites listed above us have not even beeen claimed!
    As reagrds directories we are not listed in the Yellow pages or the online version in the UK “Yell” because they are not great value for their main purpose.
    Any help appreciated.

    avatar Mike says:

    This is a very helpful list and the teaching on the directories/ citations is priceless. Thanks for that link to those directories. I am doing all my own SEO work for my company Carpet Cleaning Tampa and I really need all the help and teaching I can get.
    Thanks so much

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