Ranking near the top of search engine results pages (SERP) is the essence of SEO. This leads to increased brand recognition, online visibility, and, most importantly, higher conversions. Potential customers are far more likely to enlist the services of companies whose websites rank higher in online searches than lesser-optimized businesses.
But now that Google’s SERP is a little more complicated today than it was when it first launched in 1997, there are some different categories of listings displayed in Google Search. Now at the very top of Google’s SERP are websites whose owners decided to boost their presence using the paid service, Google AdWords. Below this are Google’s local listings (see below).
The above results came up after simply searching “Apple Store”. Local listings make it easy for web users to see the locations of multiple businesses and map out how to get there. It also directs users to the website in case they need more information. For mobile users, the very same search query would appear like this:
The key difference here is that it offers users the opportunity to call the location directly from their phone. Smartphone users (in this case iPhone users), can also hit the “directions” button and it will automatically open up the phone’s GPS application. This makes it extremely beneficial for retail companies, considering it helps attract customers who are already out-and-about.
One issue regarding Google’s local listings that companies often run into, is when their location doesn’t appear on local listings. Even sites that rank first in organic searches occasionally confront this problem. Seeing as local listings appear above organic listings, this severely limits the companies’ conversions.
There are two main reasons why this occurs:
1) The site isn’t optimized enough
This is the simplest answer, considering Google prefers rewarding sites they consider most helpful for the user. Without going too in-depth as to how to optimize a website, easy solutions include adding the site to different listing sites and regularly posting an original blog to the site.
An additional solution is to make sure the company’s Google Business/Google+ page is sufficiently filled out. This means having a thorough company description, correct hours, address, URL and listing all the appropriate keywords in the the “categories” section of the Google Business page. Also, frequently updating your Google+ page (in addition to every social media account). Also, having a large number of Google Reviews (companies with good reviews generally appeared higher, too) also used to help boost page rankings on local listings. However, these stars recently disappeared, which will – according to Google’s John Mueller – soon be visible again.
2) There are duplicate listings
A site could be extremely well optimized and still be left out of local listings, simply because there’s a duplicate listing floating around somewhere. Google penalizes sites for having duplicate listings, seeing as it gives an unfair edge to these sites against competitors who practice honest SEO tactics. However, most of the time, these duplicate listings aren’t intentional. Sometimes when businesses change SEO companies, the successor SEO company will fail to see that there was already a Google listing for their client. As a result, Google won’t display the new listing on its SERPs local listings.
The easiest solution to this is to simply acquire the log-in credentials for the old listing and then remove it. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly difficult to find the old username and password, which makes it impossible to remove the page. The next step then is to contact Google and let them know which page is a duplicate and thus, needs to be removed. If you search the exact name of the business in Google, and the antiquated listing appears, click on the “suggest an edit” link and mark it as a duplicate. In time, Google will eventually notice this and remove it.