Today we are just going to look at some key local ranking factors as we spot them in the wild, by using a state-level search for a business CPA. The specific search was for “best business CPA NJ”. This is a typical search someone in NJ might make when looking to find a new CPA for their business. With this example, we can walk through and point out some of the important things that influence the rankings for local businesses. These aren’t necessarily in order of importance, but more of a little tour around the results page. To see how they rank, you can check out the most recent Whitespark local ranking factors study.
So let’s get the tour started and walk through the image one factor at a time.
1 The Website (page) Attached to the Google Business Profile
The page you link to from your Google Business Profile tells Google a lot about your business offerings. Typically for a small business with one to only a few locations, it is best to link to your homepage. But keep in mind the information and strength of that page are part of the ranking equation. Be sure to have your name, address, and phone information as well as content about your key offerings. Typically the homepage of your site has this information, but if it doesn’t, add it. It will help.
The authority of your site and page also matters for your rankings. The number and authority of reputable links pointed at that page give you more strength in the rankings. You can see in the below image, the top-ranked firm (the one on the left) has the most domains linking to their page of the group, which includes some others that rank in the top 5. It isn’t the only factor, but it matters.
There is much to be said about reviews as a ranking factor. I’ve written extensively in the past about how important reviews are in a number of ways. I will allow you to click that link to go read the details, but essentially the number, average score, frequency, and even the words within the reviews all matter to your rankings. The best suggestion for reviews is to just keep doing a good job and always ask everyone for reviews. It is ok to get a negative review on occasion. Don’t be afraid of them. Just handle them professionally and sometimes they can even help you. Notice that all of the businesses that showed up here had more than 5 reviews and a high review score. It is getting harder and hard to rank with fewer than 10, but our top business here made up for it in other ways.
3 Custom Services
I just wrote a post about these and they are growing in importance. In your Google Business Profile, there are sub-services offered to list as part of your main business category. You should always take advantage of these and even create custom ones that match the very specific services that you offer and people ask for. Take a minute and think through them. This is a worthwhile 15 minute exercise because it can not only serve as a ranking factor, but a conversion factor. People are more drawn to click on the listings that specifically say “Provides: (what they are looking for)”. Feed Google with the information on the things you specialize in.
4 Wording in Reviews
Following up a bit on reviews above. Google in many ways trusts what people say about you more than what you say about you. When asking for reviews, ask for detailed reviews. Ask for people to tell what they liked about you. Google likes to show that off to searchers if it is relevant. This also helps conversion rate too. When others see someone complimenting the specific service they are looking for, they are more apt to choose that listing, even sometimes over one that ranks higher.
This is actually the number one ranking factor and carries the most weight, but it also is the one you have the least control over. By nature, for searches that Google views to have local intent, they have to heavily favor how close the business is to the searcher. Otherwise, Seattle businesses might be showing up in Miami. Your business is where it is, so you can’t change this, but it can help explain why that other business that is brand new or has no reviews is outranking you in certain places. The weight for proximity is so strong that moving around can drastically change local rankings. Just keep that in mind when you see your ranking dropped when you check it from across town. Google is smart enough to pick up on that and they change the rankings accordingly.
6 Primary Business Category
This is another top ranking factor. One of the basics of setting up your Google Business Profile is to pick out the primary category that best matches what you want to show up for. Sometimes this is difficult for doctors and lawyers and certain industries with many closely related categories. The category matters so make sure you get it right. Also, they are regularly changing up the options, so if you aren’t happy with your category, keep an eye on the choices, because a better one may show up.
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