8 Tips to Maximize Your Branded Presence in the Google Local Search Results

With the rollout of the new grey pin local search results, Google has continued to increase the amount of information from your Places page that is visible in the main search results. This is particularly true with the new Branded One Box result.

Google is prepared to turn over to your company the better part of the information above the fold and with a little work and some luck you can maximize what the searcher sees about your business.

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Here are 8 tips that help you maximize “your ad” on the front page of Google:

1)Select the title tag of your home page with care. If you service only one city, it is no longer necessary to include the city in your title tag of your home page. Google is using other location signals to ascertain this information. Personally, I think that brand often trumps keywords in local markets. When that is the case I put the company name first which creates a strong, clean branded visual for the user. The brand is front and center in the results.

2)With the addition of Sitelinks Google provides 6 (it can be 12 but I have yet to see that many in local) or more additional opportunities to engage the customer. It is important for the pages that display to front load the description tags with the call to action and keep them short as there are very few characters (54?) that actually display.

3)Which pages show and title tags show and why is a bit of mystery so you want to be sure to monitor what is actually showing. It means that you want to be sure to NOINDEX pages that you definitely don’t want Google to have, like your 404 page. If a page does show up that you don’t want showing in this display but you don’t want to NOINDEX the page it might be necessary to demote the page from Sitelinks via the Webmaster tools. REGARDLESS, it means that even pages that you didn’t think would see much light might need to be updated with more relevant Titles and Description tags. Google changes what shows so review the display periodically.

4)Know what other IYP or Local Directories are doing a good job on the long tail branded search for your business name and be sure that you have maximized your presence with them. That might include data, photos and if appropriate reviews.

5)Google puts their reviews front and center so including Google in your review management process goes without saying. But since Google will be showing other review sites as well it makes sense to include them in your process.

6)Google also might surface rich snippet testimonials from your site. If you have testimonials be sure that they are marked up and the testimonial page has enough internal links that Google sees the page as a prominent one.

 

7)With the advent of the Grey Pinned results, Google started surfacing as many as 5 photos from your Places Page. They will give owner uploaded photos priority but will use others from around the web if you haven’t filled your quota. The photos shown on the front page are arbitrarily cropped to a square layout for display and are shown very small. This means that you do not want to use landscape photos on your Places page as cropping will be very unpredictable. You may want to pre-crop your uploaded images to a square shape. Because of the very small size, use photos that crop the subject close and are not too busy with details.

8)The sentiment snippets that show with your listing are the least understood of all aspects of the display. It is not clear when Google includes them and the process by which they are generated. Google does seem to put a lot of faith in Citysearch reviews and if a phrase is used frequently enough in other directories (i.e. buying experience) it may also be used.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
8 Tips to Maximize Your Branded Presence in the Google Local Search Results by

63 thoughts on “8 Tips to Maximize Your Branded Presence in the Google Local Search Results”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Sorry my question isn’t entirely related to your post, but here goes. If you have a business, offering 2 separate services but at the same address, under slightly different names, is it good to have 2 separate Google Places profiles or to amalgamate them into 1? My predicament comes from a current client, a hair salon that also offers a specialist wig service for cancer patients. I’m not sure whether to create 1 for each side of the business, Trinity Hair Studio and Trinity Wig Specialists, to target their individual service, or to create one for a Hair & Wig Studio. Will Google presume they’re duplicates if the same brand name at the same address is used and disregard one, if not both?

    Regards,

    Scott

  2. @Scott
    Just because a business has two forward facing marketing brands & endeavors does make it two businesses.

    If they are to be separate on Google Places then they need to be completely separate everywhere both online and off; different DBAs, different (preferably land line) phone numbers, different suites, different print YP ads, different listings ACROSS the internet etc etc. Otherwise you can be sure that Google will assume that they are one entity and surely merge them into one.

    If a business is not prepared to make the investment that the above implies (new phone line, legal filings, on-going marketing etc), I would not even attempt it.

    It depends not just on how the owner perceives the business brands & businesses, or how the consumer perceives them but how the Google algo perceives them. Given that it is a “black box” this is not easy to predict.

    The Google merge & purge algo is imprecise and may still merge the two businesses even though they are in fact two distinct businesses, even with the many investments noted above.

    The other issue is that building out the online prominence of two businesses is roughly twice the cost and effort of building out the online prominence of one business. It doesn’t particularly scale – you will still need unique websites for both businesses, citations for both businesses, link backs for both businesses…

    The safe route is to take the consolidated marketing approach. This will not only allow Google to “get it right” but allow you to focus your on line marketing resources & lower your ongoing commitments to that marketing.

    Doing a great job online for one business is hard enough. Doing it for two is more than most small businesses can cope with on an on-going basis.

  3. I agree it is key for title tags and other keywords to be carefully tweaked to maximize your visibility on local search. You have to decide based on real results whether your company’s “brand” is sufficient to outperform location. Tweak and tweak again, and test your site’s local search performance using helpful tools such as the free visibility report at Local Search Tool. The Local Search Tool, or LST, permits clients to gauge their online effectiveness by allowing them to see how many local directories they have, whether their Google Places, Yahoo and Bing local listing are optimized, how they are dong compared to competitors, what their online reputation is, and how well they are ranking for their local keywords. Constant local search refinement is a MUST!

