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What Does Google Say About Local SEO?

What Does Google Say About Local SEO?

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

Much ink is spilled on the topic of search engine optimization—but at the end of the day, there’s one perspective that matters the most. Of course, that perspective is Google’s.

To that end, Google has reported that roughly two thirds of smartphone users are likely to purchase from companies that take the time to localize their online presence—that is, tailoring their online information to the end user’s geographic location.

To put it differently, consumers are using Google to locate businesses near them—and the companies that accommodate are the ones who will win those consumer dollars. How, though, can your business ensure a properly optimized, properly localized presence?

Looking to Google

Again, we might look to Google for insights. According to Google, a company’s rank within Google My Business (a primary vehicle for local SEO) is determined by three basic factors—and those factors are relevance, distance, and prominence. 

To rank well in a local search—and in particular to claim one of the coveted spots within the so-called “Google three-pack”—it’s important to have a Google My Business account that’s optimized for all three of these factors.

If you haven’t already claimed your account, take a minute to do so now; it’s free, and setting it up is pretty easy. (Note that you will need to provide your business phone number so that Google can verify you.) From there, we can turn our attention to these three major ranking factors.

Optimizing for Relevance

We’ll start with relevance. Simply put, Google wants to reward business listings that are relevant to the search query. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Pick a category for your business. Be as specific as possible here. For example, if you’re a pediatric dentist, look for that option—don’t just settle for “dentist.” Likewise, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, select that option. Just inputting “lawyer” is too general.
  2. Add a business description. Google currently allows you to add up to 1,000 words in descriptive text. Use this space to your advantage! In addition to including target keywords, also make sure you get specific in listing some of the services you offer. Outline all of the practice areas that are relevant to your business.
  3. Input the rest of your business information. In addition to your business description, make sure you add the rest of the information Google asks for, most notably your company’s contact information. Ensure that your NAP (name, address, phone number) are listed just as they are on your business website. Consistency is key.

Optimizing for Distance

The second ranking factor that Google emphasizes is distance.

Simply put, Google tends to give priority to the businesses that are closest to the search engine user. This is one of the primary local SEO ranking signals.

The question is, what can you actually do to optimize for distance? One option is to create some location-specific pages on your website (noting certain service areas, for instance) and then link to them from your Google My Business account.

To make these pages maximally effective, make sure you:

  • Include some geographically-specific keywords—e.g., “Charlotte NC plumbing company,” “Atlanta personal injury firm.”
  • Use this phrase in your title tags, meta description, and image file names.
  • Include the city in the page permalink.
  • Also make sure to list your NAP information (see the previous section).

Optimizing for Prominence

Finally, let’s take a look at prominence.

This is where you can really set yourself apart from other businesses—and here’s how:

  1. Add images to your profile. Make sure you have more images than your local competitors do!
  2. Get reviews. Again, try to get more than your competitors. One way to do this is to email your most loyal customers and simply ask for their feedback. Including a review link on your website can also be helpful.
  3. Get citations. Try to get listed in local directories, the Chamber of Commerce page, etc. The more off-site citations you can get, the better. Ideally, these citations will include your NAP information, consistent with how it’s listed on your website and on your Google My Business account.
  4. Keep your profile up to date. If you make changes to your hours of operation, or add new service areas, make sure you revise your profile accordingly.

Get Found by Local Customers

Of course, every business wants to be found by local customers—and Google has told you how to make that happen! It’s a no-brainer to set up a Google My Business account with these three ranking factors in mind.

We’d love to talk with you more about what your company can do to boost its local visibility. To start that conversation, reach out to the team at enCOMPASS Agency any time!