Increasing your Visibility on Google

 Once you add your business to Google, it needs to be optimised so it’s as visible as it can be. Local SEO is the process that we use to help your business show up at the top of the listings, the process can be a bit daunting so this guide will take you through everything you need to know.  There’s a lot to consider. From the original components of the local ranking algorithm, to the updates in the past year which all make an impact on the best ways for you to dominate the local results pages.  This guide will set out the full process from start to finish so you’ll know exactly what to include in your local marketing plan for 2020.

Key Takeaways: How to Optimise your Local SEO Presence

 
  1. Get to know what works in three pack for your industry. 
  2. Take ownership of your Google My Business Account
  3. Clean-up all duplicate locations.
  4. Optimise your Local Landing Pages. 
  5. Reply to your questions / reviews in GMB.
  6. Amplify your content with local link building.

The Local Three Pack

The ‘three pack’ or local pack is a key area of the results list that companies can take advantage of when trying to reach customers in their local area. When someone carries out a search for a service in their location (e.g. “shoe shops near me” or “restaurants near london bridge”), the three pack will be visible. 

When we optimise a website and Google My Business listing for the three pack, the best thing to do is think about what our core customers group will look for and make sure that the listing which we create is a relevant as possible.

The challenge we face here is that most companies have multiple services, so we need to decide which services to prioritise for the three pack. 

Depending on the company that we’re working with, this could be informed by data or decided based on how the business owner is trying to position themselves in the market. The best solution will be unique for each company.

When analysing the three pack, our research indicates a pattern in which the listings with the greatest visibility often have all the elements ‘working together’, which means they are completed and optimised fully. 

When viewing a listing, the business name shows me:

  • The core service and location of the company. 
  • The listing has a high number of reviews.
  • The listing encourages users to navigate to a highly relevant touch point, which is the landing page. 

In the example above, the one that I would find the most useful is the Prezzo listing as tells me what the service is. It’s an “Italian restaurant”, and it specifies the location name “Brentwood”, meaning I wouldn’t need to check the address or services in a separate search. 

The cover image is another important aspect to optimise, in these examples all the listings ranking in the top positions, with the greatest visibility, show the product in the imagery - so that people know why they would want to go there. 

In other scenarios, it’s best to make sure that the cover photo shows the premises so that it makes it easy for the customers to visit your premises.

This guide will set out the full process from start to finish so you’ll know exactly what to include in your local marketing plan for 2020. 

Managing your Google My Business Listing

The Google My Business listing is a supplement to the main search engine results pages, and it will be positioned on the right-hand side of the traditional search engine results pages, as well as showing up in Google Maps. 

With the GMB listing, you need to make sure that the listing always shows up for branded search terms, as well as for our highest priority generic non brand search terms.  

Creating your GMB Account

The first part of optimising the GMB listing is taking full ownership of your Google My Business account. 

This seems easy but if your company hasn’t been managing the account it could be that employees in a different department or even customers have setup the listing. 

All you must do is login to the Google My Business Platform and go to create a new location, then search for your business name and click the link to claim access for you and your team. 

The first step from there is to remove any duplicate locations which could cause confusion to the search engine.  When you remove your locations, never mark them as permanently closed or the listing will stay in the results list and the store will be labelled to show that it’s closed.

Verifying your GMB Listing

 To be able to manage the information in a GMB listing, you’ll need to verify it first. This will mean that Google is 100% sure that the listing is ours and only the business owner can have access to it.  The verification can be done by mail, phone, email or if you have already verified your business for Search Console you can do it instantly. Bulk verification can also be used if you have 10+ locations.  Once the verification goes through, you’ll see the verified logo in the locations manager:

Optimising your GMB Listing

 Once you have full control of the listing, it’s time to start your optimisations!  When you first get into your Google My Business account there’s a lot to work on. It’s important to start with the basics first as they’re quick high impact items. The list below outlines the high priority items to get your profile going: 
  • Business Name
  • Business Description
  • Cover Photo
  • Opening Hours
  • Store Code (if applicable)
  • Service Areas
  • Amenities
  • Website Links
 The items in the list above are all things that your customers will rely on, for example if your business is a shop and the opening times were out of date then the customer would turn up at the incorrect time which would give them a really bad experience. It’s also important that the cover photo is updated as this is the main image that people will see in the local results listings.  

