If you are a local service provider - Hotel, Doctor, Lawyer, Dentist, Plumber or (whatever), then appearing on page one of Google for Local search results is critical to your business or practice. Local Search Marketing is constantly changing with each Google algorithm update, to which there are over 200 per year. Here is a short appetizer to get you current on important SEO For Local Service Providers.
Google of Yesteryear
Like the early days of Google's organic search, the introduction of local results & Google Maps was a simple system with little qualifications for placement. It was easy to game the system with keyword-stuffing, fake addresses and storefronts, Before Google had the mechanisms in place to filter the good from the bad, it was the Wild West for placement in local results.
Several iterations later, the local results are much more screened and harder to obtain a spot for your business. There are many factors now determining rank in Local Results.
Some of Those Include:
- Proximity. Is the physical business location close to the location defined?
- Relevancy. Is the business relevant to the search query or what it is asking?
- Prominence. Does this business stand out above other relevant businesses?
- Device. What device is delivering the query? Mobile or Desktop?
Historically, the location was defined by the query, (e.g., Pizza in Santa Monica), but since the Pigeon update, the searchers themselves became the location point. This is a major difference, and something we need to think deeply about in our targeting both organically and on PPC.
Not only do you have to consider your location in your SEO and PPC efforts but you also have to consider generic phrases with the location implied, like "Order Pizza". These are different things from an SEO standpoint but either way, you need to take it into account, as well as what device a person will likely use to perform the query.
Google is also making assumptions about mobile queries and changing the search results accordingly. It's critical in local, or any other online marketing, to consider the device: what it can tell you about your visitor and what information or experience you should be presenting to them.
Because of all these factors, SEO Ranking Reports have become almost impossible to create and local businesses should not stress day to day over rankings. The results are going to change depending on location, device, time of day, etc., BUT someone should clearly be monitoring your position on a monthly basis.
Ranking High On Local Search
The first place to start is Google My Business. This is what controls how your business appears on Google Maps and often mobile devices. Claiming your business location is critical. It's a little confusing as they force you to open a Google Plus User Account, to manage your business listing. They will most likely send a good ole fashioned postcard via snail mail to make sure your business address is legit. Once you get in, its like a Facebook business page where you enter business information and upload a cover image.
What About Reviews
Reviews for your business are great. Obtaining them is a constant battle and something all businesses must do. Even one review every other month is a good start. Get them wherever you can - Google Plus, Yelp, Facebook, HealthGrades, etc. HOWEVER, Google Plus reviews don't have as large an impact on local search as many people think. They're crucial for brand and reputation management, and play an SEO role - but they aren't the catalyst to top rankings that they used to be. It's definitely in the algorithm, but not weighted as high as some might like. You can see this easily with many sites with low reviews outranking sites with dozen of good ones.
We expect this to change as Google gets better at filtering out spam sites, fake addresses & false reviews.
Stick To The Basics
Google's core SEO principles have not changed so stick to the core SEO strategies of providing relevant and fresh content. Include your targeted keywords in all your copy and keep your Google Business (Maps) listing active and you will soon bubble to the top of Local Search Results, ahead of your competitors. It takes a little know-how, some time and effort.
It is critical for local service providers to invest in some sort of digital marketing each month. Someone needs to be keeping an eye on your online reputation, footprint and ever changing Google algorithm because your competitors certainly are. You're in luck ... It just so happens we know a guy!
Thanks For Reading !