If you’re a local business and you rely on walk in customers, then an online presence is becoming a must. Mobile search is growing at a phenomenal rate as consumers discover how easy the process is. With a good mobile device, a user can search the web in exactly the same way as a desktop computer. The results include maps, reviews, and local businesses that match the search term. According to Navneet Kaushal on SearchNewz:
Google pays huge importance to snippets in search results. Rich snippets can influence local search listings this fact has been highlighted upon by Google many times.
Does Google really pay any attention to rich snippets? The answer is an undoubted yes. In fact, Google has recently expanded product rich snippets coverage to the global market. In the past, it was quite restricted and hardly worth looking at for most businesses. Google has comprehensive information on rich snippets in their Webmaster tools help pages.
What are snippets? Snippets appear below a webpages search result. Every page has a snippet, often, one created by Google based on what it thinks the page is about and how it relates to the search query. You can influence what appears in that snippet by telling Google what the page is about. This done using Rich Snippets, a short piece of HTML code that can be added to each page. Rich snippets can be written using Microdata, Microformats or RDFa code. Google recommends Microdata.
Rich snippets are useful for local search, however, they are restricted to that area of the Internet. They can be used for reviews, people, products, businesses and organizations, recipes, events, music and videos.
Do you provide a service to customer at your business, away from your business, or a combination of both? For businesses that use a go-to-client business model, you may wake up one day to find your business’s listing has disappeared from Google’s local search results. That will hurt your business and how much will rely on the amount of business you generally receive through local search. For some businesses, they could find they suddenly have no clients.
Google’s instructions for businesses when filling in their details included the following:
Don’t receive customers at your location? Serve customers at their location? Select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard — if you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps.
The problem is, most businesses have ignored this instruction, mainly because it was not made obvious when a business entered its data. An added problem is the set-and-forget mentality that most business owners take (most web users actually). Have you claimed your business through Google Places and filled in all of your business details? Have you been back to check its accuracy, or to update information such as address, telephone, or website details? Most people don’t.
Google is now checking businesses and those that predominantly serve customers away from their premises, and who haven’t hidden their addresses, are dropping off the search results. If you do use a go-to-client business model, and you have a Google Places listing, it only takes a couple of minutes to check your data, and to check the ‘Do not show my business address on my Maps listing’. It could be better than losing access to a channel that delivers a lot of customers. Of course, if you don’t receive any customers through Google local search, you don’t really need to do anything. Mirriam Ellis has more on this issue at SEOMOZ.
Google made 40 changes to it’s search functions during February. A record for Google apparently, even if many of the changes are very subtle ones. Of interest to many small business owners will be the changes made to local search. This is one area that Google has worked hard to improve, and for many small business, the results have been very encouraging. It can be hard for a small business to compete with large national businesses and local search has really helped to level the playing field.
Before looking at the changes made to local search, we do recommend that every business, particularly if you’re a small business owner, that you claim your business through local search. Most businesses are already listed, they just require claiming, and the benefits of claiming far outweigh any negatives (if you can find any). In fact, not claiming your business could cause more harm over time.
So what changes have Google made to local search? Google have very kindly published all forty changes. The changes that affect local search include:
Improvements to ranking for local search results. This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
More locally relevant predictions in YouTube. We’ve improved the ranking for predictions in YouTube to provide more locally relevant queries. For example, for the query [lady gaga in ] performed on the US version of YouTube, we might predict [lady gaga in times square], but for the same search performed on the Indian version of YouTube, we might predict [lady gaga in India].
Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.
Improvements to freshness. We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.
For small businesses, the last two are of particular note. If you publish content regularly, for example, on a blog, then combination of fresh content and improved local results could help drive your pages closer to the top of page one. It should be pointed out, however, that this will only occur if you include local SEO concepts to your content – this could include regional names in content titles, service areas on every page of your content, along with any other regional information that could help a search engine target your site.
Just when you thought you had seen and heard it all, Amazon takes on a brave move to take business away from small business owners. This has caused small business owners to complain to the Retail Industry Leaders Association about the unfair competition.
Amazon has released a free app for iphone and smart phone users so that consumers can then go into any brick and mortar business, find something they are interested in, scan the bar code and see if Amazon has it at a lower cost.
This is the reason that small business owners are so mad. This is not really comparison shopping, it is more of a search for Amazon by users of the app. If the shopper finds what they are looking for, instead of buying it in the store, they will go home and order it online, get a discount for using the app and avoid paying sales tax.
