Local Search Ranking Factors
Google Places Listing
One of the main ranking factors in local search is an optimized listing using some of Google's own properties, most notably Google Places.
Fill out the standard information first, such as:
Fill out all the information required. An incomplete profile certainly isn't doing you any favors. Your goal, above all else, is to earn trust from Google so that they rank your site favorably in their local listings.
When selecting your business name, don't use your keywords in the title unless it's a natural part of the business. Google doesn't take kindly to spam in their Places listings.
Once you're done filling out the standard parts of the profile, the optimization begins.
You're going to select a category (or categories) for your business as well as write a description. Choose a category that is as close to your target keyword as possible and feel free to add more than one category (lawn service, landscaping, etc.) but don't go overboard.
Next you'll have the opportunity to select your service area (if you provide in-home support, delivery, etc.) or decline this option entirely (people have to come to you) as well as some other pretty standard information (payment options, etc.) and the option to add photos or video. Studies show that photos of your business (even just the outside of it) entice more people to click than those without photos.
At the bottom of the page, you have the option to add additional information. This is where you can start using some keywords. Remember, don't go overboard by adding too many. Google takes spam on Google Places very seriously, and they might remove your listing.
Your best bet here is to provide a list of your services offered (which typically happen to be your keywords).
Once you're finished, you'll have to verify that you are the owner of the business by accepting a call from Google and entering the PIN they give you.
The next point of attack is to claim your Facebook page and to start creating social media accounts. Social indicators are a huge part of local search, and your Facebook listing is amongst the most important of them all. Google uses social accounts to verify the information in the Google Places listing, so it's important that the website, address, phone number and all of that information appear the same across all platforms.
To claim a Facebook page:
Once you're an admin, write your description and ensure that all of the pertinent information is correct (address, phone number, website, etc.).
After claiming your Facebook page, you might want to start thinking about other social accounts you can link your business to. Yelp, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram are popular options, but there are literally hundreds or thousands to choose from.
You don't have to be active on every social site, but it's important to claim the account (or create it) in order to keep others from taking it in the future.
Pick two or three social networks and start posting on them semi-regularly. Popular choices are Twitter, Facebook and Google+, but you can choose anything that fits your business. If you're a photographer, for example, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook might be better choices. If you are a contractor, Angie's List, Google+ and Twitter might be your best bets. Use your head and try to decide where your content is the best match.
These social media updates aren't indexed by search engines, per se, but they do provide a point of reference for your business and the more updates you put out the more chances Google has to verify that this is indeed a real, and trustworthy business.
Additional steps: Join a small business or social media group on LinkedIn to find out what's working for others.
Chris Warden is a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO. Starting his entrepreneurial career at age 19, he has performed in numerous capacities owning and managing both offline and online companies. Chris now serves as CEO of Spread Effect, a leading content marketing and publishing company. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and often writes on topics of content marketing, SEO, and business development. He’s passionate about building and mentoring world-class teams and loves to chat with like-minded individuals. You can connect with Chris via Linkedin, Twitter - @ChrisWarden_SE, or Google+.
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