Archive for April, 2011
I will not start the Google Places optimization topic with the preliminary stage, setting up the Places page and choosing the right categories, because on this topic there is enough information both at the Google Places Help Center and around the Web.
The difficult part, and the harder one to achieve is to get a decent number of citations, outlining at least the basic business information – business name, business physical address, business land line number. What are the citations? When your business information is mentioned somewhere around the Web, Google notices that, scrapes it down and adds it to its relevant place – in your Google Places listing. It goes to your “More about this place” section, which is located in the bottom part of your Places page.
To get your citations there, the information for your business must be consistent all over the Internet. One letter in the business name, one number in the address or one dash in the phone number may cause Google to think this is not the same business, and pass by this vital source of information.
Citation building is a time taking, but very important process. Sometimes, even if you have done everything perfectly, you will not see any results for months. This is not your fault. Google crawls more rarely websites and directories with lower authority and ones that get their content not changed frequently. That is why, the fastest results can be seen coming from generic and famous directories, such as City Search, Yahoo! Local, Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, Yelp, Hot Frog.
The value of the citations.
Different citations have different value and citations from the mentioned generic directories in the majority of the cases would have lesser value, than citations from locally-oriented and niche oriented directories. If a roofing contractor from Richmond, VA gets a citation from a directory, which is mainly oriented towards serving the people in the area of Richmond, and is mainly about contractors, this citation will have much higher value than one from a generic, nationwide business directory. Unfortunately, citations from the specific and local directories generally come slower and not frequently. The highest value citation would come from the company’s own website, as it would be the most relevant one.
How many citations do I need?
As many as possible. The final goal is to overcome the all the competition and appear on position A. Sometimes all you would need is to verify your ownership over the Google Places listing, but sometimes a hundred citations will not be enough. It depends on the strength of the competition and the competitiveness of the keywords you want to rank for. A restaurant in New York City will definitely have more troubles getting to page 1, then a pet groomer from West Liberty, Ohio.
Where do I get the citations from?
There are literally thousands of business directories, where any business could post their information. However, getting a citation from a directory, specialized in auto repair in the area of Washington DC, would have close to zero value if you are a landscaper in Las Vegas, Nevada. What you need to do is type your targeted keyword in the Google search and start checking one by one your competitors’ profiles. Go to the bottom of their Places pages and see all the directories where they have citations from, then do everything possible to get your business information on all of these. Check all the businesses on page 1 and page 2 of the Google Places. After you have done this with all your targeted keywords, go to the Google search again and type your keyword + the nearby big city. Then repeat the same process with all the businesses listed there.
There is an easier way to find all this information. Two very useful free tools are the Local Citation Finder and the Local Search Toolkit. They are time-saving and will provide you with all the results you need. However, the Local Citation Finder provides only the top 30 citation sources per keyword for the free subscribers, and the Local Search Toolkit shows information only for the business on page 1, but they both are definitely helpful and useful, especially for the smaller size businesses.
Final thoughts and insights
Although I have mentioned that citations to your place that matter for your business listing ranking are the ones shown in the “more about this place” section, many Google Places gurus state that these are not the only ones that matter, but Google counts some more citations that are hidden. A vigorous supporter of this statement is the creator of the Local Citation Finder as well as Mike Blumenthal – the top expert for local search.
Today Bing launched its version of Google Places. It is called Bing Business Portal (BBP) and is still in its Beta version stage. However, it could be a tough challenge for Google as Google Places have experienced a lot of bugs lately and had problems with lost reviews, data, the analytics tool got stuck and all the listings got pending, etc. The claiming of business listing on Bing will be similar to the one for Google – by phone or by postal mail, as they will provide the business owners with a verification PIN. The time for changes to occur should be between 48 and 72 hours. For newly created listings it will take within 7-10 days after the listings is verified.
Similar to the Google Offers, there will be Bing Deals. There is no limit to how many deals a business owner could post per day, and the new ones will be occurring within 48 hours. Owners will be able to post the deals on the established Facebook site. Furthermore, some deals will be highlighted daily on the “Deals” section of the mobile version of Bing Business Portal. The criteria will be the following:
- Deals need to be at least 50% off of the retail value of the goods/services offered
- The minimum dollar amount of the retail value of the goods/services should be $20 or more
- Only threeactive deals per merchant location can be provided at a given time
- Deals offered should have an expiration of three days or less from the day they appear on the daily deals page
- Repeat deals cannot be offered until 15 days after the deal has expired.
- Deals need to be created by 6PM Pacific time in order to make it to the daily deals page for the next day
Bing will also implement the already abandoned practice on Google Places to put QR codes in the business listing. The QR code will lead to the business’ Bing Business Portal mobile site.
Google will definitely be challenged, especially if Bing manages to come up with good Customer Service, which lacks in the case of Google Places and if it keeps it as bug-free as possible. Time will show.
The very first thing that is to be explained is what is Google Places and local SEO and why they are so important (and will be getting more and more important) for every business in the world.
Google Places is a product of Google Inc., which many could acknowledge as a kind of Yellow Page. There are many rules and regulations set by Google, some of which are quite strange, but overall the opportunity that Google Places give to every business owner is incredible. For almost any search, connected to product, service, business, Google would return thousands of results, but only the luckiest (or smartest) ones to appear on page 1 will get some piece of the big pie, because let’s be honest – no one goes to page 2. The results that appear are local, i.e. if you are currently in Queens, New York and you want to drink your morning coffee in some nice coffee shop, you take the mobile out of your pocket and search for the word “coffee shop”, or just “coffee”, and the results that will appear will be the most relevant for you, based on many factors, one of which is the proximity of the coffee shop to your current location. But this is not the only factor. In fact , there are more than 100 factors that Google minds to determine the best result for your search (the most thorough and authoritative list of these factors could be found here: Local Search Ranking Factors, however, it is not up to date and many major changes happened since this research was done). Currently, one of the most important factors is the company’s website and if it is optimized for local search.
Local search engine optimization (local SEO) is part of the organic search engine optimization (organic SEO) and is targeting specifically the local search results.
Now, let me prove you that this must be probably the most important part of the online marketing efforts of every SMB (small and medium business). According to Google, 20% of all searches are related to location (other sources cite 40%), which makes about 3.5 billion searches per month. Unfortunately, on first page for each search, there is place for only 7 businesses, and as Google Places results generally show up over (or merged with) the organic (website) results, it seems that the appearance in this so-called 7-pack, is a must for every local business owner. And if you are not convinced yet, let me tell you that while you were reading this article, you lost business – a big load of business, which will probably never return to you. In the next days I will try to generally explain how you could try and get some piece (as big as possible) from this so delicious pie.