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Local Search Made Simple Continued

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In the last post, I wrote about optimizing your website to tell Google and your visitors where you are and what you do. But another important online place where it’s absolutely critical to clearly identify where you are and what you do is your local business profile on Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local.

Your Categories

In Google Maps, you can categorize your business in up to 5 categories. They may be standard categories that are provided by Google Maps or those that you can create yourself. Use 1-2 of the standard Google Maps categories that best fit your business, and then create 3-4 that contain your best keyword terms plus the geography terms for which you want to be found.

For example, as a New Jersey online marketing company, we classify ourselves in the already established categories of Advertising, and Internet. For our other four categories we use the top keyword phrases for which we want to be found, such as SEO NJ, Internet marketing, or automotive search engine marketing.

The categories you choose may be based on any criteria that are important to you. Some suggestions are your most profitable procedures or the categories in which your strongest competitors have categorized themselves. The categories may also be based on some other criteria known only to you.

Use geographic terms in your categories in order to make it completely clear to Google where you do business. Using the names of nearby areas may also help your site rank better for those searches. For example, our office is in Westfield, NJ, but most searchers use “New Jersey” or “NJ” in their queries, so we use New Jersey terms in our categories instead of Westfield terms.

However, Yahoo Local and Bing Local do not allow you to create your own categories. So you must choose as many categories as you are allowed, picking the most appropriate and most important first.

Your Descriptions

Also use geography terms within the description area of your profiles, where you have complete control of what is written. These descriptions are crawled and indexed by the local spiders, so make certain they find your most important geographic terms within them.

Your Attributes

Attributes (only in Google Maps) allow you to go crazy with terms to tell spiders and humans what you do and where you do it. You can, in essence, create and name a field whatever you want and then populate it with terms describing that property.

Almost every business pulls people from both its immediate location and surrounding areas. So, you could create a field named Locations Served and list the towns and neighborhoods near you and from which your business typically draws customers.

Some business, like plumbing, carpet cleaning, lawn care, and pet sitting go to the customer instead of customers coming to them. For a business like this, you could title a field Service Areas and list the places where you are willing to travel to provide your services.

You can also include attributes that allow you to use keyword terms that contain geographic modifiers. For example, if you have an online agency in New Jersey, you could create a field titled Online Services and populate it with terms like “New Jersey internet marketing”, “online marketing in NJ”, “SEO NJ”, “SEM experts NJ”, “NJ website development”, and “New jersey reputation management”. This is an effective way to help you rank for long-tail terms that apply to where you are and what you do.

Your Coupons

Although not every business type has been traditionally associated with coupons, creative entrepreneurs are finding ways to use them to their benefit. Nearly every business can offer some sort of discount or value-added coupon for its goods or services. For inspiration you can look around to see what your competitors are doing with coupons. Then, when you create your coupons, include your best keyword terms plus your location in the offers.

It’s highly likely that attributes from Google Maps Local Business Listings and coupons from all of the platforms are pushed out to other places on the Web, such as Google Base and coupon Web sites, so the impact can be very far-ranging.

Local business listings are designed to help searchers find businesses in particular geographic locations. Make it easy for Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local to tell where you are and what you do to increase the odds they will find your business when a relevant search is made.

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