Local listings and citations are all the rage in local SEO. And certainly they will evolve and grow over the next few years, but they will probably be a huge part of local business SEO for years. They are such a great way to find quick summaries of what a company is all about. In the good old days someone would knock on your door and give you their 30 second pitch about why their product was better than the rest. Well, instead of knocking on your door, you are often presented with Google Places listings every time you submit a search query for a local service, except now you get pictures and bios and links and all of that great stuff…in about the same 30 seconds.
So how can you help your business rank higher in Google Places searches? Well, it’s complicated, but we’ve got 5 great ways to get you started.
1. Completeness of Profile
This is where most people will want to stop reading the article and think, “OK, if this is what he’s starting with then this article is going to be a waste of time.” But the truth is that this is the most commonly missed step in the local search optimization process. There are so many small businesses and even SEO’s out there that don’t think this is a big deal and just leave things undone.
A lot of these profiles are filled with what you consider useless items like a 10 photo option. Even if you have to go find a digital camera and take the pictures yourself, make sure that you have 10 relevant photos (bonus: put your keywords and location in the file names). Not just random Google Images or stick figure drawings, but real, relevant company photos. It can be office pics, a Google Maps screenshot, employee pictures, etc. but use the maximum pictures. It does provide the business with better exposure, but more importantly I’m finding more and more citation sites are using “completeness of profile” to determine rankings on their site. If your profile is more complete than Competitor X, your profile will show up ahead of theirs in general listings. So take 10 extra minutes and fill out the entire profile.
2. Standardize Citations
It’s very easy do a Google search for “basic local citations” and come up with a standard list of citation/listing sites that businesses should be submitted to. My list is about 15 citation sites, and then I have other lists of industry specific sites as well. The problem is that the process usually stops there (with the same citations everyone has). After you’ve submitted the business for these local citations, run a couple Google searches for “Business Name – Phone Number” and then “Business Name – Address” and then “Business Name – Email/Site URL”. These will help you find any stragglers or innocuous citations that you wouldn’t find otherwise. While it is valuable to claim these listings and manage them yourself, you are really just making sure that all of the information within them is correct. The one thing that you absolutely NEVER want with local citations is conflicting data. In most cases these sites automatically pull information and its common that an old phone number or address might be listed. Make sure that for each of these searches you are going 10-12 pages deep in Google results and using creative search terms to find and correct these citations.
3. Monthly Checks
It’s vital that you check these listings regularly. At least once a month you take some time and make sure that information is pulling correctly. In many cases, sites like Merchant Circle are pulling information from several different citation sites to generate your company information. Even slight changes in how or where this information is being pulled from can have huge negative effects on your listings.
4. Connect Your Web
You can’t think of your citations or online presences as a list, but really as a web. This is an idea that has really started to come to life in SEO over the past year and will continue to grow. Just as companies have linked together their Social Media presences like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. these local citations also need to be interwoven. Some citations only allow one URL, which is almost always going to link to the company’s primary site…but whenever they offer other links, do what you can to “build your web”. There are so many citation pages where people just use these additional spots to link to sub-pages of their site, or their site’s blog section. You might also consider linking to great local profiles or Wikipedia pages. Why not link to your social presences or even better, to your Google Places page too? The more of these presences that are interconnected, the more authority and trust they will have when viewed by search engines.
5. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
First, don’t make up reviews. People know and it looks classless. It is something that people now take very lightly and two years from now people will look back on it the same way they look at link-farming and say “wow, what was I doing?” And really, there is no need for it because so many companies have plenty of happy customers (hopefully) who would be more than happy to write a review if asked to do so.
Reviews are a huge part of local citations. They are the equivalent to linking to a website in the sense that they give the “thumbs up” to search engines and citation sites that your business really is as good as you say it is. There are some citation sites like Angie’s List who won’t even list your site in generic searches unless you have at least one positive review, so its important that once you have your profiles completed you immediately started building a regular stream of reviews.
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