SEO help using Google Local Business Center

Aw man, I feel like such a jerk.

I haven’t posted on here in almost a month because I’ve been SLAMMED busy, which I guess is good. Feel free to throw eggs or tomatoes at your monitor, if it makes you feel better. Just clean up your mess when you’re done, children.

On with the goodies :

You may have already heard about Google’s new features in their local business center, but just in case you’ve been as busy as I have, I’m going to show off a little of what I think is pretty darn cool about these new dashboard features.

For the sake of this post, I’m going to ass|u|me that you’ve already claimed or registered your site with Google LBC (if not, please finish reading this post, then go here and do that.)

Before I show you the cool dashboard stuff, I should also give you some tips in the event your client (or you) are not showing up in the google 10-pack (organic search map listings) even though your site is listed in google local business center. I just went through this situation with a client recently, so I might as well share the experience with you…

1. check for multiple listings – remove any listings you won’t be able to verify (old address locations, different business names, etc), making sure to explain in the comments that you’re trying to make everything better – I can’t guarantee this will help, but things went pretty smooth for me, all things considered (I had to eliminate 6 additional listings). As a side note, it may serve you well to identify WHICH remaining identical listings has the best reviews associated with them – before you dump it.

2. make sure you know who your competition is and what you want to rank for BEFORE creating your map listing title – if you change it after verification, you’re going to have to revalidate the listing. If you’re not sure how to optimize your lbc content, or any local search content,  you should also check out this must read post on local search ranking factors by David Mihm.

3. wait it out – It took almost a month from start to finish for me to get everything fixed up for this client; 1 day to fix all the issues, 3-4 weeks waiting time for verification. Within one day of verification, they started popping up for a myriad of search queries related to their business. Way, way more than I had anticipated at the start – which leads me back into the point of this post, how using LBC can also help your SEO efforts.

The first thing I noticed when going back into local business center after they made their updates was this bad boy: (click image to view full)

dashboard_chart

That’s pretty cool right?

Much like Google’s Webmaster Tools service, LBC provides helpful feedback on what search queries your website is showing up in the map section of organic search results. I love that it breaks it down between impression data (which you’ll never know about unless you’re running adwords) and action data. The only bummer there is that you don’t which click-throughs to your site actually came from your lbc listing – unless you’re smart and tagged the url when you created your listing. Of course you’ll need some type of analytics to review that, but I KNOW you’re already doing that, right?

But that’s not all!

search_queryInfo

Aside from the great search query data Google tells you, it also lets you know where requests for driving directions came from, aggregated by zip code for your viewing ease. This could be handy for a variety of marketing purposes – great info prior to sending out a direct mail campaign, or tv ad, etc…of course the data will probably suck if you haven’t optimized your site or listing correctly in the first place. But we’ll save that for another time.

Anyway, get busy with optimizing your local listings people! You’re doing yourself and your client a dis-service if you don’t! And don’t neglect Bing!

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Ranking Factors for Local Search – All You Need to Know

Talk about choice paralysis.

Talk about choice paralysis.

Local Search Is Hot.

…which may suck for you, depending on where your or your client’s business is located. We all know by know that Google is returning search results for many queries based on the searchers IP address, regardless of whether or not that search includes a geographic modifier – e.g. spicy pizza, brooklyn.

As diligent marketers or small business owners, we make sure to list our sites in the local business centers for Google, Yahoo and MSN, but is that ALL we need to do, or is there something we’re overlooking? No need to wonder anymore, as we know have an excellent resource to reference – Local Search Ranking Factors for 2009 – courtesy of David Mihm, and the 20 search marketing experts that participated in the report. Besides being beatiful, and very similar in presentation to Rand Fishkin’s Search Ranking Factors Report, it makes a strong case for – or against – all those rumors you constantly hear from different camps.

Without giving away much at all, some factors that most experts agree have positive affects on the “10-pack” of search results include:

  • making sure you only have ONE business listing per address or phone number.
  • associating local business listing with the proper categories
  • getting customer reviews!
  • citations from major data providers and Internet Yellow page-type sites
  • including your city, state in the title tags of your site

On the flip side, some possibly negative factors that won’t help, and may just hurt:

  • using an 800 number for your PRIMARY phone number
  • using a P.O. box for your business without a physical address
  • assuming local search doesn’t matter

This barely scratches the surface – I strongly encourage you to check the full list out, and bookmark it as a resource to reference whenever you start a new SEO/SEM campaign. Nice work guys!

Google Includes Local Search Results for Generic Searches – But Does It Work?

Yeppers, Google went ahead and pulled the trigger on something we knew was coming for a while; Including local search results even if you DIDN’T add a location to your search query.

But is it effective? ehhh..yes and no. Mostly yes.

They state on their official blog

How do we guess your location? In most cases, we match your IP address to a broad geographical location. You can also specify your likely location using the “Change location” link on the top right corner, above the map.

Well, I think the key word here is “broad”. My guess is that if you’re near a major metropolitan area, your results will probably not be far off. If you’re on the outskirts of one of those areas, you may need to refine things a bit.

To show what I’m talking about, I did a few quick searches – Here are the results (click the images to view larger):

First up- SHOES

shoe_search_local1

Hey, hey – guess which shoe company is on top of their local optimization! Go payless!

Only problem is – I didn’t do this search from Tampa – I did it from Brandon, which is 20 miles east. ehhh- still, I can’t complain too much, since they do give you the option to refine your location.

Here’s a bigger problem:

Let’s do a search for “fish food” for my hungry fishies:

ouch. I don't think mr. gills would like me to take him here.

ouch. I don't think mr. gills would like me to take him here.

Admitedly, I doubt there a huge number of people searching the internet for local stores that sell “fish food” for their pets, but you never know.

However, it does seem like there is one industry google ain’t giving any love to for local searches, and that’s SEO companies.

Here’s what I get when I search for “seo company”:

ummm...where's the local results? no map? argh.

ummm...where's the local results? no map? argh.

Again, not to totally discount this feature – they do present local results when I performed a search for “internet marketing company”, but as I’m sure you already get the point, I didn’t see the need to include another screenshot.

What does this mean for SEOs and online marketing agencies? More focus on local optimization for sure – we know already that the “big 10” map results get some pretty decent click love, so make sure you update your client’s information!

What does local search without the geo modifier look like in your town? I’d love to know –