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Being listed on Google My Business (GMB) is an essential part of any local SEO strategy.
But how can businesses with multiple locations make sure they aren’t penalized in search rankings?
Produced in association with SweetIQ.
Google My Business
Google My Business was rolled out in 2014 to make it easier for local businesses to be found via search. It had an added benefit of allowing businesses to stay on top of reviews, and to perform analytics on interactions like clicks, views, calls and requests for directions.
In other words, it became the first step in any local search marketing strategy.
Today, a well-maintained GMB listing remains a vital source of traffic and, ultimately, revenue – especially for businesses competing for location-specific keywords.
Google’s ‘three pack’ of local search results, which is triggered by search terms with local intent like “restaurants Venice Beach”, is given significantly more prominence than organic results in both desktop and mobile SERPs. In fact, organic results are not even visible above the fold for mobile users.
Google’s mobile SERP for ‘restaurants Venice beach’ (left) vs ‘Venice beach’ (right). Screenshots courtesy of Andy Favell
Essential for SEO
Since Google reduced the number of local results from 7 to 3 in 2015, it has become more important than ever for businesses to feature as high as possible in these results. And with 1 in 3 Google searches now having local intent (according to digital marketing expert Jordan Kasteler) there is more traffic up for grabs than ever.
On the flip-side, competition for this traffic is fierce, meaning mistakes can cost you dearly. The Local Search Association estimates that over $10bn worth of potential annual sales are lost because of missing or conflicting information in Google My Business listings.
For businesses with multiple locations, this is a real problem; each business location has a unique address and contact details. How can big businesses ensure they aren’t penalized for conflicting information on their Google My Business profile?
Luckily, Google is well aware of this problem, and allows business owners to claim multi-location business listings. However, in order to be verified by Google as such, a few conditions must first be met. A business must:
- Have at least 10 locations
- Not be a service business
- Not be an agency managing several clients
The local 3-pack for ‘pizza delivery New York’ returns Domino’s Pizza – a chain with many hundred locations
Optimize your multi-location business
After claiming your multi-location business on GMB, the next step is to optimize your listing. But before you can do this, you must first understand what factors influence your chance of appearing in the local ‘three pack’.
The most important of these is accuracy across all platforms. This means making sure every piece of information about your business is consistent across all the websites it appears on, including Yellow Pages, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Apple Maps, Hotfrog and, of course, your own website.
Google bots crawl all of these pages and, when encountering information about your business, will compare it to your GMB listing to establish its validity. Any inconsistencies will raise a red flag about the accuracy of your information and will likely lead to your GMB listing being penalized in the rankings.
How do you ensure accuracy between your listings?
1. Claim and verify all your locations using a single, unique GMB account.
Make sure you delete any duplicate listings or accounts that may have been created by other staff members in other locations.
2. Ensure your business name, address and phone number (‘NAP’) are an exact match wherever they appear.
The easiest way to achieve this is to simply copy and paste from your GMB listing.
3. Optimize your store locator on your central website so it’s crawlable by Google.
Google considers your website the most ‘official’ source of information regarding your company, so ensuring Google can access it is essential.
4. Use a microsite for each of your store locations.
This gives each location a unique reference and separate About page – each with an accurate NAP that Google can crawl.
5. Use a Local Marketing Platform to manage all of this information.
It allows you to see what Google sees, and check and edit data for all your store location from a single interface – ensuring complete accuracy across all platform. Most can also provide advice on optimizing store locators for your website, along with detailed analytics on user interactions, traffic sources and more.
To learn more about optimizing GMB listings for multi-location businesses, and to understand how to turn GMB data into actionable insights, download the SweetIQ Guide to Google My Business.
SEO for businesses in 2017 will be revolutionary.
Within the space of 3 years, it has become significantly easier to find businesses, stores or items nearby, creating a shift in user’s intent and search behavior.
Users no longer have to include their location in search queries, such as inputting “coffee shops in Queens” into Google.
This trend has given way to the “near me” search query – Google “coffee shop near me” while in Queens, and Google will fetch coffee shops in your local area.
According to digital marketing expert Jordan Kasteler, 1 in 3 of all Google searches has local intent. This means users search for and expect local information in SERPs, and now more than ever, priority should be given to optimizing on-site and off-site strategies for local SEO.
Below are a few things to note when optimizing for local SEO in 2017.
#1: Title tags and meta descriptions still work
Title tags and meta descriptions are on-site HTML elements which reflect the content of your page, and are shown in SERPs and browser tabs as text. With Google increasing the width of the SERP to 600px, the length of title tags falls between 40 and 50 characters (best practices) while meta descriptions should be a maximum of 160 characters.
Titles display what your page is about to both visitors and search engine crawlers, while meta descriptions summarize the content of your page. Your title tags and meta descriptions must include the keywords you are trying to rank for, for example, “cheap hotels in Las Vegas” (title tag includes a keyword and locality).
Titles and meta descriptions must be unique, compelling and descriptive, as this can affect click-through rates from search results to your page.
Using the length guidelines above, ensure your title and descriptions are displaying in full on the SERP. Use tools like Yoast’s SEO plugin, SERP preview tool, and SEOmofo to emulate how your title tags and meta description will look in search results.
#2: Keyword research
Keyword research represents the very foundation of your SEO campaign and when done properly, keywords can drive traffic and rankings for your web pages. Keywords represent terms and phrases people type as search queries to find local businesses.
Keyword research for local SEO involves optimizing your web pages for keywords with geo-modifiers – i.e. place names and locations. For a furniture making business, a generic, non-local keyword might be “furniture makers” but for businesses optimizing for local SEO, an acceptable keyphrase would be “furniture makers Portland” or “furniture makers Portland Oregon”.
To optimize your keyword research for local SEO, brainstorm keywords or phrases with a geo-modifier that customers might use when searching for a business like yours. Run generated phrases or words through Google Keyword Planner or Keyword.io to get keyword ideas together with monthly search traffic stats.
Keyword research can be time-consuming, but rewarding when done properly. For a more in-depth guide, check out our complete guide to keyword research for SEO.
#3: Optimize for Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
Google My Business, formerly known as Google Places, allows you to display your business hours, phone number and directions to your office on Google Search and Maps. This service is free and will aid your SEO efforts, as your business is listed when customers search for your services.
When optimizing your Google My Business page, remember to upload your business logo and photos of your business (staff, office building, etc.).
For an online business with no physical location, you can hide your address, but be sure to fill in and validate every other piece of information entered. A misplaced phone number or wrong address can result in you losing customers and revenue.
#4: Local structured data
Structured data, sometimes referred to as schema markup, are codes which are added to websites to provide search engines with in-depth information about your products, your business offering, prices of your products, location-based offerings and much more.
According to ACMQUEUE, a measly 31.3 percent of websites use schema markup, and most of these on a very basic level. Schema markup on your websites make your business stand out in the SERP with things like rich snippets, which in turn will boost your CTR.
There are various options for businesses when implementing Schema markup, you can optimize your website according to your business type (dentist, travel agency, etc.), events (business listing in upcoming events) and location (location markup).
Google is forcing marketers to use schema markup and is rewarding websites who use this feature as structured data helps crawlers understand your web pages and the content in it. To check if your website is optimized for Schema markup, you can check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
The above points are a drop in the ocean for optimizing for local SEO, but implementing the points above will have you generating results and better conversion rates.
Eimantas Balciunas is the CEO of Travel Ticker.
Google has launched a new feature which gives business owners the ability to streamline the process of reclaiming ownership of their GMB listing.
The post Google My Business is Now Automating Ownership Conflict Resolution by @MattGSouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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