Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

Comments, research and information about Google Maps (Google Local)

Picking Your Categories to reinforce your key words

Google Local Business Center Category entryWhen you enter your business in either Google’s Local Business Center or in Yahoo Local Listings you are limited to entering your business in 5 categories. It is not clear whether Google prioritizes these categories but Yahoo definitely does, allowing you one primary listing and 4 secondary listings.

Since both Google and Yahoo over a very limited number of choices, it becomes critical that you choose categories that are true representations of your business. While Google doesn’t state that there is a priority I think that you want to enter the most important ones first.

But how do you choose when you have more than five categories in which your business plays? My suggestion would be to go to Yahoo/Overture’s Keyword Selector Tool and search on your place identifier (i.e Olean NY) and determine if any of the categories in which you do business is searched with any greater frequency than the other categories. Be sure that your place identifier is the one with the most searches by the searching public. Do they search on your town name (i.e. Olean, NY or Olean, New York) or on your zip code (14760)?

In a recent article at SEOMOZ.org a group of leading SEO experts identified “Keyword use in Document” as the third most important overall factor in ranking of web page in the organic search results (behind Title Tags and Anchor Text Links). In the Local Search world the database is much more structured and much more limited. It appears that the business category fills the role of keyword use.

Continue reading Picking Your Categories to reinforce your key words

The Google “Onebox” on general search phrases

7)Using Google adwords in the local listing

In a previous post about ranking well in Google Maps I listed 6 items that seemed to affect ranking. It seems that there may be a seventh. Although the sample size is limited, there is some evidence that having an adword campaign running in Google Maps adds authority to a local listing. The “authority” may lead to the Google “Onebox” (the phrase referring to the inclusion of a map, local information and a weblink) listing in a broader range of circumstances.

When initially available, the “onebox” would usually appear with a search of “business name + local modifier”. However recently I have seen behavior where the “onebox” is now appearing with a more general search of “business activity + local modifier”.

Blumenthals Olean NYUsing the search phrase “Web Hosting Olean NY” returns the “onebox” listing. With the search “Computer Olean NY” it returns a “onebox” as well. As you can see from the example, the authoritative listing is given page dominance on the organic results page and includes significant additional information beyond either a typical organic listing or a typical local listing.

Why is this important? Obviously achieving a #1 ranking on Google is always nice. But this listing goes well beyond that. It provides the local customer with a phone number, full address, a map AND a link to our site.

But for the first time local search phrases have showed up in our logs. Local search has not generated much web traffic previously. Certainly if Googles new “Vocal Local” (see previous post) takes off then it could provide significant phone traffic.

While a listing like this is of little use in many industries there are some in our local market that receive significant searches on “service + location” searches. “Restaurants”, “Jobs” and “Hotels” are frequently used with our local modifier and in those industries a listing like this would provide significant web and phone traffic.

Now to the more difficult question of why and how…. Continue reading The Google “Onebox” on general search phrases

Google Maps goes Vocal

Sahelia Datta has uncovered what appears to be a voice driven directory assistance service for Google Maps. She details both its strengths and its foibles.
The number for this free service:
1 877 466 4411 (1 877 GOOG 411)

Greg Sterling has an interesting analysis in his posting on Brands, User Experience and Mobile. He clearly positions the service in the big picture of directory assistance and local search.

For me the concerns are more pragmatic. Is it really Google results? (yes, they are) Is it free? (yes it is) And is it enough better than current directory assistance that consumers would use it? (Let me know what you think but it sure has promise).

For any of you that thought that optimizing for Google Maps was unimportant, this will certainly shake your world view. It clearly points out why it is important to have a solid listing with Google Maps, be listed in the top three in as many categories as possible and why if at all possible that number 1 ranking is critical on your keywords.

Continue reading Google Maps goes Vocal

The road to Google Maps Nirvhana is paved with good intentions

In mid- July Search Engine Roundtable noted in a posting that Google Maps results with the map included were displaying prominently in the Google Organic results. Clearly for anyone attempting to optimize for local placement this possibility brought up images of the promised land.

google Map in organicx listingI experimented with tweaking our own listing and in our first listed category out of the 5 categories I had entered we succeeded in having our local listing include a map (and exclude other local listings from the front page). I followed my local guidelines and was able to achieve this ideal placement. That being said I do not fully understand exactly why the listing was upgraded from the normal 3 local text links that appear on the main search result.

But as they say: pride cometh before a fallContinue reading The road to Google Maps Nirvhana is paved with good intentions

Does Business Name = Title Tag?

2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)

As I have explored Google Maps local rankings, I have used the models developed for organic search optimization as a starting point to develop understanding and make progress.

The working theory I developed is that the business name created in the Google Business Center functions in much the same as a Title Tag on an html page and that it perhaps has priority over other methods of determining relevancy. Minimally it plays a role, that much is sure.

Google Local (Google Maps) Title Example
Note in this example how Google highlights the search phrase in the Business Name (title) phrase.

Google Maps though has a number of different ways to potentially determine relevancy of a page to a search. One of the most significant besides business name is categories. Since they are limited in number and any listing can only have five they could easily play this role. Description also seems to play a part in reinforcing the relevancy of the listing.

It is certainly conceivable that category and description are more important or equally important to title. My theory is though that they act more like body copy & headlines on a text page to reinforce the business listing name. Can anyone shed more light on this relationship?

Continue reading Does Business Name = Title Tag?

From Google Local to the World

1)Be sure to edit the local listing and include the relevant business categories

For those of you that are new to Google Local this might not seem obvious how to do. If you have just one business your can edit the business listing that appears in Google Local in one of several ways, neither of which is totally obvious or readily available.

Edit this business imageWay one (the long way) is to find the business record via the main Google Search window…search on your business name and local information (either the zip code or city, state) and then drill down into the record via the “More local results” link. From there select your record from the list, and then drill into the “bubble” and on into the details area of your record. At the bottom you will find an “Edit this listing” link. The other (much shorter) route is to go to the Google Business Center. If you didn’t know to look for this link, it would be less than obvious to most business owners. The third way is to use GoogleBase to upload a list of locations (if you have more than 10. Again a solution that is not particularly market accessible)

The question that cropped up after I articulated this process to myself was : Why is this so hard to get to? Continue reading From Google Local to the World

The Basics of Listing for Success

Here is a simple list of what is I have discovered is necessary to start improving your ranking at Google Maps and Yahoo Local.

As I have worked with local listings over the past year I created this small check list for achieving some measure of success. These points may be self evident or they may require additional clarification which I will be attempting to provide over the next several days. They all need testing and examination.

1)Be sure to edit the local listing and include the relevant business categories
2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)
2a)Craft the categories and the description to reinforce the key phrase(s)
3)Get lots of web references (these are like links but not as rigidly defined) that reference the main key phrase and location of the business
4)Be sure that your own site has lots of references to your local address and key phrase
5)Join the Better Business Bureau/Mobile Travel Guide/Talking Phone Book etc. etc. that Google uses to provide details
6)Be sure to get some good reviews from the reviewing services the Google & Yahoo uses

Unlike optimization for organic search, optimization for local search at the major engines is in a much less developed state. It seems to have many fewer people poking, prodding and testing the hypothesis of local search and coming up with a definitive set of best practices. This is list is an attempt to create that model that we can all test. Have a go and let me know.