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Local SEO and Wine Stores in 2011: an Update of the Top 10 tasks

Local Search, or local search engine optimization, for wine stores continues to change with Google rapidly updating their local business services in the face of Foursquare, Yelp, Groupon and Facebook Places. So I’ve updated the post I did 6 months ago on how to make sure your business appears at the top of a local search query.

First and foremost the most simplest thing to do is to claim your ⁠Google Places account and fill out the fields as comprehensively as possible. Period.Ghost Sign: Imperial Wine Stores

Local SEO in detail

A survey is done every year on Local Search Criteria by one Local SEO expert called David Mihm. In 2011 he asked 33 prominent Local SEO experts to rate the importance of 97 factors as to how they influence the rankings in Google. Note this survey is only about the search engine results for a local query for general non-location specific queries see a quick note at the bottom of this post (that is based off the SEOmoz general SEO survey).
I’m not going to list all 97, if you’re interested check out David’s Local Search Ranking Factors Report, instead I’ll give the top 10 from a wine industry perspective.

1. Physical Address in City of Search

Business Address is prominent and crawable? Great, that’s the most important and easiest thing to do.
But does Google include your business in your target city? There is some sort of invisible border for each city and, if you’re in a competitive market, you need to be inside it. If it’s not so competitive you may still get listed if you’re nearby. One way to check what Google regards as being your town is by using Adwords. Go into a Campaign Settings, then edit Location and choose your town. The blue areas are the invisible boundaries of the towns in Chicago that start with “A” (see sceenshot below):
Chicago areas on Adwords Map

2. Manually Owner-verified Place Page

The most important and easiest local SEO task is to claim your Google Places business listing. Remember to fill out as much information as you can including photos as this helps your rankings even more.
Note if you don’t claim your listing then sometimes malicious competitors do. They either put in the wrong info or create a new phone number just for this task – and then disconnect it. So when a customer rings you up there is only a disconnect tone!

3. Proper Category Associations

Google Places has a section for categorizing your business. Take your top keywords and match them up with the pre-set categories in Google Places. I’d suggest Wine Store, Liquor Store, and Beer Store for a normal wine store.

4. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)

In the internet world citations means links from other websites. IYP stands for Internet Yellow Pages. The more of these local directory links the better. It looks like yelp.com and citysearch.com are two of the important ones. Note that “unstructured” citations means newspaper articles and blog posts which are also important but just not in the top 10.

5. Crawlable Address Matching Place Page Address

Is your physical address the same as your Google Places page address? An easy one to check and correct.

6. PageRank / Authority of Website Homepage / Highest Ranked Page

This is related to 4 above. But instead of local directories these are just links from relevant and high authority websites to your strongest page. This is the most important factor in general organic SEO but ranks only 5 in local SEO.

7. Quality of Inbound Links to Website

The strength of links from relevant and high authority websites to your website as a whole.

8. Crawlable Phone Number Matching Place Page Phone Number

Is the phone number on your website the same as your Google Places page phone number? Again an easy one to check and correct.

9. Local Area Code on Place Page

Does your phone number local area code match the area you claim to be from on your Google Places page.

10. City, State in Places Landing Page Title

Ensure that your business title is something like Example Wine Store Chicago IL not Example Wine Store without the city (and state). By the way if your store is called something like Vinowonders or such like that does not have the important keywords wine, store/shop (liquor/beer/spirits) in it then consider a business title like Vinowonders, Wine Store | Chicago IL.
In 2010 Customer reviews were regarded as very important. They remain important in 2011 but especially the number of Google Places reviews aggregated from other review and rating sites (especially yelp and citysearch) as well as native place reviews. This survey has been done for the years 2008, ’09, ’10 and ’11. Each year the factors change as Google takes note of other important ways and means of making their local search results as accurate and informative as possible.
For instance in 2008 Google Places did not exist so other Local Business Listing sources were the number 1 factor. In 2009 it was making sure your business address was inside the invisible boundaries that Google set for each town. In 2010 it is clearly claiming and filling out your Google Places listing. By 2011 Google was sometimes showing a pure list of Places results and sometimes showing a blended list of normal lists and Places listings.

Local SEO compared to General SEO

Compare this to normal SEO advice to boost search engine rankings:

  • Trust/Authority of the Host Domain (i.e. “www.example.com”)
  • Link Popularity of the Specific Page (i.e. “www.example.com/the-specific-page.html”)
  • Anchor Text of External Links (anchor text is the hyperlink text, usually the blue and underlined)
  • On-Page Keyword Usage (e.g. keywords in the title tag – usually seen at the top of your web browser)
  • Social media signals from facebook and twitter

This illustrates a key difference between SEO for wineries and SEO for local wine retailers. Wineries should focus on normal SEO practices, whereas local wine retailers should focus on local SEO practices.

Image courtesy of: Ghost Sign: Imperial Wine Stores

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