Google Local Search Ranking Factors
Google is unquestionably the biggest player in the market. What makes Google Maps/Local Business the search wunderkind is that it gives small businesses a chance to rank well and maintain a considerable fighting chance against bigger competition online. But simply obtaining a “top seven” or “top three” rank in Google Maps is not as easy as it seems, and there’s no guarantee that you will get to number one. However, what CAN help you on your quest to greater online visbility in local search is understanding what measures Google has put in place, why they have put them there and how you can best utilize the full potential of your free local search listing to give you the edge over your local competition.
Firstly, you’ll need to search for your listing and then claim it as the business owner. Google pulls it’s Australian data from trusted sites such as truelocal.com.au and yellowpages.com.au – if you are already listed on truelocal, then you should already have a listing in existence. The search engine will allow you to ‘claim’ you listing as a business owner, so you can manually edit and optimize your listing with more content.
When you are confirming a listing, you will be prompted through a confirmation process either over the phone, via mobile text or via a mailout. Once you have claimed a listing as a business owner, you can update it whenever you want at your own discretion simply by logging in to the google local business center.
Now, there is a lot of speculation as to what actually affects a Google Maps rank. In order to elucidate any myths or rumours you may have been hearing, let’s take a look at what Google’s Business Listing Quality Guidelines have to say:
“Business Listings in Local Business Center must have correct information about physical, local businesses, as they appear in the real world.”
- This is the most common ranking factor misconstrued by many users simply wishing to manipulate the Google Maps algorithm in order to achieve a rank in the infamous “top seven” maps listings in the first pages of search. Based on the above, the fact remains:
Your business must be registered at a physical address. Where Google obtains this data remains undisclosed, but know that they do have the information that indicates to them that a specified address is one registered as a business. This also implies that your business must have a physical mailing address – Google has made it clear that it will no longer accept PO boxes for local business listings.
- URL – You should be using a URL that best identifies your individual location, this means that your URL should be a unique domain, registered with a business, and reflect your brand name.
- Phone numbers – Google is extremely stringent in pushing the phone confirmation process. This process involves manual validation by prompting a Google call and subsequently receiving a pin number. To do this, ensure that the number you are providing Google is a land-line and not a switchboard. If you confirm via mobile, be well aware that your personal number will be appearing in public search – this method of confirmation is generally not advised unless you run a mobile business. Do not select the postcard option unless you want to wait 2 weeks to confirm your listing!
- Customize your listing – A claimed listing goes along way, Google makes it clear that an owner-verified listing, that factors in all of the above, receives a favourable ranking in local search. But this is still only one piece of the pie. You want your Google local business listing to be performing at its peak.
- Once your listing is owner verified – Go back into the Google local business center, double-check that your listing declares 100% completion. Make sure you have a diverse range of media in your listing: both images and video. Upload the images and video from a location on the web if possible.
- Check your business categories – everything must be niche relevant, if you’re running a plumbing business, make sure you’re in the “plumbing” category. Pretty basic stuff, but it’s easy to miss.
- Reviews – Trusted review sites are becoming a quintessential part of Google’s plans for local search development. Don’t know what “trusted Google sites” apply to your business niche? Do some competitor research. Search for your competitors on Google Maps, are they receiving any reviews from external websites? If they are, make sure your business is listed on those websites before confirming your Google listing.