Businesses thrive when they have an effective way for customers to find them on Google – the search engine most frequently used by your future customers. One of the most effective ways to ensure your business is found is with citations.
A citation is any mention of your business online. A structured citation is a mention of your business on a directory such as Google My Business or Yelp, and an unstructured citation is your business information (NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number) that is not in a business directory; this could be anything from an article about your company or a mention of your business on a vendor’s website. Citations are important for Local Search, as they give search engines your business information across the internet. If you want to rank in Google’s Map Pack, you’ll want to start by making sure your Google My Business (GMB) listing is properly optimized and maintained. Here’s how:
- Who Owns Your Listing? If you’re not sure who owns your GMB listing, or you don’t remember which email address you claimed it under, don’t worry! You can request ownership by creating a Google My Business account and searching for your business listing. If it’s already claimed, you can request ownership at this point, and if it isn’t claimed you can request a postcard be mailed to your business address to verify you are who you say you are, and this business is indeed yours.
- Search For Duplicate Listings. SEOs know there is nothing search engines hate more than an incorrect NAP on a citation listing. Second to that would be duplicate listings. Google looks at duplicate listings for a business, picks which one they like best (regardless if the information is correct or not) and shows that listing in search. So, how can you tell if you have a duplicate business listing in Google? It’s simple: search for your address and select Maps results. This will show every Google My Business listing for that location. If you see a duplicate of your business, you can claim this listing and merge it with the correct one.
- Is Your Map Marker Correct? There is nothing more frustrating as a user than finding incorrect information on a business listing. Wrong hours of operation, a listing for a business that is no longer at the address, and the dreaded map marker location. When users are getting directions to your business address, they’ll often look at your listing in maps to see where you are located. Especially if the user is familiar with the area in which your business is located, they may skip the directions altogether. Make sure your map marker is in the correct place by updating your correct address in your listing information and moving the map marker to the correct spot. Trust me, your users will appreciate it!
- Optimize Your Listing. Optimizing your Google My Business listing is a lot easier than it sounds. You want to make sure your business name is correct, your address and phone number are correct, and as we covered above, your map marker is in the correct place. Additionally, you want to make sure the correct business categories are selected so users know exactly what your business does. Make sure your hours of operation are correct and add additional hours of operation for holidays so your customers know when they can and cannot reach you. Add images of your business so users will know when they’ve found you, and add attributes so they know what features you offer! GMB also recently brought back the description section so you can tell users more about your business. Be careful, though; getting too crazy with keywords can cause Google to hide your listing in search. A good rule of thumb is to not leave any field blank, but to keep your listing as organic as possible!
- Keep Responding To Your Reviews. This is arguably the most difficult part of maintaining a Google My Business listing. Fortunately, every time you get a review Google will email you at the email address in which you claimed your listing. However, many business owners find this task daunting, especially if they are getting negative reviews. Think of it this way: you can’t make every customer happy. Users know that, and typically find businesses with 100% five-star reviews untrustworthy. Negative reviews are a normal part of doing business, and responding to these reviews show you care about customer service. Google My Business is a platform for unhappy customers to come and express their frustrations with your business, and how you respond says a lot about you. Don’t offer coupons or discounts for the customers to return to your business; instead, express your concerns and give them a phone number or email address to contact you directly to resolve the issue. This turns a negative review to a positive experience and shows Google you’re interacting with your customers which helps boost your rankings. It’s a win, win!
- User Suggested Edits. Google allows users to suggest edits to business listings directly from search. This means if I know a business location offers bathroom access, has a different phone number, or the listing is missing a suite number, I can suggest the update directly from search. When you log into your GMB account you’ll find a yellow banner across the top of your listing prompting you to approve user suggested edits for your business. Sometimes, Google will publish these edits if they go unapproved by the business owner, or if the listing is unclaimed. So, it’s very important for business owners to be checking in on their listing frequently to make sure their listing information isn’t being changed.
Making sure your Google My Business listing is properly optimized (and stays that way!) is the first step to achieving local search rankings. Google My Business is just one piece to a very extensive puzzle, but once you master your Google My Business listing you can easily begin claiming and optimizing other local citations for your business. Want to know more about Local Search? Give us a call and we’ll help guide you through the process!
It’s been 2 years since the last Penguin Penalty update. The Penguin Penalties were known to destroy site traffic by placing sites – that were formerly on page 1
– onto page 4 or even page 9. Organic traffic would decrease sometimes to less than 10% of previous levels, and devastate revenue.
Penguin is such a serious update for any site relying on organic traffic, that new insights are being gained daily. This update is a little bit different than previous Penguin updates. They appear to get increasingly more harsh.
1. Google still cares tremendously about links
We’ve been expecting Google to use social media at some point for authority, but instead they keep using links as a powerful part of their algorithm. Looking at the amount of processing power, education, penalties and heat they have taken… well, we can assume links will be with us for a long time. And Google cares more about authority than popularity, freshness, content, spelling, valid html, or any of the other hundreds of factors they may (or may not) take into account.
2. It’s now “realtime”
As Google discovers links to your site, they will be judged as good, bad or somewhere in-between. Rankings will fluctuate accordingly. This system is long overdue: Previous penguin updates have meant years of waiting to see if link removal, disavowal, site pruning, 301 redirecting, gaining high authority links, and other strategies would be enough. It was a horribly unfair system for most small businesses, as years of lost traffic was particularly painful.
3. Realtime can mean weeks
Few have done the math and research in this quora thread, but that sounds like it will be a few weeks.
4. Penguin penalties will now be on the page level, not site level
Penguin used to penalize an entire site, impacting rankings for all keywords and on all pages. This was horribly unfair and we saw several clients over the years being penalized after an intruder built pages (and bad links to those pages). Months and years after the intrusion, site keyword rankings (and traffic!) suffered greatly.
5. Bad links no longer penalize – they just don’t count
This is a return to the “old days”, simpler times when webmasters didn’t have to continually audit who was linking to them. One of the worst parts of previous penguin updates was the way that low quality links provided a “double whammy” to rankings: They stopped boosting rankings, and also penalized the site.
6. Disavow files are still recommended
Google still recommends the disavow file is used. It helps Google identify low quality sites, as well as offering protection against a “manual penalty”, where a human at Google has specifically penalized your site. In that case a disavow file can show that you are trying to distance your site from it’s bad links.
Every day brings more insight into how Penguin 4.0 is impacting rankings and traffic. We’ll keep you updated!