Guest Blogger: Michael Kern from Inform Local
Learning how to rank higher in Google Maps will improve the amount of calls you receive, and traffic to your website or storre front. The traffic and phone calls come from locals in your area that are searching for your products or services. I am going to list the best resources to find citations, and give you advice to improve your Google local business directory listing. Plus I am going to tell you my two favorite and most powerful citation sites.
There are a lot of factors that go into improving your position in Google’s directory. I want to talk about what I consider to be the most important factor, which are citations. If you want to check out all ranking factors and see some studies, check out these articles: Ranking Factors, Google Places quality guidelines and Rank Correlation Data.
A citation is a reference of your business on a webpage other than your own. Citation Example 1: Having your basic business information (Name, Phone number, and Address) listed on Yahoo local. Citation Example 2: When someone writes a review about your business, usually in an online directory like Yahoo Local, or even in a blog post, or press release.
Why Citations Are An Important Ranking Factor
Google only wants to list real local businesses. Webmasters trying to get traffic to their websites have been spamming Google for ever, trying to get their businesses listed outside their actual geographical area. So in order to verify the information entered into the Google Maps Directory, Google crawls the web looking for other instances, or mentions of the same business. The more citations they find, the more they trust, the higher you’ll rank.
So now we understand that we need more citations than our competition, but where do we get them? There is an awesome free tool, I don’t know how long it will remain free, so use it soon. Citation Finder will let you know where you are listed and where you’re not. It delivers you to the page you need via a link, so you can list your business.
There is another way to find citation sources. Put your competitions phone number into Google and search, this will show you all the places they are listed. Repeat this search for your top 3 or 4 competitors and you will have a long list of citation sources.
My Two Favorite Citation Sources
Not all citation sites are created equal, and some are better than others. While you want a lot of citations to help move up your Google Places position, some sites will send customers ready to make a purchase (bingo). The Better Business Bureau (BBB), and your local Chamber of Commerce, are great resources and citation sites.
It is my belief that easy to get citations are not worth as much as citation sources that verify the information that is submitted to them. Some citation sources mail you a code to verify your mailing address, or they call you to verify you actually have the phone number you say you do.
To get an accredited BBB listing, you have to show them your business certificate, and /or show licenses and certifications, sort of prove how long you’ve been in business. Who but real businesses will go through this process.
Many people go to their local Chamber of Commerce, or the BBB when looking for services. These companies are trusted to provide reputable local businesses. Some chambers will let your customers leave a review, and the BBB ranks your business in part by reviews left by past customers (reviews are really citations within a citation).
I am a proud member of the Greater Lowell Chamber Of Commerce (GLCC), They not only list my business in their local directory (local citation), but provide me with a ton of ways to promote my company. They have offered me a free TV spot on the areas local network, I have taken advantage of free radio interviews, and I have attended mixers with other local chamber members.
The GLCC has promoted my services on their social networking channels, and via flyers and their print directory. Every year they promote a big expo in our local community, giving me yet another opportunity to build my brand.
Nobody has told me Google’s grading system, but I have managed to help my clients get into the top three spots and many to number 1 with what I just shared. One of the keys to learning what works and what doesn’t work is testing.
SEOMOZ.org had a tool that gave you weekly updates. It would give you present and historical rank data. You could see your Google Maps rank for any keyword you plugged in. It also gave you the same data for Bing Local and Yahoo Local. The tool is out of order right now, but we are told it will be back better than ever real soon.
Now you know how to rank higher in Google Maps, get out there and get your citations. It is time consuming work, so add a few every week. You may want to bookmark this post to come back to the tools I have listed.
Hit me up in the comments with any questions or to tell what you have done to improve your local Google places ranking.