Google Local Search: Optimization of Your Google Places or +Local Website Landing Page
By Terry Van Horne | October 1, 2012
Today we are going to optimize your Google Places website landing page. We started looking at Google Local Search Primer; however, Google recently changed this to Google +Local.
If you read the last post in this series you know merging Places Pages with +Local will take Google some more time before all businesses can be merged into +Local. Upon merging, your Places Page becomes your +Local information page, integrating your business with the Google+ Social Network.
Today you are also going to be learning a few general optimization techniques that can be implemented on every page of your website. We'll also look at how this affects some of the business decisions you will make along the way. I will try to cover some areas with information for both new and established business websites because, depending where you are in the process, the decisions you make can influence your business for years to come.
Choosing your Website Landing Page for your Google Places Page
For all intents and purpose the Google Places page is where the information about your business is kept. Included in that information is your website address. The website address you enter(ed) is the website landing page we'll be optimizing. For many businesses that will be the home page of the website — for larger businesses with multiple locations that should be an internal page of the website.
The decision here is determining whether more relevance should be put on product/services or location. If you are just selling locally then you have an easier task as you have only one option and that is to the home page of your website. If you have multiple locations in one city or nation or multiple countries then your strategy will be more far more complex and products become secondary to the Geo strategy.
Domain and URL Structure SEO for Your Google Places Landing Page.
If you have been following along then you have realized that a lot of the information about optimizing your pages for Local Search has come from a post on Local ranking factors. Some of the ranking factors for the website landing page have to do with domain name and URL/folder and page name. If you already have your domain then city/state keywords should occur in folder and page names when your landing page is an internal page (bigger multi location business).
Again the big decision here is do we optimize for location or product/service? This is a decision as to where the location appears in the "weighted" areas of the html elements. Weighted is a term SEO's use to indicate whether something is a ranking factor (weighted heavier means it is of more value) or a ranking signal (used in combination with a ranking factor) to assign positions in the SERP.
Optimization Tip: For instance words at the beginning of a HTML tag/container have more value (weighted heavier) then later in the tag.
Optimizing the Domain Name Ranking factors on Your Website Landing Page
There is relevance in a domain name and some would say that an Exact Match Domain is a major advantage in ranking. If your business is local, then choosing a Domain name with the GEO location and primary keywords would be ideal. For instance TorontoMovers.com is the the domain name of Phillips Moving and Storage.
The other factor is the Authority of the domain. Authority is basically the number and value of incoming links to the domain. A large percentage of links are to the home page so for the most part this page usually possesses the most link equity.
Optimization Tip: Most small businesses will be pointing their Google Places page at the home page. It is important that the resources and optimization is focused properly on this page. As we go over the main ranking factors keep thinking about what Location/product balance you need to maintain in your optimization startegy.
On larger sites the keywords and location can be included in the URL structure; however, the smaller the business is, the more difficult this will be to do. Remember that this is best if your content is unique so don't build pages and just swap out the city/area name in the text. Include maps, testimonials, reviews and other information specific to the area. A single location does not always warrant folders with keywords and locations unless it is a large Metro area like Toronto, where services and other information on that area can be found.
Optimizing Meta and Micro Data
I include the Title HTML element/tag in Meta data. I think these are the most important elements to maximize optimization and manipulate rankings without fear of the being devalued. The Meta Keywords tag is not used by Google, per se, but may be used by other SEs or as a spam flag (excessive word repeats and unrelated terms). Title has always been one of the most important onpage ranking factors.
- Title: IMO, the most important onpage optimization element that should include the primary keywords and location. Remember for this exercise we want both keywords and location to be weighted
Optimization Tip: Words in the Title element are weighted heavier (have more relevance) at the beginning than words at the end. It is also known that Google only weights around 84 characters as a weighted title and anything beyond that is treated as just part of the page. We know this from tests using the Google intitle syntax in searches. It is not known for sure if word counts include stop words or not so I prefer to use the 80-84 character range. Google Displays about 70 characters in the SERP result so the most important words should be in the first 60-70 characters, be coherent (don't stuff with |'s and keywords) and hopefully include a Call to Action.
- Meta Description
Optimization Tip: Meta description is important because this is the text that accompanies the Title (linked) in the SERPs. This description is your message to the user to get the user to click through to your website so make it a Compelling Call To Action! Mention the location primary products and services. The description should be about 160 characters in length and try to include phone numbers (especially on home page!!) because if it is a mobile search the phone numbers are clickable. If your character limit permits add your business address and postal / zip code.
- Microdata: Ever see the stars for reviews in the results? That is Microdata! You will also see them referred to as structured data. Structured data makes it easy for search engines to collect information from your website and display it in the results.
Optimization Tip: Microdata information and syntax is available at Schema.org. I strongly recommend using structured data on your contact page and I always include full contact details in the footer of every page. I now recommend this information be marked up in structured data as well. Reviews, events, testimonials and more can be included in the SERP and these "Rich Snippets" always drive more clicks on your listing. The number of testimonials and ratings on your website affects the ranking. I strongly suggest a link from the home page to your testimonials page to maximize the link equity to the page and structured data it contains.
- KML File: Add this file to your domain and get a bump in rankings! You can get info here on how to make and implement it.
Match Your Name Address and Phone (NAP) Data
One of the hardest things to do is to make sure all the data on your website matches exactly your data on all 3rd party sites. Also add your NAP in structured data in as many pages as possible, as it makes sense and adds value to the user experience.
Optimization Tip: Including the full contact information on every page adds local relevancy to that page and transparency builds trust with users that are potential customers. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find contact information on a website you want to do business with. If the contact info isn't front and center I always wonder "what are they hiding".
In the Local ranking factors post it includes optimization of H1 and H2 tags with keywords and locations, however, these are what I think are minor factors and not really worth fussing over if your CMS or template doesn't include them. Keep in mind a few repeats of the primary keyword terms and location should be in the copy of your website landing page.
Conclusions On Landing Page Optimization for Google Places/+Local
SEO for your Google Places website landing page is not unlike any other page, in that the same techniques and best practices are used to maximize the visibility of the page. The only real change is the location is now just as important as the keywords!