Pulling Rank For Local Search Results


March 6, 2012

In like a lion, out like a . . . panda? In Google’s month-ending post on the Inside Search blog, over 40 changes were highlighted for the month of February – one of which spells a more than negligible change for local results.

venice local results

The City of Bridges

The codename for this alteration: Venice. Appropriately enough, the local result has always functioned metaphorically as a bridge between customers and businesses in a given locale. Traversing the gap between creating a brand and creating local brand awareness is plenty bridge-worthy, after all. Anyways, back to Venice. Here’s the snippet from Google that pertains to this particular update:

Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.

Interesting. As I touched on briefly in a previous post on listing your business in Google Places, traditional ranking factors have long been a consideration for those striving for local search exposure. Now, more than ever, perhaps, these traditional on- and off-site signals are playing a pivotal role in ranking local results. Adding fuel to this barely-speculative fire is this last tidbit from Google:

Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.

All things considered, a properly optimized website is no longer just an option for businesses hoping to rank in competitive local results; it’s a necessity. We’ll look at three different things that you can do today (both on- and off-site) to give your business a better chance of pulling rank in the local results.

1. Create a Google Places Page

The gateway to appearing in Google’s local results: Google Places. If you don’t have an owner-verified Places page for your business, get one. Whether you’re a product-based entity or a service provider, there’s nothing better than a pin drop to attract a local click. One thing that you should pay special attention to when creating your listing is the website field. Make certain that you enter the URL of your business website, as this is what you want your local result to link to. If you leave the field empty, the user will be lead to your listing page. While this is great for providing general information and encouraging customer reviews, it’s not nearly as customizable as your actual website.

More importantly, in linking your website to your Places listing, you’re providing Google with a set of pages from which to draw the aforementioned ranking signals. Essentially, if you don’t link your website (or you don’t have one), you’re probably missing out on these additional signals. In competitive markets, you need every edge you can get your hands on.

2. On-Site Optimization

This is where traditional ranking factors really come into play. As is popular sentiment in David Mihm’s industry survey, in some cases, signals from your website are among the top ten in determining local rank. With February’s updates, we can only assume that this is more true now than ever before. Here are a few things you should consider when optimizing your website content for local results:

  • Appearance of city/state in title tag/meta description of landing pages
  • Crawlable address and phone number
  • Appearance of geo-modified keywords (i.e. Pittsburgh landscaping company)

Pretty elementary, I know. In implementing some of these simple changes in your on-site elements, though, you can make some significant headway in the local results. Remember, consistency is key. Ensure that the crawlable address and phone number on your website match those that you’ve included in your Places listing.

3. Build Links – or Citations

As we all know, links are the ever-present currency of high-ranking websites. In the realm of local search, traditional links to your website (and the relevance/authority of these links) can play a huge role in determining where your site/listing ranks. However, link-building is a tedious process. It takes a boatload of time and an aircraft carrier’s worth of effort. One thing that’s nice about local search is that links in the form of online citations are especially valuable.

Citations are basically other online listings from which Google can pull data and verify that it is consistent with the information provided in a Places listing. Some of the most popular of these citation engines (or seed sites) are Yelp, Citysearch, Yellowpages, etc. In listing your business on these sites, paying special attention to consistency, you’re providing more sources for Google to use to verify your information. This, and the outright benefits of the links, can go a long way in boosting your local results.

Give these suggestions a try and let us know if you see a positive impact over time! Remember, local search, like search in general, is always evolving. Try to think like your users and stay ahead of the curve.

Have you gotten business from local search? Tell us your keys to success in the comments.