Local search is the realm of SEO pertaining to local businesses. The search ranking factors and search results play by different rules in these types of searches. Below, are screenshots of what a search for “hotels in Port Angeles, WA” look like on both a desktop and mobile device.
Desktop Local Pack and Mobile Local Pack
In both screenshots, there are well-defined local search results appearing below the ads and above the organic results. This area is often termed the “local pack.” Google has changed the look and information in this local pack frequently since its inception, but typically shows three or more businesses with a map. You will notice the organic search results differ from those in the 3-pack. This is important for hotels, it indicates an opportunity to rank higher than hotel lists and OTA’s. Now that we have identified this opportunity, let’s dive into how a hotel can be reliably ranked in local search.
Google My Business listing
Google hosts an internal database of local businesses that provides information for searches and they allow businesses to claim, verify, and change information on a listing. Claiming and verifying local listings is the first thing you want address in your quest to obtain good local search placement. The vast majority of hotels will already have business information listed in Google My Business (GMB), but if yours is not listed you can create a new one here. If the hotel is already listed, you will need to claim the listing and verify information on the page. The most important information is the Name, Address, Phone number, and URL (NAPU). It will need to be consistent with what is listed elsewhere on the web, especially on the business website. Next, you will need to ensure other information is complete; including hours of operation and adding sufficient photos of the property. Google allows you to respond to reviews through this listing as well. Google has explicitly said that reviews and responses from associates are important local factors. If Google reviews are not included in your list of reviews to respond to, find a way to incorporate them.
Speaking of reviews, providing responses to most negative ones is important. As a hotelier, monitoring and responding to reviews has always been a crucial aspect to running a quality operation. However, in the digital age these reviews are more prominent and widely available than ever. Google uses review response rates to determine quality of a local business and will often rank highly-engaged businesses better.
Other Local Listings
In addition to the Google My Business listing, there are other databases that Google pulls local business information from. These include Acxiom My Business Listing Manager, Express Update, Yelp, Bing Listings, and dozens of others. Like the GMB listing the Name, Address, Phone number, and URL of these listings must be both accurate and consistent across all sources. Fair warning: creating, claiming, and ensuring accuracy across all listings can be a time-consuming task. Luckily, there are a few effective shortcuts.
To avoid draining valuable time into locking these down, there are local listing tools that can automate this process. The favorite at Blue Magnet is Moz Local.
Just like in the real world, some local businesses are more prominent than others. Google’s algorithm attempts to reflect this in search results by providing information about more well-known businesses first. However, like every algorithm, there are distinct inputs that can be changed to influence results. Aside from having a recognizable brand, there are a few online factors that can be impacted by some good old-fashioned SEO work. The first is strength of link profile, or having many links from a diverse set of sites across the web point to a website. Google evaluates most links as votes of popularity. Because of this, websites that have a large link profile are often placed higher in search results. As a bonus, increasing links pointing to a site will help increase organic rankings as well.
There are also factors out of control for a webmaster. Google has set these parameters to provide quality results depending on individual location and intent. These factors include:
- Relevance – whether or not a person is searching for a certain type of hotel can impact results. A search for “budget motels” is unlikely to display a Four Seasons in the 3-pack.
- Location – where a person is looking in a particular city and where the person physically is when making the search impact local search results.
When measuring results of your efforts, keep in mind these external factors that impact performance.
Rank Well in Local Search
Follow the above steps to confidently rank in the coveted 3-pack above organic results in relevant searches and watch site traffic grow. Blue Magnet Interactive can help get the ball rolling, fill out a contact form to get in touch.