I have seen a number of ads out there lately for services that say that you only need to work on your GMB (Google My Business) listing for success in local search. I’m here to offer a bit of a warning that, as often is the case, these quick gimmick plans don’t tell you all of the information. There is a lot more to ranking in Google Maps that just your Google My Business page. Google sees a lot of things associated with that page, so as always, it is better to have a holistic approach and to invest in the pieces that move the needle the most.
Google My Business Page is Just the Beginning
Granted, I would tell all of my locally targeted business clients and prospects that it is important to claim your Google My Business listing and fill it out with as much information as you can about your business. However, that is just the base coat or the absolute fundamentals. Companies selling you that they can lead you to success by only worrying about this are wrong the majority of the time, or you will sign up with them only to find out that they will tell you it is your fault you aren’t ranking because you aren’t doing the other things. I think it is important that you know all of the pieces of the puzzle so you realize what is important. The most recent Local Ranking Factors study from Whitespark, which is a true authority in the industry, shows GMB info to be only about a third of what matters when trying to rank for your important terms. Don’t ignore the other pieces and don’t let anyone tell you that a third is enough to rank in a competitive market.
Other Important Local Ranking Factors
Let’s just touch on some things outside of what you write into your Google My Business that matter for your local rankings.
- Proximity to Searcher: You don’t have a lot of control here, but it is extremely important to know that Google uses this as the biggest factor. On a larger scale, it is obvious. A Dallas business shouldn’t rank for a Minneapolis near me search. However, at an even more micro level, a competitor that is actually located in the town you are targeting is going to have an advantage on you if you sit in a neighboring town. Depending on the competition, you are going to have to work extra hard to make up for that.
- Reviews: This is connected to your GMB page, but not something you can add yourself if you are ethical. Google trusts what people say about you more than what you say about yourself. Keep doing a good job and make sure you are asking for detailed reviews. It is better if a customer writes specifically what you did a good job on. An electrician that has reviews mentioning that they helped with setting up a smart home is going to do better for those searches. A review with keywords helps more than a simple “Great job!”
- On-Page: This is where these GMB gimmicks can be deceiving. They claim you don’t even have to worry about your website. Google uses the content on your website as signals of what you do. If you want your GMB to rank in local searches for a service, it is extremely helpful to mention that service on your website that is attached to your GMB. Even better if it is mentioned on the URL that is directly attached, but at least make sure you have a page for it on your site. This is a generally good idea for all forms of SEO and PPC. You want to have a page that addresses any specific product or service you are trying to “get found” for.
- Links: One of the primary ways Google separated itself as a search engine in the early days was by assigning values to rank sites, rather than just listing them in alphabetical order or some other organizational order. Google assigned more value to websites that had other sites linking to them. They viewed these links as “virtual referrals” or votes of credibility or authority for the website. To this day, links tell Google a lot about a website. Every link tells a story. Links from local chambers show you are active in that geographic area. Links from industry sites show your relevance to that industry. Links from broad news sites and blogs can show broader relevance. These links are seen as a big sign of authority to Google and sites and pages that have more “link strength” that are attached to your GMB are going to have more ranking strength. This should not be ignored and is also a big part of local ranking success. Another critical piece of the puzzle that is not directly on the GMB page and should not be ignored.
- Citations: Though these have been dropping in importance in recent years as Google gets smarter with the other factors, they still matter. Citations typically refer to your business representation online in name, address, and phone format. We call that the NAP. Seeing the consistency of your business name, address, and phone in different reputable databases around the internet helps give search engines more confidence that you do exist and act where and how you say you do.
Some of the other behavioral and personalization pieces of the puzzle you have less control over and are more user-based. However, don’t overlook these other important factors when addressing your local search campaigns. We can help with all of this and would never tell anyone that focusing on only one small piece of this bigger pie is enough for lasting success.