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!
Summary of Search
Google recently announced the end of Google Authorship, a feature the SEO community thought might become a major part of Google’s ranking formula. With Google Authorship, photos of writers were shown in Google’s search results – when rel=”author” and rel=”me” tags were embedded pointing to their Google plus profile.
In December 2013, Google reduced the amount of authorship photos showing in their search results. Then photos were removed altogether in June. And finally, Google completely removed Authorship from their search results last week.
Low Adoption Rates by Webmaster and Authors
Authorship was sometimes difficult to implement, and not appropriate for all sites. Many brands didn’t feel a person’s photo was the best representation in Google’s search results.
Provided Low Value for Searchers
Some studies showed an increase in click-throughs for listings with Google Authorship. But Google found users were often being distracted from the best content.
Snippets that Matter
Google’s Representative John Mueller did provide Google’s future direction: Expanding support of Schema.org: “This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.” The rich snippets for “People” and “Organization” are certainly something to include where possible/applicable.
Implications for Google Plus
Google plus adoption is well below expectations, especially considering the tie in with popular services such as gmail and youtube. Google authorship was also tied in, and meant to improve the social rank in search results for those producing great content. With the death of Google Authorship, it looks like one more “nail in the coffin” for Google plus.
Are Authors Important?
Some interesting bits of information have been given away by Google. Amit Singhal, the head of Google Search, said that Author Rank was used for the “In-depth articles” section – which appears in 12% of Google’s search results.
Google has also long been able to read bylines: These were used before Google patented “Author Rank” in 2007, are more naturally included where applicable, and are likely to continue being used.
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Last month, Google rolled out one of their largest local search updates in quite some time. Since Google didn’t name the update, Search Engine Land named this one the Google Pigeon Update. It’s seemingly unrelated to Google’s Pigeon Rank, an April Fools joke from back when Google did good and funny things.
This update does not penalize sites, but does change how local results are shown:
– Fewer queries are generating a map listing / “local pack”
– More traditional SEO signals are used, such as title tags and quality inbound links.
Some interesting things are happening with this update:
– When a query includes the word “yelp”, those listings on yelp.com are back at the top. This fixes a recent bug.
– Web design and SEO companies are getting shown in local queries again!
If you depend on local traffic, hopefully your results weren’t negatively impacted by the update. The best approach for local visibility includes these tasks:
– make sure to update and creat local directory listings on authority sites such as yelp.
– Use the highest quality photo on your Google+ business profile, and get more reviews. You might make it into the Carousel listings at the top of Google for some queries.
– Make sure your business Name, Address and Phone(NAP) are consistent on your site, google+ business page, and local directories.
– Be sure your city/state is in site’s title tags
And now for something good, and funny:
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Their site also provides an excellent backlink. You may even get human visitors, website projects and new partners. Now THAT’s business development link building!