I posted earlier in the week about the latest local search ranking factors study that came out. With that post, I discussed which factors seemed to carry the most weight and some of the things a business owner could do at lower levels of effort to improve their positioning and exposure.  With this post, I just wanted to touch on the negative factors from the recent study. That is the factors or mistakes people make that cause them the most problems with ranking locally.

So what was determined to be the five factors that most negatively affect your rankings? 

  1. False Business Address: If you are one of those businesses that is trying to get away with a fake address to get you closer to a city, etc. this is bad news for you. The good news is that for service area businesses, Google is making proximity of your location less important and actually removing address for businesses, but I know many have tried to fake the system over the years. I have worked with companies that insisted on doing this and wondered why these listings weren’t showing up. If you are found out to be a false address, you are going to plummet in the rankings.
  2. Addresses at PO Box, UPS Box, etc.: These are considered against the rules, but many businesses have done this over the years, simply because they don’t need a storefront. The good news, as mentioned above, is that service area businesses that don’t need a storefront are moving to where the actual address is less important than it used to be. Right now we are in phase 1 of this and I think 2019 will see a lot of progress here. Google has recently removed the need for an address on your GMB page.
  3. GMB Business CategoryIncorrect Business Category: This seems like an obvious and easy fix, but many businesses make this mistake or don’t even fill out the info on their business category. If you are a chiropractor, make sure you put your GMB in that category.  Search out all of the options for what you do and add them if they are services you provide. Additionally, you should add all of your services to the service listings.  Show Google that your business is relevant to these services you provide.  Take a second now and go to your business.google.com page and make sure you have the right category or categories.
  4. Site Hacked/Malware: If your site has been hacked and Google finds it, it is going to warn people in the ranking and it is typically going to try to avoid sending searchers to it, naturally lowering your ranking. When you see you have been hacked, take care of it as fast as you can.  Your developer and host typically have plans to back up and restore your site to prior versions. Don’t let this ruin your online presence.  Act swiftly and get it resolved. You can’t always avoid getting hacked, but you can control how you react when it happens, and if you have the right backup safeguards in place, it can be resolved quite quickly.
  5. GMB Listings with Same Address/Phone Marked as Permanently Closed: This can confuse Google, and is also sometimes a scam by business owners with poor reviews to try to “start over””.  If you are starting a new business at an address, it is probably a good idea to get a new phone number so you aren’t associated with the prior business.  Once it is marked as closed, if you are at the same address with the same phone number,  it muddies the water and causes algorithmic confusion. In most cases here, this is businesses trying to game the system, but I’m sure there are a few honest businesses that have run into this problem.

Take a look at your Google My Business (GMB) listing and make sure you aren’t purposefully or accidentally breaking any of these rules. If you are a service area business, mark your business as such, and you won’t have to worry about your specific address much anymore.