Why Use Google Local Business Listing?

People who use search engines to find local business information do not do so just for the sake of looking. They use the Google Local Business Listings to search for the sake of finding. And when they find, they take action.

These are targeted searches by people who are ready to buy, as evidenced by these findings from a Nielsen Net Ratings-WebVisible study:

70% of searchers will call the phone number on a website;

60% have recommended a business they found on the Internet to a friend;

More than half will research online first and then make an offline purchase from a local business;

14% will send an email to a business they found online; and

11% will complete an online form or opt-in page

If you compare these conversion rates to successful referrals from Yellow Pages listings, local newspapaer and radio ads, the mathematics tends to speak for itself, especially as most companies have absolutely no idea which new customers have come from these offline sources.

That’s why it is vital to claim your entry in the Google Local Business Listing.

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Google Local Business Listing

Some months ago, there was talk about Google losing its current 3-7-10 formation (3 sponsored, 7 local, 10 organic) search engine results pages (SERPs) for a ratio that favoured the paid Adwords links.

However, my searches over the past couple of days have revealed something rather different. Instead of more paid ads, some of the SERPs have integrated the old map listings into the main body of the organic listings.

On these search pages, there are still three sponsored listings at the top but the rest of the lay-out has changed. The map has moved into the right sidebar above the regular sponsored links. But, more than that, all the businesses who are ranked in Google Maps now take up a position at the top of the organic rankings with their map pin position, url, address and phone number very prominently displayed in a sort of cascading effect.

The Effects of The New Google Local Business Listing

Reading comments from the States, where this began to happen some months ago, the maps in the sidebar are remaining visible as you scroll down the page and their map listings have also included a couple of sentences from the description in their Google Places entry plus the number of reviews.

Word has it that Google’s new ranking algorithm for local/place search has been refined and improved and merged with the previously discrete worldwide search algorithms.

This weighting in favour of individual local sites has also got people talking in the States about the value of paying listing directories for premium links since business sites seem to be favoured over such composite block entries.

It also emphasises the importance of getting customer reviews and claiming your Google Places entry. According to the most recent data, about 90% of the 50 million+ Google Places Pages that Google had created in September 2009 were unclaimed and, certainly, my work with a number of local businesses has underlined this.

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How To Write Testimonials

What Does Google Like?

I’ve written before about the holy trinity of the Google Caffeine algorithm – Content, Backlinks and Activity – these are vital to persuading the Google spiders that your site is worth pushing up the rankings for your chosen keywords.

Having testimonials praising your work/service/product is a great way to show that, not only do you provide a great service, but that people are reading and interacting with your site. Happy clients should be encouraged to register their satisfaction on your website.

How To Write Testimonials

However, your satisfied customers need to know how to write testimonials that will encourage prospective clients to pick up the phone but also please the Google spiders. It is not enough for your regular patrons to express their gratitude in monosyllabic superlatives. ‘Great’, ‘Fabulous’ and ‘Outstanding’ are wonderful in a face-to-face reference but, for the purposes of local search engine optimisation, they are far too generalised and, therefore, meaningless.

Any review needs to be a complete sentence which includes a few of the keywords that relate to the site/service/product/industry in question. So, whether it’s a massage that sorted out your injury, a website design service that drove traffic to your business or a yoga class that you enjoyed, those specific words need to be mentioned in the testimonial in order for the comment to be indexed in the correct place by Google. However, care should be taken to ensure that the wording does not seem too contrived as this will lose credibility with the search engines – it isn’t always necessary to be geographically or product specific at all times. For example, you don’t have to specify the type of massage or yoga every time you mention those generic terms.

And, as with any content search engine optimisation, all accompanying pictures should also include relevant keywords in their ‘alt’ tag.

Done with care and combined with great content and relevant backlinks, the writing of testimonials can be a key part of your local SEO strategy.

Having said all that, you should not overload the site with such praise – five to seven should be sufficient – and any additional testimonials should be directed towards some of the free local listing or social search sites on which you are listed, such as Yelp, Free Index or Qype. Some business owners even offer some form of incentive to encourage their clientele to do this – 10% off on their next visit, that sort of thing.

Computer-savvy customers can also be persuaded to ‘like’ your fan page on Facebook, tweet the url of your website on Twitter and bookmark informative pages or posts on social media sites like Stumbleupon, Digg or Delicious.

Great service is no longer about being personally thanked vocally or by letter, it’s getting your expertise out to the wider audience and, if your clients know how to write testimonials effectively, these can really help your Google ranking.

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My Voucher Codes

National discount voucher website company, myvouchercodes.co.uk are starting a ‘local’ page which will show the geographical locations of a number of selected small businesses who are offering special offer discounts to attract new customers.

Take a look and see if there’s something of interest in your area.

The listings for Southend are being put together as we speak.

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Google Places – Local Search Engine Optimisation

Once you decide to make the most of all the advantages social media can offer, the first thing you need to do is set about getting your business indexed by Google.

In some cases, Google already knows you’re there and has listed you in Google Places, in which case, it is vital that you find your listing and claim/verify that you are the owner.

If you cannot find your business, you need to submit your details, making sure that you enter yourself for every relevant category and complete all the available fields.

I found this fabulous cheat sheet at Search Engine Guide

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