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Local Search Engine Optimization Is Powerful For Small Businesses

If you are a small or medium business trying to leverage your online presence, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Google Places (also called Google Local). It’s a great free product from Google that creates listings of brick and mortar businesses. These business listings show up in results when people search Google, Google Maps, Google Shopping and Google on mobile devices. These heavily integrated search results are the basis for local search engine optimization or local SEO.

Don’t Get Hurt In The Google Local Rankings

Google Places is still technically in beta and offers little support to users. This causes a lot of frustration for people that encounter errors with their Google Local listing, and for small businesses that don’t have websites or can’t afford SEO services, an error on a Google Local business listing can be the difference between significant revenue. Below I’ll detail out a solution to a common problem – removing duplicate Google local listings. This is important because if your business information is displayed for multiple listings, you are losing trust from Google and you are hurting yourself in organic web and local search results.

I’ll be using the following business information in my example, which I know has a duplicate Google local problem:

White Oak Dental

1580 White Oak Drive, Chaska, MN 55318

(952) 448-2868

Chaskadentist.com

Note: You should only proceed with these steps if your desired Google local is verified in Google.Google Local Verified Listing

  1. Search your phone number on maps.google.com. How To Find Duplicate Google Local Place Page Listings
  2. You’ll see every business listed under that phone number. Typically it’s the same business with slightly different information. In this case, there are four businesses listed under the White Oak Dental phone number. I know I want result B as the only listing, so the rest of the steps focus on achieving that.
  3. Click to one of the undesired listings. I clicked to result A. Select “more” and then “report problem”.How To Remove Duplicate Google Local Listings
  4. Select “Place has another listing”. In the Details box, type the business information exactly as it appears on the correct Google Local listing. Google Local Google Maps SEO
  5. When you click “report problem” you are done and Google politely thanks you for your feedback. I always select “Send email when the problem is reviewed” because Google does follow up and notify you if action has been taken. Be sure you are signed in to a Google account so you can receive the follow up email.

If you research how long it will take to rectify the problem, you may find some Google help forums ask for 4-6 weeks before you repeat your actions. I’ve seen Google reply in as little as one week, but they put enough disclaimers everywhere so that they don’t have to reply, nor are they required to take any action. However, if your report of an incorrect listing is justified, it is likely to be fixed.

Whenever you engage a client in link building services, it’s important to demonstrate success to your client throughout and after the project. Part of quantifying your SEO efforts is reporting on the quantity of links to your targeted site or URL. That’s not to say that quantity is the sole focus of link building, but if you are performing a variety of optimizations for a client and only have a short amount of time for reporting, you want to be able to point to link acquisition without fancy screen shots and long explanations.

Now that Yahoo’s Site Explorer tool has been retired, SEOs have to regroup and find another reliable, simple source for checking backlinks without reinventing their reporting format. This is especially difficult because each tool typically reports different backlink counts. I’m going to profile a few of the popular tools. I’ll only be looking at the free versions since they are more easily accessible to all link builders and optimizers. Finally, I’ll leave you with my recommendation for reliable backlink checking and reporting. (I will be using our domain, www.leverinteractive.com for all examples.)

www.OpenSiteExplorer.org – This free link checking tool is great if you’re only checking 3 sites a day since it limits you to only 3 domain queries in a 24 hour period. It shows a few of their own unique metrics, but also shows Linking Root Domains and Total Links, which are universally important. You can use both of those metrics to measure growth month over month. In the free version, you can also get a glimpse of the top pages on your site acquiring links, the top domains linking to your site, anchor text and some other stats. However, the daily limit of 3 queries can make competitive analysis or new client prospecting difficult. Open Site Explorer is powered and maintained by SEOmoz. Use this tool for: setting a benchmark for a new client, reporting

www.MajesticSEO.com – This tool reports the number of referring domains and the number of backlinks. While the Open Site Explorer teases you to join the paid plan with a brief look at your referring domains and anchor text, Majestic SEO gives you great visuals for reporting. It also provides a historical index and a fresh index, showing you recent link count as well as a cumulative link count. Worth noting- my personal experience with customer service has been great, especially for a free too. I’ve tweeted at Majestic SEO with a few questions and received positive responses immediately, which leads me to believe their customer service and brand management are both very strong. Use this tool for: setting a benchmark for a new client, reporting, prospecting potential clients, quick competitive analysis

Majestic SEO backlink checking tool

www.Alexa.com: Alexa also provides backlink data for free. This screenshot shows 46 backlinks to our domain. Clicking on the 46 reveals the list of domains as well as the URL linking to the specified domain. The list will max out at 100, so if you want to report on over 100 backlinks with this level of detail, you’ll be out of luck. Use this tool for: deep level linking detail for clients or competitive analysis

Alexa Backlink Checking Tool

Google Webmasters Tools: Not many SEOs report backlink numbers from Google Webmasters because it’s notorious for reporting a low count of links. While this is true, most clients value Google data above other engines, and since Google offers a free, consistent and accurate backlink report, it’s worth including in your web analytics reports. The plus side is that while these other tools may change without notice, Google Webmaster is likely here to stay, so you don’t have to worry about your backlink checking tool disappearing.

