Supporting local small businesses has always been a priority to Google. If a user performs a search for something like, “Japanese restaurant,” or “grocery store,” Google will automatically show the top three venues (called the “local pack”) within a certain radius. As a small business, the local pack presents an incredible marketing opportunity – if you know how to get into a coveted top position. These five tips can improve your local business ranking on Google and ultimately increase your bottom line.
- Give Google the Information it Wants
If your business doesn’t appear anywhere on the first page of relevant searches in your local area, you may need to improve your information. Google works by interpreting the information available about your business and presenting it to users who perform searches using relevant keywords and phrases. If enough information does not exist online, you will not show up at the top of the search results page. Google My Business provides a hub where you can add and update data about your business. Fill out your profile as completely as possible, and update your information when something changes.
It’s easier for Google to match businesses with searches if it has complete and accurate information about the brand. Provide Google My Business with details on what you sell, your exact (accurate) location, your hours of operation, photos of your storefront or products, website URL, your phone number, and other contact information. Add your business information to Google Maps and Search by using the Google My Business verification tool. Share your latest offers, deals, and specials so your customers stay informed about what you’re doing. The more info you put online, the easier it will be for people to find you.
- Get Your Name Out There
Google ranks businesses on how well known they are in the community. Big brands will often outrank lesser-known ones simply based on the prominence of the establishment. Google bases “prominence” on a few different factors. Algorithms will look at the number of reviews and the overall review score. Google will also review the information available about the business online. You can rank higher in the results by submitting your business to directories, locally and nationally. How often your name, address, and phone number (NAP) appears online has a direct effect on your local business ranking. Make sure your NAP is consistent across the web so that Google recognizes multiple entries as the same business.
- Respond to Reviews
Reading reviews of your business can be a grueling process depending on how happy or unhappy your customers have been lately. Ignoring reviews can be tempting, but responding to reviews can actually improve your Google local business rating. Google likes to see interactions between your brand and customers. Respond to Google reviews in a professional, friendly manner. These responses will appear below each review under “Response from the owner.” Responding to reviews gives you a chance to explain bad ratings and to show Google that you care about customer experience.
- Focus on Local SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a big part in your local business search ranking. In 2015, Google rolled out its Pigeon update – a new algorithm that changed the way Google ranked local businesses. After this update, the requirements for local SEO changed. Today, these are a few important rules business owners must follow to get a positive ranking:
- Create compelling and unique meta descriptions and page titles. Include the name of your city and business, along with a targeted keyword.
- Claim your Google My Business. Join other directories as well. Optimize your My Business listing with a solid, full description.
- Optimize your local on-page SEO factors, such as your city and region, keywords, headers, and an embedded Google map.
- Build links with local SEO campaigns and get citations from high-quality websites that are relevant to your industry.
- Obey local SEO best practices according to Google’s latest algorithms in terms of content, website design, usability, page speed, and overall performance.
A low SEO score won’t bode well for getting into the local pack. Google will look at your overall SEO score and placement on ordinary web search results when deciding where you’ll rank on a relevant keyword search. Prioritize search engine optimization for a better local business ranking.
- Engage with Your Customers
Google local business listings can involve a lot of data and hard numbers, but at the heart of the Google ranking schema is the search engine’s desire to give users a great experience. If you don’t engage with your customers, Google won’t see fit to reward you with a high ranking. Your customers are the people who matter most to your company.
Engage with them through social media marketing campaigns by responding to comments and reviews and in person if you own a brick-and-mortar location. Customer engagement will eventually turn into brand loyalty, more positive reviews, more mentions in local directories, and better search engine rankings. Getting ranked in Google’s local pack begins with satisfied customers.