And, to top it off, the new app comes out just before Christmas when all shoppers are trying to get in last minute purchases as cheaply as possible. Many business owners see it as an unfair advantage to Amazon. It could hurt an already shaky economy for small businesses.
The price checker app will check multiple items simply by scanning the bar code, taking a picture or speaking out loud what the product is. Of course, the product has to be an exact match. You can’t compare a Sony Playstation to a Nintendo. But, it is still easy to see why business owners are hopping mad. If a lot of shoppers use this new price checker, all they are going to do is visit several stores, compare the prices in the store to what Amazon is offering, and then a potential sale is lost.
It’s not that business owners don’t want Amazon to have any customers, it’s the fact that it is an unfair advantage. Brick and mortar businesses have to have prices a little higher because of sales tax. Amazon customers do not have to pay sales tax.
All in all, Amazon is not on the friendly list where small business owners are concerned. But, hopefully, most shoppers will want it now no matter the cost and still buy it while they have their hands on a product instead of having to wait for it to come in the mail. Especially here at Christmas when the mail service will be way behind and a chance of a present might not arrive in time.
There are all kinds of ways to advertise your small business on the Internet. From social media to search engine optimization (SEO) to classified sites. While all are good, which one really stands out? More small businesses are going with SEO because the visitors to their sites got there by doing a search for something that related to their business.
This drives rate conversions up more than social media as a search is more targeted to a specified thing. Don’t get me wrong, many businesses use social media and are quite successful with it. That is great! But, effective SEO delivers far more traffic and converts better.
It works like this. Someone, a consumer, is searching for plus size clothing. Their search on Google will be “plus size clothing”. Once the search button is clicked on, Google does it’s thing and pulls all the businesses that have plus sized clothing. That’s how you get the long list of sites to choose from.
Eventually, when you get more and more customers, you will move up through the ranks to the first page. And, that’s exactly where you want to be. It’s already been proven, most people searching for something typically will not move past the firsts page of search results.
You’re thinking that’s great, but how do I do it? If you are not sure how to go about optimizing your place on the internet, it would be a good time to seek out SEO consultants. SEO consultants can sit down with you and customize a plan that will benefit you the most. And, it will be much easier to let the SEO consultant do that for you as they know what they are doing.
It may cost a little to get a consultant, but you don’t want to let your website sit with only a handful of visitors. That will not do you any good at all. A sound investment of hiring an SEO consultant will drive more traffic to your site and your conversion rates will rise. Now that’s a plan.
As I’ve written before, having a successful SEO strategy involves a number of elements, with getting your content out there being foremost among them. But having links is still an important part of the larger strategy. Recently, I’ve written about the importance of making your links diversified and able to fit naturally into a body of text. I’d like to now try to complement that advice with another important link consideration: locality.
A successful inbound link is one that can appropriately mirror a potential consumer’s internet search. If your business sells replacement tires, for example, the keyword “replacement tires” may appropriately boost your page rank with your target consumer. The consumer will, theoretically, go online, search Google for the keyword, and then click on a website with one of the highest page ranks for search results.
But consumers treat Google searches as a modern form of white pages: not only do they seek out a product, such as replacement tires, but they want to find that product somewhere near their home. Someone who lives on the East Coast would have no interest in a tire company located in California, no matter how applicable that company may be to their search or how high it may appear on Google’s results.
As a consequence of this, many Google users will try to track down a business by entering a desired product and then a local area. They may search, for example, for “replacement tires Chicago” or “replacement tires 60614.” These searches are far more beneficial to the potential consumer. Not only can they narrow on a business, but they can find one that operates in their area.
A business that is looking to boost their SEO through inbound links should keep this in mind. If you operate in a local area, making that area part of your keyword can improve your page rank while saving you money. After all, most people click on one of the first few results when performing a Google search. To move up the list and have a page rank that high for the search “replacement tires” is quite a tall order. For most companies, it would probably require a tremendous amount of time and money. But being one of the top results for “replacement tires Pittsburgh” is probably more attainable. And – most importantly – it can ultimately bring you more business.
How does Google Maps rank your business for searches conducted? Here’s a short video that explains how that happens. HINT: In a nutshell, it’s based on three ranking factors.
Watch the video, then we’ll talk about it.
