We talk about a lot of different web marketing components, from Google’s impending world takeover to simple tactics you can use to make your site better optimized for conversions. But one thing we haven’t talked about nearly as much as we should is local search optimization, a major website marketing component that you must utilize if you have a physical location (or specific region served) for your business. Targeting the Google local search Carousel and local search results can improve the visibility of your company to the people that really matter: those in your city, state, and/or region.
Not only can this help increase targeted website traffic, it can help lead to more sales while getting word out about your company. In other words, if you have a brick and mortar location that relies on local business, you absolutely need to utilize local search optimization, and it all starts with setting up your Google+ Local account.
What is Google+ Local?
Google+ Local is the primary way your business is “submitted” to the Google Local Carousel, which was launched this past June. Touted as an easy way to display information about your business on the web, in conjunction with Google Places for Business, it allows web searchers and consumers to discover pertinent information concerning your company (such as hours, phone numbers, menus, etc.).
But, above all else, Google+ Local makes it possible for your business to show up all the way at the top of the SERPs, where the Local Carousel sits snugly above even the natural results normal SEO is targeting. This makes Google+ Local an extremely powerful tool that, simply put, must be utilized if you hope to hit a home run with local search optimization. Fortunately, I’m here to help you do precisely that!
Setting up your Account
The very first step to going down the path towards local optimization dominance is, obviously, setting up your Google+ Account; here is a quick step-by-step guide so you can do it the right way:
- Create a Google+ Account: Before you do anything, you must go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUp and create a Google+ account (if you don’t already have one). Fill out all the relevant information and make sure that it’s 100% complete and accurate; you don’t want your Google+ account holding back your local SEO efforts.
- Visit the Pages Section in your Profile: Once your Google+ page is set up, it’s time to actually create your Local account. First, navigate to Pages by hovering over the home button (at the top left of your Google+ homepage) and then clicking the Pages tab under the resulting drop down menu.
- Create your Page: Then, once you are at the pages section, select “Create a Page” at the bottom of the screen. On the resulting screen, click “Local Business or Place” to begin the creation process.
- Find your Business: After the previous step, a Google Map will appear asking for you to enter your business. If this is a new listing that had not previously existed, you will need to start from scratch; enter the name or address of your business in the search bar (which won’t show up in the results) and click “I’ve correctly entered the business address. Let me enter the rest of my business details”. If a search result does show up, simply click “No, these are not my businesses” at the bottom of the results page.
- Business Form: The next page that will pop up is a form page, asking for all your business’ important information. Fill it out thoroughly and completely, making sure that you keep all address and company information (phone number, abbreviations, etc.) identical to what you have on your website itself. Make sure to fill out your category page with as many pertinent categories as possible. These might not help improve your rankings on the Carousel, but it will allow your business to show up in more results and allow customers to easily understand what your company is all about.
- Verify your Account: Once you click submit on the form page, you will then be asked to verify your account by postcard. Unfortunately, this can take more than two weeks to complete as you need to wait for the post card to arrive at your physical address; however, without it your account will not be complete. Begin the verification process right away (and make sure your address is correct) so you can get the ball rolling.
- Fill out your Company Information: Now that your account is created, you need to make certain that all your company information is filled out correctly. To complete this step, you need to: Enter your hours, upload at least 5 photos of your company, write a description using pertinent keywords (chosen via a keyword research campaign), make special offers for your customers (optional), and fill out your profile completely. Click Edit Information (or Listings on the sidebar) to edit your business’s information. Continue editing until the business information bar is at 100% complete. Remember, if the business information bar (the grey one) is not at 100%, then you are not finished. Keep filling out information until it is completely filled so you have the best chance at showing up in the Carousel results!
Tips to Keep in Mind
Remember, just having a Google+ Local account isn’t enough to reap its many benefits. After all, just about everyone and their mother can make an account, meaning you are going to have some stiff competition. With that in mind, follow these tips to give yourself the best chance at showing up first in the local Carousel:
- Get Reviews: As Greg Sterling over at SearchEngineLand.com mentions, Google Reviews could be the single most important factor determining your Local Carousel ranking. So, without doing anything shady, do everything you can to ensure people are reviewing and rating your business (highly, of course) on Google; it may just give you that extra push you need to get to the top!
- Be Consistent: If you have other business listings (such as Yelp, Facebook, etc.) make sure you are consistent in all pertinent information. Keep all telephone numbers, addresses, and locations exactly the same throughout your listings, Google+ Local account and website; otherwise, Google may not attribute certain factors to your account, resulting in a possible downgrade in Carousel rankings.
- Be Socially Active: Google+ Local is, before all else, a social medium, meaning that in order to really do well, you need to be active in the social media sphere. Continually update your Google+ profile daily, while providing updates and generating conversation. Remember; the more popular you are on Google+, Facebook, etc., the better rankings you should be able to attain overtime in the Carousel.
Google+ Local: Your Key to Local SEO
If you have a brick and mortar business that relies on your local market, there is nothing more important than a well-utilized local search campaign. Your website will benefit from it, your SEO will benefit from it and, most importantly, your business will gain profits. All it takes is making it to the top of that unassuming little Carousel that has quickly become the biggest weapon in an SEO’s arsenal.