Ranking in Local Listings

It’s been about a year since we tackled the topic of local listings. Local listings continue to present a challenge for advertisers looking to get their local entities (branches, franchises, etc.) accurately listed in sites such as Google Maps and Internet Yellow Pages.

Why are local listings important? It’s all about consumer usage.

Survey question: What information do you expect to find when searching for local businesses online?

With so many consumers seeking local listing information, it’s vital that local advertisers, and national advertisers with local entities, proactively manage and improve their listings’ accuracy to help gain favorable positions in the SERPs.

It’s a Little Bit Structured Data Management, It’s a Little Bit SEO

In preparing for a client Webinar this week, our local listings team developed a question and answer brief related to local listing information specific to Google Maps. This information is helpful for understanding how to improve accuracy and provide insights into ranking improvement.

Q: What are the most important factors or tactics for ranking in Google Maps?

A: Make sure your listing is complete and accurate. It’s also a good idea to have a process in place to ensure that any additions or changes to your business information will be updated in your online local business listing(s) in a timely fashion. A Google Local Business center verified listing is the most authoritative source.

Choose the most appropriate, specific categories for your business. Also, be sure your business description is thorough and utilizes specific keywords you want your business to be associated with.

Pay close attention to any online citation of your business name coupled with your local address, as this information is typically pulled into your business listing profile information on sites such as Google Maps and is used as a factor in determining listing relevancy. These citations can be found as additional links/tabs at the bottom of your main listing information. The links are titled Overview, Details, Reviews, Photos & Videos, User Content, and Web Pages.

Q: Will the use of descriptive keywords in our business name help in getting ranked on those keywords in Google Maps?

A: The purpose of sites like Google Maps or Yahoo Local is to provide users with quick access to relevant physical business information. As a result, they frown upon the use of keywords in the name of the business unless the word is associated with the actual proper name of the business. However, relevant keywords should be developed and utilized in your local business description on these sites.

Q: Does the amount of content included in the listing (i.e. photos, reviews, videos, etc.) help in getting ranked on sites like Google Maps?

A: All Google search results are based primarily on relevance, and Google Maps listings are no different. Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors.

Q: Do local business listings always appear in the search results?

A: Local listings usually only appear during a geo-designated search (e.g., dentists, Chicago). However, Google has been known to track the IP address on computers, so at times if you enter in a general search (e.g., dentists), Google may bring up results for your location, or wherever your IP address is located.

Q: What can you do if you feel that listing abuse is occurring in a specific geography/category? Is there a way to report these incidences to Google?

A: If you believe that a business is being listed falsely, you can report this to Google through this link: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=maps_spam.

Q: What should I do if I see my listings in Google Local Business Center as “Active” but I can’t find them on the Google Maps?

A: A couple solutions:

  1. It could just be the timing, wait a few days and see if it was just an uploading issue.
  2. Refer to the Business Listing Quality Guidelines to make sure that your listing is indeed following the guidelines: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=107528
  3. Report this problem to Google (“Post a Question”) and they will investigate. You can do that here: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/maps?hl=en

Q: How big of an effect does user-generated content have on your listing and what is the best way to get these references?

A: User Reviews appear as “citations” in your local business listings within Google Maps. The actual weighting of these to your overall relevancy, and/or rank of your listing, isn’t known.

Reviews come from two main sources: third-party results and reviews written by Google Maps users. Google associates third-party reviews with your listing when the business information given on the third-party Web site (like Yahoo or SuperPages) matches the information for your listing.

Q: How do I remove the bad reviews?

A: If you’re concerned about a review that was submitted through Google Maps, click the “Flag as inappropriate” link found under the review, and submit a report — If the review is in violation of Google Maps policies. As I stated in “User Ratings and Reviews: Join the Conversation,” the best way to counteract a bad review is to have a proactive marketing plan for encouraging positive reviews to show balance.

Local listing accuracy and position tracking requires a focus on the details of auditing and editing the content for your local listings. Keep in mind that this activity shouldn’t be viewed as an event (e.g., one feed magically fixes the problem), but an ongoing process of monitoring and improvement through continued update and content development.

As with all online efforts, make sure to measure your progress; start with a baseline measure of accuracy/completeness (e.g., 450 of 525 listings appearing correctly) and review your progress over time, because that which can be measured can be optimized and improved.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Toronto, June 8-10, 2009, at the Sheraton Centre Toronto.

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