How to optimize your business for local search

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As you know, the search engine results pages (SERPs) have been changing rapidly as Google strives to improve local relevance for its users. Local businesses and marketers are competing for scarce real estate on page one due to the continued increase in the influence of social and personalized signals in Google's organic results. At the Search Marketing Expo in San Jose, a top SEO predicted that "in two years, 70 to 80 percent of users will see local results on the SERPs." There's no time like the present to optimize for local search, yet many businesses overlook this opportunity.

While local search usage continues to grow on laptops and desktops, local mobile search is growing twice as fast. Google estimates that 20 percent of all searches have a local intent. However, this number jumps to 40 percent when it comes to mobile search. Google's Marissa Mayer revealed at TechCrunch Disrupt, NYC that mobile maps surpassed 200 million active users and that mobile makes up 40 percent of all Google Maps usage. Google expects mobile will exceed 51 percent share soon, surpassing desktop maps usage. For this article, we will focus on traditional optimization for local search.

The growth and importance of local search is undeniable -- and optimizing your individual or multi-location businesses for their respective local markets will pay big dividends. Take a look at a search query for "gift shops San Diego," which shows results for Google Places above the routine 10-pack of web page results (an evolution from a phase when several local results would take up 30 to 40 percent of the 10-pack). Because of the convenience, many searchers click here first. This means that no matter how well organically optimized you are, and even if you're sitting on the top organic search spot, you might receive fewer and fewer visits from searchers who seem to favor local results. That's why it's important for local businesses to be optimized for both local and organic search results.

Optimizing your single-location business for local search
Optimizing for local listings is fairly easy, but the devil is in the details. It is very important to pay close attention every step of the way, going beyond the bare minimum. Below are local search optimization tips for the big three -- Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Google Places free listing
A Google Places listing is a must since Google gets the lion's share of U.S. search results. While Google's lead dwindled a little recently, it still has 65 percent market share. Take the following steps to establish your Google Places listing:

  1. Set up a Gmail account for your business.
  2. Go to Google Places, and sign in with your business Gmail account.
  3. Enter your business phone number to see if you already have a listing. If you are listed, continue to verify and add more details.
  4. If you are not listed, create a listing by entering basic information (name, address, phone number, website, hours, payment options, categories, description, etc.) Note: Every listing must have a physical address.
  5. Select a verification option. By phone is fastest; Google will call you with a verification code to input. Soon after, your listing will be live.
  6. Read Google Places Quality Guidelines to ensure your listing will be approved.
 

Comments

Jason Kreidman
Jason Kreidman September 23, 2011 at 11:28 AM

Hi Nick. We actually do bulk submissions quite frequently. Success depends on carefully following the guidelines and establishing a track record with Google. That said, we evaluate each case independently.

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis September 23, 2011 at 10:08 AM

A word of advice for submitting your business to Bing and Google local - if you have more than one location I wouldn't submit them all at once. A client of mine had 10 different offices (all legitimate) but only two of them were initially approved. I think Google and Bing thought we were trying to spam the system.