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Google My Business Map and Local Ranking

Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Local Ranking on Google

In late 2015, Google made a big change to how local businesses are shown in search results. They’ve reduced the space given to listings from Google My Business from seven to just three, and increased space for paid search ads above the fold. In the intervening six months, we’ve seen just how big an impact this change has had on local businesses (especially those not running AdWords campaigns), and how important it is to be in those top three results, especially on mobile search.

The big question is, of course, how to get there? Here at Lunar Logic, we’ve been watching closely for factors that appear to influence a business' position in local search. Google has recently confirmed many of our suspicions in an update to their page on local ranking factors.

We already knew that Google determines local search ranking based on three main factors: relevance, distance and prominence.

Relevance is based on the terms used in a search, and how well your business matches them.

Distance is simply how far Google believes the user is from your business. If your business information is inaccurate or incomplete, you may be missing out.

Prominence refers to how well-known your business is, both online and off. The more well-known a location or brand is, the stronger it will rank for prominence.

What we could only guess at before now however, was how these three factors were being calculated. For example, it’s been apparent for some time that the number of Google reviews a local listing had was a very strong indicator that it would be higher in local search—in some cases this one factor appeared to have stronger influence than the average star rating or even distance.

So what can you do as a business owner to ensure that you show up in those crucial top 3 results? Here are some actions you can take right now in the three categories that Google uses to determine local search ranking:

Relevance

  • Category: Make sure your Google My Business (GMB) listing has the correct categories for your business. You can choose one primary category, and as many additional categories as you need. Remember to keep these as accurate as possible, however! Inclusion of a business category that doesn’t fit your business is a BIG negative ranking factor.

  • Keywords: Resist the temptation to add keywords to the name of your business (unless they’re actually in your business name, in which case this gives you a huge advantage). Make sure your business description / introduction accurately depicts what you do, and don’t stuff this with keywords either.

Distance

  • Physical Address in City of Search: Make sure the address of your business is correct in your GMB listing, as well as including the correct addresses (in separate GMB listings) for any other branches your business might have. If your listing is detected as having an address that is false, your rankings in search will suffer.

Prominence

  • Reviews: Make sure you are getting lots of reviews, both on Google, and external review sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor. The total number of reviews, recency, sentiment and rating are all factors in prominence. If you have an email database of your customers, it’s often very effective to send out a short, simple email asking for reviews and providing links and instructions on how to do so. Remember never to offer incentives for positive reviews.

  • Consistent Structured Citations: “Structured Citations” are what Google calls all the other listings or directories your business appears in online: places like Yelp, Citysearch, Yellowpages, Dunn & Bradstreet, Facebook, and hundreds more. The more these external listings match the data in your Google My Business listing, the better off you’ll be.

Additionally, the search ranking of your website plays a role in determining local search results as well. So if your GMB listing is spotless and you still aren’t showing up in local search, it may be time for an SEO audit and overhaul.

And Finally, around Apr 18, 2016, Google began showing paid business listings as ads on Google maps results pages. This is where you go when you click the “More Places” link below the top three local listings. If you’re running a Google AdWords campaign with location extensions enabled, your business is eligible to get top billing here as well.

As always, if you have any questions about Google My Business or placing in local search, or need help implementing any of the suggestions in this blog, we’d love to hear from you!
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