If your business is localised in any sense (be it through localised services like a plumber or a shop, pub, restaurant or other establishment where the customer has to come to you) then you cannot afford to ignore Local SEO.
The cornerstone of any Local SEO project is a claimed and well optimised Google Places listing. Today I am going to walk you through this process so that you can have a listing that stands a chance of appearing in the local pack or blended results for your niche.
The Local Pack
Often shown for localised results that aren’t over competitive
The Blended Local Result
Often shown for competitive local search phrases like ‘solicitors’ and ‘pub’ plus the city in question
So where do you start?
1. Head over to Google Places (http://www.google.com/places/) and click on the “get started” button
2. Google now lets you know that you may want to choose wisely which account you are using when claiming your business and also lets you check if they already have your details in their database. This is a great move by Google as there often used to be confusion, and many businesses ended up with multiple listings and in different accounts!
3. If you see that your business details are present you can skip to the the optimising part of this post – if not you need to add a new listing.
4. Fill out all of your business information – make sure it is accurate and that you are using the same address and phone number that is on your website. Consistency is important for local optimisation and your Google Places and your website are the hub for this information. It is also crucial that you are not using different versions of your business name. Be sure not to miss anything out!
5. The next section to pay attention to is the Categories. You can insert up to 5 different categories – but make sure at least 1 (or even better 2) are used by Google itself. To check this, just start typing away around one of your keywords and hey presto! Google will suggest a relevant category. You should add another 3 to make sure that you get the best exposure – if you are stuck take a look at what categories your competitors are listed under on their Google Places pages!
6. Next up comes the boring section. Don’t skimp on details – Google loves information and so do potential customers. Service areas, hours of operation and payment details all need filling in!
7. For those of you that are a little more creative, it’s time to add photos and videos. You can add up to 10 photos and I suggest that you add all 10 – make sure that you give the images keyword rich titles before uploading them to Google Places. It is worth thinking hard about the photos – don’t just upload whatever you can find. If you were looking for your service, what kind of photos would you like to see (for example if you are a fashion boutique I’d like to see picture of the inside of your shop not the outside!)?
You can also add up to 5 videos to the Google Places page (hosted on YouTube). If you don’t have a YouTube channel for your business, this is a great excuse to go and get one. Again, think about the kind of videos that your potential customers would like to see. While you are working this out you can upload a montage of the photos that you used in the section above (just to tide you over, mind!) Make sure your videos are optimised as well – it will all go towards getting more search engine exposure and visibility.
8. The bit that everybody misses – additional services. This is your chance to let your potential customers and clients know about the services that you couldn’t fit into the sections above. Fill it up wisely!
9. Make sure you check that the pin is in the correct place on the map to the right hand side and click Submit. Usually Google will then ask for you to confirm the listing (either by phone or postcard) – they provide a PIN number for you to activate the Place listing. When you have the PIN, pop it in and away you go!
Congratulations! You now have a Google Places listing! Now what?
Citations are mentions of your business (with the same Name, Address and Telephone Number) on relevant and trusted data sites across the web. Citations work in a similar way to links for standard SEO. Google used to provide the details of where it was getting data on Google Places listings but that is no longer the case. As ever, there is always a way to get this data!
I recommend using a tool called Local Search Toolkit to uncover the best places to get your business listed on the relevant sites – you can find my review of the local seo tool here – along with a step by step guide on how to use it.
If you want to rank well for local reviews you are going to have to get reviews. The great part about this is if you think it through you can (almost) automate this process. Primarily, you want reviews on your Google Places listing but it doesn’t hurt to have a few on your other online listings. Here are a few ways to go about it:
1. Ask – sounds daft but if you don’t ask you won’t get
2. Have it on your emails – if you do any kind of follow up emails, have a link to your Places profile in your email signature.
3. Ask on your social networks – use this with caution, but the people who consistently come to your Facebook page and interact know and love you. I bet they haven’t left you a review though!
4. If you have a shop put a reminder on the door for people as they leave.
5. If you are in hospitality have reminder cards to hand out as people check out.
6. Have a call to action on your website
7. Utilise the widget made by BrightLocal
Other relevant Local SEO tools
Whitespark Local Citation Finder – find more citations with this awesome tool
BrightLocal Local SEO Tools – track local listings, get a widget for your site and loads more to come form this complete toolset for Local SEO
Get listed – track which profiles you have claimed, work out where else you need to submit to and see relevant reviews for your business.
Struggling to get started with citations?
See if you have a listing on any of these sites – if not, add them: