Whitespark and Moz, two great and trustworthy sources in search engine marketing, just released the latest local search ranking factors study. For you small business owners, the good news is that things that you have complete control over are increasing in importance as Google tries to get more people to utilize Google My Business (GMB), mostly so it can then monetize it. However, as small business owners, we need to control our presence as much as possible and if there are relatively easy ways to move the needle and get more exposure, that’s great news. The biggest pie piece on the local factor pie chart is Google My Business, which came in at 25%, and is up nearly 33% from last year.
GMB Interaction as a Ranking Factor
Google basically wants you to use GMB, and therefore rewards regular interaction. It goes beyond just getting the proper business information in there like your name, address, and phone, though that is extremely important. Once you have claimed your GMB listing, you need to make sure you fill it out completely. If there is a field in there, you should have information for it. It goes beyond that. Google has added tons of functionality in the past year. You need to add pictures to your GMB, service descriptions (every service should be included), Q&A information (seed your Questions with your own to get started), and regular posts on your page. You can now add videos to your listings. Google notices how interactive you are and this is something you (or someone in your office) can do easily and regularly. Ask for and respond to reviews (also growing in importance) as well. Keep an eye on GMB because if they offer new functionalities, you should take advantage. Interacting with GMB can be enough to get you ahead of a competitor who is not doing it. It is fairly easy to do and can make a difference.
Reviews are getting more and more important. I’ve been preaching about this for years. Google is still figuring out how to catch the cheaters but if you haven’t got review management as part of your digital marketing plan, then you aren’t really trying to do digital marketing. Even not so local businesses seem to be benefited but having regular reviews, and of course positive ones. You must be very careful on how you get your reviews and Google is cracking down more and more on reviews that don’t seem to come honestly, as people try to game the system. The best strategy here is to do a great job and always ask for reviews. You shouldn’t only ask your happy customers for reviews, you should ask everyone. Don’t get too worried when a negative one comes in. Just respond positively and appropriately and other searchers will appreciate that you tried to remedy the situation. Often, in the days of fake reviews, a 4.5 star average seems more real and legit than a 5-star average. 50 5-star reviews just looks phony.
NAP’s: Traditional factors like name, address, and phone (NAP) distribution have been decreasing in importance as some of the other areas have increased. In many ways, they are a commodity now and just something that everyone does who is trying, so they don’t differentiate like they once did, but are often a first step in improving your presence. Getting that info out there is still important but is more of a base coat before getting to the more important things. Having a lot of inconsistent NAP info can still hurt you, so it is good to keep on top of these things.
Links: These are more of a differentiator now. Links are often the hardest thing to come by so less easy for the average business owner to get. Therefore they are still sort of an advanced factor that only the serious businesses have access to. In a competitive market they are extremely important, but in less competitive markets, a link or two could be the difference between page 1 and an also-ran. Definitely worth taking a look at where your local business can generate links.
In general, if you are a business owner with some offline relationships like chamber memberships and industry associations that you can turn into links and you can regularly interact with your GMB and ask for reviews, you should find yourself moving up in the rankings. You have total control of all of the information you feed to Google with your business and service descriptions, as well as the Google Questions that you feed into your listing. Be as specific as you can about all of your services so Google can associate your business entity to those services, and it will improve your chances of showing up in local search. So you can stop reading now and go work on your GMB, and when you need help, give us a call.