Google Local is important because Google tends to show local results whenever you're searching for products or services. You can't afford not to be noticed in those results because they make up a significant part of the first page results. About half of all mobile searches have local intent, meaning users are looking specifically for physical businesses in their area.
Work from a Solid Base
Before you start working on external listings, you must first ensure that your own website is optimized. This means you must include geo-targets in your homepage content and meta data. For example, if you want to rank for a specific geographic area like Dallas, make sure you add it to the following areas: page title, description, on the homepage as H1 header tag and bolded keywords. You should also add your agency name, address and phone number as text on your homepage as well as on every page on your site. This can be done in the footer, header or sidebar. Insurance Website Builder uses special tags from Schema.org for your agency name, address and phone number. This is a special markup that allows the search engines to interpret the information you're trying to convey. If your website doesn't contain this markup, the search engines will have a more difficult time understanding what to do with the information on the page.
As you can see in the screenshot below, the cities appear in many places. This includes multiple cities where necessary, and includes H1 and bolded keywords, and appears in the title.
Create or Claim and Enhance Your Listing
Once you have your website optimized, it is time to claim and enhance your listing. Go to Google, and search for your agency name+the city where your office is located. For example Dershimer Insurance Winter Haven. This should bring up your website as well as your map listings. If you cannot find it then you will have to create the listing.
Log in to Google, go to http://plus.google.com/, then hover over the Home button on the left hand side, which will drop down a menu. Click on Pages, then click on the blue Create button on the right hand side. This will bring up five categories to choose from. Choose Local Business or Place.
Agree to the terms and conditions and follow the prompts to claim your listing. You may be prompted to verify your listing by phone or postcard. If you have the option to verify by phone, take it! It is much faster and will only take a minute. It is a simple process where an automated call from Google will be placed to your business. Make sure that the person who normally answers the phone is ready for this call. Google calls you almost instantly after you hit the Call me Now button, so be prepared. They will give you a PIN number, which you will then have to enter on your computer. If you do not have the option to verify by phone, you can do so by postcard. You will receive your postcard at the location you're listing in about 1-2 weeks. When you receive it, enter the PIN to verify. While you're waiting on the postcard, you will be able to enhance the listing.
Add all the information requested. When adding your phone number, add your local number, not your toll free number, or marketing phone number. You can give one of the categories priority, and this will be listed in the results page. Make sure that all the information you add here is exactly the same as the information on your website, and should be exactly the same on every other listing you create across the web. This is important because you want to have consistent information among all business listings. Your local presence can be negatively impacted if you don't.
Get your listing to 100% completion because a complete listing will help you rank higher. Be as truthful and natural as possible. Do not stuff keywords in your description or agency name. Show what makes your agency unique with a cover photo and profile picture. You can also add pictures of your building, employees, office interiors and signage. Once you've fully completed the listing, come back on occasion - I recommend once a month - to make updates using pictures, office events, or blog posts.
Once you have enhanced your listing, you can check for duplicates. If you notice any duplicates with specific agent names attached to the listing, remove them. You should only have one listing per location. This is so that you capitalize on your efforts by only concentrating on one listing. To remove it, click to view the full listing.
Click on Edit Details. This will take you to the Map Maker, where you can choose the appropriate action to fix this listing. In this case, check the box marked Place is a duplicate of another place, then provide the web address of the correct listing.
Come back next week for Part II where we will discuss what to do once you have your listing optimized, including ask for reviews and maximize your marketing efforts.