Boosting Business+Profits Online

Local Search Ranking – Top 3 Factors for Ranking Well

novo-google-page-one-ranking

What are the Key Factors for Boosting Your Local Search Rankings?

Following a previous post on the overall basics of search engine optimization, I thought it might be relevant here to focus on local search rankings. What determines how well a website does in the search results when someone conducts a search related to their city or town?

A recent survey of search engine experts by David Mihm sheds some light on the key factors for ranking well for local searches.  27 experts were asked to rate a total of 49 factors in terms of their importance in determining local search rankings.

The top 3 factors that were ranked as being most significant in positively influencing local rankings were:

1. Having a local business listing within the city of search

If you look at the search results for “online marketing bethesda” in the image above, my company’s local business listing shows up prominently along with the local city map and location. Because Google is placing these local business listings first in the search results (i.e. before showing other web matches), it is critically important that you create your listing using Google’s Local Business Center. This service is free and should absolutely be a ‘must do’ for all business website owners.

2. Being cited by other local portals, associations, or groups

According to the experts surveyed, listing your business with local online directories, portals or associations can also help your local search rankings. Examples of such sites might be infoUSA, Yellow Pages, Yelp, City Search, Merchant Circle and even local chamber directories. These sites usually have high page rank and authority, so creating a listing which links back to your business website should give your rankings a boost.

3. Using proper categories and keywords in your local business listing

When setting up your Google local listing, be sure to select the right category for your business. In addition, inserting the keywords or search phrases that you want to rank for in your business listing (especially in the title) will also improve your search rankings.

The survey goes into negative factors affective search rankings as well. These include negative customer reviews, using an 800 telephone number in your local listing, and having multiple listings with the same business name and phone number. The full survey can be seen here.

Are You Keeping Your Business A Secret?

The world wide web has become increasingly crowdedtotalwebsites and competitive.  A survey conducted by Netcraft reported that the web has doubled over the last 2 years, and there are now over 180 million web sites on the internet.

With so much competition on the web, it is no longer possible to throw up a web site and expect to be found by potential customers.  Business owners with web sites can no longer keep their sites a ’secret’ – they need their sites to get found by showing up in search engine results.

In today’s online space, Google is the 800 pound gorilla that confers ranking and determines the authority of web sites. A web site’s search ranking has become critically important given that 80% of online searchers do not actually go beyond the first page of Google’s search results. So if you are not ranking on the first page, the chances of getting potential customers to visit your site is dramatically reduced.

search_behaviourIn addition, with increasingly sophisticated web users, online search behavior has also changed. Results from the ‘Think Eyetracking’ study shown here highlight these differences. Unlike search behavior in 2005, online searchers in 2008 focused primarily on the top 5 results on the first page, with the most clicks going to the top 3 ranking sitesThese findings are supported by a Cornell University study which found that the top 3 Google results get 79% of all clicks.

What this all means for business owners is that their web site not only needs to be found, but it needs to show up in the top 5 positions on the first page of Google to really matter.

Putting together a well thought out and concerted effort to get to the top of Google’s rankings is more important now than ever before.

Business owners typically face some big challenges when it comes to search engine optimization:

  • Often, Google doesn’t even know their sites exist (this is VERY common)
  • Even if Google knows about their site, it never shows up in search engine listings
  • Even if their site does show up in some kind of search, it’s hardly ever the “keyword phrase” that the owner would like
  • Even if the owner could dictate to Google what keywords to show the site for, most business owners don’t know which words or phrases are the money makers!

In shopping for Search Engine Marketing services, business owners should also bear in midn that aggressive ranking efforts done the wrong way can even get your site de-indexed, which means that it will be removed from Google’s index and will not show up at all in any search results.

Therefore, when working with a Search Engine Marketing consultant, make sure that they are being totally transparent about their methods; showing you exactly what they will do, and why it helps to propel you to the top of Google.

Social Media – Connect with More Customers Online

socialmedia2Are you tappping into the power of social networking and Web 2.0 sites to connect with more prospects and potential customers?

In these tough times, effective use of social media can mean the difference between a thriving or a languishing business.

Web 2.0 and social media marketing offer businesses a massive opportunity to reach and engage more prospects online in both a highly cost effective and personal manner.

What kind of reach do these sites have? The numbers below will give you a rough idea:

  • LinkedIn: Network of 36 million business professionals
  • Twitter:  8  million users growing at a rate of 40% per month
  • Facebook:  Community of 200 million
  • Youtube: 100 million videos viewed daily
  • Flickr: 54 million photos per month
  • Digg/Delicious/StumbleUpon: 30 million users

Does social media marketing work or is it just a waste of time?” is a question I often hear from small business owners.

Results of a recent March 2009 marketing industry survey answer this question and may convince you to start building a social media presence for your business (if you haven’t yet already!). Here are some of the highlights:

social-media-industry-report-benefits-marketing-stelzner-march-2009

The majority of businesses (over 80%) reported an increase in attention and exposure for their businesses, with small business owners reporting the greatest benefit. In addition, search rankings also rose (due to the high page rank accorded to popular social media sites by Google), thus increasing these businesses’ chances of being found on the web.

social-media-industry-report-commonly-used-social-tools-march-2009

Interestingly, Twitter was the top tool used, followed closely by blogs, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  With Oprah (and almost a million of her fans) joining Twitter recently, the service is fast becoming a tool that is known and used by mainstreet america.

social-media-industry-report-stelzner-time-commitment-march-2009

So how significant is the time required for social media marketing? About a third reported spending more than 5 hours each week, with 39% spending 10+ hours and almost 10% using it more than 20 hours each week.

The bottom line? The overall results of the survey point to social media marketing efforts as being beneficial in terms of creating a high impact web presence – thus generating new traffic, leads, and partnerships for businesses who are willing to invest the time to learn and leverage these highly effective tools.

Boosting Business+Profits Online