Local Search

Is your online presence optimised to rank in Google and attract local customers?

In an effort to provide better search results, Google and other major search engines are focusing on local search. If you’re a local business, it’s time to get optimised.

On this page you’ll learn an under-rated and mostly unknown (yet extremely effective) form of digital marketing for local businesses.

This is the secret weapon to get your business ranking ahead of your competitors in Google Search and Google Maps.

1. The Changing Landscape of Local Business Marketing

There was a day when people picked up a copy of the Yellow Pages to find local businesses.

However, that day has past.

BRW Magazine reported that Yellow Pages’ print revenues fell by 25.6% in 2013 alone, which subsequently lead to Telstra selling 70% of it’s stake in Sensis (the owner of Yellow Pages Australia) in 2014.

National Online Retailers Association chief executive Paul Greenberg told the AFR that the sale of Sensis reflects a diminished role for the Yellow Pages in marketing.

Now two years later, it’s clear that today’s consumers head straight to their digital devices to find local businesses, and Google is their first stop.

Here’s how consumers are searching for local businesses using online search engines according to a 5,000 person study from Google:








Be where your customers are looking for you.

With close to 90% of consumers thumbing their digital devices for a range of information about local businesses, local search is now your most important marketing channel.

Optimising your online presence to rank well in Google is part technical know-how, part strategy, and doing it successfully is dependent on understanding a fast-moving landscape.

By reading this page in it’s entirety, you’ll know what it takes to beat out your competitors and get found online by more local customers.

Before we get into the strategy, let’s look at the landscape in which you compete when a potential customer opens up Google and searches for you.

Understanding Google Local Search Results Pages and Maps.

This is where your business is fighting for customers, so you better get to know the terrain intimately!

No doubt you’ve used Google and have seen their Search Results pages first-hand.

But did you know that the structure of Google’s Search Results pages change based on the search term you use?

Go on, try it: go to www.google.com.au and search ‘mortgage broker‘, then try ‘mortgage broker melbourne‘.

What you’ll see is a different set of results. This is due to the location element in the search term, in this case ‘melbourne‘:

Search term ‘mortgage broker’:


Search term ‘mortgage broker melbourne’:


See the Map interface in this Search Results page?

So what exactly is happening here?

In Google’s mission to deliver relevant results to it’s users, it features the Map interface in many search results terms that contain commercial intent combined with a location.

Examples of these search terms include ‘wedding dresses brisbane‘, ‘doncaster hair salon‘, ‘paramatta used cars‘, etc.

When searches are made for local businesses, Google features between 3 and 4 advertisements (sometimes none), then their Map functionality to highlight local businesses, then organic search results.

So you have three elements at play in Google’s local search results competitive landscape:

  1. Ads
  2. Google’s Map feature
  3. Organic listings

These are the options a user has to click on, and the channels you need to optimise to ensure that the user clicks to your website, and not your competitors.

Before we get into optimisation techniques, there’s another factor at play within the organic listings which you need to be aware of:

The importance of Third Party Directories in organic Search Results pages.

Within organic Search Results for local businesses, well established business directories (with a high level of trust in the eyes of Google) can be seen dominating much of the landscape:


In the market above, 50% of the top 8 organic listings are held by third party business directory sites, such as Yellow Pages, True Local and others!

This demonstrates the power of being listed and optimised within the right online business directories for your market.

Now that you understand the 3 key elements of local search (Ads, Maps and Organic Listings), you’re going to learn how to optimise your online presence to rank high in both Maps and Organic Listings.

(For assistance in using Ads to drive more traffic to your website, click over to our Google Adwords Account Management services page). 

2. How Google Ranks Local Businesses on Maps

The listings that appear within Google Maps are known as Google My Business Listings.

This is a free service from Google that allows you to create and optimise your online ‘Google Profile’ for your business.

The way this profile is optimised has a huge impact on where your business ranks on Google Maps.

Although Google doesn’t point blank disclose their algorithm for ranking businesses in Maps, the search engine optimisation industry, with it’s thousands of experts world-wide have reached some firm understandings.

Leading SEO industry community, Moz.com, conducts an annual survey of SEO experts, asking them to rate the influence of the various 50+ factors that Google uses to rank local businesses.

Here are the results of the 2015 survey:


In our experience, the following optimisation points have the greatest effect for local business ranking in Maps:

  • Setting up and claiming your Google My Business Listing (GMB), including:
    • Official business name
    • Phone number
    • Address
    • Website
    • Opening days/hours
    • Payment types
    • Logo
    • More than 5 high quality images
    • Enticing description
    • Professional cover image
  • Selecting the correct business categories (up to 10 based on consumer search research)
  • Positive reviews on your GMB Listing:
    • Overall average rating (out of 5 stars)
    • Volume of reviews
    • Frequency and recency of reviews
    • For help getting reviews for your business, check out our Online Reputation Management solution
  • Citations (mentions of your business) across the internet
    • Accuracy of citations (exact use of your business name, address and phone number)
    • Credibility of the website where your business is listed
    • Volume of business citations
    • Frequency and recency of business citations
  •  Accuracy of Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) on your website
    • Every page contains exact NAP
    • Using NAP and core keywords in meta descriptions and other core SEO elements on your website

These are the core factors, and failing to optimise these can mean a lower ranking in Google:



So what does it take to rank high in Google Maps and take out one of the coveted top 3 placements (and appear at the top of Google’s Search Results page)?

