Recent changes in consumer behaviour make local search a critical component of digital strategy. It’s estimated that 30 to 40 percent of all searches are made with local intent, and research from Google indicates that ‘near me’ searches have doubled in the past year.

Businesses who fail to make use of the available features in Google local search risk missing out on growth in this area, losing out to more agile competitors. Businesses which embrace the platform through optimisation of location signals, store inventory data feeds, accurate opening hours and address information both on and off site are better placed to outperform competitors and provide users with more positive experiences.

From a search perspective this means optimising organic landing pages, paid search results and Google My Business (GMB). The latter received several updates in the last year, and Google has improved the functionality of these channels with extra features and increased prominence in Google:

  • Inclusion of special hours
  • Showing popular times
  • Set preferred photo (logo, profile & cover photo)
  • Inclusion of paid local listings

The result of these changes was increased engagement with local results. Looking at our client data for two well-known Australian retailers we see that GMB clicks increased on average 72% comparing the first quarter of 2016 with the same period in 2015.

Increase in Google My Business Clicks

YoY Increase in Google My Business Clicks

Knowing that GMB is critical for your local search campaign, the question remains: How should businesses optimise these listings?

Name, Address, Phone (NAP)

The most important attribute of local search is the NAP (name, address, phone) – and this is mandatory information that is needed to create and/or verify a Google My Business listing.

The NAP enables customers to recognise, find and contact your business – and this information should be consistent and accurate everywhere it is cited on the web (e.g. GBM, business website, and other citations).

The reason being is that Google uses citations to cross reference the accuracy of its results. Inaccurate citations reduce the trust in your business locations accuracy – and according to the local search ranking factors from MOZ, incorrect business information is the biggest negative ranking factor.

Business hours

Consumers are increasingly searching for store opening hours online. Most rely on the information provided in Google results and expect this to be correct.

Google recently launched the “Special Store Hours” function in GMB which allows you to set separate opening hours for holidays or events.

Google My Business Listing Example

Google My Business listing example

For large retailers, we have seen store open hours searches increase by 522% week on week during the Easter weekend.

This demonstrates how important keeping store hours accurate can be – and how the Special Store Hours function can help listing management. Poor listing management in this respect can have a significant business impact – as it influence’s consumers brand experience, which could be the difference between winning and losing a customer.

Store photos

Local listings are supported by photos to provide users as much information as possible. Google My Business allows you to add specific photos of your business to your listing that will be shown in the search results. Adding relevant photos will spotlight the features of your business, and can be a deciding factor on whether someone will click on your listing.

Google My Business Photos of Blacksmith Cafe

Photos of Blacksmith Cafe on Google My Business

There is evidence from Oxera/Google that listings with optimised photos have a 42% increase in requests for driving directions, as well as a 35% increase in clicks to the business website than listings that don’t.

Control what is shown in search/maps

This year Google introduced the “Preferred Photo” field for business owners to recommend which photo they want to be shown in search and Google Maps. Again, optimising this attribute will give better control of what is displayed in search – which helps the brand experience.

Other photos you can upload to the platform are:

  • Profile photo
  • Logo
  • Cover photo
  • Additional photos – (e.g. interior, exterior & product photos)
Reprise Melbourne Google My Business Listing

Reprise Melbourne Google My Business listing

Reviews

There is no doubt that online reviews play an important role in shaping the consumer decision making process. According to BrightLocal, 88% of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local company – and 72% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

The study from Oxera/Google also found that GMB listings that include reviews have a 144% increase in – directions, and a 360% increase in clicks to the website than business that don’t. Additionally, reviews are also one of the main ranking factors within local search.

 How to get reviews

Reviews are best when they are honest and placed written by unbiased customers. Google has strict guidelines for enticing people to leave a review, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t influence people to leave reviews.

Some tactics are:

  • Ask/remind your customers to leave reviews and make it easy to do so;
  • Time your review request depending on the stage of the buyer’s life cycle;
  • Reply to reviews to show engagement;
  • Offer a great product/service.

Categories

Categories help your customers find accurate, specific results for services they’re interested in. The importance of selecting categories of your business is often overlooked, despite it being the number one negative ranking factor according to the 2015 local search ranking factors from MOZ.

Google allows you to select up to 10 different categories to describe your business. However, it is advised to use as few categories as possible to describe your core business – in order to avoid spamming of categories. Below are some guidelines that Google outlined for the use of categories:

  • Choose categories that are as specific as possible, but representative of your main business.
  • Do not use categories solely as keywords or to describe attributes of your business.
  • Do not use categories that pertain to other businesses that are nearby or related, such as a business physically contained within your business or an entity that contains your business.

A list of categories that are available in Australia can be found here.

 

Next Steps

Having a properly optimised listing can help improve visibility and footfall to your business as well as avoiding negative brand experiences.

It’s important business owners take the time to verify their listings, update the information on a regular basis and optimise the attributes accordingly. This enables you to control what is displayed in the search result – and will provide your customers the best experience possible.

 

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Martin Sprong

I’m a Digital Solutions Specialist here at Reprise, specialising in organic search - working across some of Australia’s largest brands.
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