Apparently, there’s still a fair amount of confusion surrounding the difference between local search and organic, as originally, there was some undefined overlap. There have been tons of posts published, offering how-to instructions and explaining the difference, but some conflicted with others and some were just plain wrong.
Most pointed out the benefits to be gained by an effective local listing, but even then, some didn’t really convey all the facts. Most also pointed out that local listings aren’t available for every business beyond their headquarters location,
For a single office business with only one physical location, but serving many diverse areas, it seemed impossible to get local listings for more than that single location, within Google’s criteria. That is technically true, but the impression that many have is that your choice is between Local and organic.
That’s not entirely accurate. There’s a method (hat-tip to Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing, for providing the first write-up on it that I saw on this, on SEOMOZ) that can allow you to achieve both local and organic search rankings (more on that later).
The transition from Google Places to Google+ Local was slightly clearer than the earlier communications from Google (not that the more recent missives have been crystal clear) and involved only a Google+ account and the click of a button to make the switch. Still, a lot of doubts and questions remained for many site owners.
Ranking in both the Local and organic SERPs.
When you list your homepage as your URL on the Google+ Local listing, that immediately takes that page out of the running for organic search. It will only be available to local searches from that point.
So let’s say you own Sammy’s Crazy Sewing Center in San Diego. Your homepage is http://www.sammyscrazysewing.com and that’s the URL you use for your Google+ Local listing. You sell all the major sewing machine brands, as well as used machines. And you also offer sewing machine repairs. Ideally, your homepage will show up in local searches for sewing machines in the San Diego area, but not in Los Angeles, because that’s outside your Local region.
But you also have a page on your site that focuses on repairs of all sorts of sewing machines, and that page is http://sammyscrazysewing.com/sewingmachinerepair/. What’s to prevent that page from being able to rank and appear in the organic results below the Local listings?
(Hint: nothing at all!) All you have to do is optimize that page for San Diego sewing machine repair (or a reasonable variation) and do it better than the other sewing machine repair vendors in San Diego! And knowing that Google’s algorithms are smarter than they used to be, all you really have to do is optimize for sewing machine repair and have San Diego mentioned on the page in relation to that term. (Another hint: I like to put the business’ full address in the footer, to get that tie-in.)
Now, the blended search could show your homepage in the Local listing and your repair page below, in the organics. Sweet, huh?
There was a time when you could have several pages from the same domain listed, dominating the first page of the organic SERPs with different pages from your site, but that rarely happens anymore . But still, isn’t it better having TWO listings on page 1, than just one? And this way, you’re able to appear in both local and blended results.
Now here’s an interesting question I want to investigate further. In this example, http://empirebeautysupply.com shows up in the local listings, and http://www. empirebeautysupply.com appears in the blended results.
Their canonical is set to the www version. But it looks as though they may have listed the non-www version on their Local account. Hmmmmmmm… food for thought.
We can thank the Venice update for part of this ability. It can detect those San Diego references on your page in the above example and tie them to the search. Google’s description of Venice:
- Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
- Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.
Understanding what the algorithms are really trying to do can open new opportunities. Those opportunities aren’t always obvious, but when you find one, it can be a nice treat.