Understanding how Google and other search engines rank your site in search results can help you take your business to the next level. The more you know about Google’s algorithm, the better you can tailor your search engine marketing strategy to get results. In the past, Google has given helpful tips about how it ranks businesses in local search results. The Google algorithm focuses heavily on three factors: distance, relevance, and prominence, which we will discuss in further detail.
Google often looks at the distance or location of your business from the customer, based upon your physical address and the customer’s IP address. Many times, the search engines will bear a stronger signal to the searchers who are closer than those who are farther away. This approach makes a lot of sense, especially if you consider large metropolitan areas like New York City, where there are a lot of businesses who provide the same goods and services: movers, painters, bagel shops, restaurants, etc. A user is more likely to just use a service provider in their area for convenience sake, especially if they consider the good or service to just be a commodity.
Google calculates distance based on the location, and if the search engine cannot find a specified location, they calculate the distance based on what is known about the location. The key to being on Google’s radar is making sure your business listing, including your physical address, is properly updated in Google My Business. When setting up your Google profile, make sure to use a unique description, select the correct category for your business, and add lots of pictures of your business. It’s also imperative that your address is consistent across the web, on other business listing sites (like Yellow Pages, Yelp, City Search, etc.) and especially on your own website.
Make sure that your Google My Business listing includes accurate contact information including your physical address and phone number.
Relevance refers to how relevant your business is to what the searcher is looking for. For example, if the user is looking for a nearby dry-cleaner, Google would not return results for a dress shop. Though both businesses deal with clothing, dress shops would be irrelevant when looking for a dry-cleaner.
When it comes to relevance, it’s important that you selected the appropriate category or categories for your Google My Business listing. If a particular category doesn’t seem obvious to you, it’s always good to do a quick Google search yourself and see what category the businesses ranking in the “snack pack” have selected. If you consider these businesses to be your competition, then that’s probably the category you should select as well.
Relevance also focuses heavily on keywords. Do the keywords on your site match the keywords that users are looking for? Here the key is doing your keyword research, and making sure that your site has sufficient content that touches on those keywords. As we discussed in a previous post, blogging is a great way to add relevant content to your site.
Ratings and reviews are contributing factors to your site’s prominence. Don’t be afraid to request reviews from customers, as these can ultimately bolster your rankings.
Google’s algorithm also assesses how users respond to your business relative to other similar businesses, or in other words, it tries to gage popularity. Unlike in high school, there are ways to work on your “popularity” in Google’s eyes.
Ratings and reviews are a huge indicator of a business’ prominence. Businesses that have more 4 and 5-star reviews from customers are likely to have higher rankings in local search results than those who have fewer, lower quality reviews. Focus on getting customers to review you on some of the major review platforms, like Google+, Yelp, Facebook, and Angie’s List. Often, after you’ve delivered a good or service, customers forget or neglect to leave a review because in their mind, the transaction is complete. You can always follow up with a reminder email, thanking them for their patronage and asking if there was anything you could have done to make the experience better. In this email, you can also embed links to your Yelp or Facebook page, and ask them to take a few minutes to leave a review. This makes it super simple for them to leave a review, and may just be the nudge they need to follow through.
Other prominence signals include social media links, citations, and click-through traffic.
Distance, relevance and prominence are three of the most important signals to consider when honing your local search engine marketing strategy. By focusing on the accuracy of your business listing, claiming your business profiles, garnering ratings and reviews, and generating keyword-rich content, you can get off to a great start with capturing local SEO rankings.
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