Local Search: Upping the Quality Score
Before I dive into the subject of this post, I just want to make things as clear as possible. Some of the below factors that can attribute to the determining of your local search rank may not be applicable to the nature of your business. In reading the below, you should be sure to be taking a contextual approach to implementing certain page elements. Say for example, you’re running a consultancy where prices are subject to quotations – then a page displaying your prices and packages may not be applicable. Rather than simply going bananas and implementing every single one of the below suggestions without acknowledging the impact on your website’s audience will be blind sighted and reckless. Keep usability in mind before search ranking! You will be rewarded for it!
Now, let’s get into the juicy stuff. I picked up a nice little piece of information online, taken from the primary source of SMX West 2010. This information was derived directly from the seminar entitled “ranking factors for local search” and has been collated in a very well written piece by author Chris Silver Smith. In short, during the conference there were 10 elements outlined that can attribute to good quality scores and local search rankings. Let’s go through each element one by one, give a bit of an evaluation and examine how it can positively boost your page… I’ve narrowed it down to about 8:
- Create employee profile pages – This all comes down to adding a bit of personality behind the brand. Ranking factors or not, this can be highly beneficial to businesses such as law firms for example, where the names of employees are frequently search by people online. Setting up an index of pages for each individual employee could be highly beneficial for search rankings when name-specific searches are performed. It could also be of benefit to have these types of pages installed with regards to managing online reputation. According to this seminar, Google has hinted to many that it intends to create a review system around individuals within a business. Conversely, this could indicate that that local search 7-pack could begin to appear listing company names around search for individuals employed by that company. This is just speculation at the moment, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind!
- Contact us pages – This one is pretty common sense in my opinion. A ‘contact us’ page for local search is essential. This is the first place that the Google bots will look to index your information for local search results. Make sure that all of your business details, including physical address, contact number and even hours of operation are text-based, and included within the main body of the page. Make sure you embed Google Maps on your site to backup your physical business location! These can be found here for those interested, and you can even take it one step further by adding Street View. If you have multiple business locations, try and dedicate a business location to pages of their own.
- Everything needs to be search-engine visible – Make it blatantly obvious that your contact page is, in essence, a contact page. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Not really. A lot of companies go for visually stunning page layouts that often bypass search rule 101: All information that you want the search bots to see needs to appear in an easily identifiable xhtml format. You’d be pleasantly surprised to learn of how many web-designers are oblivious to simple SEO best practices.
- Customer/Client Testimonials – Of course! It only makes sense that Google want to be seeing this type of thing on your website, particularly when they’ve implemented a review system that has been emphasized by Google as being an integral part of the factors affecting local search rank.
- Product and service descriptions – This basically entails dividing the services of your website into page themes. This will help leverage your organic rankings by having a dense amount of themed inbound links and keyword rich copy throughout your pages. This will subsequently help increase your organic rank for long-tail and product/service specific keywords. Also, when obtaining business listings across major directories such as Google Places, TrueLocal, Yellow pages etc. endeavour to list product and service keywords in business categories and descriptions. If you have customer testimonials specifically around different core service areas, it will also be beneficial to include these within the relevant pages.
- Displaying prices and trust symbols – I’ve reworked this point a little bit. I totally agree when the experts say that you should be displaying prices to enhance usability, because in hindsight that is exactly what the consumer wants to see when they arrive at your website – the real bare bones. From a search perspective, this doesn’t really apply… What does apply however, is how your site is construed in terms of trust. For instance, does your company have an online payment gateway? If so… Do you have certification symbols to re-enforce the validity of your website? This will not only benefit your business in terms of increasing customer loyalty, but Google also looks out for this type of thing.
- Coupons and discounts – If you’re yet to take the hint, Google has mentioned that it endorses local businesses that utilise the coupon feature in Google Maps. It’s a great customer incentive, and Google will boost you up as a trusted site because you’re adding value to the consumer – Google’s primary objective, make the search experience more rewarding for the customer.
- Images – Images are a great for any business, big or small, because they’re a visual, autonomous way of selling your business. By depicting your products or services online, you’re giving the consumer transparent information to assist them into coming to a resolution about buying into your product or service. Google has identified with this, and the big hint here is that they encourage as much inclusion of images as well as video media within your local business listing as possible. Having a nice catalogue of images can do nothing but help your business increase levels of usability and convenience. Google Maps likes this type of thing.
According to the guys at SMX West, there’s approximately. 200+ ranking factors that make up the Google Local search algorithm, all unknown of course… But what you can see from the above, there’s a common trend emerging for local search: Usability. Google wants to make its local centre bigger than the phone book, more interactive, more engaging and more comprehensive.
Boost your usability = boost your quality score.