Google local search is rapidly becoming a critical marketing channel. Retail and service companies are quickly coming to realize that all marketing is local. Most marketers are savvy enough to claim their listings in Google Places, but most don’t do anything beyond that. Instead they opt to focus their efforts on optimizing for general search queries.
since the majority of location-specific searches don’t even take place on Google. Many consumers use other outlets such as online yellow pages, local directories and city guides like CitySearch or Yelp, as well as search engines including Yahoo and Bing, to conduct their searches for local businesses. Even if Google were to start dominating local search like they dominate general search queries (and they probably will), their results are heavily influenced by these other local sources.
On All Search Engines:Organizations should establish their local listings on all three major engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo! Maps. If a company has more than 10 locations, they can avoid Google’s postcard/phone verification process by submitting a spreadsheet for bulk upload. Once the listings are uploaded, the verification process can be initiated by submitting a request at http://bit.ly/GoogleVerification.
A manual process on Google’s side and doesn’t result in instantaneous verification. The process can be accelerated by registering your Google Places account using a company-owned email address, as opposed to a Gmail account or other third-party email address.
Beyond search engine map listings, marketers should increase the number of “citations”, or mentions of a company name in association with the location-specific phone number and address, on third-party sites. They are crucial in improving the rankings for your map listings. Google puts more weight on citations from trusted resources like Yelp, CitySearch, YellowPages.com and Local.com, but citation authority is industry-specific in many cases.
As an added benefit, top-tier Internet Yellow Pages and city guides get a fair amount of their own traffic and provide
excellent outlets for consumer reviews. Google often pulls reviews from third-party sites into their listings and the
number of reviews a location receives can impact the 10-pack rankings. Locations with high customer ratings typically see a lift in click-through rates as well.
Illustrate and Amplify: Optimizing for local search is a constant care and feeding process that will require marketers
to keep on top of the latest developments by both mainstream and vertical search sites and enhance their listings
accordingly. As far as Google Places is concerned, the first step after claiming and verifying your locations is to enhance your profiles by building out the listings with comprehensive information, including pictures and videos. Companies can even add unique coupons to their listings that provide incentive to customers and helps with tracking. One of the most critical data points is the category that is associated with the business. Choosing the right one helps to ensure that your locations show up for the right search terms. The more complete the profile, the more trusted it becomes by both Google and the consumer. If you still aren’t showing up for your priority local search terms, consider advertising in the map results via Google Adwords Local Ad Extensions pay-per-click services or through Google Places Tags. Neither of these advertising options will push your listings into the 10-pack, but they will help your listing get a bit more exposure in the result pages in Google Maps.
Marketers should start considering location-based mobile applications like Foursquare and similar services like Double Dutch, as these services afford companies the opportunity to tap into users’ geographic locations. Companies can use that information to serve up offers and information for nearby businesses and points of interest. Some savvy marketers, like those at Tasti D-Lite, are even using social-local apps to power their loyalty programs, providing incentive for both social and financial transactions.