On branded searches in local (i.e. searches made on your company name), Google frequently offers up much of the area above the fold with information about your business. This is particularly true when Google shows the Local Knowledge Panel. It is an incredible opportunity to showcase your business. Here are 8 tips that can help you take advantage of the opportunity.
1. Pick a great profile photo for your G+ Page. Don't leave the photo to chance. If you only have images uploaded via the old dashboard, via users or posted around the internet, it is a crap shoot which photo Google will show in the Knowledge Panel (KP). Google will use your Google + profile photo first IF it meets their algorythmic local photo criteria of not being a logo and being representational of your business. Whatever photo you pick, be sure to look at in the various formats that Google displays it (in the carousel, Google Plus, on new Maps, old Maps and of course mobile search and Maps. Google has an annoying habit of cropping it differently in some of those environments. The photo should be square and at least 250 x 250 pixels.
2. Check that the Pin is properly placed on the Map. Obviously one of the best things that can happen on a local search, is that searcher retrieves driving directions and heads your way. Be sure that they make it to your front door. If the Pin is improperly placed then it can be relocated to the correct position in the Google My Business Dashboard.
3. OK, do I need to say it one more time? Be sure that you give Google ALL of your basic data including hours. And since Google is now pushing this data in near real time, update them seasonally.
4. Work towards getting at least 5 reviews at Google. You will be rewarded with those incredibly bright review stars.
5. If your reviews are current and you have enough of them for Google to analyze the sentiment (somewhere between 5 and 15 reviews), Google will show and bold comments that reflect the general attitude and comments of the reviewers. These are incredibly powerful social proofs and you need to be sure that you are earning this praise everyday as Google is as likely (or more likely) to show the bad as the good.
6. Google loves reviews. Not just their reviews but all reviews and will highlight them if they can. Google will link to as many as four third party review sites (although not Yelp) including Facebook. So be sure that you are asking your clients for reviews around the web not just at Google.
7. Start using Google Plus and post there at least once every three weeks. You can do that right? Google will show your posts and their attendant photos (so make them good) after the More reviews and before the "People also search for" section. This provides you an opportunity to broadcast a message to anyone searching for you on the front page of Google (very high visibility). If the searcher is a Plus user, Google gives them an opportunity to follow you on Plus, a great way to pick up followers with no effort on your part. And the nicest thing is that those annoying competitors are pushed further down the page and often out of sight below the fold.
Why every 3 weeks? Because somewhere around day 21 (I haven't figured it out precisely) Google will stop showing your post. They obviously want freshness and will reward you with the front page exposure if you add a post more than once per month.
8. If you are in a business where it is important that the public perceive you as clean, cool or trendy (think hotels, restaurants, cosmetic surgeons etc) then consider adding Google's Business View. Business View is essentially a 360 degree interior StreetView of your business. The nice thing about it on the Knowledge Panel is the very visual placement at the top, reducing the size of the Map. Note that if you don't have a profile photo Google might place it to the left instead, reducing your eye candy. Business View is not free (pricing depends on the number of rooms etc) and runs in the $400 and up price range. Google uses local photographers to shoot these that you can book through Google.
Ok. So you've gotten this far, done a branded search for your business on Google and aren't seeing a Knowledge Panel. What should you do now? For some tips see this recent article: My Local Knowledge Panel Doesn’t Show on Google – What can I do?.
Google, in upgrading to the new Dashboard, has removed most opportunities to directly impact search optimization in local. That being said, they still offer considerable opportunities for conversion optimization, the sorts of optimization that when a searcher finds you on the front page of will give you a leg up in the few moments when they are deciding between you and a competitor. These tips will help you achieve that advantage.