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Is Local Search Really The Most Efficient Use of My Time?
I recently received the following questions regarding a “local search” presentation that I gave to a group of businesses in San Diego at SCORE. For a little background, the presentation covered the basics of local search, including setting up the Google Places listing, best-practices in regard to business name, description, etc., creating citations, the primary directories that Google indexes, review management, etc. (Here’s a link to the presentation on SlideShare.com).
I highlight these particular questions because I think they address a business owner’s concern about how valuable the local search process and Google really are to their business. I hope my responses (below) help clarify the importance of following the “local search” process, as well as what to look for when working with a third party on local search (for additional insights on this, please see Andrew Shotland’s excellent post: 13 Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Local SEO Consultant).
“I noticed on your presentation the below information. I started to add myself to a directory, but I realize this can take hours and hours to add my business to all the directories you list. Then if something changes I have to log into each directory and change one by one. Is this really the most efficient use of my time? How important is it for these directories?”
Yes, listing in the directories can take hours. But it doesn’t happen all at once. You can spread them out over time. For example, after 90 days of building citations on a steady weekly basis, a business should expect to have anywhere from 80 to 100. The presentation focuses on the top ones; for these directories, we believe every site should claim their listings.
1) The more citations a company has, the more likely the listing will be found in Google Maps for target keyword searches.
2) Many of these directories include reviews; claiming the listing enables you to be notified when someone leaves a review of your company (this is especially true in the case of Yelp).
3) Listing in these directories gives you more control over how your company and brand are presented; chances are that your company is already listed in some of these, but the name, address, description, contact info, etc. might be wrong or could be improved upon.
4) Search for your company’s name in Google. The results include your site, your Google Place page, your site again, Linkedin, and then other sites that mention your company by name. Many of the directory listings (like Yelp, Insiderpages, Superpages, etc.) include your company name in the url. These listings will rank for brand-name searches. This gives you the ability to manage what people find when they search for your company. The benefits of managing your online reputation via the directories.
5) Last but not least, along with their benefit to boosting a company’s Google Places’ ranking, these directories also have the potential to generate leads themselves. Case in point, a [brand new] furniture rental comapny in San Diego just launched their local search campaign and got their first online sale from Yellowpages.com. Although in the long term the traffic from Google will most certainly exceed that from Yellowpages.com, this story is a good reminder not to discount the lead-generating potential of directories and review sites.
“Question for you. I am showing as listing F below. I was told by another SEO company to add keywords to the title tag but your presentation says not to do that. What should I do?”
As for the listing title in Google Places, it used to be acceptable to add target keywords to your company’s name. In fact, Google Maps even explained in a Webmaster Tools video that it’s acceptable to add keywords to the business title/name as long as those keywords are informational and fit with the type of business. Although we still see map listings rank that use keywords, we’re seeing more and more that they should be avoided. In fact, Google now clearly states not to use them. See below for Google Places recommendations for business name (link for Google Places Policies: Quality guidelines).
As for the clients we work with, we prefer to use their registered or licensed business name. Something else to be aware of is that Google seems to work a little differently according to the industry vertical. For example, in some verticals Google “rewards” tactics like keyword stuffing a title, while in other verticals it doesn’t. Again, it pays to do a little research and experiment, but not be too risky as Google Places is known to “suspend” listings if the listing seems spammy.
In addition, even if your listing ranks, do some keyword research to see how impactful your ranking is, as well as what other terms should be targeted to maximize exposure. For example, in this particular case, the company ranks for “san diego computer support” but the high-traffic term is actually “san diego computer repair”. As such, targeting the high-volume term can result in higher traffic and potential leads.
The following search volumes are from Google Keyword Tool (broad results):
san diego computer repair – 3,600 monthly
san diego computer consulting – 1,600
san diego computer support – 880
So, back to the original question, Is local search really the most efficient use of my time?, while it’s up to each business owner to decide whether the process of local search is the most efficient use of their time (or an employee’s or consultant’s time), I think it’s safe to say that local search in regard to a company’s online presence is unquestionably worth the time!