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The majority of people, when they’re searching for a product or service, start with an Internet search. Google uses its users’ location data to generate search results in their area, so it automatically spits out a list of businesses that are nearby and provide what they need—and people generally don’t scroll past the first few results before they make up their minds. For a local business to have a shot, it needs to grab a spot near the top of Google’s local search results. Here are some tips for boosting your local search reach on Google, and thus increasing your business.
1. Aim for Location Authority, Not Domain Authority
Location authority is the degree to which Google perceives your business as the most quality option in your area, and consequently the degree to which it ranks you highly among search results for keywords related to your business. While domain authority is your ranking power in Google’s search results, local authority specifically refers to your ranking power in your area. As a local business, it’s highly unlikely you will achieve domain authority for any of your targeted keywords or phrases—and what would be the point? There’s no need to have the top spot for “nail salon” worldwide if you’re operating locally. One way to increase your location authority is to get listed on listing sites, including Yelp, Google My Business, Manta, and YP.com. Don’t waste your resources trying to be the number one ranked business of your kind in the world.
2. Focus On Top Level Categories, Not Specific Keywords
A top-level category is an overarching classification that describes your business. Google My Business uses these categories to group businesses so that it can better provide search results for keywords related to the top-level category. For example, if you are a shiatsu masseuse in Long Beach, CA, your top-level category would be Massage Therapist. With local search, it’s best to optimize for your top-level category than to target any particular keyword phrase. If you can achieve location authority in your area for your top-level category, you’ll also be the top-ranked result for most, if not all, of the more specific keywords that fall under your overall category. It’s a waste of your time to focus on extremely specific keywords by loading your site with them.
3. Optimize for the 3-Pack
Remember the part about how people don’t scroll past the first few results? Well, those results are usually part of what is referred to as the Google 3-pack. Google something like “gyms near me,” and you’ll see the 3-pack, three businesses in your area that fit your keywords, with star ratings, addresses, and hours, neatly compacted into snippets. If you’re not in the 3-pack, you won’t see near as much business. You can optimize for the 3-pack by filling out your Google My Business page in its entirety, building up links from locally relevant news sources and directories, and establishing yourself on social media.
Encouraging people to post positive reviews on your Google My Business listing is also a great step—not only does having several reviews put you in a better position to enter the 3-pack, but people do pay attention to that star ranking. If you’re third in the 3-pack, but you’re packing more stars than the one and two slots, your local reach will be close to theirs.
Local businesses have traditionally gained traction by buying advertisements in local media, building positive word of mouth among the community, and having an attractive storefront. However, that’s not enough anymore. To compete in today’s Internet-first landscape, you need to establish yourself in Google’s local search results. The strategies listed above can help you get started!
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