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!

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!

Key factors in dominating local search

David Mihm posted an excellent resource on his site recently. He asked 20 of the top SEO bloggers and internet marketers on their opinions of what factors are truly important for improving local search ranking for your website.

Here is a nice teaser for the type of information you’ll find there:

To see the complete (and I do mean complete) analysis with comments from the experts, check out David’s local search ranking post.