Top 3 Local Search Ranking Factors – Part 1
In this guide we will share with you the top 3 local search ranking factors. This is part of a 4 week series in which we will be releasing a guide each week with another 3 points. If you are a local business looking to maintain or even increase it’s Google Places rankings make sure you bookmark www.cheapwebdesign.org.uk/blog as this is information you don’t want to miss out on.
1. Category associations
Category associations are hugely important, so important that I’ve ranked them #1 in our survey. Whilst going through the process of setting up your Google+ Local page you will have to choose your category associations at two distinct sections.
When it comes to entering your initial details, you shall have to select a primary category for your local business. This is easily the most important category that you will choose throughout the whole process, take your time!
Once you have passed this section and visited the dashboard you will be allowed to select up to nine other categories for your local business.
When choosing the categories you won’t be able to enter your own unique take on your business, you will have to select from Google’s pre-set category section. Many years ago you could custom create your category name however this feature was quickly phased out by Google.
Hopefully this section is relatively self explanatory for you, if you are a dentist and work from Southampton you would simply select the category “Dentist”.
We recently came across a fantastic guide created by Mike Blumenthal which lists all categories available to you when using Google Places – Visit tool here. If you simply type in the keywords that you feel are most suited to your business then the tool will show you which categories are most suited for you on Google Places!
When building listings for your website on other directory type websites please make sure you take your time and select the most relevant category for your business, this is crucially important and will help massively with your rankings in the local searches if everything is relevant.
2. Use a real address
When your business appears on Google’s searches it will be because:
- A users search contain’s the name of the city in which it is physically located, or
- Stem from devices based in that city such as a mobile phone, tablet device etc.
For example if you are a dentist in Southampton you are much more likely to appear in a local pack of search results for a phrase such as “Dentists Southampton” or if someone simply searched for “Dentist” and were using a device that was based in Southampton it would naturally bring up a batch of local search listings.
The following search that I have completed is an example that illustrates how Google works with it’s local search algorithm. I searched “Dentists Southampton” and the following listings appeared.
When viewing the above you can clearly see that there are no dentists in neighboring town’s or city’s included in these search results. It’s safe to say that Google clearly pays attention to the address entered when setting up your Google Places account, this is why it’s important to fill all details in with as much information as possible.
There are however a few negative’s to Google being so bias towards “area” information.
A) Service area businesses (SABs) If you owned a business such as an electricians of a construction company you will of course travel further a field to complete work however the current Google Places system doesn’t really take this into affect.
B) Brick-and-mortar businesses Another example is if your business was located just outside Southampton for example in Portswood. Your clients may well be more than happy to travel the horrific 1 mile journey from the center of Southampton however because you aren’t slap bang in the middle of Southampton your listing is going to appear a lot further down the rankings. A centrally located business address is ideal.
With both cases above, the owner of the business will understandably want to generate inquiries/business from these major city audiences however because of Google’s huge bias toward a physical location it becomes extremely difficult to ever appear in the local search listings. The best chance that currently stands for these type of businesses that are outside of the “parameters” is to build city landing pages which showcase the business within these cities, the main goal here is to gain additional visibility in the organic search results over the local listings. If you can get your organic rankings correct you will appear above the local listings which will generate more business for your company.
In an ideal world you will have a top #3 spot in the local map listings and then rank organically for a different landing page organically on Google, this way you are going to be gaining double the exposure on the first page of Google and it will be for your target audience.
3. Citations Citations Citations
This is something that not many of you will know much about however citations are hugely important when it comes to ranking well in Google Places. A citation is any web-based mention of your company’s partial or complete name, address and telephone number. The more citations that you have the more trusted your business is deemed! A “structured citation” refers to a listing of your local business online in local directories such as Yell.com, Thomson Local and any other business directories. You have to make sure that your business name, address and telephone number is identical to the one you supplied to Google Places.
Inconsistent citations might involve:
- A difference in the business name (i.e. Smile Dentistry vs. Smile Dental Clinic)
- A wrong street address, a typo in street address numbers, or a missing suite number
- A wrong or different phone number, a toll free or call tracking number
- A different or wrong website URL
A genuine reason to inconsistent citations could be because a business has moved premises and want’s customers to know of it’s new address however when it comes to Google’s ranking algorithm they will look at this in an untrustworthy manner. We all know that once Google starts to lose faith in it’s existing data collected it will only become more and more difficult to maintain those excellent rankings that you may have in place.
Part 1 Complete!
That is the end of part 1, we will be releasing another blog post in the next week in which we will go into more detail on how to maintain existing rankings in Google Plus or increase new rankings, as mentioned at the start of this blog post this is something you do not want to miss out on.