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Be a Google Local Yokel

8 July, 2011

I think we all know that online advertising can be a really effective way of reaching out to a much wider customer base, but knowing the best methods of actually doing this might seem like a bit of an uphill struggle.

I’m writing this post to give you an idea of some of the most effective online advertising tools that will help you to get your business pages high up in Google Local’s search results (most of you will know this as Google Maps). Google Maps is not just something that we can use to find the best route to where we’re going; it’s also a powerful local search tool. You can list your business on Local and it will give you the opportunity of getting your business some attention from everybody who is using Google Maps to search for routes in your area, and more so the standard google search.

One of the most important factors is ranking high in local search results. If you’re a bricks and mortar organisation that relies on your website to drum up more customers, then bringing your website to the attention of people in California, Moscow, Dubai and Hyderabad is not going to be of much use to you.

Local Search Top Ten Ranking Factors

This is where Local Search comes into play. Blogging is becoming huge in the business world as is google maps marketing (google local marketing) and a recent survey of 33 of the most prominent search engine bloggers came up with a top ten ranking factors to get high in the search results. Detailed results can be seen here. The ten most important things to bear in mind are:

  1. Your physical address in the City of Search
  2. That your Place Page is manually verified by the owner (you)
  3. That you choose the correct Category Associations
  4. The volume of Traditional Structured citations (these are Data Aggregators and Internet Yellow Pages)
  5. Make sure that the crawlable address on your website matches your Place Page Address.
  6. Page Rank / Authority of Website Homepage / Highest Ranked Page
  7. The quality of inbound links to your website
  8. Make sure that you have a crawlable phone number that matches the Place Page phone number
  9. Make sure that your Local Area Code appears on your Place Page
  10. Your City and County/State in Places Landing Page Title

List your business free of charge

Take advantage of places where you can list your business/website free of charge like:

Roll out the Reviews

Listing your business in the most popular review sites (see above), and encouraging customers to review your products/services, will add extra power to your Google Maps listings. You should also get your customers to add their reviews on the actual Google place listing too – ask your customers to visit Google Hotpot and add a review to your local listing.

Client reviews can be a really powerful way of expanding your customer base. Identify customers who have Google or Yahoo email addresses and send them an email with links asking them to write a review of your products/services. People who already have Google or Yahoo email addresses are the most likely to add a review as they already have an account there and the review will only take them a minute or two to add. As an incentive you could offer them a discount on their next purchase/payment or perhaps you have corporate gifts that you could promise to customers when they have added a review. This could also be a good method of getting reviews on Yelp and Foursquare.

It’s important to keep checking your listings and make sure that you respond to reviews immediately. If the review is positive, thank the reviewer. If the review is negative, you need to find out just what went wrong with the transaction and offer to put it right or offer a discount on their next transaction. This is actually a really powerful tool to show prospective customers that you are willing to provide an excellent level of customer service. All subsequent visitors will be able to see your response and the fact that you were willing to engage directly with your customers to improve their negative experience will foster a level of trust that it would be hard to obtain otherwise. Turn the negative into the positive and make it work for your business.

Google Power

Now let’s get to Google – Google needs to be able to crawl your site and find your address easily – this will boost your place in the listings. You need to “mark up” your physical business address so that the Google bots recognise it as an address. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have all collaborated to create a uniform standard for HTML markup with the Schema.org initiative. Using the standard “schema” will help your website appear prominently in search results. Code that is hidden to your visitors but visible to search engines will describe what’s contained in your content and help you stand out from the crowd.

For example, the old HTML for this website looks like this:

Whereas the same content marked up with microdata looks like this:

Another “Must Do” is to submit a KML sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools. This will send a signal to Google that says “I really am located here”. GeoSitemap Generator will talk you through doing this.

The More the Merrier

If you have several branches or you are based in more than one location, you need to make sure that all are claimed in the Google Place listings in your corporate Google account. Your Google Account must match the URLs of the Places submitted and each location will need its own unique phone number listed or your listing won’t gain approval. If you’re submitting a bulk feed, you need to get it verified.

Dare to be Different

Think outside the box. Wacky or unorthodox actions can be a great way of getting attention for your company – do something totally different – host a Geocache on your premises, sponsor a local community event, have a Fancy Dress at Work day for your staff, get involved in a local community project of some sort.

With everybody being hooked on Reality TV, a really brilliant way of getting attention is to install a webcam at your place of business. A side-benefit of this is that you will get listed in several national and local webcam directories, all of which will link back to your website and drive extra traffic. More advice on this idea can be found here.

These are all ways of gaining positive attention in your neighbourhood – and make sure that you let the local press know about whatever it is you’re doing – a piece in the local rag or on the local news is much cheaper than taking out an advert and will be far more effective.

Check out this Checklist

Make sure that your local listing is as comprehensive as possible. Use the following checklist to make sure:

  1. Your business name should match your actual business
  2. Make sure that your full physical address is visible
  3. Make sure that your phone numbers are all listed clearly
  4. Don’t use a free email address – make sure that your email address matches your domain name, such as info@mydomain.com
  5. Make sure that your website address is listed
  6. A full description of what you do – the products or services that you provide
  7. Categories for all of your products/services
  8. Make sure that you list all the areas that you cover geographically
  9. List your opening hours/hours of business
  10. Be sure to list all the payment options available to your customers/clients
  11. Add images/photos to your website – if possible, add videos – there’s some good advice here on how to make sure that your videos are watchable.
  12. Do a “value-build” by adding additional services – if you sell gifts, offer a gift wrapping service, if you provide a service, offer a small gift every now and then.

Use YouTube

If you post videos on YouTube as a way of demonstrating your products/services, then you need to make sure that they’re added to your Place listings and (most important) that you’ve geotagged them to the same address. This is another signal for the Google bots that the address is real. The more signals, the more power and the higher up you go.

Off you go!

So – if you haven’t already taken advantage of a Google Local listing – you really need to make that a priority. If you do have a Google Local listing, make sure that you’ve done all the things you need to do to boost your way up through the rankings so that you appear at or near the top of the search results that prospective customers are looking at.

I’m Jonny Ross from jrc.agency, connect with me on LinkedIn, and I’d love to get your thoughts on google map marketing below, especially if there is anything you have found that helps / works! Alternatively if you would like to discuss Google Local and Google Place Page Marketing feel free to get in touch.

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