Google is surprisingly open about the most impactful local ranking factors, considering how secretive the search engine has been about its organic algorithm. Many of the most important factors are controlled within the Google My Business dashboard; in fact, Google flat out states that “You can improve your business’s local ranking by using Google My Business to claim and update your business information.”
Of course the more locations you are responsible for, the more challenging it becomes to ensure you are optimizing for all the right elements in each location. We’ve long been advocates of having the right people, technology, and processes in place to manage local marketing more intelligently at scale. But what are you optimizing for, exactly?
Local search results are based primarily on:
Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches. Make sure you are optimizing each of the available fields in your GMB profile to take advantage of features that demonstrate your relevance when customers are looking for businesses and products like yours.
How far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search or Google’s best understanding of the searcher’s location? Proximity has long been considered the most impactful local search ranking factor, but it ranked third—below GMB elements such as name and category and local review signals—in this year’s State of Local SEO Industry Report survey from Moz. SEOs now believe these elements are weighted even more heavily than how close the searcher is to your business.
Google considers how well a location is known offline as well as online signals including links, citations, and directory listings. The search engine also goes so far as to say that more reviews and positive ratings will “probably” improve a business’s local ranking. Learn more about building your local link profile here.
It is critically important that you monitor those local listings to ensure that duplicates are removed and inaccuracies corrected, and have the ability to syndicate updates across all listings. When Google looks at the body of citations and listings about the business as a whole and key business information isn’t consistent, the search engine’s trust in that brand is eroded. Which information is correct? You would hope Google would believe what you have entered in your GMB profile but that isn’t always the case. There are many ways that inaccurate information can pop up and spread, so an automated approach to monitoring across the entire ecosystem is needed.
In short, Google wants to find the most relevant, closest, and most reputable solution for each local customer’s needs, every time they search.
Beyond that, Google also says you can maximize how often your customers see your business in local search results by:
- Entering complete data.
Make sure your primary category is the best match and offers the attributes that make the most sense for your business. (Since COVID-19, Google is allowing locations to change their primary category to allow for the pivoting and innovation many businesses have had to initiate to survive.)
Help customers understand who you are, what you do, and why your brand’s nearby location is the best choice to meet their needs.
- Verifying your locations.
Claim and verify all listings to ensure that you can make changes to each location’s information quickly as needed. Check out this Guide to GMB Bulk Verification for solutions to verification issues most commonly experienced by multi-location brands.
- Keeping your hours accurate.
Google prominently displays hours in your listing and having the wrong hours posted can cause serious friction in the customer journey. Keep your hours up to date and use Special Hours to make sure customers have the most current information in case of inclement weather closures, holidays, etc. Make sure you know when to post special hours vs. marking a location temporarily closed.
- Managing and responding to reviews.
Local reviews management is a massive opportunity to not only engage customers and protect your brand’s online reputation but to improve your local search rankings, as well. You can support your local owners, managers, and franchisees by providing reviews management technology that monitors for new reviews and facilitates assignments, permissions, sentiment analysis, and reporting.
Download The Guide to Managing Local Reviews at Scale to learn more.
- Adding photos.
Photos and videos help prospective customers understand the type of experience they might have at one of your locations and to make the decision to visit. Use original, high quality photos for each location to showcase the interior and exterior, products and services available, employees, and more.
Use the Images Carousel when you create new Posts to share rich, interesting information about your current offers and promotions or what’s new in-store. Learn more about making the most of this innovative content format here.
Maximize the Value of the Most Impactful Local Ranking Factors Across Your Brand
There is no hidden secret to mastering local SEO, but it does get more challenging as you scale your business. Maintaining an accurate, optimized local presence is particularly challenging for enterprise brands, which need to protect their brand reputation and customer relationships across hundreds or thousands of locations.
Discover new opportunities to improve your local rankings, reviews, and listings performance—take advantage of a free Local Presence Audit today.