Perhaps the most important aspect of any local SEO strategy has got to be Google Places Optimisation. Towards the end of last year, Google changed the way they ranked and displayed local search results. Knowing how to optimise both your website and your Google Places page will allow you to rank as high as possible in a local search.

The first thing to point out is the difference in the way that Google is displaying local search results. Previously, a local search could return results in the form of seven Google Maps listings. These were simply the Google Places pages ranked in order of their relevancy. There was no need to have a website, just an optimised places page.

After the algorithm change however, Google has started combining the website and the places listing into one search result. This has meant that it is absolutely necessary to have a well-performing website as well as an optimised places page in order to rank. One of the reasons for this change in its algorithm was in order to fight spammers who were claiming a places page, optimising it, and ranking in the results without a website that validated the map listing’s credibility. Another thing to note is that even though local SEO results were called “Google Maps” before the algorithm change, and now “Google Places”, they are essentially one in the same concept.

When updating your local SEO strategy, you will need to optimise both the location pages on your website and your Google Places page to ensure that you are being listed in the local search results. The changes that you make should also be aimed at increasing the credibility of your places page through ensuring that the information on your places page and the location page on your website is as related as possible.

Website Optimisation for Local SEO

Separate, optimised pages for each geographic location

The most important aspect of optimising for local SEO is that you should have a separate, optimised page on your website for every location where you do business. Ensure that these pages are optimised for both your main keywords as well as for that specific location. For example, the title of your page might be <Chinese Restaurant in South Kensington, London>. Each of these optimised pages will match a different optimised Google Places page.

Consistent Contact Information

Ensure that the contact information (phone number and address) for that location is listed on the page, and that it is consistent with the information that you provide on the places page, as well as being consistent with any other listings of your business location information on other websites (citations – discussed in the Google Places optimisation section). This will increase both the credibility of the Google places page and the associated location page on your website.

Link to your Google Places page

To increase the credibility of your Google Places page; link to your places listing from the relevant optimised location page on your website. For example, you could place a “Visit us on Google Places” link in the footer, or near the contact information.

Other factors:

  • Meta description: Even though this is not used as a ranking factor by the search engines, it is a great way to increase CTR and provide additional information to users, such as the full address.
  • Meta keywords: It is unnecessary to include this information, unless you want to reveal to your competitors the exact keywords that you are trying to rank for. Google does not place any weight on this tag (anymore).
  • Optimised header tags: Similarly to the title tag, the <H1> tag especially should contain the main keywords as well as the specific geographic location of your business.
  • Body content: Should contain about 250 words of indexable content containing the keywords and the location.
  • Link building: Increase the number of authoritative relevant links that point to these locations pages. Links from geographically relevant websites will have more of an impact. With respect to anchor text, you might need to use a variation of combinations of the keywords and location so that the anchor text makes sense.

Google Places Optimisation

Each specific business location has to have its own page listed in Google Places that has been both verified and optimised. You should spend time ensuring that all the sections are filled out as fully as possible and are well optimised.

Place name: Do not attempt to include all of your keywords in the name as you would do in the website page title. Google sees these types of names as spammy, and will filter the results to exclude these listings. This section should include the name of the business and the location. Only include keywords when they make absolute sense in the name.

Contact information: Should be exactly the same as how it appears on the corresponding page on your website. This increases the credibility of both the website and the places page.

Linking URL: You should link to the corresponding location page on your website, and not simply to the homepage! When Google is spidering all this information, it compares the information on the places page and the linking URL page to see whether they are similar. Again, this matching information will increase the credibility of the listing and the website.

Categories: You are able to choose up to 5 relevant categories for your business. These are massively important in ranking for the relevant keywords in local SEO. Use the suggestions that Google provides in this section, or create your own. If you are not sure what categories to use, look at what competitors who are ranking at the moment are using. The categories that you choose should also correspond to the keywords that you have optimised your website page with.

Photos and videos: This is one of the places that needs to be updated to ensure a well fill-out and optimised places page. Include pictures of the building, the employees, the products, etc., anything that would increase the appeal of the listing.

Increase the number of citations: Citations are other places on the internet that list your business contact details. These are listed in the “More about this page” section. It is important that the phone number and address that appears in these citations is exactly the same as the information in your places page and website location page. A good place to start in increasing these citations is to get a Yahoo! And Bing map listing. Other places to list your business include on Yelp, FourSquare, Yahoo! Local, MSN Live Local, etc. Whitespark has a tool that emails a list of citation sources to you, based on the keywords that you choose.

Other factors that influence the local SEO ranking are things like the age of the places listing; proximity of the business to centroid (centre of city/town); reviews; Hotpot ratings; as well as activity on Facebook Places, FourSquare and Twitter Places.

Being aware of and reacting to these local SEO updates from Google, as well as the many other changes in the SEO industry, can have a dramatic effect on the success of your overall SEO campaign. As the leading SEO agency for customer service, results and technology, 4Ps Marketing ensure that every client has a revised SEO strategy, incorporating important industry changes such as Google Places optimisation.

4Ps isn’t just another SEO agency. To discuss how SEO and content are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in user interaction and local search, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels. What could a performance marketing agency like ours do for your business?