How Google’s local search can help your business

OldStoryImageGoogle dominates the search market, accounting for almost 70 percent of all searches. And this includes local searches for businesses, products and services.

What’s a local search? It is a search that contains not only a question about “what” you are looking for but also “where” you’re looking. Examples of local searches might be:

“Gainesville, Fl Water Damage”

“Newberry Pizza”

“Gainesville Auto Insurance”

When you perform local searches, the results you get will often lead with the Google Places “7-pack,” as the example at top shows. This style of local search, featuring a map tagged with the top seven Google Places (formerly called Google Local) listings, can still be found in many common searches.

These types of results provide great exposure for local businesses that take advantage of the free Google Places listings, which include contact info, reviews, images, map locations, etc. But search results like these hurt companies that don’t register with Google Places.

The reason is simple: Google Places 7-pack listings take up so much room on the first page of search results that other businesses are pushed to the bottom of the first page or even worse, to the second page.

So even if you invest heavily in search engine optimization and other methods for improving your organic search rankings, you could end up with reduced website traffic and fewer web referrals just because you’re not on Google Places.

Local Search Changes Benefit Businesses

Google is now evolving local search results in ways that can help your business, if you take advantage of the system. Google Places results are now integrating with organic search to produce searches like the ones shown at bottom for “Gainesville Fl Pizza.”

Nicknamed the “Google Places 0-pack,” these new search results are Google’s way of providing the best user experience for the searcher by combining a business’ Google Places information with the organic search listing.

Why is Google making this change? One reason is to reduce search spam, which has allowed out-of-area companies that invest heavily in search engine optimization to dominate search listings.

By integrating search results with local business and map data, Google can identify legitimate local businesses and position them above large national brands that do not have physical locations in North Central Florida.

5 Steps to Take Advantage of Google’s New Results

To take advantage of Google’s new search results formula and its preferential treatment for local businesses, you need to make sure your website is performing at its peak. Here are five suggestions to make that happen.

Register with Google Places. If you have not already registered your business with Google Places, do it now. Simply visit http://places.google.com/business. You will have the ability to add photos, special offers, videos and much more. Google also provides valuable statistics that will help you understand who is visiting your Places listing and what they were searching for.

Cultivate local links to your website. Local search rankings are now putting more weight on links from local sources. Sites such as the Chamber of Commerce and other local business directories should link to your business website. Important tip: When another site agrees to link to yours be sure to verify that the address and contact details it uses are correct.

Invest in SEO. Good search engine optimization remains vital to the success of your website. SEO ensures that your website ranks well for local search terms such as “Accident Attorney North Florida” and Google will then be more likely to place prominence on your local search listing. At the very least, optimize your website’s title tags and descriptions.

Get Local Reviews. This is not a new tip; user reviews have played a role in ranking Google local listings for a long time. Reviews equal credibility and building a list of reviews in your Google Places listing will help establish your business’ value to both your potential customers and Google.

Engage Social Media. It is obvious that Google factors in social media usage in how it ranks websites. As sites like Facebook and Twitter continue to grow, so will their influence on your search rankings.

Will local search continue to evolve? Of course. But however it advances, it’s clear Google’s emphasis on helping local businesses rank, and businesses that act on these changes will reap the benefits of higher rankings, increased website traffic and new customers.

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