The other day I idly typed “copywriter melbourne” into Google (as you do). Here’s what turned up:
Yep, that’s me, the third link on the page. Pretty good, huh? Here’s what’s even better: this took almost no effort on my part. I only have a stub of a website at the moment, this blog aside. (My real website is launching very soon, by the way, and just between you and me, it’s looking good.) I haven’t gone beyond the most rudimentary forms of search engine optimisation. And I’ve been in business for a shorter time than most of my competitors.
In fact, I feel a bit sheepish about placing higher on the page than experienced copywriters who’ve obviously put a great deal of effort into SEO. How did I do it?
To cut a long story short, I did two things:
- I listed my business with Google Local.
- I happened to have an office close to Melbourne CBD.
This listing, you see, isn’t a “normal” search result. In regular “organic” searches – the kind the SEO industry is built around – I’m pretty much where you expect me to be (nowhere, more or less).
But when searchers type in something that Google recognises as a location, Google thinks “aha, this person is looking for something in their local area”, and so the first thing it displays is a map showing businesses that have registered themselves as being located there. Those organic results that everyone works so hard for get relegated to second place.
It probably wasn’t Google’s intention, but this is particularly good for business like mine that are located close to a CBD. Even though people searching for “copywriter melbourne” are probably looking for copywriters in the greater Melbourne area, Google starts at the CBD and works outwards. Which is rotten luck for all the copywriters in Frankston.
Here’s the call to action.
If you have a business with any kind of address, even your house, you probably can’t do much to change your physical location (not at short notice, anyway!), but you can take care of getting listed right now. Go to Google Local, and list yourself. It’s easy, and free. Go on, do it now. I’ll still be here when you get back.
Done? Good. Because what I haven’t told you yet is that for some of you, it’s just become even more important to have an up-to-date Google Local listing. You see, Google has just started serving up these local results some of the time even when searchers don’t type in a location! (They do this by making a guess about where you are based on your IP address. Hope that doesn’t feel too creepy.)
Now, this change will mainly affect businesses that are genuinely local – florists, dentists, pizza shops, and so on. [Edit: for businesses that aren't clearly local, like copywriters, the situation is less clear - see the comment from Glenn Murray below.] If you’re one of those local businesses, having a Google Local listing is now more important that being listed in any other directory, online or off. It’s the easiest, cheapest SEO boost you can possibly imagine. Hopefully you don’t need any more encouragement, because you took my advice two paragraphs ago, but I’m just saying.
What’s going to be interesting over the next few months is seeing businesses start gaming the system. I can see businesses registering under fake addresses in popular locations. I can see “public-spirited” competitors reporting those fake addresses to Google. I can see new businesses springing up to provide “legitimate” virtual addresses. Isn’t it funny how, in our virtualised world, a simple change on Google’s part suddenly makes actual locations important again?