Call Us! 888-340-6731

Get Your Business to the Top of Local Search With These Seven Tips

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Get Your Business to the Top of Local Search With These Seven Tips

Do you want to earn top Google local rankings for your small business? Of course, you do!

This guide explains the seven top factors Google considers when assigning local Google search rankings and how you can use them to optimize your position in the Google pack.

Google Local Pack: The Basics

The local pack refers to the regional business results Google displays when the search engine senses a user is looking for localized information. Local packs come in different formats. The format of the local pack is dependent on the query, industry, and device. Often, local packs appear above organic results. However, they can also show up further down the page. Typically, local packs display three results, and they may also include paid ads.

Many factors impact whether or not your business appears in those critical three positions. Here are the top seven.

1. Primary Google Business Profile (GBP) Category

You can’t rank locally for your most critical search phrases unless you select an appropriate primary GBP category. Google usually displays the primary category on your GBP. You can select your primary category by:

  1. Logging into your Google account

  2. Searching for your business by name

  3. Clicking on the Edit Profile tab in the New Merchant Experience editor

Your primary category is the one you choose in the primary category box. After that, you can add a total of ten categories. However, they have less of an impact on local search (more on that later).

Follow these tips to identify the best primary category for your business:

  • Search for the top search term or phrase you need to rank for in local results and see how the top-ranked companies are categorized.

  • If you see different categories representing the top three businesses, select the one that most closely matches yours.

  • If you are creating a listing that isn’t for your main business but is for a practitioner within it, for instance, a lawyer within a law firm, diversify the category so it doesn’t compete with the main listing for the practice.

  • If the listing is for a multi-location business, you can use the same primary category across all your listings unless two locations are very close to each other and could cancel each other out. In that case, select different primary categories.

  • If your local market is highly competitive for a particular primary category, consider whether you want to try to score business from a less competitive category where you could perform better.

Selecting the right primary business category in GBP is a significant first step toward earning a position in the local pack.

2. Keywords in GBP Business Name

It can be tempting to use a spammy business name as your Google Business Profile business title. However, the field should only contain your real-world business name as it appears on your legal documents with no extra keywords. For instance, Sammy’s Bakery should not be positioned as Sammy’s Bakery, The Best Donuts in Los Angeles.

The use of ad-like business names result from a limitation in Google’s algorithm and business owners trying to game the system. Of course, honesty is the best policy for businesses that want to build a lasting good reputation with clients and Google. If you are naming a business, it’s wise to choose one that differentiates it without being too clever. In our previous example, Sammy’s Donut Bakery of Los Angeles would be a good option.

If you find that your real-world business name could be holding you back, you can always legally change it. If you change the name, update all legal registrations, local business listings, social media profiles, and references to the previous name on your and third-party websites.

3. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search

When it comes to the local pack, all things being equal, Google prefers businesses that are closer to the searcher compared with those that are farther away.

There is no single local search ranking for a particular business type because Google shows each searcher different results based on the location of their mobile phone or other device. You can see this in action by walking or driving around town searching for the exact keyword phrase or using a local rank checker like Whitespark.

While you can’t control Google’s distance algorithm, you may find that you could show up in more local packs by refining your keywords. For instance, “Mexican-style tacos” may earn you more eyeballs than just plain “tacos.”

4. Physical Address in the City of Search

Search your city in Google and click on the map. The red border indicates what Google considers the perimeter of a city or town. This matters in local SEO because companies located beyond the border typically find it challenging to search for users situated in the border or for search phrases that contain the name of the city or town.

If you feel that your physical business address is severely limiting the number of prospective customers able to find you online, here are three things you can do to remedy the situation:

  1. Move to a location inside Google’s borders (not a feasible option for most small businesses)

  2. Compete for less-competitive terms

  3. Make a substantial investment in local search marketing to make your GBP so strong that it overcomes Google’s border bias

There is no guarantee that the third option will work, but it is typically the most practical and cost-effective one.

5. Removing Spam Listings

Google’s spam listing issue is massive. Bad actors have loaded the index with results that mislead the public and violate Google’s policies.

Until Google finds a way to better combat this, local business owners are forced to report spam listings so that they can move up in the local pack rankings once the spammers are removed. Google spam includes:

  • Fake business names

  • Disallowed business models

  • Many listings for the same business

  • Fake businesses

  • Fictitious locations

  • Bogus reviews

Review the Guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google to learn how to identify listing spam. If you’ve found a spam listing, use Google’s business redressal form to report it.

6. High Google Rating

The average star rating of your business isn’t just a top local pack ranking factor. It’s also a key to higher conversions. It demonstrates an organization is reputable and good to do business with.

If your rating falls below four stars, it’s unlikely Google will recommend it or for people to do business with it. You must take steps to improve your customer experience while actively seeking reviews from happy buyers.

7. Additional GBP Categories

The fact that two top local search ranking factors relate to categories demonstrates their importance. Once you select the primary category, you have nine more opportunities to help Google understand your business and how it serves customers. Choose additional categories to better define your business and differentiate it from competitors.

Local Google Business Ranking Factors: The Bottom Line

It may not seem like you have much control over how Google views your business, but you do! Leverage the tips in this guide to improve your business’s position in the local pack.

We Are the Digital Marketing Pros

Work with a great team of passionate, experienced professionals.