The value of local search results and how to get them

Your immediate reaction may be that local search is not of interest to you, but it might be worth thinking again. It may of course be the key to your business survival.

What I mean by local search results are the 10 listings shown at the top of the SERPS page. Whether local results are shown depends mainly on how competitive a term is but also on the information available to Google to provide local results.

Local search results

Local search results

Even if you don’t think your business has a local element, bear in mind that Google is increasingly refining its search results based on the searcher’s IP address. For competitive keywords, this means that small businesses now stand a far better chance of getting a page 1 ranking than ever before. So if your local search listing is weak, you may be losing a big opportunity!

Local search is still not as robust as the main web search results. The search for ‘surveyors, ringwood’ returned some decidedly odd results. The second result was for a local directory that took me some to find any surveyors listed on, and results 3-8 and no 10 were simply Google maps results. Interestingly no 9 was a real surveyors site but showing an 0845 number which may have been the reason for the low listing.

How to improve your local search results

Claim your Google Maps listing

Do a search on your business name and location. If your business is already listed, then click on More Info. You can then update the listing.

If your business is not already listed, the go to Google’s Local Business Centre.  Simply follow the instructions – there are certain verification formalities whereby Google will send you a PIN by post. It takes a few days but is not difficult.

Be specific on your website about your products and services

This mirrors how to optimise your site for any other sort of search. If you are a solicitor for example, then you need to match searches for ‘personal injury solicitor’ rather than ‘solicitor’.

Be clear about where your business is

This might sound obvious but Google needs to know exactly where your business is located in order to match it to a location. Ideally, put your address on the footer of every page. Local phone numbers provide more location information than nationwide numbers although many sites without local numbers appear on local search.

Give geographical context

This means use words that put you in a location. For example, my business is based in Ringwood, so phrases like ‘close to the New Forest’, ‘convenient for Bournemouth’, ’10 miles from Southampton’, all tell Google more about where Atracks is.

Reviews and local search

Encourage your customers to write reviews of your work. There is no doubt that user generated content is getting more and more important and a review is just another way of lifting your site above the rest.

A note of caution. More and more businesses are hiding their geographical location and the web makes it easy to trade without an address. All you need now is a mobile phone number and a website and you have business front. You may not be complying with all the rules and regulations about publishing your registered office etc on your website but there are a large number of businesses operating in this very virtual world.

If you simply say that you are a plumber in London, offering cover in a number of listed postcodes, that is unlikely to carry as much weight with Google as a physical address.

Future proofing

At the moment, local search results are only returned for relatively competitive results but as the web and web use grows, more and more terms will become more and more competitive and local search may well be one way of beating heavyweight competition. We all need to use everything we can in our arsenal of tools and local search is certainly a powerful one with a promising future worth just a little bit of effort.


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