In the arena of search engine optimization (SEO), this is the era of local search. Today’s consumers use mobile devices to search for businesses near them that offer products or services they’re looking for in the moment or the near future.
You’ve probably noticed the local business listings that now show up at the top of Google results. And you probably want your business to show up there when people in your area look for what you sell.
Some factors that affect the results are beyond your control. For example, Google considers proximity to the searcher when determining which results to return. If your business is 10 miles farther away than several others, it’s a strong strike against you. That doesn’t mean you won’t show up if all the other SEO stars align, but you’re definitely disadvantaged.
Of the major local SEO factors that you can influence, one of the most important is that your business listing information is up-to-date, accurate, and consistent wherever your business is mentioned online. This refers primarily to your NAP (name, address, and phone number), but also to other basic info like your hours of operation, fax number, and email address to a lesser degree.
Google My Business Listings
Google My Business is a Google program that’s essential to local search for any business with a physical location. If you haven’t set up your listing, go here and do it now. If you don’t have a store or office, but you have a local business serving local customers or clients, consider registering your business at your home address or another address so you can create a Google My Business page.
The Google My Business listing is also Google’s go-to source for information posted in its Knowledge Graphs. Those are the info boxes that appear on the Google results page when you search for a business; they show the business name, address, phone number, website, hours, a short description, a link to Google reviews, and more. Google may get this information elsewhere, but more on that below.
Note: If you think you’ve already setup a Google My Business listing but aren’t sure if it’s setup correctly then test your Google business listing here.
Google Needs to Trust You
It’s important that Google trusts the information you provide in your Google My Business listing and that it finds elsewhere on the web. The search company knows, for example, that if it sends people to the wrong location or to a store when it’s closed, eventually they get annoyed and stop using Google. So Google likes to know that it’s providing accurate, current information.
Remember, Google sees most of the internet. If you’ve been in business a while, your brand is probably mentioned in various places on the web. Many mentions may include your NAP and other basic info, like those on user review sites, online phone books, general and industry business directories, city directories, news sites, government sites, etc.
Some of these listings may have outdated information. Perhaps you’ve moved or changed your phone number at some point along the way. Some may have typos or other errors. Some may omit a suite number. Some may confuse you with another business with a similar name. And so on.
The more inconsistency there is, the less enthusiastic Google is about offering your business as a local search result. And if it finds a higher occurrence and more consistency among incorrect pieces of information, it may use that in its Knowledge Graph.
In other words, let’s say you were closed on Sundays for 10 years and just recently opened on Sundays. Most of the web probably says you’re closed on Sundays, so that’s what Google will tell people in your Knowledge Graph. Which probably isn’t good for business.
Creating Consistent Business Listings for Local SEO
The takeaway here is to ensure that accurate, consistent basic information about your business is published online—especially regarding your NAP and hours. Depending on how long your brand has been around and how widely discussed it is, this can be a quick task or a time-consuming one. Either way, it’s not difficult, and it’s essential to local SEO.
Get Googling. Search for your business name in quotation marks. Outside the quotation marks, add something else from your NAP, performing searches with a few variations. For example, search your name with your street address, your name with your city and state, your name with your zip code, and your name with your phone number. This is a good way to find the majority of indexed listings with your business information.
When you become aware of any incorrect information, Google the misinformation in quotation marks to find other occurrences. Many websites just duplicate information from others. So, if your address is wrong in one place, it’s possible other sites have copied the incorrect information.
Most directory and review sites provide an easy way for you to update information. Sometimes, you may have to contact site administrators and request that they update or correct their information.
Also, check all the sites you’ve set up. Hopefully all your information is up-to-date on your own website, but don’t forget things like social media pages or an off-site blog. If you set up a Twitter account 4 years ago and haven’t touched it since, and you entered information that’s no longer right, it has to be fixed.
The process might not be much fun, but again, it’s not hard and it’s worth it. Every correction helps build Google’s trust that it has the right information about your brand. And that trust is crucial to your local SEO and having your business appear in local search results.