Hijacking Google’s Local Knowledge Graph

I was just going about my business, monkeying around in the local results.  Then something caught my eye:

Given that Google just started testing green review stars, I could only draw 2 conclusions:

1.  Google must think it’s St. Patrick’s Day, OR

2.  I just stumbled across a crafty business owner.

Looks like it’s the latter.  Here’s what I saw when I clicked on the green-bordered photo in the knowledge graph:

Kind of stands out in that local carousel, doesn’t it?

I finally check out the business’s Google Places page.  Doesn’t even have a profile photo.  Our lucky green photo was simply the first and only one uploaded under the “Photos” tab.

Yup, it’s just a photo with a border around it.  Not a layout change or pay-to-play scheme that Google’s testing.

As I’ve written, I’m convinced that user-engagement factors – especially how many people click on your listing – affect your rankings.  What if people search for one business by name and immediately search for another by name (which is what a click on a “People also search for” image does)?

If I’m Big Brother Google and I’m looking at who clicks where so that I can figure out which search results are relevant, I might give an edge to the 2nd business.

Should you go as far as a fat, lime-green border on your photo(s)?  Probably not.  Just consider dolling up your photos a little, so they look good in that “People also search for” section.

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How to Cultivate Hearty Local SEO Genes for Your Business

If you’re opening a new business or considering some changes, can you make your business itself local-search-friendly?

Can you bless yourself with an inherent advantage in the local rankings – like super local SEO genes?

Yes ma’am.

It’s like with athletes.  Of course, hard work separates them from each other and from couch potatoes.  But if you’re a swimmer, wouldn’t it help at least a little if you’re like Michael Phelps and have flipper-feet, and arms longer than your legs?

Genes only get you so far.  But every bit counts in a competitive world.  If possible, you want to make the inevitable hard work easier, and you want everyone else have to work a little harder.

You’ll only find this post useful if you’re starting your business, opening a new location, or considering making major changes.

I’m going to throw out a bunch of suggestions for how you might make your business inherently more local-SEO’d.  Some of them you may have considered before.

I’m not saying all these ideas are applicable to you.  It’s more likely that only a couple of them are realistic in your case.  Just see what you can apply to your situation.

Relevance genes

Suggestion 1.  Position yourself as a specialist – or focus your whole company on a niche.

If you’re a roofer and you focus on metal-roofing jobs it’ll probably be easier to rank for “metal roofing” than for “roofing” and “roofers.”  The same is true if you’re a dentist who mostly wants to do more implants, or a mechanic who wants more transmission work.

Specializing doesn’t necessarily mean you offer fewer services.  Steakhouses serve more than steak.  It’s a marketing decision, more than anything else.

Less competition often makes it easier to rank well.  Your local visibility might also open more wallets, because you’re catering to a specific group of people and not trying to be all things to all people.

The traffic is likely to be of higher quality.  The more specific the search term, the more likely it is the searcher has moved beyond tire-kicking and know what he/she wants.

Also, you’re in a better position to use a descriptor on your Google Places page.

 

Suggestion 2.  Name your business with a relevant keyword or two.  Like “Acme Windows & Gutters” or “Smith Accounting & Bookkeeping.”

Do it for real: make it official with the State.

Speaking of state, consider using a state name in your name, like “Acme Windows & Gutters of Maryland.”

A couple nice upshots of picking out a strategic business name are:

(1) brand-name links to your site will include relevant anchor text, and

(2) customers’ reviews are more likely to mention relevant keywords, just because there’s a good chance they’ll mention your name.

 

Suggestion 3.  Include your 1-2 main service(s) in the name of your site.

Think hard about whether to include the name of your city.  Unless you plan to focus on one city and don’t really want customers from elsewhere, don’t pick a city-specific website name.  You don’t want to force yourself into using multiple websites.

 

Suggestion 4.  Hire someone who speaks a language that many of your customers speak, or that’s widely spoken in your city or neighborhood.  For starters, that will allow you to create multilingual pages on your site, where you describe your services in that language.  That will help you rank for those services.

 

Location genes

Suggestion 5.  Get an address in a populous city, if that’s where you’re trying to rank.  (Gee, Phil, I didn’t see that one coming…)

Must your business be in the big city if you want to rank there?  Maybe not.  It depends on several factors, chief of which is how much competition you’ve got.

I have no idea how practical it is for you to move your operations, but that’s not the point.  We’re simply talking about whether a big-city address is a ranking advantage in the big city.  It is, especially since Google’s Pigeon update.

