When you type your search query into Google, Google’s goal is to display the most relevant possible results. In its ongoing quest for relevant results, Google has determined that certain keywords will only trigger results that are relevant to your specific area. For example, if you type in “pizza,” Google assumes that you are interested in local pizzerias and not the history of pizza according to Wikipedia.
Some businesses have taken notice of this key difference in search results and have taken advantage of it, funneling valuable, local potential customers to their websites. How do you become one of those businesses?
Do a Little Research
- What are people in your area searching for that pertains to your business?
- Are these search terms triggering the Carousel to appear (see below)?
- Is your business displaying at all?
- Are there images displaying with your business?
- Who is ranking above you?
- How many reviews do you have?
- How about your competition?
Answering all of these questions will give you a good baseline to start with and will help you understand how much you will have to do to get up to speed.
Claim and Verify Your Locations
If you have any footprint at all, Google, Yelp, and other business directory sites probably already have a listing for your business. You need to find as many of those listings as possible, claim them, and complete your profile by adding business information, photos, and ensuring that your name, address, and phone number (NAP) appear exactly the same across all of them. This NAP consistency sends Google a strong message that your business is legitimate and that you run a competent business that should be represented in their search results.
Adding information on your business will help searchers that look up your business name, what we in SEO call a “branded search.” Branded searches will trigger the appearance of what you see above, which is more or less Google’s summary of your business. If you have claimed your Google Places or Google+ Local page, you have direct control over your business name, address, hours, and your short description. The images and reviews will be discussed more below.
Not every search with local intent will trigger the Carousel (see below), but claiming your listings will help you dominate relevant, local-intent searches for your keywords by having multiple listings appear on the search results page. Even if your website is not ranking, your Yelp profile and Google+ page might be.
Moz.com offers a great tool to help with claiming all of these profiles called GetListed.org.
Optimize Your Carousel Results
Certain local search terms, “pizza” for example, will trigger Google’s local search Carousel to appear at the top of the search results. As you can see, a result in the Carousel consists of a picture, a rating, your business name, and some other shred of relevant data that changes based on your search. In the example above, we see pricing and the business category.
Reviews are extremely important for ranking on the Carousel. You can control this to an extent. You can’t make a bunch of Google accounts and spam a bunch of fake 5-star reviews, but you can encourage your customers to submit reviews, preferably on Google, verbally, through posters in your business, on social media, etc. If you notice that a customer really appreciates your product, help make that person an advocate for your business by encouraging a review.
The quality of your image on the Carousel can be the difference between a potential customer clicking it or glazing over it. Everyone understands how the star ratings work and it’s true, having a number of them will improve your ranking, but if I’m hungry for pizza, I’m far more likely to click on a delicious-looking slice than on a picture of the storefront. Unfortunately, Google does not allow direct control over the image that is displayed. What you can do is give Google good options to choose from by adding photos to your location-verified Google+ Local Business or Places for Business page. Get some images up there and don’t be that search result with a Google Maps pin as your image (sorry Pomodoro Pizza and Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta).
Your placement in the search carousel does not really matter so long as you appear on the first page. Users do not have to scroll down to find your results like normal organic results, so ranking first for your business really is not that much better than ranking fifth.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
If you want to take advantage of local search:
- Understand how you currently stack up against your competition.
- Claim, verify, and fill out every business listing you can find.
- Make sure your name, address and phone number are consistent.
- Give Google some awesome business photos to choose from.
- Don’t be afraid to suggest reviewing your business to your customers.