Any good SEO person will tell you that your local listings in Google as well as other search engines including Yahoo and Bing are a very important factor in the search engine optimization process, especially for businesses that provide services only in a specific geographic area. The process for optimizing these listings in Google Places is similar to any basic page optimization. If done correctly your places listing may integrate with your organic listing, replacing the standard organic listing for geographically relevant keyword searches.
Optimizing the Google Places Page
The process for optimizing your Google Places listing is similar to any basic page optimization. While certain areas are more important from a listing standpoint, it is critical to fill out all of the information. For the purpose of this article I will focus on those most relevant to organic SEO. For complete instruction on how to add your local listing click here.
There are a number of important parts to optimizing your Google places listing. From a organic standpoint, the most important facets are the business name and location, description and the categories you select to identify your business. The latter two appear to have the greatest weight in this process as you are likely limited in what you can have for a company name. If you have relevant keywords included in the name of your business, this can be beneficial, however, I give pause to adding additional keywords to this area, unless you can do so without losing the integrity of your business name.
Like any basic page optimization, the description is key. You have 200 words to describe your business. Make sure to include relevant keyword phrases including geographic related keywords. Like your meta description tag, readability is also important and stuffing too many keywords in can be a negative.
Your categories are also of great importance. The category options are currently a bit limited and if you are looking for niche categories you may be disappointed. You can,however, add in your own categories. Google suggests adding at least one Google-suggested category before adding customizable categories. You can enter up to 5 categories for your business.
Image and Videos
Adding an image can also be beneficial, however, the benefit is primarily from an increase in click-through rates and conversions rather than ranking. It is important that the images your select accurately reflect your services.
Videos also seem to have little effect on the optimization process but like images can enhance the listing. In addition while the overall effect of videos on SEO has been greatly exaggerated recently, it is clear that Google indexes video and that the use of video can be effective as an SEO tool.
Don’t forget your main site
Like with Google Adwords quality score, linking your Google places page to a poorly optimized website will reduce its effectiveness.
What currently appears to have the greatest effect on Google places results and thus organic optimization (besides location) is reviews. It doesn’t appear to matter whether or not those reviews are positive or negative and unlike other review sites such as Yelp, reviews on Google places seem to be far and few. Perhaps this is why their relevance seems to be such a positive on search results. So far, Plus 1 seems to be a bust, but Google is clearly looking to inject more a personal and geographic approach to its results. Optimizing Google Place pages and soliciting reviews should be considered a major part of any SEO project.
About the author:
David Crockenberg is the owner of DEC Systems, a Rhode Island web design company specializing in search engine optimization and marketing. You can follow DEC Systems on Facebook and subscribe to David’s web design blog to get updates on what’s hot (and what’s not) in search engine optimization, and marketing.