If you are serious about optimizing your business to increase its online visibility, then local SEO is the best way to increase foot traffic as it introduces your business to prospects who can walk in and directly do business with you.
The recent changes to local SEO by Google will allow you to get more business, gain more leads and prospects. Sounds too good to be true? Well, be the judge yourself after reading about these exciting changes to local SEO. Don’t forget to leave a comment telling me what you think of these changes.
Local Carousel Search
Most industry experts are calling Google’s new way of displaying local search results a game-changer to local SEO. The local carousel is a horizontal strip of images with a black background at the top of the SERP. If the quantity of results are too many to fit the screen, the carousel slides from left to right. Although, currently all results are not displayed in carousel mode, it’s the way most local results will be displayed soon. The carousel occupies prime real estate and in terms of positioning is placed higher than even paid search.
How you can benefit: Since local carousel occupies prime real estate and is attractive, prospects tend to click on these results, first. It is even more crucial now than it ever was before to have a good pic and good reviews. Images are first pulled from your Google+ profile.
Local carousel for a Google search on restaurants in Manhattan.
Google announced just last week that it’s testing Helpouts, a service that connects people who need help with the right expert, consultant or business. Helpouts uses Google+ hangouts to connect people with the consultants and experts. The service is currently in testing and will be available soon. Here are the 8 categories that Helpouts will initially cover: Home & Garden, Computers & Electronics, Health & Counseling, Nutrition & Fitness, Fashion & Beauty, Art & Music, Cooking and Education. Google is serious about keeping up the quality of the featured experts. In order to create a helpout, you need to list your qualifications, certificates, training and experience. Helpouts can either be charged (with payment handled via Google Wallet), or for free. Google will take a platform fee of 20 percent for any paid Helpouts, which includes credit card transaction and Wallet fees.
How you can benefit: Local businesses and global businesses will benefit as physical location will no longer be that important. But if you are within a prospect’s geographical location, that prospect could easily set up an initial consultation before deciding to do business with you.
Google City Experts
Google’s new City Expert program recognizes the most active people who write reviews and upload photos of local places. You can sign-up for Google city experts programs and receive access to local events and recognition online. Currently, the program is being tested only in major cities but will eventually expand to include most cities around the globe.
How you can benefit: Reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo help local businesses get more exposure and build their online credibility. A 2012 study published on Search Engine Land shows that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Verifying a Google+ local business page should be the first task for any local SEO campaign and maintaining a strong presence on Google+ is a must for any business. It’s also important for local SEO to increase your influence in the Google+ community as Google will value your content better.
Schema Mark-up for Geo-based SEO
To pinpoint the exact location of your business can be a tricky proposition and using the structured data mark-up that is a joint initiative by Google, Yahoo and Bing makes it extremely easy for search engines to understand the latitude and longitude of your business. Although, structured data has been around for at least a couple of years, very few local businesses are using it to geographically mark-up their sites and gain the benefits of higher rankings.
The important thing with schema and with any local citations are that your contact information and geographic location should be listed correctly.
The Local Business section of Schema.org has a variety of categories that businesses can implement as part of the footer or contact page of their website, including address, phone, fax, operating hours, and even accepted payment types.
The schema markup is displayed via HTML div tags. Here’s an example of geo-schema mark-up:
URL of Map
In this example for a plumber, the only information that is displayed on the website is the information between the span and div tags. Visitors won’t be able to tell that a business is using schema unless they view the source code of the website.
The ‘itemprop’ in the span tag identifies the schema markup property for that piece of information. All available properties are shown on Schema.org in their applicable category.
Reviews and Testimonials
Using schema in tandem with in-site reviews and testimonials helps search engines find the information quickly and display reviews of a company’s product and services on search engine results pages:
March 25, 2011
Great microwave for the price. It is small and fits in my apartment.
(example from schema.org)
How you can benefit: In addition to using schema for on-site reviews and testimonials, local business websites should also link to their online review pages on sites like Yahoo, Bing, Yelp and Google. Having links to these profiles on the local business website will help them get indexed faster. Since Google, Yahoo and Bing all index schema mark-up quicker, it makes sense to have this for local search.
