Local Search: Your Secret Weapon Against the Big Brands – And it’s Free!

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Google has more than 1.2 billion unique users per month. It represents an amazing marketing opportunity for businesses large and small, yet there is much to support the view that Google favours large companies in organic search results. With big brands effectively dominating the top 3 search results, how can smaller companies compete?

Why do big brands dominate search results?

Contrary to what you might think, Google doesn’t have a ‘big brand’ factor in its complex algorithm, however it does have factors that combine to produce search results that replicate the real world. When large companies use traditional advertising to raise their visibility offline, Google strives to recreate this in organic search.

When it comes to digital marketing, big brands typically have large websites filled with great content. With the help of additional marketing and PR activities, they will also have generated mentions on other websites, building a large number of links that point back to their own website. The combination of top quality content and reputable links are the most important ranking factors for websites – no wonder, then, that big brands dominate in search results.

That said, Google Search is constantly evolving. Recent developments have created valuable opportunities for small businesses to compete with the bigger brands, especially in Local Search. Using simple local search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques makes is easier for Google to understand your location and higher up in the rankings.

What is Local Search?

The world of search engines distinguishes between a generic search and a local search. Local Search relates to online searches carried out within a geographical region, by using key phrases that have a local bias. For instance, a search for ‘plumber’ is a generic search, but a search for ‘plumber in Brighton’ would be a local search.

Importantly, Local Search is inherently linked to Google Maps. This was launched by Google back in 2004 to map the whole world including all businesses in every town and country.

Sign up to Google My Business

Through Google My Business (GMB), Google has created a free and easy-to-use tool to literally put businesses on the map. It’s a great platform for all business but is particularly useful for small businesses to effectively compete with larger industry players.

Even if you’re a start-up or a sole trader, it is highly recommended that you sign up to GMB and create a good, high quality profile to help manage your online presence. It’s completely free to the user, so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

While there are many advantages to having a GMB listing, the main benefit is the ability to appear in ‘local pack’ results which will substantially increase your business’ visibility in search results.

How to appear in the ‘local pack’

The ‘local pack’ is the 3 results usually listed at the top of the Local Search results. Try it now for ‘plumbers in Brighton’ and see which 3 local companies come up as GMB organic search results. For the searcher, this listing is useful information that can be acted on straight away – there’s a local address and a phone number to call.

For the local business, this kind of profile is worth its weight in gold. At no cost to yourself it’s free advertising that drives traffic straight to your door. Also worth noting is that the much larger Checkatrade website appears lower down on the search results page. Obviously, without a GMB listing, your business won’t be able to appear in the local pack of results.

What does your business have to do in order to rank well in the local pack? It’s really not rocket science. Sign up and complete your listing, choosing the right business categories, using a good business description, adding good quality images, about 10 positive reviews and a sprinkling of citations across local directories with a consistent NAP (name, address, phone number).

Take advantage of Google Posts

Google Posts is a recent update for Local Search. The new feature allows you to publish relevant, fresh information about your products, services and events directly to Google Search where it will appear when someone searches for your business name. Posts expire after 7 days.

The advantages of using Google Posts are clear. Rather than typing your company URL into the browser, many users will ‘google’ your business name instead. The search results will now include your latest news, special offers or latest events via Google Posts.

Encourage Google Reviews

Last but by no means least, encourage your customers to write a review on Google of their experience with your company, the quality of goods or services obtained. Much more impactful than leaving reviews on platforms such as Checkatrade or Facebook, Google reviews have a positive effect on local pack rankings.

What’s equally important is that the user can read the reviews as a tool to help him decide whether to do business with you. Aim for 10-15 positive Google reviews for best results. While a single positive review could backfire by making your business appear unpopular, too many reviews won’t get read.

 

Comments 2

Vinay K on Monday, 08 January 2018 03:54

Hi Mike,

Excellent Article! We are trying to boost our local presence with cash for cars market in Las Vegas and came across your article. One of the questions I had was the keyword stuffing, like you mentioned it is crucial to have 'NAP' but would it help or not if we added location to the name as well?

Hi Mike, Excellent Article! We are trying to boost our local presence with cash for cars market in Las Vegas and came across your article. One of the questions I had was the keyword stuffing, like you mentioned it is crucial to have 'NAP' but would it help or not if we added location to the name as well?
Mike James on Monday, 08 January 2018 17:42

Hi Vinay,

Thanks for the comment. Having a location in the name is not necessary and can be considered spammy. The location is already identified in the address.

Thanks

Mike

Hi Vinay, Thanks for the comment. Having a location in the name is not necessary and can be considered spammy. The location is already identified in the address. Thanks Mike
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