Local franchise businesses have a hard time getting noticed by the search engines, but many things have changed at Google over the past 9 months that make local search ranking easier for the small business owner or franchisee.
A quick word on keywords
If your company provides physical therapy (for example), one of your keywords is NOT “physical therapy”. There are simply too many listings in Google for you to be able to compete on this search term. But “scottsdale physical therapy” or “scottsdale pain management” would work well. Think how many fewer businesses are competing to be on the first page of Google for these keyword phrases.
I’ve talked about developing these kinds of localized keyword phrases in The Long Tail Keyword Strategy.
Before you tackle any of the steps below, take some time to develop a series of long-tail keyword phrases that include the name of a town, suburb, or area that your business serves. Pick one of these as your primary keyword phrase. You’ll be using it in the steps below.
HOT TIP: Before you start polishing your Google Local listing, do a search for your primary keyword phrase and jot down the top three local results. These will be your benchmarks for success. Take notes and compare elements 2-15 below on each of these listings. Then draw up your local search optimization plan around this data. If a listing has 17 reviews, set your goal at 30. If they have 2 coupons, add five. Thirty minutes of planning and goal-setting here will pay off in big dividends in your local search ranking.
15 things to get right in Google Places for local search ranking
Here are 15 things to make sure you get right in Google local search. The images below have numbered areas which correspond to these steps.
- Get your Google Local listing. You can go to google.com/local/add to claim a listing or create one. The directions are pretty self-explanatory.
- Company Name. Try to use your primary keyword phrase (identified above) in the company name field, even if this phrase is not the company name. For example, use “My Company Name – Primary Keyword Phrase” in the company name field.
- Address and Phone Number. Always include a real brick-and-mortar mailing address (not a P.O. Box). And instead of your 800 number, use your local number. These things signal to Google that you are a local business and help establish your legitimacy to the search engines.
- Logo. Upload a logo for your company. Make sure the file name of the image contains your primary keyord phrase. Instead of company-logo.jpg (for example), rename the image “scottsdale-pain-management.jpg”. This signals the search engines again about what your business is all about and where your target market lives.
- Domain Name. It’s ideal to have your primary keyword phrase in your domain name, although this sometimes doesn’t work due to length of the phrase, previous domain name select, franchisor restrictions, etc.
- Category, Hours, and more. Include as many categories as possible, making sure they contain at least a primary or secondary keyword phrase or variations of them. Also, incldue your business hours and content for any other other pertinent fields.
- Review Excerpts. Google’s local search algorithm looks across the web for reviews of your company. Some of these reviews may be included on your Google Local page. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to pursue as many reviews as possible because they carry weight with Google, and good reviews tend to overwhelm any marginal reviews.
- Photos and Videos. Use ’em! Post as many as you have. More is better! Make sure that your video or image file has keywords in the file name, title and description.
- Details. It’s important to fully complete your Google Local listing. Instead of leaving a field blank, try to be creative about how to use it. Make sure to include as many keyword phrases as possible while keeping the content meaningful to a reader.
- Offers. People love to get offers and deals. It seems Google rewards companies that provide deals. Try to come up with at least three of them.
- Reviews. To garner some reviews, your business needs to be listed on review sites. The quickest way to make sure your local business or franchise is listed on up to 200 review sites is to go signup for Localeze, the primary database for many of the review websites. The cost is $300 per year, and it’s well worth it when you consider then value of obtaining more customers from these reviews! Also look for industry-specific review websites.
- Reviews by Google Users. Google displays reviews from other websites, but it’s important to “sprinkle” these with some reviews by Google users, so pursue these as well.
- Related Places. You don’t have much control over this area, but the displayed results provide valuable feedback. If there are very few results it either means there is little or no competition or that the keyword phrases you selected aren’t being pursued by other businesses.
- More About This Place. This is where Google aggregates your brand or company information from other web properties. In order to maximize your results here, make sure you are included in online directories, review websites, social media (especially LinkedIn), press release sites, etc.
- Print this screen before you submit it! When you go to other local search directories, you want to enter this information in exactly the same way as much as possible. The search engines reward consistency across local listing sites.
Using these steps will help your franchise do well in local search ranking. Better search ranking than your competitors will help drive traffic to your website, where you can turn these new visitors into sales leads.