[city name]”. This dental client has so much authority, they are the featured listing for the global keyword “dentist” when searched from the same city they are located in (more on that below).
Learn more about how we can help your business achieve top rankings in Google Maps / Google local search results.
What does it mean to be the featured local business in Google Maps / local listings?
In order to understand this level of authority, let me start by showing you the dentist that’s currently the featured business in Google local search results.
This is also important, because it shows you the relevance of localization. Which means Google uses the location of the person searching – whether on desktop or mobile – to determine the search results you see.
The keyword phrase in this example is the global keyword “dentist”.
And here’s what you get when searching the word “dentist” from my location which is Athens, Georgia.
Featured local listing (desktop) in Google search for global keyword phrase “dentist”
Notice how the keyword phrase I searched is the global word “dentist”. I did not indicate what city I was searching in, nor did I indicate a particular type of dentist.
Next, notice the right hand column that’s featuring McRae Family Dental. This is our dental client located in Athens, Georgia.
Finally, not only is this dental practice the featured local business for the global keyword phrase “dentist”, but notice how they are also the #1 ranked organic search result for this global keyword phrase.
This points back to the growing influence of localization, and how Google uses your location to determine the search results you see.
Another interesting element to this featured listing is the amount of data that Google includes. Here’s a screenshot showing all of the data points displayed in the featured local listing:
full view of featured local listing (right hand side / desktop)
Here’s a list of key data points being included automatically in this featured local listing:
- Make an appointment (powered by Healthgrade.com)
- Popular times throughout the day, and by day
- Reviews from Google (and I’ve seen many others featuring reviews from Facebook)
- Website and directions button
- Photos… and if the dental practice had a virtual tour, it would include that as well (something we are working on)
If you saw this dentist’s featured local listing on a mobile phone, you would see a call button featured as well, like this:
Mobile version of the featured local listing
What’s are some highlight from being the featured local business in Google Maps / local search results?
Before I get into tips on how your business can reach the featured local listings, let me show you the impact you can experience in your business as a result of reaching the featured local listings in Google Maps.
Here are some highlights from last month’s reporting for our dental client, most of which results from being the featured local business for the global keyword phrase “dentist”:
1) Traffic from Google:
- 4,443 total searches in Google
- 5,160 unique visitors to your Google local / Google Maps listing
- 4,500 total actions taken on your Google local / Google Maps listing
- 142 visits to your website from your Google Maps listing
- 124 requests for directions
- 354 inbound calls into your dental practice
- 3,880 views on your photos
- 9,330 pageviews, which is an increase of 66% over the past 30 days
2) Mobile site productivity:
- 865 pageviews
- 85 inbound calls
- 25 clicks on map for directions
The impact is substantial, especially considering they are a dentist in a moderately sized metro area (Athens, Georgia).
Local SEO strategy to become the featured dentist in Google Maps
Now let’s get to the good stuff… here are some of the local SEO strategies we use to give this dental client a dominant presence in Google local search results.
First, it’s important to understand these strategies are not a “magic bullet” to becoming the featured business in your market. They are steps in a long term process when executed over time, will continue to build domain and brand authority for your business. And once enough authority is established – i.e. more than all of your competitors – you will then become the featured local business in your market.
1) Synergy with your local business data
You’ve probably read dozens of articles about local SEO that tell you to focus on the citations for your business. A citation is simply the NAP (business name, address, and phone number) for your business location.
But what you may not have read is the importance of synergy between the NAP of your Google My Business (GMP) page, your website, and all other distribution points where your NAP appears.
You see, Google uses citations (your business NAP) to verify the identify of your business according your Google My Business page. Your GMP page is the foundation for all other citations across the web – most importantly, the citation published on your website.
If your business citation on your GMB page reads as follows:
855 Gaines School Road
Athens, Georgia 30605
Then every citation, including your website, should be an exact replica of your GMB citation.
If you have even the slightest variation published somewhere else, for example instead of “Suite A” your say “STE A”, then you have an inconsistency in your citations.
On the other hand, the more consistent (exact replicas) of your GMB citation that are published on your website and across the web, the more authoritative your Google Maps listing will be in the search results.
Google uses your citation portfolio (all citations published across the web) as the database of information about your business. If it’s consistent and accurate, then you’ll earn a substantial amount of authority. If it’s inconsistent and inaccurate, you’ll devalue your overall authority which ultimately hurts your rankings in local search results.
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2) Schema language
You can read more about Schema language here, and you can get proper Schema code here, but ultimately Schema language is a protocol that Google uses to identify and enhance data in search results.
Most importantly, you should use Schema language for your NAP citation that’s published on your website.
So not only should the NAP citation on your website be an exact replica of the NAP used on your GMB, but you can enhance the citation on your website further by wrapping it in Schema language.
