2020 Local SEO: Awesome & Easy Hacks to Dominate the Google Maps Listings
Over the past couple of years, Google has made clear its commitment to websites that focus on local business SEO. This significant shift in policy has spurred millions to revisit their search strategies and bring expert external local SEO services on board. For others, working in-house with a handful of tried and tested local SEO tips is the preferred approach.
Disclaimer: We have obtained an award from Google for Google My Business optimization so we are biased.
In any case, the importance of local search engine optimization cannot be overstated. Nor can its potential for delivering an exceptional ROI. 35% of the clicks and this number is growing, land on Google My Business Listings.
Table of Contents
What is Local Search?
As the name suggests, the term ‘local search’ applies when a web user carries out an online search for a product or service within a specific geographic area. Basic examples of which may include:
- Ophthalmologist San Francisco
- DUI lawyer Orlando
- San Diego estate agency
- Thai restaurant downtown LA
- Restaurants near me
- Best bars in Beverly Hills
- Manufacturing Marketing Agency near me
Today, approximately 46% of all searches carried out on Google are local. In addition, the local ‘Three-Pack’ appears right at the top of the rankings for around 93% of searches with local intent. Two figures that highlight the relevance and importance of local search.
Building a successful local search engine optimization strategy means combining a series of elements in a unified, local-focused campaign – ensuring your business information is consistent across the web, registering your business with Google Maps, claiming your Google My Business listing, localizing your content and so on.
These are the basic fundamentals of a local business SEO strategy, but not nearly enough to position you ahead of your competitors. If your goal is to climb the rankings and top the table for the most relevant search terms, you need to think about more dynamic and creative local SEO solutions.
Local SEO Tips and Hacks You Probably Didn’t Know
Figuring out how to do local SEO properly as a newcomer to search marketing can be tricky. Precisely why most outsource their requirements to established local SEO agencies. But even if you bring in outside help, it’s useful to know the kinds of local SEO tactics that deliver the strongest possible results.
The following local SEO tactics have demonstrated their capacity to deliver an unbeatable ROI:
Take Note of Competitors’ Google My Business Categories
When you create a Google My Business page, you will be asked to select a category for your business. A basic example of which being ‘Construction Equipment Supplier’. The main category you choose is the category that will show up in the SERP listings when your business appears. However, it’s perfectly possible to add a further 10 categories to your Google My Business page invisible categories – categories that could boost your local SEO performance.
For a good idea of the categories, you should be adding to your Google My Business page, find one or more of your closest competitors’ Maps listings, right click and select ‘Page Source’.
Ctrl-F to search for their primary category and you’ll find it (highlighted in red), complete with their other categories (highlighted in yellow) as in the example below:
A quick and easy way to pinpoint which categories you should choose for your Google My Business page.
Localize Your Images
This is a useful hack for businesses and professionals who carry out most of their work on location and away from their primary business address. It’s simply a case of using the tool available at www.geoimgr.com, which can be used to put a geo-tag on any specific image for your business location.
Simply enter the name of your business and find your listing in Google Maps, drag and drop your image into the pane on the right-hand side of the screen and it will be localized with a location tag. This will help Google determine that this image is connected with your business, ultimately contributing to stronger performance in the local SERP rankings.
The more high-quality images of relevance and value you localize in this way, the bigger the impact on your local business SEO strategy.
Additional: use the filename ‘keyword-location.jpg’ for each of your localized images to maximize its local SEO value. Keywords should be selected strategically on the back of your on-going local keyword research.
Remove Spammers from the Local Three-Pack
Unsurprisingly, the local SEO tactics adopted by some businesses aren’t what you’d call white-hat or ethical. Adding keywords to your business name can help you climb the rankings and appear more prominently. However, these are the kinds of local SEO tactics that actually contravene the terms and conditions set out by Google.
If your business name appears in the title of any Google Business Page, you’re probably looking at a spammer.
One option for dealing with spammers is to use the ‘Suggest an Edit’ feature to directly report the inaccuracy to Google. Some prefer to avoid using this tip that takes direct aim at the competition, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to play by the rules.
Track Missing Google My Business Traffic in Google Analytics
One of the issues with Google My Business and your knowledge panel within the search results is when it shows up in Google Analytics, it shows up as Google organic. This means you don’t have any real idea of how much traffic is coming from maps or locations, along with what traffic is coming from the actual SERP listings.
This is where a tool called ‘Campaign URL Builder’ can help. Created by Google, it allows the user to create custom tracking links that make it possible to distinguish between Google organic traffic and Google My Business traffic. Once up and running, you’ll find the information you need presented as follows:
This will enable you to keep a much closer eye on the performance of your campaign and make adjustments accordingly. If you want to know how to do it exactly, please ask me in the comment to this blog post.