You’ll notice that with these three screen shots, each site is reporting different numbers. This is inevitable. The simpler you make your reporting, the simpler it will be to explain to your client. Don’t start taking averages between sites and choosing the highest count each month from any source. If you want a reliable backlink checking tool, I suggest using data supplied from Google Webmasters. The backlink count gets updated frequently and it’s consistent month over month. Whichever source you choose, just be sure that your reporting is consistent and that if your client checks their backlink count using a different tool, prepare them with an explanation of why they may see a different count.

The official Google search blog announced yesterday that it has integrated content from its social network Google+ into organic web results. While this is a fundamental change to search engine optimization, it’s not a total surprise. Google previously featured the +1 button in ads, organic results, even +1 metrics in Google Webmasters and Analytics. The difference is now, the web results contain more than just +1s. Below we take a look at some of the common questions that may arise from this Google SERP change.

I Have a Google+ Profile and I’m Worried About Privacy. Is my Google+ Information Public?

When you create or edit your profile, you can set it to “visible in search”. This allows it to be indexed by engines. If you uncheck this feature, your profile page will be private, visible only to your circles. However, even with a private profile, you can still select the “public” option for sharing. If you want a private profile but want to share anything with the entire world, this is still possible.

I  Want to Share Something on Google+ For Only My Friends. How Should I Proceed?

Let’s say you want to post a link for only your friends to see. You can post content and then select from the drop down menu, “+Add circles or people to share with…” Select only your Friends. Now you’re sharing content that people in your Friends circle will see on their stream in Google+. They may also see this post in search results on Google if they search a relevant query.

On the drop down menu, you can see your other sharing options which include “Extended Circles” and “Public”. Extended Circles is like the Facebook settings “Friends of Friends”, meaning if you share something with “Extended Circles”, you’ll be reaching the circles of all of your friends. Public posts are the posts that can appear in web results for anyone signed in to Google and using Google Search, Plus Your World.

What Does Google Search, Plus Your World Mean for SEO?

I’ve already seen web results showing Google+ content. The screen shot below is a view of above the fold in Google’s SERP for “Mashable”. The first result is Mashable’s domain, with their sitelinks visible in the normal spot. Every other link in this screen shot is a link to something on Google+, 14 in total. This takes a lot of the traffic and revenue implications associated with top Google rankings away. If you sell a product and your competitor has a dominating Google+ page, you could rank in position 1 organically, but with all the distraction in the new layout, and all the links to your competitor’s Google+ content, your top ranking may mean less than it did before. The bad news here is that a brand with a huge Google+ network can have significantly more information and links available at a quick glance than you, even if you have the top organic result.

Don’t Panic – This Can Be Good!

What have we been hearing from Google for years? What does Matt Cutts preach in almost every video he records? Content, content, content. Don’t farm links, don’t buy links, don’t get low quality links, don’t worry about PageRank, don’t fill your site with ads. Create good, insightful content. In other words, create content worth sharing. The day has finally come. While this mix has made the job function of SEO even grayer than before, the mantra is still the same, “content is king”.

What Should I Expect to See In My Search Results?

This is still being rolled out by Google, but expect to see the same posts you see in your stream if you search for something relevant. Below is my screenshot of my search query “Google Search Plus Your World”. Famed author Danny Sullivan is in one of my circles, so his icon shows up next to something he shared on Google+. Once more users get on Google+ and the sharing and the circles grow, you’ll see more and more results tailored to your query including photos, videos, posts, comments and +1s.

What Should I Tell My SEO Client?

Don’t drop all you’re doing just to hop on the Google+ bandwagon. This search integration is still so young, there’s no formula yet for a proper Google+ strategy. In a nutshell, it’s just another social network, so treat it as such. Set up a branded page, complete the profile, place a link on your profile to your website, add any other links such as Twitter and Facebook, and start sharing. You can search on Google+ to find people talking about your brand, services, products or asking questions that you can answer as an authority. Add them to your circles and comment on their posts, share with your circles, and generate online conversations. Don’t worry if your competitors are ahead of you or if your Google+ content isn’t showing up on a Google search for your brand name. As long as you are participating and distributing quality content, you are on track for success.

Tell us what you think about Google+, Google Search Plus Your World, or how you plan to adjust your SEO campaigns with this new search feature.

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