How to Rank Better in Google Local Results

Have you ever wondered why some businesses come up ahead of others? Perhaps a newer, less established business is coming up ahead of yours. In this post, we’ll explore some factors that affect how a business ranks and simple steps you can take to improve your position.

Map Pack and Local Finder

The Map Pack, also known as the Local Pack, shows the three business listings Google deems most relevant to your search. It appears near the top of the search results and includes a map preview.

Google Map Pack

Google Map Pack

The Local Finder is the list of businesses that appears when you click “More Places” at the bottom of the Map Pack or do a search using Google Maps.

There are a number of factors that determine which businesses appear in both these places and the order in which they appear. Google’s ranking algorithms are proprietary, but below are some things that have been observed as impacting local rankings.

Business Location

How far away is your business from the person doing the search? If you are a service area business, are they within your defined service area? And, are there other more relevant businesses that are in closer proximity?

It’s important to make sure your address is up-to-date, since it will play a large role in who sees your listing. When you set up your listing, Google will ask you whether you wish to add a location that customers can visit, like a store or an office. You should select “Yes” only if your business is a place customers can visit. You should avoid using a co-working space, virtual office, post office address or other location that is not staffed during your published business hours, as this is against Google’s terms and may result in your listing being permanently suspended. Businesses that “visit or deliver to local customers” may define a service area instead.

If you operate a home based business and previously added your address, it can be removed once your listing is approved. You may wish to do this for privacy or if you no longer see customers at the location, but having a published address that meets Google’s criteria is preferable.

Categories and Title

The categories you select help Google determine whether your listing is relevant for a given search. You should only choose the categories most relevant to your core business model. Adding too many categories can cause confusion as to what you do and cause your listing to not rank as well.

Choose the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your overall core business. – Google

The presence of keywords in your title can also affect how you rank. However, you should not stuff your title with keywords that are not part of your business name, or Google may penalize your listing.

Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers. – Google

Inbound Links

How many sites link to yours and the credibility of those sites can tremendously affect how you rank. Search engines want to help searchers find quality content and one of the best ways to do that is to see who is linking to you. When another site links to yours, it’s like they are voting for you. The more influential and trustworthy the site, the more valuable their vote.

However, not all links are equal. To prevent spammers from filling comment forms and social sites with links back to their sites, site operators can add a value of nofollow to the rel attribute of their links. This means the search engines should not consider the link as a vote. Most social networking platforms and news sites now do this, to avoid becoming link farms. That does not, however, mean that nofollow links are worthless. They still may be considered, but are less heavily weighted. Search engines may also consider mentions of your brand, even when there is no link present.

The most important consideration with link building is to make sure you are providing value. Google has a number of rules regarding link building and will penalize sites that attempt to manipulate their algorithms with link building schemes. You can learn more here.

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site. – Google

It’s important to add your business website to your Google My Business listing. This will help customers to find your site and let Google know that the site should be associated with your listing.

Reviews

Reviews let Google better understand what actual customers think about your business and how prominent your business is in your community. Asking your customers for reviews is one easiest ways to improve your listing and build trust with potential customers.

One of the best ways to get reviews for your Google My Business listing is to keep a computer where your customers check out and ask if they would mind taking a few minutes to leave a review. You can also send customers a link.

Please note that you should never review a business that you own or work for or provide any type of discount or incentive in exchange for a review.

Site Content and On-page Factors

In order for your website to rank well, it needs to be easy for search engines to crawl and provide a good user experience. Below are some common issues that may adversely affect the reputation of your site.

No Sitemap

A sitemap is a table of contents for your website. It should list all of the pages that you want the search engines to include in their results, so that they can easily be found. It can also provide a priority value for each page, so that the search engines know which pages are most important and should be crawled more frequently.

Broken Links

Broken links can frustrate visitors, providing a poor user experience, and may signal to search engines that your website is out-of-date and not being properly maintained.

Empty Alt Text

Alternate text describes what your images are about to search engines and the visually impaired. Without alternate text, search engines will struggle to understand the content of your images.

Missing Meta Descriptions

Meta Descriptions do not directly impact rankings. They are often used as the description of a page in search results and may help with click through rates, by helping searchers to understand what your page is about.

Poor Load Times

If a page takes too long to load, it could adversely affect your search engine rankings and provide a poor user experience — especially for those using mobile devices. It’s important to make sure that your pages load fast.

One of the biggest mistakes often made is not properly sizing or compressing images. An image should be no larger than the largest size it appears on your site. It does not make sense to have an image that is 2000 pixels wide, when it appears on your site at 300 pixels wide. You can also significantly reduce the size of an image by compressing it, which removes some information from the image. You can often significantly decrease the size of an image without a noticeable loss in quality.

It’s also helpful to properly optimize CSS and JavaScript. One common practice is minification, which may involve removing unnecessary information like white space and comments, renaming variables with shorter names, and combining files.

Another common practice is to prioritize the loading of the above-the-fold content — what the visitor sees when they first load the page. 

May sites also employ the use of caching. This creates a static version of certain website content, so that it can be loaded quicker.

Consistency of Directory Information

Consistency of your business information across the web signals that your information is current and having listings on a large number of prominent directories signals that you are an established, credible business. Directory listings are also referred to as “citations,” since they help confirm the accuracy of business information.

Some prominent directories include Bing, Facebook, Apple Maps, Yelp, MapQuest, Yellow Pages, BBB, Manta, Merchant Circle, Superpages, Yellow Book, Best of the Web, CityGrid, Hot Frog, Local.com, CitySquares, Cylex and Chamber of Commerce.

A number of directories receive data from data aggregators like Infogroup, Neustar and Factual. It is a good idea to make sure your information is correct with these entities, since they will share whatever data they have about your business with many directories.

Behavior

Google collects a great deal of information about how people interact with their search engine. How often a particular link is clicked in the search results for a search term can provide insight into how relevant the page is for that search term. This is referred to as the page’s “click-through rate.” Other interactions, such as clicking the buttons to call, get directions or visit the website of a business through the knowledge panel, also help Google understand relevance.

Google will also look at the specific search queries to determine user intent. For example, if a searcher types the name of a business in combination with a search term, that could be an indicator that the business is related to the search term or that the brand is well known in the local area. If searchers are looking for or identify with a particular business, then it may make sense to show pages related to that business more often for relevant search terms.

What does this mean for you? First, you want to make sure your links in the search results have good meta information. Having a good title and meta description for each page is important, since this is often what appears in the search results. You want these to entice the user to click on them, and you want to clearly show the relevance for a specific search term. Having a search terms that a page ranks for in the description and title can be very helpful with improving a page’s click-through rate.

You also want to focus on creating quality content that answers common questions asked by searchers. Looking at search volume for specific search terms can help you uncover questions you could be answering. Also, when you do a search, you may see a section in the results called “People also ask,” which is often a good source for content ideas.

Conclusion

As we have discussed, there are many factors that go into how well your website ranks in Google’s local search results. If you need help improving your rankings, please call us at (321) 684-7460.