- Your Business Title
- Links and Citations
- Reviews and Ratings
- Photos / Videos
- Other Attributes
Your Business Title
Your business title is one of the most important factors for ranking well in the Local SEO search engines. Having a title that remains consistent across all data sources is very, very important, because it helps the search engines establish trust in the existence and location of a particular business.
If your business calls itself “Joe’s Pizza” in one directory and “Joe’s Chicago-Style Pizza” in another directory, there is a chance that Google and the other search engines might see that as two separate businesses when it comes to indexing Joe. Joe should pick ONE title for his business and ensure that he adds himself to whichever directories he chooses (including the print Yellow Pages) using the same business title.
Including keywords in your business title will help also help you rank better (Shh! The search engines probably don’t want us to tell you this!). But remember: if you try to stuff TOO many keywords into your business title, the search engines will find out about it and penalize your business.
We recommend describing exactly what you do. In the case above, “Joe’s Chicago-Style Pizza” is preferable to plain old “Joe’s Pizza.” It is a more descriptive business title and may pull in additional searchers (and customers) as a result.
In September 2016, Google released guidelines for its local listings which state that you should list your business using its actual business name, whether or that name contains keywords related to your products or services.
New businesses will certainly want to take this guideline into account in determining what to call themselves, and depending on your area, and what you sell, it may be worth a great deal for established businesses to change their DBA’s to incorporate keywords.
Links and Citations
Google, Yahoo, Bing, Best of the Web, and other search engines find out about your business in two primary ways:
1) Visiting links that point to your website, and tracking on what sites those links appear.
2) Tracking citations of your business, and on what sites these citations appear.
The search engines use these factors extensively in determining where to rank a particular business. All other things being equal, the business with the most links from high-quality websites in your area (like a chamber of commerce or a city government) and most citations from high-quality websites in your area, will rank the highest. So you will want to make sure to get your name, contact information, and website on as many places as you can.
Currently, the ‘Web Pages’ tab of your Google Local Business Listing is the complete list of your citations, though Google probably doesn’t show every single one it knows about.
What Are Citations?
Citations are defined as “mentions” of your business name and address on other web pages, even if there is no link to your website. An example of a citation might be an online yellow pages directory where your business is listed, but not linked to. It can also be a local chamber of commerce or a local business association where your business information can be found, even if they are not linking at all to your website. You may also see the term “web references” used on other websites—a synonym for “citations”.
Many Local search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Best of the Web, and Bing, allow you to place your business into a number of categories (usually between 2 and 5) that help describe what your business does.
This may seem like a trivial step when you are filling out your business information, but it’s actually very important. The search engines use this data when deciding which businesses to show for particular searches. The search engines will not display a business which is not categorized, or even worse, mis-categorized, for particular sets of keywords. This usually happens among keywords and phrases that are most competitive—where there are already a number of businesses who are associated with a particular category, and that will satisfy what the searcher is looking for.
Reviews and Ratings
It’s unclear how much reviews and ratings of a business influence its ranking position, partly because the reviews and ratings are displayed in so many different ways across different search engines (or in the case of Google, even on the same search engine).
But reviews and ratings are very persuasive to prospective customers when it comes to actually receiving a call or email. A bad review can encourage someone to hit their “Back” button and perform another search, and a good review can encourage someone to pick up the phone and call you!
It’s important to engage all of your customers, and to get your best customers to leave a review of your business on their preferred search engine or portal. Likewise, it’s important to recognize when someone has left a negative review of your business. Reach out to that customer and find out why they had a bad experience with your company, and see if there is anything you can do to change their opinion of you.
Photos / Videos
In terms of rankings, photos and videos don’t seem to matter much. A Google Local Business Listing with no photos probably has just as much potential to rank well as a listing with 6 photos and 3 videos.
But attractive photos and videos have been shown to increase the number of clicks that a particular listing gets. They generally offer a great way to show off your business—either project that your company has worked on, some of the people in your office, your office itself, etc. A human stamp (or a professional stamp) can help you stand out in an otherwise flat playing field.
A simple step that a lot of small business owners overlook is to list your contact information on your own website in a format that the search engines can read. If, for whatever reason, you’d rather not list it on your homepage, or on every page of your website, at the very least you should set up a clear “Contact Us” page which displays your address and phone number.
One additional attribute that seems to play a role in rankings is a factor called “proximity to the centroid.” This is not something an established business will have much control over, since it involves your physical address.
“Proximity to centroid” simply means “how close is your business to the center of town?” Most experts agree that the closer your business is to “downtown,” the better it will rank for searches in your city. However, this factor does seem to have diminished in importance over the last 12-16 months, and it seems to matter most for businesses without much other information (for instance a plumber, based in a very rural area, who has no website).