In my previous local SEO post, I mentioned how local businesses can gain previous ground back from e-commerce. What’s simply mind boggling is that this can be done without even having a website.
When conducting a local search you may get that Google Maps block that shows where you can probably find whatever it is you’re looking for … usually. What should pique your curiosity is that these results don’t mirror the regular Google Natural Search Results. To further confuse the issue, these Google Map results tend to include and sometime rank businesses highly that don’t even have websites.
Actually, this was probably the most amazing decision to happen to Local SEO. This type of rank shifting gives the non-technical business an edge they didn’t even know about. I get a warm feeling about a mom and pop shop getting more visitors and they probably don’t have a clue.
“Enough Sentiment. How do I get in there?”
Ok, so you want to be ranked high in Google Maps? Well, since the rules change regularly to keep exploitation low, we can reverse engineer enough to see what exactly is going on and map out a pattern.
1. Find a Google Map result of a business without a website and look at it
Start with the top one and do as much research as you can on where they are mentioned. Find out if they are in paid directories. Search for the address and see where it pops up. This will yield the biggest fruit. By looking at the other places that business is listed, you can infer what Google seems to look at more predominantly.
2. Notice how this competitor ranks in organic listings.
Do they appear in the Google 10? If so, what 3rd party directories are giving them a lot of clout. Join those directories too. For instance, if citysearch.com seems to be constant in a lot of these website-less businesses, then this is worth checking into and getting listed in there. On a side note, it’s worth noting how many 3rd party directories DON’T show up – ever – in your research and take that into account.
3. Dust off the phone books, if you didn’t pitch them already
I know, I felt you cringe from here. The reason to check into phone books is to see how they advertise. If they are advertising big, it’s probably a good guess that the phone book ad seller through in some paid directory or some other internet service with it. It helps narrow down what this competitor is doing.
4. Look for reviews
Notice how many reviews they may have garnered across several directories. Good and bad reviews may not make much of a difference because “reviews” themselves are powerful.
5. Notice the Age of the Business
A lot of these directories ask this question. Keep in mind that age of a local business is a measure of the stability. It’s not something that can be faked and if that turns out to be an issue, there’s other battlefields to fight on and win.
6. Are they part of a chain?
This is another one that you will have to wrestle with. If they are a chain, they’ll have more locations in the map. Adding several locations to Google Maps is not an option if you don’t have them. Claiming your space in Google Local, requires a physical address where a post card can be mailed for verification, or an immediate automated phone call.
7. Where do they advertise?
Do they do TV, radio, and print? Are they on billboards or locally distributed fliers? This offline advertising prompts people to type in their business name into Google and click on a 3rd party directory. You’d be naive to think that Google doesn’t notice that type of behavior.
8. One-up them. Add photos, videos any content to the 3rd party directories that you can.
So you found where those businesses are listed and what they are doing offline. Now you have the information you need to “do one better.” Fill out profiles completely, add online coupons, add your commercial to the video section, add photos and of course … advertise offline. Sound like a lot of work? It is, but you’ll notice a difference when leads start coming from your efforts once you get the ball rolling.