Just having a website isn’t enough these days to get a consistent flow of leads and sales. Your site is one of hundreds or even thousands that serve the same geographic area. If someone searches for your product or service by your location, does your company show up in the results?
If your answer is "no" or "I don't know," then you potentially have an issue with local SEO which means you might be losing out to your nearest competitors. You should definitely read up on local SEO in our previous post on the topic, but the one thing you need to do to get more local traffic (and hopefully customers) from Google search is to claim your local business listing.
What is a Local Business Listing?
Local business listings in Google are separate from the standard search engine ranking positions (SERPs), though they do sometimes overlap. Consider for a moment how people search for businesses.
If the office manager for a law firm in Tampa needs IT support, she’s more likely to search for “IT support Tampa, fl” than she is to search for just “IT support”.
Your website plays a large role in your company showing up for this kind of localized search query. You can optimize your business information to reflect your location, create custom pages on the site referencing the work you do in Tampa, and ensure your local contact information is consistent across the site. So think of your site as part one of the process.
Part two of the process is your local business listing.
As a business that works with people in a specific geographic area, you need to have a listing in Google’s local listings service:
Local listings are the information that appears when someone searches for a business in the Map view of Google, on a mobile device through the map app, or through the standard search engine using localized keywords. Google integrates this local listing information in a number of interfaces, and draws on your Google Business listing directly.
Why Are Local Business Listings Important?
There are four important factors to consider here that make claiming your local listing a must:
- Benefits for Search Engine Positioning - Google frequently places the local listings above standard SERPs when someone searches with location-specific terms. The top-rated local businesses will appear with a map view and additional information about services and contact information, directly in the search results. You want this to be your business.
- Benefits for SEO - In addition to the position of your business in the SERPs, having a well-optimized local listing can impact the performance of your website in the search engine for other terms. Reviews you collect with a local listing add credibility to your business, which is directly linked to your domain, and in turn, raises your search positioning.
- Benefits for Marketing - A local listing does several things. It highlights your business in location context. So you can show up for people who are close to you and already searching for what you offer. It also allows you to showcase pictures of your business, staff, and services directly in search results. You can also highlight social proof in the form of reviews you receive, both to your Google local listing and to other associated accounts where your customers leave reviews.
- Benefits for Lead Generation - Local listings are designed to showcase contact information for the businesses that display. That means your street address, phone number, URL, and whatever other contact information you decide to highlight. This is especially important because the majority of local searches are done via mobile device, which allows those searchers to instantly tap and call or pull up step-by-step directions to your location in Google Maps.
Local listings should be the second pillar of your web strategy, and yet many businesses either haven’t claimed the default listing Google creates for them, or they don’t have a listing at all.
How To Create or Claim a Local Business Listing
Depending on the age of your business, you may already have a listing in Google’s local directory. Because they pull data from public records, most businesses are represented, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good listing, or particularly accurate. The address could be old, your phone number wrong, and the value-add features we discussed above (photos, contact information, services, and hours) are likely missing.
That’s why you need to claim your local listing, and for those without a presence at all, now is the perfect time to create one.
To start, visit google.com/business. This is the home of their Google My Business features - allowing you to create, optimize and manage all of your local listing information in one portal.
Click the Start Now button and enter the name of your business
It will ask you to confirm the location of the business that you search for (if it’s already in their directory), and then the positioning on the map. Drag the pin to ensure it is accurate.
Choose a category to fit the business
When prompted add the phone number that is listed on your website (it’s important that they match), and your website URL.
Finally, you’ll be asked to verify your business listing. Verification allows you to respond to customer reviews, create promotions and upload photos, and track business analytics from the Google My Business dashboard. To verify, the default method is for Google to mail you a postcard with a code on it. You will then enter the code into the Google My Business dashboard and confirm your account. This usually takes about a week to receive.
Using Your Local Business Listing
Once you have done this, you can start using your listing from the Google dashboard. Some of the features include the ability to update your operating hours, add profile photos, read and respond to customer reviews directly within the local listing, login and manage all of this from a mobile app, and advertise your local listing to highlight it in local searches.
The value of this is immense and allows even the smallest of businesses to compete in a crowded space, wherever you are located. If you have not yet, it is highly recommended that you set up or claim your local listing and start promoting your business through one of the most visible channels Google currently offers.
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