Google and Local Search
It was good news for local businesses when, in July 2014, Google rolled out their new update, codenamed Pigeon, to their search engine algorithm. This meant that local businesses wishing to embrace the online world, had the backing of Google to take on those national corporations with their large marketing budgets and numerous marketing experts at their disposal. Finally, the little corner shop or hairdressing salon had a chance to get themselves an established online presence.
However, it did mean some serious changes to how local businesses conducted their digital marketing and many local businesses actually witnessed a drop in search engine ranking positions as a result of the update. However, we have a few things to look out for and avoid when ranking locally on Google.
What do we mean by Google local ranking?
Before we start we should probably explain what we mean by local Google ranking. Let’s say you are an electrician in Warrington and you wanted to be high up in the Google search results pages for “Electrician in Warrington”. Before the Google pigeon update, you would have typically found that large national companies would of had the upper hand over your local business simply by having the time, human resources and money to be able to rank nationally for the term “Electrician” this would have included the term “Electrician in Warrington”. Now however, it’s a leveller playing field thus “Electrician in Warrington” will provide results for electricians in Warrington.
Local Search Negative Ranking Factors
1) Keep your business in the correct category.
If you have been posting your local business on numerous directory listings like Yelp or Yell (which is an excellent way to improve your local search results), then this can be a pitfall many fall into. If your business is listed under the wrong category, Google will penalise you and question your motives for doing this. It could be completely innocent and you’ve not realised it’s happened, but as smart as Google’s algorithms and crawlers are, they aren’t human and can only read it as data. Imagine it as Google looking for proof that your business exists and is scouring the web looking for “Jeff the Electrician in Warrington” evidence. It’s looking for evidence of what your company name is, what it is your business does and where your business is located. So, just to make sure, go through your directory listing and check your business is set as the same (or very similar) category in all instances.
This can become difficult for those very niche businesses that are perhaps a little uncommon. If you can’t find a category that exactly fits your businesses type then pick something similar or is as close to it as possible and stick with it throughout all your directories.
2) Keep your address, name and telephone number the same.
We know that sometimes businesses change their name for any number of reasons. It’s also very common for businesses to move offices or to move to another address and ultimately this change of address may even result in the change of the telephone number. This is great if you are a growing businesses expanding in size, however it can have a hidden detrimental effect on your local search ranking.
Let’s say on your ‘Google My Business’ page you have updated your address from a recently move, however on Yell, which your directory listing you have had for years is still listing you at your old address. As Google crawls its way through the internet looking for evidence of your business and it comes across two different businesses under the same name however under two different addresses. This will confuse Google may drop you down the search engine results because of it.
Therefore, a quick fix, if you have changed your address, changed your business telephone number or perhaps changed your business name a little. Do a quick Google search of your old name, address or telephone number. If say your old Yell directory listing shows up with your old address make sure you get yourself logged in and changed as quick as possible.
3) Have a NAP – all over your website.
Don’t take this literally, by NAP we mean Name, Address and Phone Number. As mentioned before it’s really important to have consistency with your Name, Address and Phone Number of your business across the internet. This includes your own website, make sure you have your NAP on every page. If you have a header or footer most business websites will add the information there so it’s consistent on every single page. Google can then be pretty sure that the website it’s looking at belongs to your business and can associate it accordingly to all your other directories listing you may have.
4) Follow the rules of Google My Business
Although the rules of Google My Business are pretty simple and self-explanatory there are times when businesses can try and subvert them in order to gain an advantage over their competition. This can now result in a report of a violation of your Google My Business page. Therefore make sure you have a quick read of these simple rules and stay away from any reports. A common example of a typical (and easy to fall into) violation would be including your business category or business location in the business name.
For example, we have a business called “Clean Clothes” it’s a dry cleaner in Warrington. If they were to put in the “Business Name” field “Clean Clothes Dry Cleaners Warrington” then this would be seen as a violation. Stick with the just the name of the business itself. The other information will be clear to Google through the other fields you input on Google My Business, your website and directory listings.
5) Be sure your don’t have malware on your website.
Not that we believe you have malware on your website intentionally however sometimes it does slip through the cracks. There are plenty options to ensure that you are malware-free on your website, if you are using WordPress as your content management system for example have a search for a security plugin that will keep you clean of malware.