Crafting the Business Description

 The best way to think about the business description is that it’s a summary of your core offering.  The copy that you create here should provide the user with an introduction to what makes your company stand out in the industry. The description should outline your key services and achievements. In recent months, Google has really clamped down on suspensions so it’s again critical to avoid any spammy offers or inappropriate content. It’s also important to note that no links are allowed in the description.  Google gives you 750 characters to play with but only 250 will probably be displayed in the knowledge panel so it’s important to keep the first few lines as powerful as possible. Once the description is uploaded it can take a couple of days to be approved and uploaded so it’s important to make the client aware of this step. To achieve a fully optimised listing which stands out even more, we need to make sure that all the small inputs to the listing are working together.  This includes everything from the business name field through to the number of reviews that the listing has. The diagram below represents a good way to think about how each category level input works towards the goal of an optimised the local listing.  The fish bone model shows all the small inputs (the bones of fish) contributing to the end goal, which is growth of our local presence. The inputs include everything from off-site authority of our local landing pages to the relevance of the content on our local landing page. 

If your business is moving locations, then you’ll need to make sure that your GMB is updated so that you’re not still driving good customers away to your old digs.

Updating Locations once your Business Moves

 If your business is moving locations, then you’ll need to make sure that your GMB is updated so that you’re not still driving good customers away to your old digs.  The easiest way to update the location is to login to the existing GMB account and make all required changes under the info tab. 

You only need to make sure that your address and your maps marker is updated and your good to go. You wouldn’t want to delete the old listing that you’ve created as this will mean that your reviews, photos and other details wouldn’t be carried over to your new address. 

In some cases, you would need to create a full new listing, such as if you’re starting a new company and the old one still exists in another location.  If you’re starting a whole new business and the old one has permanently shut down, then it’s best to mark the old listing as closed and set your new one up separately. In most cases however it’ll be the same company that has just moved store location or setup in a new office space so it’s more relevant to just update the address in this case.  If the business name or any other fields contain the place name, then this will also need to be changed as per the current address. 

Managing FAQs

 The Q&A section of the listings is another channel. It can be used to answer common questions about the company and talk directly to users. The purpose of this section is for customers to be able to talk to your brand and get themselves a direct reply. For the business, it’s important to proactively check this channel so no questions go unanswered. If there’s a build-up of questions that the brand doesn’t reply to, then we’re leaving more room for customers to answer each other’s questions which takes control over the brand message away from us. In some cases, it may be great that customers are chatting openly about the company, but the information may sometimes be incorrect, or the sentiment may become negative, so it’s more effective for brands to have a voice in this space. Making sure that your brand is answering questions shows customers in the area that we care about their needs and it represents our service level so it’s something that we should be doing all the time.  In terms of managing the questions, we can also flag any inappropriate questions so that they can be taken off Google and we can use the like option to upvote questions which we think would be really helpful for our customers / show the business in a great light.

To make your listing stand out further, one tactic is to create your own custom FAQ in the GMB listings. The idea here is to pre-empt any obvious questions and provide the user with the answer they’re looking for without them having to wait for the response. 

This tactic will also make your listing stand out for users who are researching companies in a specific sector. 

To implement your own FAQ all you’ll need to do is think of common topics that you get asked by new customers, lookup longtail keywords or replicate an existing FAQ page on your main site into the local listings.   

Increasing Google My Business Reviews

As Rank Brain, Google’s A.I programme has started to understand wider and wider signals and incorporate them into the rankings process, reviews have become a significant ranking factor. It’s important to take the reviews management process seriously as a negative review is very hard to remove from the Google My Business listings and it could leave a lasting impact on the brand’s reputation. 

