There is plenty of inaccurate advice around the web to lead SMB owners astray when starting to improve their local online presence. The best sources for up-to-date local search information are Moz Local, Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Watch to name a few.
Google uses your NAP to identify your business around the web so it is important that this information is correct and consistent any time your business is referenced. Inconsistencies can cause Google to think of your business as multiple different businesses and customers won’t be able to find you if they find inaccurate information. Make sure you add your NAP correctly to your Google My Business page and your website.
Google gathers information from other major directories and uses the information found on these sites as a ranking factor. Along with Google, make sure that as much of your relevant business info is on Bing, Yelp, Infogroup, ExpressUpdate and Localeze. These listing increase the number and strength of the mentions of your business around the web. You will also want to get your business listed on local directories and directories that are specific to your industry. These are called niche- and location-specific citations.
Local SEO can be a daunting undertaking even for those who are familiar with the industry. From finding incorrect citations to setting up alerts to stay current with Google updates, the simplest local SEO tasks can eat up the better portion of a day without a little help.
You know your business NAP needs to be consistent on the biggest data providers but how do you find out where these are and if your information is correct there? Moz Local has a tool that shows your NAP consistency across the major data aggregators, making it easy to find duplicates and inconsistencies.
No Local SEO campaign, no matter how extensive, is complete without using a little schema markup on your site. Schema.org markup helps search spiders to read information on your website correctly. At the very least, you will want your NAP marked up with schema.org on your home page so they will know exactly where your business is. The best way to do this is with the 51Blocks JSON Schema Generator.
Local SEO is a fickle friend. Google’s expectations change. To keep your ranking spot, you’ve got to stay on top of algorithm updates and new guidelines to change with Google’s tide. While some of these updates are only minor, some have a major impact on local search results.
Staying on top of Google’s updates can be a full time job. The best way to make sure you aren’t affected is to never be SPAMMY. Google is not trying to make life difficult for business owners; they are trying to reduce spam in the search results. It may take longer to see the effects of diligent and best practice SEO techniques, but your hard work will pay off in the long run.
Be logical. Google’s goal is to provide the best answer to the questions being asked by searchers. Often, people only focus their efforts trying to rank for single keywords such as “pizza” or “insurance,” but we are seeing that people often search in terms of questions such as, “Where can I find the best pizza in Denver.” Google favors sites whose content is not littered with spammy SEO, but content that answers specific questions. Of course, staying on top of Google’s ebbs and flows will help you stay on Google’s good side.
Your local strategy shouldn’t be focused solely on rankings. User behavior is a direct factor in how Google will rank your business. Optimization efforts should be geared towards your users, not just the search engines.
How you do this may make or break your business. Doing things the right way will always pay off in the long run. You don’t need an influx of Google reviews all at once. Google wants reviews to be based off of actual user experience and will filter out the ones they believe to be artificial. Google’s guidelines allow you to ask for reviews from your customers but doesn't allow you to offer incentives for 5 star reviews.
Getting more reviews than your competition is likely a good practice, but having an enormous amount may seem suspicious. With reviews, slow and steady wins the race. Hiring a marketing team to post great customer reviews may show temporary results, but can have strong negative impacts in the long run as Google eventually catches on.
This may seem overwhelming to business owners but does not have to be too sophisticated. The best way to get great reviews is to solicit reviews from happy customers with Google accounts. Make it easy for them by sending a link directing them to your Google My Business Page.