Though it can be a little frustrating at times for SEO marketers, it makes sense that much of Google’s method for determining page rankings is kept secret from the public. It’s necessary to prevent people from trying to spam the system. So when Google willingly gives marketers a peek into its inner working, it’s worth paying attention. Recently Google updated its information for marketers in a way that helps business owners improve their ranking on Google My Business.
Google has had a page with information on the basics of how to succeed in local marketing on Google. Before the update, the page only had about five paragraphs of text around relevance, distance and prominence for ranking in the local results.
With the recent update to the guide, Google has vastly expanded the document. For example, there’s now information over the local 3-pack (which changed recently), how to be included in that pack, how Google does ranking in that local pack and more.
In the guide, Google outlines three factors that the company’s algorithm uses to determine where local businesses rank when people search for local information on Google. The three factors they listed are:
Relevance – Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches.
Distance – Just like it sounds: How far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location.
Prominence – Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.
Besides the information on how rankings are made, Google also provided information on basic things business owners should do if they want to increase their presence on Google My Business and in local searches. There five tips were:
Enter complete data – In the guide, Google explains that local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches. Business owners need to make sure that they’ve entered all of the business’ information in Google My Business. This lets consumers know more about what you do, where you are, and when they can visit you. Ensuring this basic information is correct is a key to success in local marketing.
Verify your location(s) – Verify your business locations to give them the best opportunity to appear for users across Google products, like Maps and Search. This can be especially important for businesses that have changed locations. Unless the business has made the effort to ensure the old listing isn’t showing up on Google Maps, they may end up with a lot of angry customers who traveled somewhere just to find the location is now across town.
Keep your hours accurate – A simple, but important task is to ensure that the hours of operation listed are accurate. Entering and updating your opening hours, including special hours for holidays and special events, lets potential customers know when you’re available and gives them confidence that when they travel to your location, it will be open.
Manage and respond to reviews – While the ability to edit reviews is limited, Google recommends that business owners interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business. Good reviews and engagement can help SEO and local marketing efforts. According to Google, high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.
Add photos – As with all forms of marketing, photos are a good way to visually tell people about the business and to set expectations on the quality of service. Adding photos to your listings shows people your goods and services, and can help you tell the story of your business. Accurate and appealing pictures may also show potential customers that your business offers what they’re searching for.
Local marketing is growing in importance, as more consumers learn that they can easily search for things they need to find in the area around them. This is an opportunity that business owners shouldn’t pass up. If people can’t find your business in local search, they will find one of your competitors. So it’s worth it to use these tips from Google.
For more information on using Google for marketing, read this article on recent updates to Google search.