In this article I would like to clarify such questions as local search queries and using Google opportunities in site pages promotion for these queries.
During the process of development, Google gradually evolved not only in terms of algorithms, but also in displaying information which is showed to users as a response to a search query (SERP).
Initially, search engines (Google as well ) displayed only web pages, but then it was a progress to the direction of vertical search, when users had the opportunity to search in News, Books, Images, Products, Maps etc.
The last step in the Google`s development by this time is universal search with the basic concept to issue a mix of different types of searches in response to user queries.
It can be presented visually in such way:
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As we can see, Google, in their aspiration to make the answers to user questions as detailed as possible, try not to limit the answer only by showing web pages, but to offer various types of information – news, videos, objects on maps and so on.
Visually it looks like this:
In this example we can see that there are objects on the map and some news beside the usual data in the SERP for the query “new york bank”. That is the concept of “universal search” on practice.
Let’s look at the maps. As we can see, the map and objects on it occupy a considerable space in the search result, collecting a sizeable amount of traffic from search. Not to be unfounded, I would like to give a heatmap for a local search query. Have a look at the zone of increased attention – it is precisely on the map.
Geography of queries
There are several types of search queries which are based on geographical essence :
Type of Queries Example
Global Business Schools
National Business School USA
Regional Business School East
Local Business School Pittsburgh
It is important to note that there is an increase both in a total number of local queries, and in their proportion in the total mass of all queries at all.
Not so long ago analysts announced that a part of local requests was about 20%. In other words, each fifth query contains a geographic modifier. It’s time to spend some efforts for local search marketing!
Google Local Business
To get in a list of objects on a map, first of all, you need to register in Google Local Business.
At the next stage you can choose office hours, accepted means of payment, upload up to 10 photos and up to 5 movies, enter additional information (for example, the availability of parking). All of this data will be displayed on a local business listing page of a company.
And the final step is verification by phone, sms message or email.
After the verification we get an access to our account and an ability to promote our businesses on local requests.
Local SEO: Ranking Factors in Google Local Business
There are over 1800 search results in Google Maps for the request “lawyers in Moscow”. How to improve local SEO results and which factors does SERP depend on? We list the most important of them in decreasing order:
- A Company Address – conformity of a local business listing address and a city of search or geographical modifier.
- Citation of a Company – mentioning a company (not obligatory a hyperlink) by the major data providers and large projects (like Yellow Pages). Google (as well as Bing and Yahoo Local) draws information not only from data which is uploaded by the companies themselves, but also from data which is obtained on the side. For the western regions the following list is actual:
TripAdvisor.com (for travel agencies) etc.
- Categories which are associated with registration – it is important to choose categories containing necessary keywords and corresponding to subjects as a whole.
- Fact of registration in Google Local Business – actually, many results in SERP appear on a map in a “natural” way. It means that Google independently defines an address of a company and shows it on a map. Nevertheless, it is very important to create an account and to verify it – that is the most serious signal of trust in search engine’s opinion.
- Keywords in a Business Listing Title – for example, indication of a company as “Pizza “Celentano” will be much more effective than as just “Celentano “.
- Traditional SEO – presence of keywords in a meta-title of a landing page, backlinks and their anchors, geography of referring sites – all these moments are really important for local search engine optimization.
- Amount of reviews in Google Maps – it is the most important factor, maybe even more important than traditional SEO or citation of a company by data providers. Moreover, total number of reviews is even more important than an evaluation itself (positive or negative). Also the speed of increase of the amount of reviews is important: the faster reviews appear, the better. What is interesting, protection from «spam reviews» is not available at the moment, so many companies use it effectively by writing “self-reviews” under different nicknames.
- Address on a landing page – a presence of an indexed address on a landing page which responds to a region of a search by inquiry-modifier.
I recommend reading more about ranking factors here.
Naturally, spending time on Google Local or buying local SEO services, we want to get an idea what results it can bring to us. In a Google Local account it is possible to learn about dynamics of reviews of our business listing in Google Maps or “universal” Google SERP. Also it is possible to see the amount of transitions to a site from Google Local.
Google doesn’t recommend using 301st redirect or reduced url-addresses (f.e. vanity urls – kind site.com/TV), which are usually used by analysts for tracking efficiency of offline sites advertising.
URL-address must refer directly to the landing page of your web site and URL it displays. Using the pages that direct users to another domain or are “intermediaries” is not allowed.
Nevertheless, all of his prohibited acts are used on practice by curious marketers. Also, you can always mark a link with the Google URL Builder. It conforms to the rules but will look unaesthetic in a business linking page of a company.
As a practical example lets consider a case demonstrated at the conference “Search Marketing Expo 2009” in Stockholm.
The company Lovers.nl sells boat tours in Amsterdam. This is the second most popular entertainment for tourists in the Netherlands. It has about 3,2 million clients a year, the price of a ticket is from 12 to 70 euros. The market in general is estimated at 130 million euros so the competition is really serious.
Using 301 redirect through an URL of a link labeled by linker. For example http://www.lovers.nl/hendrikkade25 leads to the page http://www.lovers.nl/nl/tickets-en-prijzen/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=maps&utm_content=hendrikkade25&utm_campaign=local
Several addresses were verified in addition to traditional factors of promotion, and it provided an opportunity to take several positions in a SERP:
After realization of all actions following results were obtained:
These days the traffic from Google Maps makes about of 10 % of the general search traffic. It`s interesting that It has much more attractive indicators of quality than other traffic of a site. In particular, bounce rate is about 60 % lower, and time spent on a site – is about 35 % higher. Also, very good convertibility of the given traffic was pointed out in the report, and that draws our attention.
So, using Google Local Business, we have one more very promising and completely free tool to get traffic, and the traffic is targeted and good convertible. Naturally, this direction is applicable not for all companies, but if your business touches offline work, It is necessary to consider registration in Google Local Business, to verify addresses as much as possible and to try to promote itself.