Location, Location, Location
Even online, location is important. But your Google Maps listing will be ranked based on a user’s search query and your location from their search location. For instance, if you search Google Maps for “small business marketing wayzata, mn,” then you’ll find Small Business Mavericks in the No. 1 position. Conduct a similar search, however, for small business marketing companies in Minnetonka and we drop to the No. 2 position. Make that search for Apple Valley and we drop to No. 10.
As the searcher is farther and farther away from our location, the less relevant we become for their search query. That’s an important criteria in some industries such as hotels and restaurants where services cannot be delivered online. Location is very important.
The Relevance Factor
Relevance has to do with placing your business in the right category. If you are an automotive shop that performs tune ups and oil changes but do not do body repair, then you’ll want to make sure you list your business in the right categories. After all, you want to be found for the search queries people make and relevance is a key factor.
What Is Prominence?
Prominence is a different matter. It has to do with how important your business appears to be within your niche. This is likely judged on the basis of your reviews and ratings and whether or not other Google Maps users save you in their searches and add you to their maps.
What Do You Have Control Over?
To a certain degree, you have control over some aspects of each of these criteria, but there are other aspects of them that you do not have control over – particularly location and prominence.
You do not have control, for instance, over the location of the searcher. You do, however, have control over where you say you are located in your profile. Be honest and don’t try to game the system or it could hurt you. List your business location and see how it affects your rankings in Google Maps.
With prominence, you can ask your customers to review and rate your business, but you have no control over what they say. Just provide a good service and you won’t have to worry about bad reviews.
When it comes to relevance, you have a lot of control. If you place your business in the right category, use keywords in your description, and use traditional SEO tactics to a certain degree, then you can influence the relevance factor in the Google Maps algorithm.
You may be tired of hearing about it by now, but the predictions have been made. The future of search is local. A new study indicates this to be the case.
Now, the question remains: What does it mean when they say that local search ad revenue is climbing? In a nutshell, it means that Google is going to make a lot more money. And Bing will make a little bit, too.
But for local small businesses, it also means that search ads will be a primary online marketing channel. Are you surprised by that?
Figures show that by 2015, local search ad revenue will hit $8.23 billion. Online and interactive advertising will hit $16 billion. It looks like local online advertising is poised to grow. Surprise, surprise.
Those of us “in the business” have seen it coming for at least two or three years now. Local online advertising, and search in particular, is going to be the area that a lot of your competitors focus on. They will be making money on that effort. The question for you, as a small business owner with a local clientele, is: Will you be making money on it?
Now is the time to start planning for your local online marketing. Get ahead of the curve and you stand a good chance of staying ahead.
Local.com is carving out a niche for itself in local search. This is good because local search is one of the most important marketing channels online right now. Most small businesses serve a local market. Furthermore, many service industries can do nothing but serve local markets.
For instance, you can’t provide dental services over the Internet. Nor can you change a spark plug or change an automobile’s oil online.
There are some things that you just can’t do through wires and cables. Because of that, many searchers will always be looking for information on local businesses. These include restaurants, movie theaters, medical services, house cleaning, massages, and retail shopping of various sorts.
There is a reason that Google spends a lot of time, money, and resources on making its local search product better. But I think Google, as good as it is for many things, could use a little competition in the local space not to mention its obvious shortcomings when it comes to this specific aspect of search. Local.com fills a very important niche.
So how can local businesses benefit from Local.com? No. 1, you should have your physical address and phone number mentioned somewhere on your website. It might also help if you add some geographically targeted content on your website. You want to give search engines – local and otherwise – every opportunity to geotarget you so that local searchers looking for your type of business can find you. Local.com is an up-and-coming player and could prove to be very important in years to come.
It might seem strange to consider it news that Google is taking its local search offerings local, but as Frank Reed put it, they’re putting a human face on it.
One interesting thing that Frank brings out in this article, and if you perform a lot of local searches you probably already were aware of this, is that you don’t have to add a local qualifier with certain search terms like “pizza” and “movie theaters.” Google does that automatically for you based on your IP address, or based on your personalized settings if you are a user of Google’s personalized search features.
I’m pretty certain, and I’m sure Frank would agree, that Google Places will be the main focus on Google’s local efforts far into the future. No matter what innovations the search engine introduces, it will likely involve Google Places in some way.
This is why I think the No. 1 most important thing for any local small business to do is to claim their listing in Google Places (and in Bing’s and Yahoo!’s local directories as well). That should be your starting place for online local marketing.
I’m with Frank on one thing. I’m anxious to see what Google is going to do with local search marketing based on this effort to “reach out” to small businesses.”