According to various reports, approximately 20 to 35% of all web searches have local intent, meaning that the location of the search results is an important factor to the searcher.

Sometimes this is explicit (i.e. a  search for “north shore dentist”), but even if you omit the location from the search phrase, the search engines are smart enough to understand where you are located and that you are most likely trying to find a dentist who is reasonably nearby.

As you have no doubt seen many times, when Google believes that a specific search has local intent, it will frequently display what is known as a “local 10 pack”, containing a map of your local area with up to 10 links to businesses that relate to the search phrase. The position of the 10 pack varies, but it is often displayed either before the first, or after the third natural search result.

Local Search Engine Optimization using Google's Local Business Center

In this example, these seven local results are all displayed before even the very first natural search result. In other words the highly prized #1 position in Google search may not even appear above the fold on the search results page.

So what do you do if your business doesn’t appear in the local 10 pack when you search for your type of business?

Welcome to the world of “Local Search Optimization”

Google operates a product called Local Business Center. The premise is straight foward: “When potential customers search Maps for local information, they’ll find your business”. Seems simple enough. So what are the benefits?

  • Reach new customers on Google Maps and
  • Works great for businesses of any size
  • Update your listing at any time

Here is what First Rate’s Auckland local business listing looks like.

So what are the most important things that you should do to increase the chances of your business ranking well for local search?

All of the standard search engine optimisation techniques still apply. You still need to identify what your target search phrases are and make sure you use them in all the right places, such as in the title tag, in the header tags, in the body text of your home page, in image alt attributes, in your domain name if possible, etc.

What’s required is to take SEO even further to include optimisation for location as well as keywords.

Getting Started with Google Local Search in New Zealand

  • Make sure you have claimed your local business listing. The easiest way to do this is to go to Google Maps and search for your business name. There is a good chance that your business will already be listed as Google gets feeds of business listings from other directories such as Finda.
  • First, make sure the pushpin for your business is in the correct location. Click on it to open the page for the business listing. Near the top of the page there should be a link that says “Business owner?”. Click this to go to the Google Local Business Center. This is where you can validate that you own this business listing, edit your business information and upload photos and videos related to you business.
  • Make sure your business address is in your target search city. This might sound like an obvious no-brainer, but it can be a bit of a trap. For example, if your business services the whole of the Auckland region, but your business address is actually in Waitakere City of Manukau City, you may be at a disadvantage compared to your competitors who happen to be located in Auckland City.
  • Use a local (eg. Auckland specific) phone number as your primary business phone number rather than a toll free number or mobile number.
  • Include your address and phone number in the footer of your entire website or at the very least on your “contact information” page.
  • Include your city / town in the title tags of your web pages.
  • Make sure you are included in relevant local directories such as the online version of the Yellow Pages, Finda, etc.
  • Seek out customer reviews for your Finda listing and Google Local page. Listings with reviews have a higher chance of being included in the list of local results.
  • Avoid using the same phone number or address for multiple business listings as this can negatively affect your local ranking.

Contact us if you would like professional assistance optimising your company’s local search results.