Get Stars for Your Google Search Listing
It’s hard to deny the appeal or influence of an organic SERP listing that’s accompanied by five bright shining stars. A tried and tested approach to ensure your listing stands out from the crowd and attracts attention.
dding stars to your Google Business Pages is a process that takes place over four separate stages:
- Collect unique and genuine reviews
- Add the reviews to your website, but don’t feature them on your home page
- Drive internal or external links to the page
- Modify the Schema Markup code
For WordPress website users, there’s a significantly easier option. Head to the Rich Plugins website, find the Google Reviews widget and add it to the footer of every page across your entire website. Activate the widget by turning on Google Rich Snippets as follows:
After which, your reviews should be automatically converted to stars in the organic SERP listings.
Local Link Building Hacks
Winning links from similar local businesses and relevant local sources tell Google that you’re the real deal. It also confirms you’re a genuine local business, making it one of the most important local SEO tactics at your disposal.
Effective link building can be complex, but it’s nonetheless possible to find hundreds of local links in seconds by carrying out an advanced search. Simply enter into the search bar:
- Intitle:sponsors “location”
Then, add to the end of the resulting URL:
You’ll then be presented with a list of 100 results on one page, rather than the usual 10.
Next, download the Moz toolbar (which is free) and this will allow you to download a CSV file of the results, which can then be saved in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. A spreadsheet packed with local businesses you can reach out to as part of your local link building campaign.
Keyword Optimized Google My Business Reviews
The reviews that appear on your Google My Business page are among the most important of all ranking factors. Whatever kind of business you’re in, it’s important to take a proactive approach to the collection of reviews.
Along with the unique appeal and influence of this kind of social proof, you can also bring your keyword research strategy into your Google My Business review project. Research has shown that keyword optimized reviews can have a dramatic impact on a wider local SEO campaign – particularly where the local Three-Pack at the top of the rankings is concerned.
Getting more relevant keywords into your reviews can be achieved as followed:
- Survey your customers, rather than asking them for reviews.
- Take the best answers within the responses and tweak them with keywords.
- Send the text back to the customer with a link to post it.
Despite being one of the simplest local SEO tips going, it’s also one of the most effective. Google is paying closer attention than ever before to the content of your reviews – why not take more proactive control of them?
!Additional: You can enhance the impact of this local SEO tactic further by also adding keywords to your replies.
Stand Out in GMB with Emojis 😜
Google takes an active interest in the way people, in general, engage with your business. From clicks to bounce rates, popularity and engagement count for a lot.
It may not be the most complex of local SEO solutions, but using emojis to stand out and make your presence known can be surprisingly effective. Your Google Business Pages allow for emojis to be added to your business name, which can significantly increase visibility in the SERP rankings. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that comparatively few businesses are using emojis to their advantage.
Links to Google Search Pages
How often people search for your brand name is taken into account by Google as a measure of popularity and engagement. Hence, if there’s anything you can do to encourage more searches for your brand, you probably should. Traditional marketing and online/offline advertising is an option, but there’s a neat trick to try out that’s easy to pull off.
When you send emails, newsletters or general marketing materials to new or existing customers, you probably include links to your home page. Instead of sending traffic directly to your home page, try linking to a Google search for your brand. The users will be directed to a Google SERP with your link right at the top, boosting your perceived value and popularity in the process.
You can also do the same with links to company contact information or directions, which could divert the customer to a Google My Business/Google Maps directions request accordingly.
Reach Out to Google Without the Usual Hassle
Last but not least, if you encounter any difficulties with getting approvals with your Google My Business page – initial approval, edits/alterations, etc. – there’s a useful hack for getting in touch with Google much quicker and easier for those living outside of the US.
Contrary to popular belief, the best channels to use when reaching out to Google are in fact Twitter and Facebook.
- Twitter – @GoogleMyBiz
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GoogleMyBusiness
In the vast majority of instances, Google replies to queries significantly faster on Twitter and Facebook than they do via own channels. What’s more, to contact Google via social media is to reach out to Google’s primary support team in the United States. As opposed to a local representative branch, which may not be quite as helpful.
Expert Local SEO Services – Full-Service SEO Solutions
So what are the benefits of hiring professional local SEO services, over and above the DIY method? Or, if you choose to go it alone, what kinds of local SEO tips should you be prioritizing?
By its nature, local search engine optimization can be both complex and time-consuming. If you have neither the skills nor the resources needed to front a multi-dimensional SEO strategy, it pays to hire help.
Outsourcing local SEO requirements can open the door to the best possible ROI while allowing you to focus on running your business. Whether you’re new to local SEO or you have a campaign already in progress, bringing in the right people at the right time really can make all the difference. We’ll be happy to help if you need any assistance.