Google+ Local

The power of Google+ Local & why it matters

Here are some interesting statistics that are relevant if you serve a local geographic market for your products and services:

  • The Internet influences $500 billion of offline sales
  • 80% of all sales occur within 20 miles from home
  • 40% of all searches have local intent. A search for "dentists" implies a local search, as does "seattle dentist" obviously.
  • 80% of all commerical searches have local intent. A search for "zoom teeth whitening" is a commercial search.
  • 4% of all sales are conducted online
  • 96% of all sales are conducted offline at a place of business
  • 90% of customers will do search online first before selecting a vendor to purchase from
  • 17 million people use online maps to find a local business
  • 76% annual growth rate for local searches that include a city, state, zip, or neighborhood and that use online maps.

What does all this mean? It means your prospective customers are searching for your products and services online and are using online maps to find your business. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft drive over 90% of all searches, with Google commanding over 70% of that alone.

Ever notice how if you do a search on Google for say "seattle dentists", a little map with business listings appears at the top of the page? This is the Google Maps feature that has been "blended" on their standard search results page. Why is this important? It means you need to have your business showing up there as it will put you at the top of the page above your competitors without too much effort.

Sometimes there is a map with 10 listings, sometimes with 3 listings and sometimes only with one listing. These are referred to in the industry as the Google Local 10-Pack, 3-Pack, and OneBox respectively. How one gets listed and ranked well here is the topic of this article.

As an example, let's say you own a dental practice in the Seattle area and that you want to be listed in Google Local for the phrase "seattle dentist". Without further ado, here are the most important factors for ranking in Google Local at the top of a Google search results page. These factors are listed in approximate order of importance, and are of course subject to change.

1. Claiming your business listing in Google Local Business Center (LBC). If you have a street address, chances are Google already has you listed in Google Maps. Google uses various data sources to pull the information about your business - often this information is old and inaccurate. Claiming your own business listing is a 2-step process:

1) Sign in with your Google Account and update/edit the information as needed;

2) Verify to Google that you are the business owner - either by phone immediately afterward or waiting for a postcard to arrive in the mail.

2. Distance your business is from the geographical center of the city. So for a search on "seattle dentist", the listings are generally in order of the distance from the centroid of Seattle. A year ago, this was the predominate ranking factor, now other factors come into play that can trump this factor.

3. Number of Web Pages shown for your listing. These are links from other websites that link to your site - particularly important are links from businesses that are local or that feature listings or ratings of local businesses.

4. Keywords used in your business title listing. Let's say the name of your business is AA Dental Care. In your business listing however, you want to use the words "seattle dentist" because that is what people search on to find, well dentists in the Seattle area. So in this case, your business title could be "AA Dental Care: Your Seattle Dentist". Get the idea?

5. Business categorization or classification. Google gives you the option of listing your business in several categories. It is important that you list your business in as many relevant categories as possible.

TIP: If your business category is not listed, Google lets you create your own. This is powerful as it allows you to associate your business with a more keyword-relevant category.

6. Number of Reviews shown for your listing. Reviews can come from Google, Yelp, InsiderPages, AngiesList, CitySearch and others. Reviews are important not only from a ranking standpoint but also from a sales standpoint as people are more likely to contact you if they see you have reviews, which implies you are popular.

7. Ratings. Ratings are assigned to reviews typically on a 1-star to 5-star scale. There is ongoing debate as to how much ratings play into the local ranking algorithm but having good ratings unquestionably will increase sales. The eye is naturally drawn to listings with lots of stars.

8. Photos and videos shown for your listing. Google allows you to upload photos, logos and videos for your business and will also attempt to find the like on other websites. This is not a big factor but it does make your business appear more interesting. At a minimum you should upload your company logo, a photo of the interior of your business and a photo of the exterior if applicable.

TIP: Also post your photos on Flickr and your videos on YouTube. Not only are these two sites monsters in terms of potential traffic but Google will count them as links back to your site!

9. A website. A website is not mandatory for being listed in Google Local but a small ranking boost is given if you have a website, particularly one that is optimized for normal Google search. You should be slapped silly anyway if you don't have a website yet.

When you are done with Google, rinse and repeat for Yahoo Local and Live (Microsoft) Local. These services are all free, all they take is a bit of time to do right - be sure and fill out every item and option available to you for your listing. The rewards can be great in terms of online visibility, traffic to your website, phones ringing, and new customers!