Local Search SearchFest 2010 Session

Up-to-date strategies for achieving prominence within Local Search listings.

Speakers:

Mary Bowling – SEOverflow
Matt McGee – Small Business SEM
Chris Silver Smith –KeyRelevance

Moderator:

David Mihm

Liveblogger:

John McPhee of Anvil Media, a Portland SEM agency

Session Details

David Mihm has taken the stage to discuss the important stuff, cocktails after the session. OK, now the real introductions…

Mary Bowling starts first. Local search is a “big ‘ol jumbled mess”. There are a number of places to search for local results, but 65%+ are still using Google, similar to natural search. Google has moved to a 7 pack, and has begun identifying users by IP to server the appropriate results.

There are 3 different algorithms: organic search, Maps & local 7 pack

When comparing Google organic to Maps results, there is very little correlation. They are vastly different. There is also no correlation to the 7 pack to Google organic as well. Now, Mary is comparing 7 pack and Maps results, and the similarities are very strong here.

How to get listed in the 7 pack:

  • Must be in the Maps database in order to rank
  • Claiming your local listing
  • Address must be in city being searched
  • Choose the most appropriate categories
  • Keywords in business names
  • Reviews
  • Info in major data providers (Axciom, InfoUSA & Localeze

Negative Ranking Factors

  • Multiple listings with different info
  • Not using completed address
  • Not using local phone number
  • Different signals from data providers
  • Getting rid of confusion

Getting citations (web mentions without links) is one of the most important aspects of ranking in local search. Citations are to local rankings what inbound links are to organic rankings. Where to get citations? Look at sites like IYP (Internet Yellow Pages, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, directories, etc…

Mary also dove into the Google Local Business Listing (LBL) Guidelines. Check out the new listing guidelines checklist.

When researching local, Mary uses Google Insights to see trends over the last 12 months. She uses this for keyword research to determine how to optimize a local listing.

Chris Silver Smith is now taking the mic…warm it up Chris

Google is now using IP to determine what the SERPs will look like for local. In order to help rank locally, think about your website, not just your LBL. City and state names are very important on your website so the engines can more easily determine that you are a local business.

Getting keyword rich inbound links is very important in the local ranking factor (different from citations). Do a link:www.site.com command to find where competitors are getting links from, which can then be sought by you/your client to obtain local links.

Rich snippets may play a bigger role in the future as Google is now able to parse out event and location information. Google is using this data to show additional links in the organic results (looks like sitelinks, sort of), which then pushes competitor results further down the page and increases your chances for increased CTRs. Microformats available are hCard, hCalendar, hReview, hProduct and Geo (longitude and latitude).

Contact Us and Location pages should not be neglected on your website. Include a Google map (might help Google identify long/lat coordinates), street address, phone, driving directions and hCard format (may generate a plus box, which can be expanded on the SERPs).

Don’t completely neglect User/Custom Maps. These have potential to drive long-tail traffic and can show up on the Place Pages. These are user-friendly for folks traveling to your location and want to find new things to do (i.e. restaurants, shopping, dancing, etc….).  When creating a Map, you’ll want to add a description that is useful for the end user as these can drive traffic to site.

If you have multiple locations you may consider creating a KML sitemap and upload this to Google Webmaster Tools or include it In your robots.txt file so Google can easily find it and understand where all of your locations exist.

Tips for creating good Custom Maps:

  • Provide a useful service
  • Customize Google profile
  • Provide links to your site
  • Include name, address for custom map markers to appear
  • Promote the map outside of Google maps (site, Twitter, etc.)
  • Use KML files for larger sites with multiple locations

Chris ended with this super tactic…Another advanced tactic for local is optimizing your business via Wikipedia. Determine if Wikipedia has a page for your business. If not, create a page on Wikipedia using geo-location from Google Maps. This may be a difficult tactic as many Wikipedia pages don’t stick.

Matt McGee has now taken the mic….

Matt is going to focus on reviews, the human element to local search.

Why Reviews Matter

  • 90% of people trust recommendations (word of mouth)
  • 70% rely on recommendations from online reviews, total strangers
  • Engines rely on reviews/ratings as a signal of trust/credibility

4 Things About Positive/Negative Reviews

  • Most reviews are positive
  • 85% of reviews on Yelp are 3 stars (out of 5) or better
  • Bad reviews are OK
  • Negative reviews can actually help increase trust

Prevent bad reviews when possible

  • Customer service is now more important now than ever
  • Make reviewing easy
  • Ask for reviews and encourage them through your website

How to Get Reviews

  • Online
  • Invite reviews on your website through badges/links
  • Outgoing emails (order confirmations)
  • Email signature to invite reviews (include links)
  • Target reviews wisely
  • Maps, Yahoo, Bing, Citysearch, Insider Pages, Yelp, industry review sites (TripAdvisor, Urban Spoon)
  • Offline
  • Signs in storefront
  • Include laptop in lobby/office
  • Include review links on business cards (or review us cards)
  • Incentives/contests

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