Nice article! I completely agree about reviews building credibility – we hardly buy anything or go anywhere these days without checking for reviews first.
Gazalla Gaya says
Yes, online reviews are the best testimonial a business can hope to get. They are also given a priority in rankings, so a bad review could hurt your reputation. From the customer service point of view, it’s also important for local businesses to react to all reviews. Thanks for your feedback!
Thanks for sharing this information. I am starting a new business online and I think this articles works perfectly.
Just like Holly, I got to agree that we all does our ‘endless search’ for reviews before deciding to buy the product. So yup, this is more than just beneficial.
Thanks for sharing.
Kristof Bernaert says
Nice article to focus on this issuse, which is for example for our region very important. In the Netherlands and the north part of Belgium, Dutch is the spoken mother tongue. This results often in equal search keywords. As The Netherlands are bigger and more present on internet, we get as Dutch Belgians very often search results from the Netherlands which aren’t often usable.
As laptops and other devices are more and more GEO enabled, and if developers don’t forget to use this markup as a standard part of a website … this can only help to get better local search results.
Need seo for my site www.haaszy.com says
I launched my site recently,please help us to increase the traffic.
Frederic Gonzalo says
Very informative post, Gazalla. I am looking forward to the local Carousel, which is not yet available in my neck of the woods (Canada). I hear it’s being launched progressively, so time will come.
I hadn’t heard of Helpout, but I can certainly see the use of this for local consulting, even training.
And I was not aware of City Experts either, which holds great promise in my mind, particularly for the hospitality industry. More and more travelers seek the authenticity and living an experience like the locals, so tapping into local knowledge will certainly be useful. Google will thus add a layer to its Zagat reviews and it will be interesting to see how this will affect other services such as Foursquare, Yelp or even Tripadvisor.
Gazalla Gaya says
Thanks, Frederic. Yes, I think that these changes will be good for the travel and hospitality industry and you should recommend them for your clients. Let me know if you need any help on these fronts – I’ll gladly help you anytime:)
Carla Wilson says
Hi, Gazalla, Great post! I have a question that I’m hoping you can clarify. You state…”local business websites should also link to their online review pages on sites like Yahoo, Bing, Yelp and Google”. Are you saying that on the Contact Us page (or similar) business websites should put a Review Our Business on Yahoo, etc. link (that links to their Yahoo profile)?
Gazalla Gaya says
Yes, that’s exactly right, Carla. They should cross-link these pages online for maximum benefit. So glad you liked the post. Keep visiting:)
Carol Lynn says
This is a great resource! Seems like a lot of it comes down to getting cozy with Google Plus, doesn’t it? And I must be the most contrary person on the planet because I don’t find that carousel remotely useful. It’s really distracting and honestly I skip it as fast as possible. I much prefer maps listings where you get the business in context of where you are, plus a phone number and website. I just looked up “pizza in Holmdel” (where I live) and I got a useless carousel of lovely photos from pizza shops within a 50 mile radius. Not helpful??
But maps listings give you the stuff you need up front. I mean, I’m not looking for pretty pizza, just something that will deliver, lol. You can always click through for the almighty photo.
To your point about having good photos, I did notice that the extent of a lot of people’s photos is that map listing which doesn’t do much for the carousel or its usefulness so it seems like we’d all better get on board with the business listing and make it worthwhile!
You are right, Carol. A lot of it really boils down to Google’s push for making G+ the top social network. But you know what, the people that are taking Google seriously are the ones reaping the benefits. And right now, since Google dominates Search (67%) of people use Google for Search – hey who am I to argue with them? It makes my job easier as an SEO consultant, because I know that my clients will benefit by being on Google. As for Carousel, a recent Search Engine Land article highlighted that to score well on Carousel, you need to have good reviews. That in my mind is good customer service and a good customer experience, which is the way it should be.
I know that many are tired of Google’s constant change in their algorithms, but they have to do that as there are so many who are trying to game the system. That’s why SEO work now is more about integrated marketing, blending in with conversion marketing, user experience design and the overall customer experience. Thanks as always, for your constant feedback and support! I really appreciate it:)