A writer friend was recently preparing a piece on restaurants in California’s Coachella Valley. He Googled “Pizza restaurants Palm Desert.” The top three results were locally owned pizza parlors. He had to click on “more restaurants” before he got a list that included the local outlets of big national brands. In fact, Domino’s was pushed down to the number eight spot on the list.
Favoring locally owned businesses over the outlets of national brands seems to be one of big improvements from Google’s recent update to the local search algorithm. The game has been evened out for small businesses, and now with a website for your business, public customer reviews, and high-quality links, you can begin to rank even better in local search results.
Lets walk through the main factors required to improve your local search ranking.
A great site for a great business
A one or two page website doesn’t cut it anymore. Your website needs to provide the depth that shows you are the local expert or the best source of a service or product in your area. Further, you can’t create a website and walk away. Adding content to your site regularly through a blog or news section will ensure that Google sees your site is fresh.
The first step in acquiring great reviews is to establish your reputation among a base of satisfied customers. You have to get the word out about who you are and what you do. Then you have to encourage customers to write reviews.
There are many strategies to encourage reviews, such as follow-up emails, surveys, offers printed on receipts and even in-store computers. One fundamental option that can’t be overlooked is a correct listing in the Google business database. Google reviews play a very important role in Google rankings.
Backlinks and directory listings
It’s important to note that the Palm Desert pizza parlor listed first did not have largest number of backlinks. However, I think it’s safe to say that it had the most – or nearly the most – high quality backlinks. Others further down the list had more than twice as many backlinks, but the links were dominated by low quality websites. These were typically cheap, paid advertising in “travel” directory websites or public bulletin boards. Google viewed most of them as spammy.
The highest ranked pizza restaurant did not have very many of these kinds of links. However, it did have backlinks from a “sister” restaurant in a nearby town, so if you have another business, blog or web presence, don’t shy away from using them for cross promotional purposes.
Think of your strategy to improve your local search rankings like what they do in the first days of spring training in baseball. Every year they start out by going over the fundamentals, even with the players who have been in the “bigs” for many years. Continue doing these fundamentals right and your position in local search results will reflect your hard work and tenacity.