This article covers the 3 areas of a Google local search results page.
PayPerClick Advertising – A Double Edged Sword
It’s easy to do, but VERY difficult to profit with.
Any business owner can sign up with the Google AdWords program and be advertising on the first page of Google in just an hour or so. There is no easier way to have a business seen on the first page of Google. HOWEVER, it’s EXTREMELY difficult to achieve an acceptable return on investment with PayPerClick advertising.
It’s all but impossible for a novice to put together a winning combination of bid price, ad copy, and landing page. In most cases, a PayPerClick consultant is required. At the very least, tremendous time and work are required by the business owner to test and learn how to profit with
PayPerClick advertising does have its place and should be considered by every business owner at some point. But it’s not wise to implement PayPerClick before taking advantage of all the free options Google offers. Let’s get free local business and organic listings set up and working before spending money on PayPerClick!
Local Business Listings – Google’s Prime Real Estate
Nothing beats free advertising! Notice the Free listings above. The plumbers who have their sites and contact information listed next to the map pay nothing for that advertising!
Simply put, the plumbers who understand how to place their business on that search page are stealing customers from the other plumbers in Augusta every day.
Most searches for goods and services with the name of a city produce a Google map with adjacent business listings (see the above graphic). This is the most eye-catching and preferred listing location in the search results. If I’m a local plumber in Augusta, I want my business by that map! Best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime to be listed there.
First, I’ll address two very common misconceptions about the free spots in Google Local Business listings.
• Unlike the Yellow Pages, these great placements cannot be purchased for any amount of money. It’s not about how large a business’ marketing budget is.
• If a business does not show up on the first page, owners do not have to simply settle for poor placements. There are specific steps that can be taken to move any business up in the listing order to enjoy the profits of a first page listing!
Local Business Listings are the listings just to the right of the Google map. (Yahoo and Bing have their own version of Local Business Listings. But since Google is the most popular search engine, I’ll refer to Google first in this paper.) Again, these are free listings and the most clicked ads on a local search listings page.
Most local businesses are already listed in the business listings. These are seen by clicking the link “more results near…” which is found below the main listings. Although most businesses are listed in those pages, few are ever seen by potential customers. Most searchers never go past the first or second pages when looking for a local service or product.
How do businesses get Google to list them on the first page? There are 20+ criteria Google uses to filter the business listings.
Listed below are a few of the 20+ criteria Google uses to rank businesses in the local listings:
Proper keyword optimization of the business title. (Warning: Be aware that improper use of keywords in the title can lead to a keyword spamming penalty by Google!) If you have a listing now, do not modify it without this understanding.
Verification of the listing – This is vital for several reasons. During verification, Google telephones each business to supply a pin number which the business owner inputs into their business listing account. Verification gives Google more confidence in the listing and will quite often result in the business moving higher in the rankings.
Proper category selections. Setting up the listing is made easy by Google. However, there are a limited number of categories Google allows the owner to select. Understanding how to properly select the categories can make or break the listing’s success.
Customers are allowed to review their experience and provide testimonials within the listing. These reviews play an important part in the rankings. Google does not penalize for negative rankings; however, business owners can greatly improve their listings’ effectiveness by understanding how reviews fit into Google’s ranking algorithm.
Google places much importance on “validation” of the business. In other words, when Google sees a business listing with the SAME exact address, phone number and other specifics in other free online directories, the listing gains relevance\. Presenting the same business information in proper locations across the web provides that necessary validation.
It’s important for the business owner to understand the connection between their local business listing and their business website. Google often ranks business listings better if the web site associated with the listing also ranks well in the organic listings. Using SEO techniques on business web sites can positively influence the business listing.
I won’t spend more time going into all 20 criteria Google uses to rank business. My point is simply to demonstrate there is nothing mysterious or difficult about the process. Once a business owner understands what Google wants, it’s easy to make the necessary tweaks and adjustments to compete for those coveted first page listings.
Organic Listings – More Free Advertising!
Organic listings are another great method for attracting online attention…Plus, they are also free!
Organic listings are simply web sites Google found which they feel are relevant for a given search. Since many people understand the PayPerClick ads are advertisements, the organic listings are more trusted by most searchers. Web site owners who optimize their web sites in order to rank well in these listings enjoy plenty of free and targeted traffic from potential buyers.
As with the local business listings, the organic positions cannot be purchased. Google reviews and lists the web pages in the order they judge as most relevant. For example, when someone searches the term “Augusta plumbers”, Google will show the web pages they think will help the searcher most. Business owners must understand how to use SEO to create and/or modify their web sites in order to gain first page rankings.
There are two misconceptions website owners have about how first page organic listings are determined by Google.
Google does not care if the site is “pretty”! The best looking web site in the world could end up on page 20 of a Google search. Likewise, a “korny” looking web site could easily rank #1 on Google. (Of course the ideal situation is to have an attractive web site on the first page!)
Money cannot buy placement in the organic listings. The placement order for the organic listings has nothing to do with the size of the business or its marketing budget! Talk about an equal playing field!
As with the business listings, there are specific criteria used by Google for ranking web sites in the organic listings. Applying the criteria to web pages with the intent of ranking well is the definition of SEO (search engine optimization).
The following are a few aspects of applying SEO to web pages (Don’t worry if this sounds confusing. Even those brand new to Internet marketing can rapidly and easily learn and apply the process to their sites.):
The title tag used by the site owner is extremely important. Proper use of title tags can result in first or second page rankings vs. third, fourth, or worse rankings. For local search, it’s important to properly use the city and service keyword in the title tag.
Content is king with respect to ranking niche pages. (Local searches that use specific cities or locations are considered “niche searches”). Although the amount of content is important, proper keyword optimization must be performed.
Backlinks are vital when there is competition. If a number of sites for a given search have well optimized sites, Google will look at the number and quality of backlinks for a site. A backlinking strategy need not be complicated or time consuming. There are many free and easy methods which allow web site owners to build important backlinks.
There are a number of other criteria Google uses to rank their organic listings. As with the business listing criteria, those are beyond the scope of this paper but are all simple to implement.