Rank Local – Google Local

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google local listings for vancouver internet marketingYou’re finally on board with some of the changes and new features Google’s rolled out over the last few years, along with watching the suitors as Yahoo and Bing (MSN) follow suit. You’ve come to grips that if you plan to succeed in your online business, you cannot let your online marketing sit idle. Investment into your online strategy is a necessity as the digital marketing landscape has evolved over time; Search, Email, Social Media have all drastically evolved the last couple years.

Searches evolution provides a significant source for lead generation and new sales for businesses on the web. And this evolution didn’t stop simply with organic / natural search rankings.

Google Local, launched in 2004, is one of the latest advancements by Google to undergo an evolution and compliment the various channels within Search that a visitor will use to find your business on the web. Its finally recognized in the arsenal of tactics with Search strategist to leverage in natural / organic search to accomplish top search rankings, and increased Search market share. One will hedge their bets a major shift in Google Local we’ll soon see is the evolution of Google Maps and Google Maps Street View.

Those new to Google Local (where have you been?), it’s a hybrid of Googles popular Google Maps and Google Local Business Center Listings, organic search results, and augmented with sponsored Search results from Google’s Adwords program (paid search marketing).

Marketers who leverage Search in their online marketing may recall the beginning of Search and SEO. Back then SEO (search engine optimization) was simple and non “scientific”, as some would claim. This also evolved over the years driven from Google and others to succeed in the goal of delivering the most relevant, quality results to the individual. With that in mind, numerous other variables become a factor in the equation of ranking well, resulting in an overhaul of getting a website to dance the spotlight with Google and attain the top results in the search results.

SEO now employs a diversity of tools and tactics to attain top search results, such as keyword research – long and short tail, on-page optimization, website architecture and structure, URL structure, anchor text, keyword density, ALT tags, title and meta tags, content length / uniqueness / frequency and buzz factor, domain and sub-domain selection, link build strategy, content production and distribution, site maps, authentication, no-follow and canonical tags, and much, much more. And after all of this, hopefully your strategist steered clear away from blackhat SEO tactics; keyword stuffing, cloaking, doorways, etc. ‘Blackhat’ can still be effective and work if approached and executed timely and appropriately – though we always advise on weighing the risk / reward before considering this, as it should only be considered for experts who understand the facts, limitations and ramifications.

Now with all the efforts a Search strategist will do to optimize and fine tune a website for a top listing in the SERPs (search engine result pages), Google has now one-uped the effort… again. To continue Googles mission to deliver the most relevant and quality search results, Google delivers local listings with Google maps.

Google Local Listing are positioned in the #1 top position of the search engine result page. These local listings are produced by Google intelligently understanding the locale of a search query, and displaying results based on a variety of data Google’s collected on a website or business.

Attaining a local listing – whether in Google, Yahoo or another search engine, is simply a registration process of the business. Very simple. However as more local competitors jump on board with registering a local listing, optimization efforts to compete for top space in the top 10 local listings has become the new SEO game.

Google Maps Local Listings is an excellent means for companies who already have a strong page 1 presence, as it helps consume more Search market share and saturation on page 1, with 2 or more listings.
It’s also a helpful means for those who are not on page 1 to attain a page 1 listing, as well as those businesses who have yet to launch an online presence, as a website is not necessary for a listing.

Challenge: The challenge now is the optimization of the local listing to maintain a business’s presence in the top Google Local Listing results. Google only displays 10 local listings at a time in this high-value real estate. Once your listing is not in the top 10, you’re back to 100% reliance on your natural / organic listing (I hope you’re on page 1 already). So how does one optimize a local listing with Google?
Optimization of Google local is a combination of a few things.

  1. Business listings
    Businesses can register a free business listing in Google’s Local Business Center. Yahoo and other engines also offer a business listing center. Business listings can also be used by businesses who do not have a website.
  2. Business Ads
    Similar to your paid Search campaign (PPC), sponsored business ads can be created in Google AdWords including allowing for the creation of ads for businesses that are not online with a website.

A standard business listing in Google’s Local Business Center is enough to get listed in the organic search results local listings, though a combination of a both the above is recommended to maximize the performance that can be realized from Google Local.

The above describes simply the ‘how to’ attain a Local Listing. As competition heats up in your local market within Google Local, optimization to stay within the top 10 Google Local results becomes more crucial.

Optimization of the Google Local Listing results first starts validity of the businesses contact information in a variety of authority sources.

  • Contact information in your websites ‘contact us’ page
  • Google Webmaster Tools geographical settings
  • Domain registrar address
  • Yellow pages (remember Google previously inked a relationship with YP) and major telephone service providers (white pages)
  • Other ‘locale’ considerations include:
    • Geographic location of IP address
    • Geographic information in web page meta and website content
    • Authority inbound locale anchor text links
    • Domain extensions (ex. Dot CA = Canada).

Delivering local results doesn’t stop with just Google Local Listings. IP location and domain extension is also important considerations. On your next travels outside the country, connect to a nearby WIFI and check out Google. You may find Google will redirect you to their local Google site. Example:
Canada = google.ca, United Kingdom = google.co.uk, USA = Google.com, Dominican Republic = Google.dr, etc.
Building Google Local Listings into the digital strategy mix with your online business, consider the above tips to optimize your listing, as well as submission of complete information for your Google Local Listing within the Google Local Business Centre.

Also consider supporting your Search strategy with a paid Search campaign Local Business Ad. Local Business Ads within a paid Search campaign (such as Google’s Adwords) allows for more specific geo-targeting, and won’t compete with the wider net of paid Search campaign ads running across Google or another Search engines Network.

Note that if you create a paid Business listing Ads in your PPC campaign by targeting locale keywords, the Business Ads won’t be seen by users of Search unless its location is the same locale as the information in the local business listings created in Google Local Business Centre.

Also, it’s recommended the Local Business Listing campaign in your paid Search campaign is included in the ‘search network’. Including the ‘search network’ in your Adwords campaign for your Local Business Listing Ad, will ensure the ads are seen within Google Maps. If this is not done, then the Local Business Ads will be visible with Google Search only.

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