Picture this: it’s 8th grade gym class and you’ve been selected as dodgeball team captain. You’re up first to choose your teammates. You’re the new kid in school, and you don’t personally know your potential battle companions yet.
Plot Twist: imagine some of your classmates now have reviews from former teammates. Who are you going to choose?
The student with great reviews: “Unparalleled athletic ability and always willing to sacrifice for the team! She’s our MVP!”
Or the student who’s reviews are...less than stellar: “I’m not sure he understands the rules? He threw the ball at me and we were on the same team.”
For local businesses, not claiming, verifying, or optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing is a great way to ensure you’re chosen last.
More frequently than ever, local searchers are selecting service providers without ever even visiting the company's website. Google has made this possible by providing services such as Google My Business listings and Local Packs in the search engine results. These features have fueled potential customers' ability to make an educated choice about the businesses or services they are looking for.
What is A Local Pack?
A Local Pack is a selection of generally three organic Google My Business listings and, depending on the competitiveness of the industry and market, one or two paid listings that appear at the very top of certain search results.
These listings provide searchers easy access to your business info, images, and reviews — all without ever clicking through your website. Local Packs are generally located beneath paid results and above organic results, but this isn’t always the case.
What Does it Take to Rank In the Local Pack?
To earn a ranking in the local pack, you’ll first need to invest in your Google My Business listing.
According to Moz’s in-depth study on local ranking factors, Google My Business signals made up 19 percent of the Local Pack ranking factors overall. Review signals, which are closely-related to GMB signals, made up 13 percent.
What does this mean? You need to claim, verify, and optimize your GMB listing! Just verifying your listing is a ranking factor in and of itself, but there are a variety of other elements in GMB listings that will influence how you rank in the Local Pack.
Proper Business Category
This may seem simple, but it shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in industries where there are closely-related, but specific, types of businesses.
For example, Navy Federal Credit Union should be categorized as a “Federal Credit Union,” rather than the less-specific “Bank”.
A pizza takeout and delivery business should use “Pizza Delivery” as the primary business category and “Pizza Takeout” as the additional category. Simply, putting "Delivery Restaurant" or "Takeout Restaurant" would be too vague.
A law firm's primary business category should represent their primary practice area, such as “Personal Injury” or “Divorce” instead of just “Law Firm” or “Attorney.” Failing to optimize could hinder their ability to perform in local searches for more-specific searches.
How many reviews your business has, the overall sentiment of those reviews, the content of those reviews, and how quickly you gain reviews, both on Google and on other platforms, all serve as factors that will determine how well a business will rank in Google's Local Packs.
Reviews are a big deal for reasons other than just rankings. Being a business at the top of the Local Pack is like being the 8th-grade basketball MVP during dodgeball picks in gym class. You can get by showing off your past performances, but score rosters aren’t everything. Some users will simply select the highest-listed result, but others will do more research before making their choice.
Would you still choose the students who appear to be the most athletic as your teammates if their reviews were terrible?
Positive reviews can be the reinforcing factor that drives consumer behavior and helps potential clients and customers make their ultimate selection. If you haven’t incorporated asking for reviews into your workflow with clients and customers, now is the time.
Non-GMB Rankings Factors
According to the study by Moz, link signals were the second-largest ranking factor for Local Pack performance. Links continue to be an important part of performing in Google searches. For rankings, the quality, quantity, diversity, relevance, and locality of links all play a factor and determine rankings.
Your Website’s Content
On-page signals from your website may not be as influential as they have been in years past, but they are still meaningful. Having an authoritative website, having geographically specific content on your landing pages, and having a mobile-friendly website are all factors for ranking in Local Packs.
Much like on-page signals, citations may be less influential as they were years ago. Most industry experts agree that they are important, and investing time to clean up and improve citations can prove valuable. However, the same experts would also likely agree that there a relatively short list of citations that provide much value.
GMB Features & Best Practices
Even Google values the old aphorism “a picture is worth a 1000 words.”
Via Google My Business, you can add photos of your facility, service vehicles, and staff members. Adding images, video, and other media content to your Google My Business listing provides searchers multiple options to engage with your brand.
This is a valuable practice in almost any industry, but it is particularly valuable for businesses like law firms and medical professions, where prospects will be selecting you as a practitioner.
Live chat is becoming more and more prevalent on websites, and GMB has jumped on the trend. GMB Messaging is a relatively new feature that allows users to contact you straight from your listing.
You’ll have to set up Messaging in the backend of Google My Business. Using the feature gives potential clients yet another opportunity to get ahold of you in a way that your competitors may not be using.
Google Posts are short snippets of information viewed when your listing is selected. Posts give your business listings more content for your users to interact with.
Businesses use posts to talk about company news, upcoming events, new offerings, sales, or even post about specific products. Some have reported 11% increases in appointment bookings simply by regularly creating Google posts.
Questions & Answers
Do you find yourself answering the same questions about your business on a regular basis? Google’s Questions & Answers feature offers you an opportunity to post and answer those common questions. This is also open to the public to ask, so you’ll want to be sure to answer any questions as they pop up.
Don’t Get Picked Last
Want your business to be first pick in our metaphorical game of dodgeball?
Claim and verify your listing. Take advantage of the resources Google My Business offers, invest in good link building, provide killer customer service, and always ask for reviews. Develop a pattern of consistency with your Google My Business listing, and you’ll get discovered by more local searches than ever before.
Google My Business is just another way to make the world a better place — and let your company’s inner 8th grade gym class hero emerge!