The news that Google is folding its Places service into Google+ and calling it Google+ Local has been covered extensively over the past few weeks, but for all of the hype it really hasn’t had a big impact on the rankings of local search results...YET. How Google ends up using Google+ Local will play out over the next few months as they move administrative features from the Places interface over to Google+.
In this post, I wanted to go back to basics and talk about what each of us can do to maximize our chances of getting good placement in the local search results. I used our experience at HubShout and I cross referenced David Mihm’s recent Local Search Ranking Factors 2012.
Tip 1 - Be close to the place your prospect is searching
This is a bit tongue and cheek because this isn’t something that you can immediately control. Sadly, though, you are more likely to be in the local search results when your business address is close to the geographic location that your prospect is searching. If you are a business with a large service area (i.e., plumbers or carpet cleaners), getting top results across your entire service area will be difficult.
Tip 2 - Complete your Google+ Local business profile
As of now, you still manage your Google+ Local through the Google Places admin area. Make sure you have completed your entire profile. That means 1) business description 2) business categories 3) 10 pictures 4) 5 videos (use animoto or a similar tool to make a video slideshow) 5) Include link back to your website 6) hours etc...
Tip 3 - Check your domain authority
I like one of the quotes in David Mihm’s report above. Another local SEO, Mike Ramsey, says “If citations were new the new link, then links were the new citation in 2012.” That is well put as we have seen the merging of local and organic results in Google’s blended search results layout. The authority of your website is often a tie-breaker when looking at two or more well optimized Google Places pages. Use our webgrader to check your domain authority metric. If it is anything under 30, you should consider a traditional link building program that will build your domain authority.
Tip 4 - Optimize Your Website
The link between your website and your Google+ Local profile is more important than ever with the importance of Tip 3 - Domain Authority. Make sure your 1) NAP - Name, Address, Phone Number matches the NAP on your Google+ Local page 2) Unique pages on website for each of your target Google+ Local categories 3) Use Schema.org microformat for address, review, video, product information.
Tip 5 - Implement a review collection strategy
Authentic reviews entered by google users is the best way to get a boost from reviews. To make it easy, we recommend sending a request in your monthly newsletter or setting up an auto-responder that goes to new customers each month. The authenticity of reviews will likely grow in importance with the move to Google+ Local. Google will be able to more easily filter out fake reviews or at least make it harder for them to count (don’t underestimate the resourcefulness of people trying to gain the upper-hand).
Tip 6 - Hire us to do it for you :)
If this seems like a lot of work.. it is. If you need help, give us a call. If you are an agency that is looking to expand your capabilities, check out our private-labeled seo reseller program.