  4. @ Andy:

    I used analytics on one business to take a more current perspective on search. The time period represented about 10,000 searches.

    Of the first 100 keyword phrases representing about 5,000 searches I’d equate about 20% of the searches to “name” or “brand” searches.

    That means 80% were discovery searches…and the vast majority are pretty much on target with regard to category and theme.

    Of the next 200 most common search phrases I scanned and it appears that about 10% represent name or brand searches. In other words about 90% are discovery phrases.

    (that still leaves about 35% of total search phrases–ahhhhh the long tail–didn’t look at it to break down “brand/recovery searches” versus topical/discovery searches” :D

    Then I looked at form contacts for that business (which for that business is the web metric for web conversions).

    While 2/3 of the traffic came from search about 90% of conversions were from search.

    Of the search phrase conversions about 85% were discovery/general versus about 15% recovery/name/brand phrases.

    The business gets about 50% of its leads via forms with 50% coming from calls, emails, walk-ins etc.

    Aside from search there is an overlap element that reflects referrals. Our staff doesn’t do a great job of distinguishing direct referrals and word of mouth recommendations…. My guess is that the “branded searches” often represent word of mouth or recommendations. At what level–I don’t know.

    Then I looked at Adwords for that time period. I have a couple of hundred variations on ads, including exact match, broad match and the third (in between) category. The campaigns are all geographical.

    Again the vast majority of phrases are discovery….not recovery.

    With the above example….overwhelming search tendencies of users suggest I want and need to be optimized for discovery searches

    ie: one’s that have business service/geographical phrase.

    For that example, It reinforces the concept that I want to use the title tag for organic optimization and get some strong geo phrase/ product service description.

    After all, the title tag is simply one of, if not the prime, on page tools I have for organic optimization.

    I try and get the site optimized (by that I mean high ranked) for organic, places, and ppc for the as many relevant search phrases as I can. The title tag is a prime tool for organic.

    In the above example, every indicator and metric tells me to focus on the discovery phrases that represent geo location and service.

  5. @Now you know why believing in God delusional, wish thinking and in this case damaging to organic results

    Comment by Jim Ryan (24 comments) — November 13, 2011 @ 10:59 am
    ——————————————————————————————-
    Waste of energy.

    TheGod

  6. Mike, per our e-mail discussion, everything is rockin’ and rollin’. Stay tuned, I should have some updates for you shortly.

    TheGod

    PS Mike and I have been e-mailing back and forth and he’s made changes that I’ve suggest. We will be gauging the success (of his particular case) of putting the locationary tag back in the home page, along with some changes to the Local listing as well as some other on-site changes.

  7. Excellent post Mike. You address some key points I had not thought of. We always appreciate learning from an expert. Keep ‘em coming.

    Thanks!

  8. Back for dessert.

    What I love about your example here is the use of the brand in the title and that it’s consistent in her CitySearch listing as well. Now the viewer can see that both the Google and the CitySearch listings are referring to the same businesses, and along with that, the TWO rows of review stars belong to one and the same! That adds that much more credibility and impression of popularity in the viewers’ eyes.

    That can only happen if you follow your advice on how to create your meta title tag with the brand first.

  9. Just a quick question for you as you seem so knowledgeable ……….. it seems that Google Places is a fan of combining businesses.. We have been having a bit of trouble with our listing lately. Google places has somehow combined our business with another competitor’s… Our website and placement on google places will show up, but underneath our website our competitor’s phone number will appear. Keeping in mind that our addresses are the same (as it is a dock location) and we do have similar competing services………… How do we insure that our business phone number stays attatched to our website in the google places format and not our competitor’s? We have already tried switching keywords, posting pictures in order to differentiate our business, but that has not seemed to be working……….. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  10. @Susie

    Step 1) Make sure that your name is short, your actual legal name and different than the competitors. Change the Places listing to reflect this name. This is critical long haul as the name is one of the primary causes that you have control over that causes merges.

    Step 2) The only way to get a merge taken care of is to have Google split the two listings. They are now offering this assistance through their Fix a Problem troubleshooters on the Google Help page: My listing has incorrect information.

    Use the following path on the questions:

    -What’s the status of your listing?
    I have verified my listing in my Google Places for business account.
    -Have you tried the Report a problem link?
    Yes (or it is not available on my listing)
    -Most reported problems are reviewed within a few days. If it has been a few days and you still have not received a response or seen a change made, you can tell us what you reported by selecting an option below. If you are unable to use Report a problem from the listing, you can indicate what you want to have changed from the options listed here.
    Listing data, including title, address, phone, URL, categories, hours, description, or coupons

    - If you have attempted to update your business’s information from within your Places for business account and have not seen your changes take effect within a few days, you can complete this form to specify your correct business information.

    Step 3) Once you have filed with Google, do not keep changing things or trying to fix them. Google will respond within about 10 days and it will take 4-6 weeks for the fix to stick. In the meantime STOP play with it.

    Step 4) Then you need to be sure that going forward that the signals to Google’s algo send clear and distinct signals. Make sure that you have your business name listed with the primary list providers to Google in your country, get listed on every directory, local resource and travel guide that you can. Be absolutely sure that you use the legal business name noted above.

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