Location, location, location. Realtors aren’t the only ones harping on the three most important things in sales. Plenty of other marketers do, too, given consumers’ search habits.
“According to 2009 results, business location is the most important selection criterion consumers consider when making a decision to contact or purchase at a specific business,” says the TMP Directional Marketing & comScore Local Search Usage Study, Q2 2009. About 42 percent of local searchers want to find businesses within six to 15 miles of home or work, according to the study.
Here, marketers learn how they can optimize their local search results for conversions from Dave Jabas, owner of Apple Valley, Minn.-based FindMyBusinessNow.com; Gregg Stewart, president of New York-based 15miles; and Julia Mack, online marketing consultant with New York-based LocalConnex.
1. Befriend Google Maps. Jabas says this was the first action he took on behalf of the Heartland Law Firm, of Glenview, Ill. The firm already had geotargeting built into its name and had done some local search optimization. But the attorneys wanted to reach the top for the search terms “wills and trusts in Glenview, Ill.” and “elder law, Glenview, Ill.” Jabas used the tricks he details here about Google Maps to help the firm reach top rankings just a day after they hired FindMyBusinessNow.com.
The comScore study shows that Google Maps’ popularity has grown from 15 percent of local searches in June 2008 to 26 percent in June 2009. Jabas offers this Google Maps optimization checklist:
- Is there already a Google Maps listing? “Just Google your business name and see if you show up in the map box,” he says of the image that often shows up on the first page of search results for local companies. “Google pulls information from all over the Internet for these listings. So if you do have a listing, make sure the information is correct. If you don’t already have a listing, submit one through the Google Business Center.”
- Have you claimed the listing? “If you don’t tell Google you are the owner of your business, absolutely anyone can go in and attempt to claim your business,” Jabas says. “This can prevent you from registering yourself with Google as the authorized representative of your business. Make sure you do not lose your username and password. If you claim your listing using a username and password that is not related to a Gmail account, Google does not offer any type of password recovery support. If you have multiple locations, register each location separately.”
- Did you do careful keyword research? “Think about synonyms for what you do and where you’re located,” he says. “Don’t neglect the regional words people use, like “Soho” or “Clear Lake District” or “tri-state.”
- Is the listing submitted to several online directories? “You want to submit an identical listing to online directories like Superpages and Yellow Pages.com,” Jabas says. “But to maximize the effect directories have on your Google Map listing, you really should submit to the top 90 and renew your submissions once a year.”
- Do your listings complement each other? “It’s important that your website matches your various directory listings which match your social media profiles, etc.,” he says.
- Is the listing enhanced? “Give the searcher every reason to choose you over all the other listings,” he says. “Add visual items like photos, videos and coupons to your listing; put your phone number and hours right up front; and implement a plan to ask your customers to post reviews.”
- Are you monitoring the Google Maps listing? “Some businesses have damaging reviews they don’t even know about,” he says. Jabas helped Long Branch Saloon & Eatery of Farmington, Minn. when Google listed the clearly open business as being permanently closed.
2. Remember that conversions may not happen online, but the Web got them there. According to the comScore study, most local searchers react offline—calling the business and/or arriving in person. Stewart says he sees some marketers directing prospects to online forms, then measuring Web conversions and ignoring offline conversions—valuing their campaigns incorrectly.