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.