Local Search Basics to Know Before You Actually Get Started

by in Local SEO

Local Search TrafficGoogle is constantly striving to provide the best search results for users, so being able to connect users with local search results is sort of a no-brainer.

While getting started with local search is fairly simple – you just follow the directions – Google has made understanding local search in general a little bit complicated.

Nonetheless, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran at managing local accounts, it helps to take a look at the basics and get the big picture and make sure you’re making the most of your local presence.

A Quick Recap: How Local Search Works

There is quite a bit of information regarding local search, but the most basic thing you can understand is how the Google local results look when a user is searching for something that warrants a location. Google is continuing to move towards something called a “local carousel” which has already been rolled out for many industries such as hotels and popular restaurants. Below is an example of a carousel result you might see:

Google Carousel

Not every local result is displayed in this way (at least not yet), so for other queries you might see a page that looks like the old version, which looks like this:

Google Local Results

In either case, you want to make sure that Google knows where your business is located so that the search engine can display your business for these queries.

Google+ and Google Places Merge for Local Search

Creating a local page for Google is a bit more complicated because Google has merged Google Places, which you can sign up for here, and Google+ Local Pages for Business. The new term is now “Google+ Places.” You have a few different options on this subject:

  • If you have a Google+ Business page but not a Google Places listing, sign up for a Google Places listing. You should then be able to see your Google+ page that you can manage on that Places dashboard.
  • If you have a Places listing and not a Google+ Business page, create a Google+ page and then verify that Google+ page with the same email address used for your Google Places listing. This will automatically sync the two.
  • If you don’t have either type of local page, you’ll want to create a Places listing first and then a Google+ Business page (discussed in point two).

Again, the history of Google local search is a long one. I recommend checking out this article on Search Engine Watch to learn all the details if you’re having trouble.

So how do you get involved? What you need to do is sign up for a local account with all of the different search engines. All you need to do is click the link and follow the directions, which will ask you to fill in your information, choose a category, upload photos, etc. Below are the links for the three most popular local search engines:

  • Click here for Google.
  • Click here for Bing.
  • Click here for Yahoo.

In some cases your business will pop up when asked for your company name. If your business pops up and it is, in fact, your business, you simply have to claim it. This just means someone else created your business for you, but they were unable to manage it. Don’t worry—this happens all the time!

You can visit this article for more detailed information about making the most of your accounts.

Don’t Forget: Get Involved with Yelp

This is a network full of reviews and is particularly popular for the restaurant industry, making up 20% of reviewed businesses. Yelp is another local hub where you can list your business. Yelp allows users to comment on different businesses and leave ratings to help users make decisions about which business is best.

I highly recommend checking out an interview we did with Morgan Remmers, Yelp’s manager of local business outreach. Remmers explained that shopping is actually the largest category reviewed (23 percent), but restaurants are a close second. Below is a screenshot of a business listed on Yelp:

Yelp Local

Yelp also allows users to check-in on the mobile Yelp app so that they can share with their friends on social media, and the site has special offers for businesses that want to offer discounts and coupons to entice readers to try out the store. Yelp had over 117 million unique visitors in Q3 of 2013, so it’s definitely a local strategy you don’t want to miss.

The Takeaway

All of the tips above will help you understand how local search works so that you can outrank your competition.  Local can definitely seem overwhelming if you aren’t sure how it all works (especially because Google made it so confusing for so long).

Scott Langdon, Managing Partner of HigherVisibility, explained that you have to take it one day at a time. He said, “Don’t worry about optimizing or getting into online reviews until you have your pages setup, and give yourself a little bit of time to familiarize yourself with different local pages. I think you will find that it actually isn’t so bad if you take it piece by piece.”

Do you have any local tips for small businesses looking to get ahead? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments below.

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