Let’s look at some examples to give you more insight.

Achieving high performance in Google Maps.

When you search for a local business in Google, the Search Results page serves up the Map feature with the top 3 ranking businesses highlighted.

First let’s examine a poorly optimised industry.

Search term ‘roofer newcastle‘:


A top 3 listing is prime real estate and should be the goal for your market.

Now let’s take a look at what users are presented when they interact with the Map:


Which listing catches your eye? It’s the one with the stars, isn’t it! (Stars are awarded on Google Maps when the GMB listing has at least 5 reviews).

What you see above is a poorly optimised market, which could be easily dominated with correct optimisation and a review strategy to get regular positive reviews.

Now let’s compare these results with an optimised, more competitive market.

We look to the US for comparison, because they are approximately 12-18 months ahead of the Australian market in terms of digital market sophistication (and can be referenced as a sign of things to come).

Search term ‘roofer dallas‘:


Notice the intense competition and abundance of reviews among the top results? The number of reviews a listing has are shown in brackets (). Roofing Giant has 14 reviews with an average rating of 4.7.

Now let’s check out the Map view when users click through to learn more:


Top rankings go to businesses with well optimised GMB listings. 

Although not all of the optimisation factors listed above are visible to the naked eye, it’s hard to argue the importance of reviews in your local search strategy.

They not only play a key factor in where your business ranks, but can be enormously influential on whether a potential customer chooses your business or the competition.

Which company would you choose?


Or the company with all the positive praise:


For a low cost and easy solution to get positive reviews (and keep negative reviews offline), check out our Online Reputation Management services.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what it takes to rank your business in Maps (and attract free customers from Google), let’s explore how third-party directories can bolster your local search presence.

3. Owning More Organic Search Real Estate Using Third-party Directories

The internet is a little like a popularity content.

In Google’s eyes the more websites that are linking to your business, the more it means you are a nice, reputable and trustworthy business.

Google rewards trustworthiness with higher rankings.

For local businesses, online business directories play an important role in establishing the online trust.

The more established business directories that have your correct business details listed, the more credible you appear to be.

This helps both:

  1. The ranking of your Google My Business listing in Maps
  2. The amount of space you take up in Google’s search results page

Help your Google My Business listing Maps ranking using directories.

One of the core factors that Google uses to rank businesses in Maps is the amount of mentions a business has around the web (known as citations and/or backlinks).

A citation is a mention of your Business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) on a third-party website.

It’s important to have your business information both accurate and consistent across all of your businesses’ online citations.

Inaccurate mentions of your business can confuse Google’s algorithm and give Google doubt as to the validity of your business.

The strategy to optimise your citations is as follows:

  • Identify the key online business directories for your industry
  • Audit these directories to ensure accurate listing of your Business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)
  • Update these listings to ensure 100% accuracy (even minor misspellings can hurt your rankings)
  • Assess all available online business directories (ranked by online reputation) that you don’t currently have a listing
  • Create a plan to build new citations monthly (regular new citations are a Google ranking factor)

If all this sound like a lot of hard work (you’re not wrong, it is laborious work), then keep reading as our Local Search Optimisation service covers this strategy.

This will build trust with Google, and it also has the added benefit of helping you capture more real estate in Google’s Search Results pages.

Appear more in Google’s Search Results.

Because third-party online business directories (such as Yellow Pages, True Local, Yelp and others) are well-trafficked and trusted websites, they often rank well in Google’s organic listings.

This means that you can leverage their trust to have your business appear more in Google just by being listed in these directories.

To give you some more insight, take a look at the search results for this local business search.

Search term ‘landscaper subiaco’:


7 out of the top 9 organic listings beneath the Map are from online business directory websites!

This presents a significant opportunity to capture market share on Google Search Results pages.

The more listings you have in key online business directories, the greater the possibility of being found in Google.

So, how good are your citations?

Continue below to find out.

4. How to Out-Rank Your Competitors and Attract More Customers

At Content First, we are specialists at helping local businesses dominate their local search market.

Our Local Search Optimisation service delivers a proven strategy for everything that we discussed on this page, including:

  • Claiming and verifying your business Google My Business listing
  • Writing a professional profile and description for your business
  • Researching and selecting up to 10 categories for your business
  • Updating with at least 5 photos
  • Running competitor analysis reports to identify the top market keywords
  • Optimising your GMB listing to ensure it’s local SEO friendly and has the best chance of display in Google Maps
  • Creating 30 citations referencing your business on leading local, general & industry-specific directories
    • Identifying online directories that have false information about your business (for example an old address) and have it corrected (errors across the web can impact ranking)
    • Updating incorrect information found on third party websites
  • Detailed reporting with optimisation audit findings & recommendations
  • Monthly citation service optional, but recommended to continue to build authority and competitive advantage
  • Local SEO reports to track performance of Optimisation campaign
  • Plus more


Does your business need Local Search Optimisation?

To help you assess whether our Local Search Optimisation service will benefit your business, we have created this free assessment tool.

Use it below to have your local online presence analysed for free:

What's your local search score?

Enter your business name and post code to see how optimised you are for local search.