As a Google Trusted Photographer, in the past year and a half I’ve heard many stories of businesses struggling to stay on top of all the search engine changes like “Penguin” and “Panda”. Those names might sound cute but according to many businesses it has left them with an ugly mess.

Whats more, over the past year Google has been weeding out illegitimate businesses from the maps and SERPs. One way of the many ways Google accomplished this was by dishing out penalties when they had to merge or delete businesses who had duplicate business listings. Next they started to really emphasize on the relationships a business made online and ensuring that the review systems from around the web got documented. Even Google changed the way their review system works and implemented G+ for Business. Even more recent, Google looks like they are headed toward a more image heavy search results page with the likes of the Google Carousel popping up. Yes, I think Google wants to know if your business is REAL.

There’s a ton of confusion out there and I’ve taken the initiative to find some answers. So I’m going to quickly list 7 simple action items which will increase your visibility and help you attract new customers. This post may be a little lengthy but well worth it. Be aware that this is not a complete guide to getting better local rankings. This should be a base line to start that journey.

1. Verify & Optimize your Google listing

I’ve written a tutorial about this last year and all though the process looks different onscreen it’s very much the same. Request a PIN code from Google, wait for the post card, and enter the code into your Google dashboard. The same goes for when you create a new business page on your G+ account.
The goal is to get an icon to appear on your business page that is represented in the following graphic.

Verified Business Listing Symbol

Once verified you can now optimize your listing and have Google trust that it is in fact correct information. Here’s a list of the changes you will want to make:

a. Enter your real business name or DBA (note: it needs to match the name of your business on your website)
b. Use a local phone number (no 800 or tracking numbers)
c. Write your description as if a human wrote it and do not over stuff it with keywords.
d. Use all 5 categories fields that Google allows. Only use relevant categories or Google will penalize you
e. Use your real business hours as posted on your website and store front

2. Quick Website fixes to show relationship with Business Listing

Many businesses over look the fact that their website plays a very important role in their online presence. It’s hard to believe that there are so many businesses with out websites today. Besides just having a website business owners need to stay on top of their website content more often as well. Here are a few changes that should be made as soon as possible.

a. Title tags should include the DBA or business name separated by a | and followed by a few keywords that make sense and city.
Here’s an example of a title format:
Brand Name | Primary And Secondary Keyword with City In A Sentence

b. The Business mailing address should be on every page preferably on the bottom
c. The Local Phone number should be placed at the top of every page
d. Use Google maps for directions on your contact page and double check that your business info is exactly the same as on your Google Listing.

3. Fixing Directories and Citations across the web

shows wrong business name format

Have you ever Google’d your business name? What did you find? You probably found yourself on Yelp and a bunch of other business directories maybe even a few Youtube videos. Did you happen to notice that there may have been some discrepancies when it came to your business info? If so, you need to correct those issues. Google may think there’s someone else out there with your name and ranking them higher than you. Or a customer calling the phone number that was changed years ago. Consistency is key to your businesses identity on the web. In particular, look for Name, Address and Phone number and make sure those all read the same everywhere.

4. Delete your Duplicate listings and report abuse

I had a client who was constantly being out ranked on Google because of a business listing that didn’t actually exist. In fact it was a duplicate of a company who was using a false identity to trick Google into ranking them first above everyone else. There’s a simple solution for this. On every Google page there’s a link that says “Report a Problem” use that to report problems of spamming, false listings, wrong information or anything else that just seems out of the ordinary. Google would love to hear about it.

Duplicate phone numbers for different listings report abuse

Most important, business owners should ensure that they aren’t breaking any rules with duplicate content/listings in various cities either. Always use one address and phone number per listing per city. If not, Google will penalize the listing and maybe more.

5. Submit to Online Business Directories for Citations

Ever heard of a back link? Well this is a lot similar but it’s called a Citation. Google loves to grab additional info about you from all over the web to try and ensure that your business is real and to give future customers a good perspective of who you are. For this example I’m going to use Yelp no matter how much I would prefer not to. But, Yelp gets indexed by Google on the first page. (For now at least) So guess what, you should take out a Free listing on Yelp and ignore the sales calls that they send out.

Online Business Directory Logos

There are hundreds of other Business directories out there and you shouldn’t hesitate to get on them. Yes it will take time and Yes, that means to sign up for all those accounts but if you do a few Google searches you can find some tools to help you automate this task. A few directories to look into are: City Search, Kudzu, SuperPages, Yellow Pages, Insider pages, etc. This will help you get your citations up.

6. Get Customer Reviews

The jury is still out on this one as to whether or not Google is counting this as a ranking factor…but it never hurts to ask a customer for a review just to show other customers that your business is the best there is, Or not. Either way it doesn’t matter, a good mixture of good to bad reviews is a good thing. If you had a perfect 5 star rating there may be some questions as to why you are so perfect.

Google Carousel Showing Star Reviews

It doesn’t matter where your customers review you at. In fact the wider spread the comments are the better. They all shouldn’t come from Yelp or Google. How about Insider Pages? Google indexes other review sites. Again, it’s all about being transparent and genuine with your business identity. Just for the sake of throwing it out there… to get your 5 Star rating system to show up on your Google listing, you must get at least 5 reviews. So start thinking of ways to get your customers to review you.

7. Show off your Business with Google Business Photos

Last but not least, my favorite, Business Photos. What better way to be visible than to show off the interior of your business. For years we’ve traveled down street view and only saw the outside of buildings and have said, “What’s Inside?” or “Ewww, I’m not going to that place because it looks run down or abandoned.”

Now we can start saying, “Wow, this place has great food, I’m going to go check it out.” or “They have that particular item I’ve been looking for all these years!” This is because millions of businesses from all over the world have started to share what they have to offer their customers via Street View and Business Photos directly from the Google Maps.

Maps view of See Inside Feature

Look for the See Inside button on business listings that have received a Google Business Photos Package. It’s highly visible from the Google Search Knowledge Graph, Google Maps, Street View and from your very own website and Facebook.

google maps carousel for photos

Have you taken a look at the new Google maps or have seen the Google Carousel? The photos that we take will dress up your business listing and Google will index those images in the Search Engine. So the next time you Google your industry in your city your business may very well appear more prominently than everyone else. Or you may be attracting those new customers who may have always wondered, “what is in that building?

I offer a low-cost audit and strategy plan on your business to help you start fixing these before you slip further into the Google Local abyss.