This year, like every year in the SEO industry, there were many changes and improvements from Google. From the growing importance of Google+, algorithm changes, and encrypted search, itís a lot to keep up with.

Sometimes itís hard to know where to start to improve rankings, particularly when it comes to local results. However, one great place to start is your Google Places page. Google Places lists thousands of local businesses around the world to help consumers make better-informed decisions. When potential customers search for relevant search terms, if your Google Places page is relevant to the query, it will appear in the search results.

Here are 5 simple ways you can make a huge difference in your local Google ranking.

  1. Page Verification
  2. Claiming a Google Places for Business page is the first step to getting control of your listing and make additional improvements. Once youíve created your location page, Google asks you to verify the listing. This is done through a phone call or a postcard to your business with a Google provided pin number.

    Once you receive the PIN, enter it into your dashboard after you log in. Itís as simple as that. While itís not impossible to rank well with an unverified Google Places page, itís still very much worth the effort and key to other potential improvements.

  3. Category Association
  4. Once Google verifies your page, Google gives you the opportunity to associate your business with up to 10 categories (one primary and up to nine others). You must choose categories pre-determined by Google, and the primary category is by far the most important.

    This is a simple action that can have a surprisingly great impact on the performance of your listing. In fact, according to Mozís annual survey of Local SEO Ranking Factors, this is one of the most important things you can do to improve your local SEO. Just make sure you donít associate with the wrong categories. On top of potentially driving the wrong kind of traffic for your business, it also hurts your ranking for local search results. Associating with more categories also wonít help your ranking. For instance, a company with two relevant categories will likely do better than a company with two relevant categories and three non-relevant categories.

    The key to success is understanding Googleís categories to ensure that the most relevant ones are associated with your listing. Existing businesses with older pages should also update any custom categories as Google is in the process of phasing these out. There are also tools such as Mike Blumenthalís Google Places for Business Category Tool to help you choose the right categories to ensure you get the most out of your Google Places page page.

  5. Name, Address, and Phone Number Consistency

  6. One of the guiding principles for all local SEO strategies is to keep your business information consistent. That said, making sure your website and Google Places for Business page have the same information is crucial. Based on the webpage youíve linked to your Google Places page, Google will double check that the Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP).

    There are many cases where a business will list its name differently; a doctor that is part of a larger practice for example. However, if Google sees a discrepancy, it will hurt your local page ranking. Itís crucial that when Google crawls the HTML of your site it sees the same name, address, and phone number youíve listed on your Google Places page.

    While discrepancies such as Street and St. donít matter for your address, youíll want to make sure that the addresses are still the same. This means that if your business is located in an office suite, you want to make sure to include it everywhere. Similarly, youíll want to make sure you change both your website and Google Places page if you ever decide to move.

    Finally, for your phone number just make sure to keep the same local number consistent (more on that below). This means that any tracking number you may want to use should be left off of your Google Places page.

  7. Google Reviews
  8. Another easy factor for improving your Google Places page is the number of reviews you receive. More than any other business listings site (Yelp, Yellow Pages, ect.) the reviews on Google are key to your overall success in search.

    On some level, you want to receive the most positive reviews you can and doing so can help pull you above your competitors. However, youíll want to make sure not to receive too many too quickly. In the case of acquiring too many reviews, Google (and on some level your potential customers) may become suspicious as to why you have so many reviews so quickly, even if theyíre mostly positive. When it comes to receiving reviews too quickly, Google can even filter some of the reviews out of the total.

    It is best to slowly and steadily gain positive reviews from happy customers over time. While you can request reviews, Google prohibits companies from giving out any incentives for this. It should also be noted that while quantity of reviews is more important than the rating, the actual number is not the end-all-be-all. A business with ten more reviews than their competitors may not do any better than if they had just one or two more.

  9. Local Area Code
  10. A final simple but effective improvement that you can make to a Google Places Page is to use a phone number that contains the local area code. Sometimes businesses associate their business with a toll-free number for tracking or a non-local cell phone number of a manager, but either way this is often to the detriment of their local listing.

    Instead, to improve your Google Places Page and rankings, companies should add a phone number with the local area code. As mentioned above, ideally this phone number matches to the HTML of your site. For some, this may seem obvious, but this makes a big impact on how Google sees your businessí relevance to a local audience.

Thatís it! Five simple SEO ranking factors that can help you with your Google Places page and ultimately help you with your overall local SEO goals. You can find the entire list local SEO ranking factors on Mozís annual survey. Even though local SEO continues to change, there are still plenty of opportunities for success!

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