The first step to being found online locally is creating a mountain of local business listings in directories and data aggregators.
Your basic business profile, which needs to be found in these directories, will contain your business name, address, phone number, and other details. There are thousands of websites and directories on which local business owners are able to create business listings.
Some of the most familiar and well know directories are Google+ Local, Yelp, Bing Places, Internet Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Yahoo! Local.
The purpose of creating local listings is to make your business visible on the Internet. Each new listing you create increases your chances of being found by customers. At the same time, many of the local business indexes share data with each other. It is the accumulation of listings, the cumulative weight which contributes to a rise in your business’s online ranking.
Thus, the more places you are listed and the more visible you are, the more these indexes trust the accuracy of your business data—increasing your chances of ranking well in local searches.
In the quest for high local search ranking your business name is of utmost importance. Having a listing that is consistent across all directories and data aggregators helps search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bind establish trust in your web presence and your business integrity. If you call your business “Steve’s Accountancy” in one location and “Steve & Associates Accountancy” somewhere else there is a decent chance that Google will see these business listings as separate and index them individually.
Pick one name for your business, and make sure to add it to all directories and aggregators, including any print directories such as Yellow Pages.
For local businesses Google suggests: Your business name needs to reflect your business’s real-world name.
In addition to your business name, you should include a descriptor that helps customers find you and understand what your business is all about.
Marketing phrases, slogans, phone numbers, or your company’s website address are not valid descriptors. Examples of acceptable titles with descriptors (in italics for demonstration purposes) are “Starbucks Downtown” or “Joe’s Pizza Restaurant”. Examples that would not be accepted would be “#1 Seattle Plumbing”, “Joe’s Pizza Best Delivery” or “Joe’s Pizza Restaurant Dallas”. Apart from the examples of a single descriptor offered by Google, do not simply add extraneous keywords to your business name, as this can cause inconsistency in your business data around the web.
Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Best of the Web, and other search engines find out about your business in two primary ways: Visiting links that point to your website, and tracking sites where those links appear.
Tracking citations of your business, and on which sites these citations appear. The search engines use these two factors in determining how to rank a particular business. All other things being equal, the business with the most links from high-quality websites in your area—like a chamber of commerce or a city government—and the most citations from high-quality websites in your area, will rank the highest. So you will want to make sure to get your business name, address, phone number, and website listed as many places as you can.
Citations are defined as “mentions” of your business name on webpages other than your own, accompanied by your address, phone number, or both—even if there is no link to your website. An example of a citation might be an online yellow pages directory where your business is listed, but not linked to.
It can also be on the website for a local chamber of commerce or local business association where your business information can be found even if their website does not link to yours. You may also see the term “web references” used on other websites—a synonym for “citations”.
As you create your business’s local listing you need to choose between 2 and 10 categories that best describe your products, services, and business in general. The importance of getting this right cannot be overestimated. This categorization is given the greatest weighting in local searches. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, use category data to determine which businesses to show for particular searches.
Yahoo Local’s Shailesh Bhat explains how: “In cases where we do not have a self-serve listing, where the merchant has not provided any data, but we have data from other sources, we essentially look out for the degree of agreement between various sources. That is one heuristic element that helps us in figuring out the right category.”
In 2013, Mike Blumenthal, a SEO that specializes in local, stated: “Categories are a critical piece of how Google determines the relevance (not rank) of a listing in local search … ”
In general, search engines will link your business listing to relevant for sets of keywords that relate to your chosen categories. Failure to choose categories or to, in error, mis-categorize your products and services, will severely limit the visibility of your local business listing. You’ll find yourself edged out of the results by competitors who have properly categorized their businesses.
Attractive photos and videos have been shown to increase the number of clicks that a particular listing gets. They generally offer a great way to show off your business—projects that your company has worked on, products you offer, your team, or your office itself. A compelling image can help you stand out in an otherwise flat playing field. In terms of rankings, photos and videos don’t seem to affect results. A Google+ Local business listing with no photos probably has just as much potential to rank well as a listing with six photos and three videos—but a potential customer may be more inclined to click through on your search results if there is a compelling photo.
Recently, Google has increased the visibility of Google+ listing photos by displaying one for each listed business in their main search results. Choosing photos wisely—both a cover photo for your Google+ Local page and gallery-style photos on your Google+ Local photo page—is vital to creating an engaging experience for potential customers.
It is vital to list your complete contact information on your website in a format that the search engines can read. This is a simple step that a lot of local business owners overlook. Your contact information must be in indexable text—not embedded in an image, Flash, or other formats that search engines can’t crawl.
If you’d rather not list your contact information on your webpages, you should set up a clear “Contact Us” page which displays your complete business name, address, and phone number (NAP). To strengthen the signals of your NAP, you may choose to encode it in schema, markup code that all major search engines agree upon and understand.
Let’s begin with a explaining what a duplicate listing is.
When a business has more than one record of their contact, location, or any of a number of details, these are considered to be duplicate records. The negative impact of duplicate records can be difficult to overcome in local search results. There are many consequences of having duplicate records in any database.
The Google Local Business Information Quality Guidelines spell out quite clearly instructions for creating business listings:
Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.
The failure to comply with the above rule may result in any or all of the following consequences:
A listing with incorrect information may rank higher than a correct listing.
New customers may be misdirected by incorrect data resulting in lost business
Reviews may be split up and assigned to multiple incorrect listings. Instead of 10 awesome reviews you may have 5 records with 2 reviews each, resulting in lower search ranking.
Search engines, not knowing one record is more valid or correct than the next will not know which to trust. In the absence of trust your listing will be degraded and, perhaps, not ranked.
Data is sold and distributed by directories and aggregators. In the event that you have a duplicate or incorrect listing this information can be distributed countless times creating many, many, incorrect records that self-perpetuate a growing mountain of bad data.
Duplicate listings are often not the result of the business! While some businesses by themselves or through SEO services that they employ may intentionally create more than one listing because they erroneously believe it will benefit their search rankings, very often, duplicates may arise out of automated activity that is beyond the control of the business.
If your business needs to update information and you have duplicate records, knowing which records you may end up editing the wrong listings if they are duplicates. Managing a correct listing across the landscape of directories and platforms can be difficult enough.
The changes that you make can have vastly negative impact without knowing which records to adjust and improve.
Utilizing a system that searches out all records of your business listing across the internet landscape will afford you the ability to see which records are correct, which are partially correct, and which are completely incorrect. This allows you delete or suppress those listings that are degrading your correct listing.
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