When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO) and digital marketing for your business, one must pay attention to things beyond just the website, especially if you own a local business. In the past couple of years, digital marketers have gradually understood the importance of strong online marketing efforts that include local SEO and Google Maps (or Google My Business) as well. Read our blog on Demystifying the Basics of Search Engine Optimization if you are getting started on this for the first time.
If you think it’s enough to just optimise your website to perfection, then you are on the wrong path. Since July 2014, Google uses an algorithm called Pigeon. This is one of the Google’s local search algorithm updates. The aim of this algorithm is to increase the ranking of local listings in a search.
The changes in the ranking made by this algorithm are also shown in the Google Maps’ results. In other terms, when a person searches for a particular kind of business in a locality, the results will be based on user location and the listing available in the local directory.
For example, if you are searching for Spas in Chennai on Google, the search result will be like this:
Even before the pages are ranked, there will be three map listings. The map listing will also have a toggle button – “More Places” that allows you to check for more map listings. Similarly, another search result for “Bakeries in Egmore” shows this result:
When a person searches for “bakeries, Egmore” in the query box, he gets a result where there are three map listings and 5+ organic listings. So, even if you have the best website, it might be there at the 8th or ninth position. How many users would scroll down all the way through 8 or more entries to click on the actual website?
The amount of people who will reach until the end of the page will definitely be lesser than the ones who would click directly on the map listing or any organic listing. Hence, you must constantly watch these listings and optimise your presence in the map and directory sites. The 3-pack map listings by Google can be a marketing game-changer for your business for these have a highly-valuable exposure, thus generating quality traffic and new customers.
Here are some of the best practices that you must follow to implement a successful Google Maps Marketing and Local SEO strategy.
1. It’s is important to maintain a physical address for your business
No matter whether your business is B2B or B2C, it is important to maintain a local address for your company. This is important to rank in the Google local 3-pack map listing. Also, having a local address is an important search engine factor for local SEO. Google has reported that there is an increase in queries containing “near me” – for e.g. restaurants near me or salons near me. The distance from the location of the user is critical in these searches. This is why adding the locality name after the name of your business can help in ranking.
2. Set up and maintain a Google My Business Account
Your Google My Business (GMB) account plays a major role in Google Maps Marketing and local SEO. In fact, your GMB determines and has an effect on your online presence in Google Maps, Search, and G+.
Google My Business offers a simple and easy way for you to create a listing for your business. You can also claim an existing one. You must just make sure that all the information listed in your GMB page is accurate and complete. Adding pictures of your business along with videos (especially 360-degree videos) and the opening date of the business can also help your business gain greater visibility. It’s also important to choose the most appropriate primary and secondary categories to list your business under. This can have a direct impact on what kind searches you show up for.
3. Optimise your business description
Building an effective GMB listing doesn’t just end at creating a listing. There are several features you can implement on your GMB listing to ensure it delivers good results. Your GMB profile should have unique content that has all the information your customers might require. Clickable phone numbers are important as they make it very easy for your customers to contact you. Another way to help your customers get in touch with you is by enabling the messaging option whenever possible. Your store hours (opening and closing hours) should also be included as priority information. If you have special timings for certain days (like weekends or public holidays), make sure you specify those as well.
4. Concentrate on your business’ NAP
Your business’ NAP – Name, Address, and Phone Number should be consistent in both your GMB page as well as on your website. Also, make sure that your business’ NAP appears exactly the same across the web on third-party websites, directory listings, and social media profiles. These citations, i.e. your company’s NAP in other websites and listings, determine the legitimacy of your business and its beneficial if your NAP is available in various websites.
5. Have a separate web page for each of your products or services
Your business might have multiple products or services. Dedicating a separate web page for each and every type of product and service can help in optimising every page. In other words, instead of over-optimising a single page with a lot of keywords, you can optimise each page of your website with the relevant set of keywords around a theme. It doesn’t mean you need to have a page for every keyword, but make sure each type of product/service and each service area (i.e. locations) are covered.
6. Make sure the website URL contains the target keyword
Adding your website URL to your Google Maps listing can be an effective way to direct traffic to your page. However, your goal shouldn’t be to just generate higher traffic, but relevant traffic as well. One of the best ways to do this is by adding the focus keyword (the keyword you are targeting through your listing) on the web page that your listing directs traffic to. This can help you rank for relevant keywords and provide real value to your consumers.
7. Build an effective schema markup
A schema markup helps optimise your listing for search engines. It helps search engines understand what your business is about by speaking in their language. Luckily, it takes minimal effort to structure your listing based on schema markup. There are many tools such as Microdata Generator where you can simply enter your details and they will automatically generate a code which you can then paste in your website’s back-end.
8. Create mindful citations
Be it a citation in Zomato for your business or a mention on another website, you must make sure that the mentions are made sensibly. If you can build citations in trustworthy websites and good listing directories, you can increase the value of your local SEO significantly. Do also check out our infographic on 21 SEO Link Building Techniques.
Some of the things that you need to keep in mind while creating or building citations are:
- Make sure that any citations about your business in 100% accurate, especially the NAP.
- Remove or place a request to remove any duplicate listings in listing directories.
- Try to build mentions in websites that are relevant to your industries.
9. Work towards generating Google Reviews (of course, positive ones)
Reviews in Google Places are a crucial ranking factor for the search engine. Having good reviews in Google will definitely assist you in being listed in the Google 3-pack map listings. You can ask your customers to leave a review. Alternatively, you can also offer incentives or discounts on next purchase for customers who review your service or product on Google. Even reviews from social media channels are now displayed on Google. You may also find it interesting to read our blog on Why Social Media Matters for SEO?. It is important to remember, however, that you shouldn’t add to many reviews at the same time because this can appear suspicious.
10. Embed Google Maps on your site
You should embed the Google Map of your business’ location on your website in the “contact us” page. This technique is a proven way to boost the SEO value of your website. This needs to be combined with Local Schema to give Google complete visibility on what kind of business is being run.
11. Make sure your website & blog are super fast
In recent times there has been a lot of talk on website speed and implementation of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to ensure that experience on mobile and desktop is fantastic. This is critical even for a local business because blog content focussed on your city or location of business can be crucial in attracting the right audience. For example, one of our most popular blogs is on marketing events in Bangalore and we created this to target marketing professionals in the city when we first launched our services there.
12. Update your GMB posts regularly
Google allows you to add posts on your GMB listing which will show up along with the rest of your description. As these posts have a Call-to-Action button, it can be an important tool to drive traffic to your website. GMB posts can also be used to promote special offers, events and product details. Since these posts automatically expire within 7 days, it’s important that you continuously update them.
13. Build a brand
Google and other search engines are starting to not only reward content that is customised to users (in this case content can be customised to a local audience) and they continue to show preference for sites and brands that users already know of. Hence its critical to keep track of how many users are searching for your brand (Google Analytics and Google Search Console can help with that) and not just for the product & service that you are offering.
Many business owners have found Google Maps and Local SEO marketing to be intensely helpful and beneficial for their businesses. Have you started applying these best practices? Let us know in the comments below.