Local search has become a hot topic in digital marketing over the past couple of years. In fact, typing “local search” into your search bar will yield a little more than 80 million results, so a few people must be interested.
At Blue Compass, we work with a lot of local businesses, and it’s easy to see why local search and SEO has become such an important topic — people want to be found! The nuances that surround local SEO can be overwhelming, but one of the easiest ways you can start your journey of appearing on the first page of search results is with Google My Business.
We’ve covered local search optimization before, if you’re looking for information on how to set up a Google My Business (GMB) account, implement citations or local Schema markup, we highly suggest you check out our local SEO blog.
In this blog post, we’re going to dig into what helps your Google My Business (GMB) page stand out, how to get on the first page of Google and how to optimize GMB listings (we’ll even throw in some other local SEO tips for good measure).
Tip #1: Be Thorough With Your Listing Information
In the digital world, we commonly use the acronym NAP; Name, Address, Phone.
These are the most critical pieces of information to have associated with your GMB page. Without them, your customers won’t find you. They won’t be able to click on a map with your location on a mobile device, they won’t be able to phone your business via a Google search, and they’ll have a harder time finding your website. Our first tip isn’t just about including your name, address and phone number (NAP) in your online profile, instead it’s about expanding upon the basics and thinking through every aspect of your business’s digital profile and the information you can provide to help a user.
What are other nuggets of information you can provide?
- Business hours
- Types of payment accepted
- Business category
- Business description
The more you fill out your GMB profile, the better. If you show Google love, it rewards you.
Bonus Listing Tip:
Include keywords in your business description and be specific with your business category for a more broad reach.
Tip #2: Include Your Own Photos
According to a study by Adobe, posts that include images produce 650% higher engagement than regular text posts.
That's right, 650%!
While this study applies to blogs, the results are similar when it comes to your GMB listing. Visual content is simply more compelling and catches a user's attention better than text.
Take photos of your business, your staff, your products and entertain the idea of investing in a for your company. You can use pictures on other marketing materials outside of your GMB page.
By using your own photos, you control what’s on your GMB listing. It’s common to see user-generated content from customers as the default images for listings, and as much as we appreciate aspiring Instagram stars, they generally result in lower quality images you may or may not want to represent your brand. Avoid customers controlling your online image by providing your own photos. Google even has approved photographers to take unique pictures of your workplace for GMB listings.
Tip #3: Update Google’s New Posts Feature
Since April 2017, Google has done a lot to revamp GMB, and one of the coolest updates we’ve seen is the addition of Posts to listings.
Posts allow you to directly talk to your consumers about special offers, events or new items/services available for purchase. It’s a way to advertise to those who are already looking at your listing.
Again and again, Google shows preference to websites using Google’s services. Regular updates are not only good for your customers; they’re good for your listing’s rankings.
Tip #4: Review Your Competition
Want to beat out your competition’s rankings? Start by taking a look at their GMB listings.
Search Google for the term or category you want to rank for and then see what’s on top. Are you one of the first three businesses listed? Are you listed at all? If not, what information do your competitor's provide that you’re missing?
Competitor analysis serves as an excellent baseline when looking for a place to start building a local search optimization plan. If a competitor is ranking highly for a term, they’re doing something right. Take a look at their listing information and see what you can do to outrank them for this keyword.
Tip #5: Look into Local Business Schema
We love Schema here at Blue Compass. We’ve been following its use for a while and have it plastered all over our sites (you’ll even find some in this blog).
This isn’t the first time we’ve written about Schema best practices (or even about using it for your local business SEO), but we decided to take it a step further this time and give you code to use on your site.
Add this code snippet into your website's header tag, and you are good to go (just remember to fill out the capitalized portions with your information). You can always read the Schema.org Local Business page to learn more as well.
*Disclaimer* If you search our site for this code you won’t find it. This is HTML markup, which is perfect for those just starting out with Schema. We use a more robust process with JSON-LD. Both will give you the same result — it’s just a difference of implementation.
