Local SEO is important for many businesses, in fact, probably for most businesses. Although being found nationally is great, being found locally can often prove to be more profitable and maybe even give an easier route to market.
For example, there's absolutely no point in being found for the search term “florist” by someone in Aberdeen if your shop is on the outskirts of Birmingham.
Local is the way to go, but how do you do it?
Well in this article I'm going to concentrate on just one thing, and that is the granddaddy of all local business directories: Google My Business.
If you've ever done a local search, whether it be for a taxi service, doctor's surgery or kebab shop, you'll have noticed that at the top of the page you get a list of results that stand out:
That's what I get when I search for a kebab. Feeling hungry now.
A couple of things to note. My search term was “Kebab”. I didn't tell Google in the search box where I wanted my kebab from, but it knows where I am so it assumes I don't want to travel far so it gives me local results.
This is important. Google knows where you are using a number of very clever techniques, but one of the most obvious is by using GPS. If you use a laptop, tablet or mobile phone to access the Internet, then there's a very good chance it will have a GPS receiver in it. This is likely turned on and telling whatever application asks, exactly where you are.
So, when you search for “kebab” or “taxi” or “emergency dentist”, it automatically searches within the local area.
But how does it know which businesses to show?
Tell Google Where Your Business Is
Obviously you need to tell the Big G where you're based, and it's actually quite easy because they have a system called “Google My Business”.
This link tells you all about it: https://www.google.com/business/
Assuming you've signed in and you ‘view' your business, it will show you something like this:
It knows where we are from our address, and because the street view camera has been up our street, it shows a nice picture. In this case, the Post Office, but it's not meant to be totally accurate.
Now I could go give you a long post on what you should do next, but take a look at the screen and you'll notice something, and that is that it's incredibly easy. Just fill in the blanks and you'll be good to go.
A few notes though:
Click on “Manage photos” and fill that page with images. It gives a number of categories – upload as many images as you can to each one. Obviously keep them relevant, not just any old guff, but upload as much as you can.
When preparing your photos, make the image names descriptiive, too. For example:
DSC7800.jpg – this tells you nothing.
Birthday cards on shelf.jpg – this tells you lots.
Double check your category, make sure it's spot on and don't attempt to fool anyone with it. If you're a kebab shop, don't pass yourself off as an Italian restaurant just because lots of people search for those in your area.
Ask for reviews
Many restaurants have set up terminals in their foyer where people can type in reviews. However, this may be a dodgy tactic. Some have said it works, some have said it's a form of spam and Google may penalise you. Don't do it.
Instead, invite people to review you by leaving a note on your receipt.
Also, respond to reviews. Don't be afraid if you get a bad one, just respond to it in kind and try to find out why the person was aggrieved. Sometimes, responding well to a bad review can get you better feedback than having a load of good ones.
Keep Google+ Fresh
Google My Places is part of the Google family, and this means, <sigh>. Google+. Yes, we know you hate it, but if it helps, and it's easy, why not do it?
At the very least, post your latest blogs. This will show that you're keeping everything fresh, and seeing as not many other businesses are doing it, could be all you need to get your site ranking, at least locally.