The Three Most Important Profiles for Your Local Business and How to Properly Optimize Them
If you have had any experience with optimizing local listings for a business, you know that it is never as easy as you think it will be. There are easy verification processes like through phone or email, and then of course, there is Yext. A great business venture, I must admit, taking advantage of an underserved niche market by turning free listings into paid listings (adding one more charge to the yearly bill). So how do you get around this seemingly impenetrable force of $9 per week? And which local listings are the most important for search?
Honestly, you can just avoid Yext. Focus on Google My Business, Bing Places, and Yelp. Of course, you’ll want to optimize and maintain your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts as well. These are the most beneficial listings for local search. The most important elements to focus on are the Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). NAP consistency is critical to local search because Google devotes three of their six top “Foundational Ranking Factors” for local search to the quantity, quality, and consistency of citations. Aside from NAP, the more relevant information you provide will increase the odds that your company will attain a side box (Knowledge Graph) presence and appear when searched for using branded terms.
So, how do I optimize my Google My Business, Bing Places, and Yelp profiles?
The first thing you need to do when optimizing your web presence for local search results is set up a Google My Business (GMB) account, a Bing Places account, and a Yelp account. If you already have these accounts – Great! You’re halfway there! If not, go ahead and claim your business to set up the accounts. In the end, it is well worth it.
Name, address, and phone number (NAP) are your number one priorities, and this is the best place to start. After you have your GMB, Bing Places, and Yelp accounts claimed or set up and optimized for NAP, you can start adding your primary category (another huge ranking factor) business photos, and focus on getting customer/client reviews.
Please note that the location of your business is always going to be a main factor determining search results so that they are relevant to the query. For instance, in order to rank for “Minneapolis coffee shops,” your coffee shop – first and foremost – needs to be located in Minneapolis.
From there, if someone searches for “coffee shops near me” while they are located in Minneapolis, MN, and your business is properly optimized with NAP, primary category, photos, and good reviews, you have a great chance of showing up in the first few positions. To further secure your visibility, make sure your website reflects the accurate NAP information in html text. If your address and phone number are displayed as an image on your site, Google won’t be able to verify the consistency.
How do I know my optimization worked?
On a desktop, landing your business in the local “snack pack” on Google’s SERP seems to be greatly influenced by the fact that your business is within the area being searched, the consistency of structured citations (*NAP*), followed by the number of reviews your Google My Business page has and the number of stars accumulated. This makes sense, because if you are searching from a desktop, you are probably less concerned about the absolute closest coffee shop and more concerned with the best coffee shop nearby. If you search any business that is local, like a simple query of “coffee shops near me,” you can see that the number one result has more and more noteworthy reviews than the third result, and it has the address listed (but not the distance, as shown below). Also, notice that each of the results has pictures and a brief description of the business is provided. You can’t visibly notice the NAP consistency through the results in the snack pack, but as I mentioned earlier, this is one of the top factors influencing your SERP.
Now, when you search from a mobile device, these results change. You’ll notice below that the distance to the coffee shop appears in the search result. If you are searching from a mobile device, odds are you are looking for the closest coffee shop – not necessarily the “best” one. Your mobile search results will change based on your current. Mobile devices do offer filters that aren’t available on desktop like Open Now, Top Rated, Cheap, Upscale, or More. Again, NAP consistency is not something you will see, but it is very important to make sure all listings online are accurate for ranking in the top few spots.
That’s just with Google though. When users search Bing for “coffee shops near me” from a desktop, there is much less emphasis on location. As you can see below, the results are all around Hennepin Ave, Nicollet Ave, and Minnehaha Ave, even though I’m currently in Northeast Minneapolis.
When you click into one of these options, Yelp reviews enter the scene. One of the first pieces of information you see on the right is a list of Yelp reviews. The listings also feature information like hours of operation and location photos. In the smaller box that appears right above the search results, there is also distance to the coffee shop, the phone number, a link to the website, directions, and menu.
On a mobile device, these results don’t change very much on the initial SERP, as seen below. However, once you click into a coffee shop (I clicked on The Bad Waitress Diner), you will see the Bing Places profile that has been set up with options to call, directions, and visit website. Below that you see location, hours of operation, and Menu favorites. Way at the bottom you will find Yelp reviews and then photos.
How does this help me?
Overall, it’s never guaranteed that your business will show up with a Google knowledge graph, nor is it guaranteed that even with the proper optimization your business will always show up in the local snack pack. Inclusion this prime search real estate is highly competitive, especially since Google recently reduced the number of results to three for the SERP. However, if you look at all of the results pictured in this post, you will notice that there isn’t even one result for an internationally recognized coffee chain (I queried “coffee shops near me” on both searches, I did not search for “local coffee shops” or “individually owned coffee shops”). This proves that if you optimize correctly, you do have an opportunity to beat out the chains or large corporations in your industry.