Don’t forget that in some ways the bar is lower.  Even if you only rank well in Google Places in a ZIP code or two, you might reach all the customers you need.

 

Suggestion 6.  Pick a location near the center of town, or near to your competitors.  Google may consider the “centroid” to be some place downtown, or somewhere in the main cluster of where most businesses like yours are located (Mike Blumenthal has suggested the latter).

 

Suggestion 7.  Try not to pick a location on or very near a town line.  That can confuse data-aggregators, like InfoGroup and Acxiom, which might sometimes list your business as being in City A and other times in City B.  These sites feed your business info to all kinds of local directories – citation sources.  You don’t want some of your citations to list you in the wrong city.

 

Suggestion 8.  Pick an address near a popular local landmark or destination, so you can rank for “keyword near place,” “keyword near me,” or “keyword nearby” when visitors search that way – most likely on their phones.  This seems especially important post-Pigeon.

 

Suggestion 9.  Get an office that looks good enough that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to get a Google Business View photo shoot.

No, your place of business or your photo shoot don’t need to be as cool as this.

(Hat tip to this post.)

 

Phone genes

Suggestion 10.  Research the phone number you’re considering, to make sure that the previous owner didn’t own a business with tons of citations that use that number.

Also, don’t get 867-5309.

 

Suggestion 11.  Make sure the phone number you use isn’t a number you might want to retire later – like an 800 number or your cell number.

 

It may seem odd to consider local SEO when making the most basic business decisions.  On the other hand, all the ideas I suggested also make sense from an offline, old-school-marketing standpoint.

Your local rankings and business will only really grow from hard work.  But you can give yourself some advantages from the get-go.

Are you considering any of those ideas?  Can you think of other ways to breed a local-SEO-friendly business?  Leave a comment!

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My #1 Local Citations Tip: Do Another Round

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/chrisgold/6282077864/

A recent conversation with my LocalSpark amigos Darren and Nyagoslav got me to thinking: Yes, there are dozens of things to remember do when working on your citations.  I offered 43 bits of advice in my giant post on citations from a year ago. But you don’t want all the details – major and minor […]

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Local U Boot Camp in NYC: New Local SEO Event

The Local U crew is putting on a new event for business owners and marketers who want to learn the ropes of local-search marketing. It’s called the Local U Boot Camp.  It’s a one-day event in New York City on September 29, 2014 – the day before SMX East.  In fact, it’s one of the […]

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12 Points Your Customers Should Know Before Writing a Review

You know you need to encourage customers / clients / patients for reviews.  If you don’t, you’re stunting your local visibility and your ability to get the phone to ring. Easier said than done.  Your effort to earn reviews quickly turns into a juggling act: You want to earn reviews on a variety of sites. […]

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Too Many Donuts for the Google MapMaker Anti-Spam Cops?

Google’s finest aren’t throwing the book at spammers. I recently asked Dan Austin – a longtime buster-upper of MapMaker and other spam – to help with a project.  One of my client’s competitors was doing the following: Created multiple pages for the same business at the same address Created additional pages using a residential address […]

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Industry-Specific Local Review Sites: the Definitive List

specific-review-sites

“Niche” review sites are underrated.  You’re crazy not to get reviews there. Sites like Avvo, DealerRater, and HealthGrades (to name well-known examples) tend to rank well in Google’s organic results, especially these days.  Getting reviews on those sites is the best “barnacle” SEO technique there is. Also, the people who go to those industry-specific sites […]

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Best Mike Blumenthal Blog Posts (So Far): a Poll of Longtime Fans

Mike Blumenthal needs no introduction to anyone who pays close attention to Google Places and the rest of the crazy world of local search. If you’re reading this, either you’re already a fan of Professor Maps (as he’s known) and his blog, or you’re becoming one. I’ve read his posts throughout my local-search career so […]

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Hear Me Blab about Categories for Local SEO

Mike Zaremba of Radical Mustache has started a great podcast series on local SEO. It has a bent toward restaurants, because many of his clients and audience are restaurateurs.  But the subject matter applies to any kind of business. The other day, Mike asked me some tough questions on the topic of categories.  You can […]

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Google Places Support Claims Descriptions Help Rankings?

Google has always kept their cards close to the vest regarding local ranking factors.  They never get into specifics. Also, I’m not alone when I say that the “description” or “introduction” field of your Places page doesn’t seem to influence your rankings for the better (although extreme keyword-stuffing can get you penalized). It’s for those […]

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