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Google gets clever on Local

Alex Christie

9 November 2009

Google Local Business Centre

Local times are changing…

For brands seeking exposure on Google, especially those selling localised services, Google Local Business Centre offers an avenue into geo-targeted search rankings for very little cost and up until recently relatively little effort. In the ealy days of Google Maps, brands had to do little more than add their company title, description, product category and location to be listed in Google’s Local Business Centre and appear in Google Local’s ‘10-pack’ of local listings in all but the most competitive niches.

Since early days in 2007, the number of searches on Google for local business has evolved hugely as has Google local searches on mobile with a latest 2009 Comscore local search study showing 12% of all searches on Google for local business searches and 32% of smart-phone users searching for local business on their mobile internet in 2009. This can only grow with the explosion of iPhone and Android owners in 2010. With every movement in the online market, businesses have reacted in their droves and have flocked to Google LBC as their new messiah. This has caused Google to take a look at what’s acceptable and what’s not which last week resulted Google in tightening its quality guidelines, the most important of which being the following:

  • Do not attempt to manipulate results by adding ‘extraneous’ keywords or description into your business title and name.
  • Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist
  • A precise address for the business must be provided in place of broad city names or cross streets
  • The rest of the new Google Local Business Centre quality guidelines can be found here

    Giving businesses a fair(er) playing field

    Improving the quality guidelines is undoutedly a step in the right direction by Google in reducing spammy listings and gives more power back to businesses to legitimately list their business. Google still have a way to go though with responding to businesses claiming their business listing back from false listings before they can legitimately say they have a fair (and spam-free) playing field. Also, despite changes to the quality guidelines, you will still see listings appearing and ranking well in Google Local Business Centre with keyterms stuffed in every nook and cranny of their local listing.

    “My mate Dave, says they’re alright, got lots of good reviews and stuff…”

    When a business does get accepted by Google Local Business Centre, the LBC’s algorithm, like Google’s main algorithm, has recently been tweaked to favour bigger brands with many mentions elsewhere in the internet. To rank on Google LBC means brands and business have to earn a whole host of citations of their business from local directories, local council sites, local newspapers etc. Word of mouth, through quantity rather than quality of user-generated reviews, holds no greater currency when it comes to Google local rankings.

    Think outside the (Google Maps) Box

    The tightening of Google Local Business Centre quality guidelines is making it harder to be accepted on Google LBC, but that doesn’t mean that a business’ local strategy should start and end there. From optimising your on-site location page to rank naturally, to effectve local directories,to targeted link building through local sources to other local resources such as Yahoo local, Bing Local, and many more mobile-friendly local sites, it’s time for businesses to stop being blinded by Google’s light and also look elsewhere.

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