Things like, hours, payments accepted and price range can all be added to your local business schema too. As long as you have thoroughly filled out your GMB listing, you should be fine with the above code. Now, all of this may be a little extreme, but we all know it never hurts to give Google extra information.
Tip #6: Treat Your Customers Right
While this goes well beyond digital marketing and optimizing your GMB account, giving your customers a great experience does for your business.
We like to call it “offline SEO.” It’s the notion that what you do offline directly affects your online rankings and chances that consumers will want to go to your place of business.
For example, think of what would happen if someone at your workplace yelled at a customer, or lied to them about some service/product? Most likely, the poorly-treated person will tell their friends about the bad experience — maybe even post to social media or a review based website.
What quickly was a one-off experience is now permanently housed in a review section or spreading like fire on social platforms. We tend to forget that a bad experience offline can directly affect your online presence — and your rankings.
Ten years ago, businesses were told that one unhappy customer would tell 10 others, now one unhappy customer can reach thousands in a single day with the rise of online reviews and social media.
Tip #7: Check In On Your Reviews
Check your reviews and respond in a timely manner. Nothing makes a poor review worse, except when there has been no visible response by the company to reach a resolution.
Think about it, have you ever seen a one-star review, read the review, then seen a response from the company that appropriately addresses the complaint? We bet you feel a lot better about the business addressing complaints the business ignoring them.
Google has openly noted that “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility.” This also implies the opposite, that poor-quality, negative reviews will affect your visibility as well. Keep in mind, reviews are based on averages, so it takes multiple positive reviews to outweigh one negative review. If you don’t have a review strategy in place before you deal with the unhappy customer, business will suffer from that one negative review.
Reviews are one of the most important factors when it comes to local search rankings. Stay on top of your Google reviews (and Yelp reviews). If you register with Google My Business, you should be able to immediately address these reviews by logging into your GMB account.
As an example, here's what it looks like when we search for Blue Compass while logged into the account associated with our GMB listing. By clicking on the “reviews” button, we can jump in and start answering reviews right away.
Bonus Review Tip:
Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for reviews. If you only get 10% of them to leave a review, it’s more than you had before!
Tip #8: Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
Remember those cool new features we mentioned when talking about Posts? Another one of our favorite GMB additions is Insights.
Insights is a new analytics portion of GMB that directly addresses any and all questions you could have when it comes to how people interact with your listing.
Here are just a few of the analytical goodies:
- Photo Views
- Direction Requests
- Customer Activity
- Call Requests
The Insights function is overflowing with information. Take the time to analyze what Google has to offer and you may be surprised how one keen insight can change a significant portion of your GMB listing.
One Last Thing
Three significant factors rule local search, local and Google My Business listings. Think of them as the rules for your overarching local SEO guide. These three factors are going to take priority over any other tips you’ve read in this and should be the first things considered when reviewing your Google My Business listing.
Just any other google search, the relevance of your listing drives Google’s ranking. Does your website fit the searchers intent and need?
When you type “tapas” into the search bar, Google will treat it as the phrase “tapas near me.” Part of it feeds back the relevance portion mentioned above — the other part is common sense. Don’t expect to have your listing served if you’re miles away from someone searching. When thinking through your search terms, add, “near me,” or “nearby,” to the end of the phrase — this is how Google operates nowadays.
Not to mention, the various “near me” queries are mostly from (accounting for more than 50% of traffic and 80% of clicks).
If your friend tells you to check out a new brunch spot - one they swear serves the best brunch in the world - you’re probably going to check it out, right? Google aspires to command the same word-of-mouth power as a friend’s recommendation, so reviews weigh heavily in local search.
Start Ranking With Your Optimized Google My Business Listing
There you have it: a complete guide to optimizing your Google My Business listing and ranking number one in local search. Pay attention to your analytics and you are on your way to besting the competition. If you need help implementing these tactics, or just want to talk local search and SEO strategy, reach out! We would love to talk about how Blue Compass can help your business start ranking and dominating your local competition.