To increase the number of reviews for your business listing, the key is to be proactive and reach out to your customer base. One area that more and more brands have started to consider is to offer their customers a freebie in exchange for a review. 

It was only in my local gym the other day where I recently saw free supplements being offered for a 4 star plus review. 

When it comes to larger brands with customers in the thousands, a more strategic approach is needed. If you’re working in-house at a large brand it would be worth getting in touch with your CRM team for a joint project. 

One tactic which the likes of Amazon do well is to re-engage with previous customers at certain stages in the post purchase process. Companies who use this tactic will offer incentives like vouchers or discounts for leaving the product reviews. When it comes to local SEO the same approach can be applied. 

Creating a Local Content Hub

So, you’ve created a beautiful listing in Google My Business and you’re starting to drive good numbers of clicks through to your website through the channel. Now it’s time for you to make sure those users are coming into your website at the most relevant touchpoint for them. 

A great local landing page will make an impact on your conversions and help drive increased footfall to your brands premises, it’s all about reducing friction in the journey. 

The best local landing pages provide key contact information and a maps marker at the top of the page. Further down the template, the local landing page will describe the unique services and products that are on offer at that specific store. 

If you’re working on a bigger brand with multiple locations it will be worth getting in touch with the store owners individually so that the copy on the page can be tailored in such a way that it highlights the individual value that the store provides. 

This could be providing information about the services that are on offer or details about the team who can help customers at that specific store. We’re trying to create customer confidence here so that people know your premises is the place for them.

The local landing page should explain the value of your main services and if you offer many services, then it can link out to other local articles pages in your area. Having a broader local content hub will allow the pages to rank in the traditional results lists for wider terms with a local intent. Most websites just rely on a thin contact us page or the home page to use with their GMB listings but by creating a local content hub, you’ll take your listing to the next level.  

Local Link Building

Now that you’ve created a quality GMB listing and nailed your local landing pages, you’re ready to start the process of amplifying the presence of those pages. This is where the local link building process comes into its own.  

Directories Building

Directories are often an opportunity to create quick wins, these are business listings platforms where you can create an account and advertise your business. If you’re a bigger company with many locations the process of managing all your directories listings is a bit of a challenge.  If you want to have a listing on 50 platforms and you have 200 locations, someone in your team could be creating 10,000 listings!

This is where the power of automation comes into play. Taking advantage of a platform like MomentFeed, Bright Local, Moz Local or Yext would allow your company to create 1 listing per location and amplify it out across all major platforms. 

For smaller companies with only a couple of locations you would be okay to create your listings manually. It may be that your marketing team is taking ownership of old listings and they just need to be refreshed so that all details and pictures provide a current representation of the business. 

It’s also worth checking a metric called the DA of all the directories platforms that your business is listed on and steering clear of anything spammy. Here is our list of the top directories to add your business to:
  • thephonebook.bt.com
  • directory.independent.co.uk
  • directory.mirror.co.uk
  • directory.thesun.co.uk
  • foursquare.com
  • local.standard.co.uk
  • directory.dailyrecord.co.uk
  • tomtom.com
  • yelp.co.uk
  • yell.com
  • justlanded.com
  • gb.kompass.com
  • yellow.place/en/
  • 192.com
  • bark.com
  • spoke.com
  • freeindex.co.uk
  • brownbook.net
  • cylex-uk.co.uk

When you’re going through these listings, consistency is key. It’s important that your NAP info and the links that you’re driving to are all accurate and consistent otherwise it will look like you have multiple companies or locations.  

Local Publications

The best quality links you can build for your local content pages are what we call natural editorial links from local publications. To do this it’s important that your SEO and PR team work together. The idea here is to reach out to local publishers or gazettes in your area and give them a reason to write an article with a link back to your local page. 

The success rate for this activity is often the best when your brand has an event like an industry leading talk, a charity event or an awards ceremony that the journalists in your area would be interested in heading along to for a write up. The local outreach campaigns do take longer to plan, but they also offer the biggest rewards as well. 

If you’re still in doubt about where to start with these, it will be worth getting in touch with your favourite Local SEO team.