Most mornings upon waking, I head into the Google My Business Forums and answer a few questions. I get that I am doing free work for Google but I have always found that there is some personal satisfaction helping other small businesses deal with the realities of Google Local search.
This conversation was particularly engaging for me because it captured all of the frustration that small businesses have with Google and why it's so difficult for them to succeed. Google in their "genius" have created this gap between what the business can do on Google and succeeding there.
Here's a question from Amber:
i have verified my business with google; when I search for my business using key words (like red deer hair salon) my business doesn't show up at all. When I search the exact name of my business, the google page shows. How do I get it to show up in the keyword search? It was verified months ago. Business details are:
4813 47th Street, red deer, ab, t4n 1r3
Here's my reply:
There are a number of ways that Google knows you should be listed in the results for any given search result.
1.) They find digital information about your business at critical websites around the web with proper categorization and descriptions. These are known as citations and you do not have very many (see this search "403-406-3575" for your business). Since your website domain is relatively new (one year old), you should proactively attempt to place your business listing with the leading directory sites. There is a great Canadian company called Whitespark.ca that does this as a service.
2.) One of the critical pieces of digital information that Google uses is your own website. In terms of the user, your website is attractive but Google is another "user" that sees your site in a slightly different way. You need to be more explicit.
For example the title tag on your home page (and every page) that Google uses to understand the big picture about your site is left undone.
Your current home page title tag: < title > Home < /title >
should be changed to include to be something like: < title >Salon Harper | Key Services | City you are in < /title >
The content of your home page should be more complete and informative. It should include a paragraph about your key services with links to the pages about those services.
You site should include four things on every page that every searcher is looking for and these should be very obvious particularly to the mobile searcher:
Your phone number
A link for driving directions
This will help both the searcher AND Google understand where you do things.
You should expand your services pages so that each unique service has its own page of relevant content with links on those pages to your other relevant services.
3.) The content you create on your website lets Google know what you do, but you also need to give Google an idea how important you are. This is done with links to your site from other business in your area. You should consider joining the local chamber of commerce and the BBB and other similar organizations that will link to your website (a link is a vote for you).
4.) You should also work to get additional links and mentions about your business across the web on a regular basis. For example, you could partner with a not-for-profit and offer free haricuts once a month for their clients. Be sure that they link to your website and that you get articles in the local (online) press.
Or you could ask some of your suppliers to link to you from their site since you carry their products.
Or or or .... you need to promote your business on line just like you do offline so that Google sees it and your business listing as prominent.
4.) Links are one type of vote, reviews are another. Start asking your clients to review you at Google, Yelp, Facebook and YP.ca. Get a few a month and Google will recognize that the public is voting for you, too.
I may be answering more than you asked. If that is the case I apologize.
Here's more from Amber:
But when I go to 'add a business', I can't because I already have it set up. What do I need to do to show up in the Google Places search? Why does it matter what my website says or doesn't say? I'm a verified business with Google and I feel like it should come up in the search.
Mike: Yes, well Google is a web scraping company that has made its way in the world by ranking EVERYTHING. That is true in web search and what you call Google Places search.
Everything is based on the information that they find out about you around the internet. Why? Because they want to present the most relevant and the most prominent results. Thus they look at the other directory sites, your site, your reviews around the web, etc., etc., etc.
You asked: How do I get it to show up in the keyword search?
That is what I answered.
You ask: Why does it matter what my website says or doesn't say?
Because that is what Google looks at first to determine who you are, what you do & where you do it.
I suppose that the other answer is that you don't HAVE to do any of those things. But if you do, it will increase your visibility and exposure at Google. If you don't it will stay the way it is.
You ask: Then what's the point in getting verified?
Mike: I want you to do this search "Barbara Oliver Jewelry Williamsville NY" and see how it looks. She has been working on what shows on that Google search results page for eight years and does an incredible job making sure that Google and searchers see the best side of her business.
Big Picture reasons why it's important:
1.) Just because you are not showing on the phrase YOU think it should be showing on doesn't mean your listing is not showing. In the world of mobile, users rarely add the city to the search and Google often shows searchers businesses that are close to them. So folks might just search on "hair salon" or "hair salon nearby" or "eyebrow extensions" ... and Google might show your listing to those people.
2.) And if it doesn't look better than the competitors, then customers will choose them instead of you. Over time as you do some marketing and as your business and online presence ages, some of the things I suggested above will happen naturally and hopefully you will become more visible.
3.) Verification is the first step in getting new customers, NOT the last step. But here is the reality: When I analyze carefully where local businesses are getting new customers, I find that 90% of the online referrals are coming from Google AND 70% of are actually making the decision right at Google vs about 20% on your website and the other 10% someplace else.
4.) IF 70% are making the decision right at Google then you need to put on your best Sunday clothes at Google perhaps even more importantly than your site. This means great photos for people searching to see, great reviews at Google, great reviews at other sites, correct hours, etc. Your job is to make their decision easy!
Little picture of why its important:
Here are a few other specific reasons.
1.) You can be sure that the information Google is presenting is accurate.
2.) You can respond to reviews left by customers.
3.) You can add and delete your own photos.
4.) You can see what happens to your listing AT Google, i.e. if they think something has changed.
5.) You can make sure that users or competitors don't change your listing in a harmful fashion.
6.) If your business is going to be open on a special holiday you can so note it.
7.) You can expand Google's understanding of your business categories and attributes.
8.) You can start a simple Google Adwords Express campaign to reach people you might not otherwise reach .
9.) You will create a verified relationship between your local listing and your website so that if you website does well, it will transfer its authority to your local listing.
Did I answer your question?
It's been several days and Amber didn't let me know if I had answered her question. I fear that I did not.
On the one hand I have always thought Google Local search to be quite brilliant. On the other it has always been too friggin' hard for most businesses to understand what value they were getting from it. I am afraid that disconnect will not dissipate any time soon.