Picture this: you are in a new town, and you are looking for a coffee shop, restaurant, or other local business. What do you do?
Most people, pull out their smartphones, open Google, and search for a specific type of local business. Then, when they find what they want, they go to Google Maps to look for directions.
It goes without saying that Google plays a key role for small businesses that want to get their products and services known to local searchers. But, while any SEO expert could optimize a local listing in their sleep, getting to rank in Google local search is an entirely different story. As you’ve already gotten accustomed to the search giant, the rules are always changing, and new features and enhancements are being constantly added.
To help you keep pace with the changes, here are five crucial factors Google uses to rank your business in local search.
This factor refers to how well a local listing corresponds to what searchers are looking for on Google. It’s important to add as much information as possible to help Google understand your business better and match it with relevant searches. Ask yourself, what does your target audience types into the Google search bar? Does that key phrase match your local listing? If not, you need to start tweaking.
Here’s an example: if you type Starbucks into your Google search bar, not only that the first results you will get will be closer to your physical location, but they will also be the ones Google thinks are matching your criteria best.
As a rule of thumb, if you want your business to show up in local search, know your audience and optimize your listings for relevant keywords.
This factor is pretty self-explanatory, and it shows how far is a potential location from the keyword used to perform a search. If the user doesn’t mention their location, Google will make an estimation based on the information it has about its location.
For instance, if you type the word “coffee shop” in your Google search bar, the engine will give you the closest coffee shops to your location first. However, as you’ve learned from the previous factor, Google will rank a local listing higher in search results if it thinks it’s more relevant than the shop that is closer to your location.
How popular is your local business? Some businesses are extremely prominent in the offline world, and search results tend to reflect this. For instance, famous brands, hotels, museums or touristic landmarks are more likely to be more prominent in local search results than other businesses.
This factor also relies heavily on the information that Google gathers about the business from different resources, such as articles, backlinks, or directories. A small business that has more reviews and positive feedbacks than a big one will probably show first in search results. In other words, the more backlinks you build and the more reviews you get, the greater the chances to rank high in local search.
Which brings us to…
Online reviews are a powerful source of information that has a big impact on consumer behaviour. The folks at Google know this, so they added the ability to filter local search results based on reviews from different users. They are two filters available – “Top Reviewers” and “Your Circles.” When one of these filters is used, the map will update and display businesses that have positive ratings.
It goes without saying that businesses without reviews or with many negative ratings will face severe challenges. To have an edge over your competitors, make a habit of asking for reviews from your customers.
According to one study, 50% of people prefer using their smartphones to search for local information. Having a website that is optimized for mobile is not only smart but also crucial in this day and age.
While having a responsive website is crucial – and thankfully there are plenty of very accessible responsive themes for you to use, you should not forget the importance of delivering relevant content to your audience to engage and inform them about your local business.
While it’s nearly impossible to predict what new factors Google will use to rank a local business in local search, small businesses should continue to refine their strategy. By updating your information, improving local listings with positive reviews, and optimizing your website for mobile, you can get more people to discover your local business.