Welcome to the third post in our series on SEO for small businesses! In this one we will explain the importance of optimizing you local listings in Google, Apple maps etc.

Local listings are of the utmost importance for any small, local business, especially those that serve at their location such as a bar, restaurant, or bookshop. When prospective customers search for a local business, search engines now like to place their local listings (Google and Apple maps) front and centre of the search results. They know that if people are looking for a business, it converts more searchers into leads by showing them exactly how close a business is to them, as well as reviews from other people in the community.

20% of all desktop searches have a local intent (people are looking for a business close to them), on mobile, that number jumps to 50%. That’s why it’s so important to make sure when customers search for a business like yours, your local listing is as strong as it can be. While every search engine now boasts local listings, we’ll just focus on Google My Business in this post.

Optimizing Local Listings

The first thing you’ll want to do if you don’t have local listings is to create them! First, search for your business name or phone number and check if it isn’t already listed – if it is, scroll down a paragraph to find out what to do! Search for Google Business and click ‘Get On Google’, type your business name and then on ‘Add Your Business’. Then fill in your business details and make sure to click on ‘Verify my business’.

Sometimes, you’ll find that your business is already listed even if you haven’t done anything to create one, this is because advanced Google users and reviewers will sometimes place a listing in themselves in order to review it. In this case all you have to do is claim it by clicking on the link saying ‘Claim this business’.

As for the local listings themselves, you want to make sure you input as much information as possible about your business. You should make sure your address and phone number are correct, as well as having many, eye-catching images of your business, your work, your team and anything else you think would be interesting and show your business’ personality. We recommend at least 20 images. You also want to ensure your business’ opening hours are correct. You don’t want people searching for your business only to be told incorrectly by Google that you are closed!

Also ensure you are under the correct categories, you have keyword rich descriptions that also sell searchers on your business, and link your local listing to your business’ Google+ page if you have one.

Citations

The next important thing is to make sure you validate your business to Google. The way you do this is by placing your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) into listings across the internet such as Yelp, CheckATrade, Yellow Pages etc. The more often Google sees these across the web, the more validated your business becomes to Google, showing you are a legitimate business.

Reviews

These are another critical component in your arsenal against your competition. When your prospective customer searches for your service, they are given an idea of the reputation of your company through Google’s reviewing system. In the local map pack, those businesses that have 5 or more reviews get a graphic start rating appear on their local listing. Take a look at the image below and have a think about which listing stands out more.

Only two of these have graphic star ratings, and they obviously stand out more than the Surrey Creative landscapes. At the same time, Surrey Scapers only has 5 star ratings, which looks rather suspicious, and these two factors are part of the reason Surrey Hills Landscaping is at the top of that search.

In summary, making sure your local listing is as optimized as possible, linked to your website and social media and appearing in many different places across the web, is an incredibly powerful way of improving your online marketing and getting more customers calling your business!

Other posts in this series: