Stay ahead in the Google Pack

Google+ never really worked for Google and it finally breathed its last a few days ago. It’s no surprise that – as Google+ was wound down – Google My Business became more important.

Why there are two types of local search

When we search for things on Google or Bing, we are given results based on our location. When I’m in Bakewell and search for ‘barbers’ I get results of barbers in Bakewell. I can override this by searching for something + a place, let’s say ‘barbers matlock’. Often, I might search for things a long way away, say if I’m going to visit. My cousin lives in London so when she holidays near Bakewell she googles ‘things to do in bakewell’ and finds out what to do in and around Bakewell. So there are two types of local search;

  1. Supplying results for people in the area. Great for businesses who want to attract passing trade.
  2. Supplying results for people with an interest in an area. Great for businesses who want to attract tourists or business travellers. Good for link building too.

The two types of (free) local search result and how to come top

Google and Bing return many different types of search result depending on many factors. As far as local business is concerned these break down into two groups:

  1. The Local Pack – The map and 3 or 4 results which (often) appear above the normal search results but often below the paid (AdWords) results.
  2. The organic results – Unpaid ‘normal’ listings appearing beneath the ads and local listings.

Google ranks these listings based on different factors (or signals). So, what are they?

Well last year – according to the hardworking guys at moz.com and brightlocal.com – inbound links remain very important in ranking across both types of search result. Google My Business is important for both as well but has sky rocketed over 2018 for governing what ranks in local search results.

These results come from the Moz/BrightLocal survey done at the end of 2018. It’s difficult to say for sure but – with the end of Google + a couple of weeks ago – it seems likely that the importance of Google My Business will only increase.

Before you get a website.

Five things new businesses should do before getting a website, all for £0.
  1. Get a Google My Business page. 90% of UK searches are through Google and Google lists businesses Google My Business page higher than actual local businesses websites. A Google my business page is free and easy to setup so long as you’re a bonified business.
  2. Get on Bing too. If 90% of searchers are through Google, then the rest are through Bing and Yahoo, so it makes sense to have a free Bing listing too (Bing powers Yahoo search). To make it even easier, you can import your info from Google my Business.
  3. Get a Facebook page and make sure it’s a page (not a profile or group). Facebook might not seem like the right place for your business, but it’s used by 2 billion people, many of whom don’t use any other method of communicating online. Connect to your friends and ask them to share details about your business to reach a wider audience.
  4. Claim or add your company to Apple Maps. Not everyone has the good sense to trust Google. Let the unfortunates using Apple Maps know where you are. Here’s a handy link: https://mapsconnect.apple.com/ GOOD FOR BUSINESSES WITH A WALK IN SERVICE
  5. Get people to review you. Google and Facebook allow users to review businesses and both types of review appear in Google search. Ask your customers to leave a review. Ask your friends too but don’t try and cheat. Fake reviews are easy to spot and you may get banned from the platform.

The Googles Move to Local

This article is outdated. Read about Google My Business Here:
https://www.sbat.co.uk/stay-ahead-in-the-google-pack/

The Googles Move to Local

In 2009 Google changed its search algorithm to take account of a user’s geographic location and rank companies local to you, higher in its organic listings. For this to work, you don’t have to be logged into Google. If you’re not signed in, Google will locate you based on your computers IP address (often inaccurately).

How it Works

In the past, users have become used to searching for services by adding a location to their search query. The most common method is to suffix the location for example ‘Professional Photographer Derbyshire’ or ‘Indian Restaurant in Sheffield’. Needless to say, Google is wise to this and uses this kind of information as well. This means that if you’re sat at home in London but plan to visit Sheffield for the snooker, you will still get relevant results.

Local is Not Everything

It’s important to bear in mind that Local Search is just one part of the mix. The other parts of search are still vitally important and a highly regarded site (with many inbound links etc.) will still often outrank a locally based site. Still, as mobile search becomes more and more important and as directories on and off line become less relevant, Google Local seems to be getting more important.

Beyond Organic Search

Location isn’t just important for organic search engine results, it’s also essential for anybody advertising through Google targeting a specific area. Adwords allows for very specific geographic targeting and gives you the option between targeting based on specified/discerned location and the older suffix method described above (or both). The number of photographers, plumbers and florists advertising nationally, when they actually only server a relatively small area is astonishing. This is no doubt why so many locally based businesses become frustrated with Adwords quickly.

Location is also important because of its interaction with Google+. Try entering a search term like ‘Event Photographer Derbyshire’ and see what comes up. You’ll probably see paid ads at the top, then possibly some organic search results and then a long list of companies taken from Google+. It’s pretty clear that a local business can’t just rely on Facebook, even if Google+ is still woefully underused (at least in the UK).