My preferred method of implementing Schema language is to use JSON LD markup, which looks like this:
“addressLocality”: “City Name”,
“postalCode”: “Zip Code”,
“streetAddress”: “exact street address”
“description”: “Description of your business”,
“name”: “title of your GMB page”,
“telephone”: “business phone #”
“url”: “city specific landing page URL”
The example above is Schema that would be used for a “Dentist”. But if you were, for example, an attorney you would use “Attorney” in the @type section instead of “Dentist”.
Schema can also be used for many other data points for your local business such as reviews, hours of operation, products, pricing, and more… I shared the link above, but you can read all about Schema, and the many uses of the protocol, here.
My point for this article is to simply state the importance of using Schema on your website to enhance your location data, especially your NAP citation.
3) Citation distribution
Citation distribution refers to the volume and authority of where your business NAP is listed across the web. And when it comes to citation distribution, I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. Meaning, 80% of your local business authority in search can come from 20% of the citation distribution points you achieve for your NAP.
One simple way to maximize the 80/20 rule in citation distribution is to use a service like Moz Local.
With Moz Local, you can get your NAP citations listed in the most authoritative business directories on the web such as InfoGroup, Axiom, Foursquare, and LocalEze.
Getting your NAP citation published in these four directories would give you hundreds, if not thousands of citations across the web because so many other local business directories partner with these four distributors like Yelp, Apple Maps, Yellow Pages, and many others.
So instead of spending hundreds of hours trying to build NAP citations manually, using a service like Moz Local can help you, at least initially, achieve 80% of your authority by distributing exact replicas of your business NAP across the web.
Again, it’s critically important to ensure the NAP you use in Moz Local is an exact replica of your Google My Business (GMB) page. And another great feature of Moz Local is how their system will let you know if there’s inconsistency.
4) Leverage photos and virtual tours in your Google My Business (GMB) listing
A lot of sources, including Google, will tell you to focus on creating an engaging presence on your Google My Business page. And, they say, the more engaging and active your page is, the higher your rankings will be in the search results.
And don’t get me wrong, things like reviews are important for your business because your customers use these to determine if you are a good fit or not for their needs.
But from my experience in working with local businesses literally since the inception of local SEO, nothing generates more activity on your Google My Business page than photos and virtual tours.
Here’s a screenshot of the dental client I’m using as the example of a featured business in this article. And notice the huge disparity in activity on their photo views versus all other sections:
I went ahead and circles the activity on the photos, but I don’t think it was necessary to make my point.
While the visits to website, requests for directions, and calls are great, those numbers are in the hundreds.
The views on photos, on the other hand, are in the thousands. And, I haven’t yet finished the virtual tour for this dental client.
If the activity and interaction on your Google My Business page is directly correlated to your presence in local search results, then “photo views” are, by far, carrying most of the weight in activity.
I believe people simply landing on your Google My Business page on their mobile phones, tap the “photos” section, and just swipe through all of the photos you have listed. It’s literally that easy to generate a high volume of activity on your Google My Business page.
So focus on adding as many new photos as you can over time to your Google My Business. On the admin side of your Google My Business dashboard, Google even helps you organize these photos further by including sections called Identity photos, Interior Photos, Exterior Photos, Photos at work, Team photos, and Additional photos.
Taking this one step further, I recommend you include a virtual tour of your business location which would also be featured on your Google My Business page.
5) Create strong local city pages for your business
Finally, in order to generate enough authority to become the featured local business in Google search, I recommend creating strong city pages for your business and using the URL of these city pages as the landing page in your Google My Business page.
For each Google My Business listing, you have a place where you can define a URL for your website. But if your business has multiple locations, or you have a specific city page for your location, then I recommend using that URL in your Google My Business page – instead of the homepage of your website. But your homepage may be the best choice if you only have one location for your business and the majority of your local information is displayed on the homepage of your website.
Creating an authoritative city page for your local business
When it comes to creating a highly authoritative city page for your business, one that Google sees as highly relevant to your market, there are few things I recommend you include on that page such as:
- Google Maps embed of your Google My Business listing
- zip codes that are relevant to your target city
- mentions of key land marks within your city
- reviews from customers within your target city
- the city name in your title and throughout the content of your page
By creating a strong city page for your local business, and using the page URL as your website in your Google My Business listing, will help you create a strong association of your local listing with your target city.
And the more relevant your website or city page is for your target market, the more authority you’ll build into your Google My Business page, which translates into higher rankings in Google local search results.
It is definitely possible to build enough authority into your Google My Business page and become the featured local business in your market. We’ve done it for several of our local SEO clients who do business in some of the most highly competitive markets in large metro areas.
The key is to be consistent over a long period of time with these steps. As I mentioned, there is no magic bullet that will give you a featured local business placement overnight. It requires a definitive focus on the process over time.
And even if you don’t reach the featured business level, this process can very quickly drive you into the letter A rankings in Google Maps.
Or if you don’t have the time to put this level of focus on your rankings in Google local search results, you can always hire us to do it for you!