Having your Google My Business listing included in the local 3 pack has never been more important for sustained success. According to a study, there are more than 3.5 billion searches per day on various search engines, with over 92 percent done using Google. And for those who search through Google, 90 percent just look at the first page results. Out of the total Google searches, over 45 percent search about local businesses and local information.
The above figures tell you that businesses that do not appear on top of the search engine results page (SERPs) and Google Maps are missing out on a lot of business opportunities. It signals that your local SEO and digital marketing efforts are not working.
With so many customization options that you can do within your Google My Business (GMB) listing, it can be tough to decide which fields to focus on. That’s unless you know which fields matter the most in Google My Business ranking.
To help improve your ranking in the SERPs and Google Maps, we will show you the different fields which need your attention and the steps that you can take to optimize those fields for Google Maps.
4 Fields that Can Significantly Impact Your Google My Business Ranking
1. Business name
You might be thinking, “I can’t change my business name that easily just to rank higher on Google Maps.” We know where you’re coming and we understand your frustration. But yes, we can confirm that your business name is one of Google’s ranking factors for GMB listings. With that said, your business name can have a tremendous impact on your Google My Business ranking in Google Maps in 2021.
If you happen to have a business name that already includes important keywords, lucky for you because you have a higher chance of ranking in Google Maps. Even better, your business name may help you get a spot in the local 3 pack!
So the real challenge for you is to look and see how other businesses in your location are taking advantage of this field to rank higher. Are they using descriptive keywords to boost their rank because if they do, this is against Google’s guidelines and they can be penalized for doing it?
Since Google does not currently allow you to add keywords into your business name unless it is part of your real business name, you can leave yours as is. But to ensure that the competition remains fair, it’s important to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing in their business name just to get an advantage. Unfortunately, this information is not available on your Google My Business listing dashboard. But with the GMB Crush audit tool, you would know. So we encourage you to download and use the GMB Crush app to gain insights into your competitors’ business names. If you can see that a business is stuffing their business name with keywords for better ranking in Google Maps and search engine results, you can immediately report them to Google.
2. Business primary and subcategories section
Your local rankings in SERPs and Google Maps are also greatly influenced by your chosen primary and sub-category. In 2020, a local SEO industry survey found out that of all the Google My Business ranking factors, this section has the greatest impact on Google Maps and local ranking. Choosing your primary and sub-categories wisely is important for local SEO as it will help your GMB profile rank higher in the search engine and Google Maps.
Aside from being one of the ranking factors, the items that you will tick under this section will help Google determine your relevance for a specific keyword search in your location. Additionally, whatever you choose also determines the additional features that will be available and not available in your Google My Business listing.
For example, if you choose”hotel”, Google Posts will not be available to your listing. On the other hand, if you have a restaurant business, choosing “food service” allows you to add menus.
Moreover, your business category will also affect the attributes, menus and additional features that will be available to you.
With the significant impact of the correct categorization of your business to your overall ranking particularly in the 3 pack, it’s just right to carefully plan your choices.
Currently, Google has about 4,000 categories to choose from and they keep on updating this list, adding or removing some. As part of your local SEO efforts to rank higher in Google Maps, you need to regularly check the updates so your business listing will also stay up to date.
Here are some tips in picking your category to rank higher in Google Maps:
SEO marketing strategy tip #1 Identify your important search keyphrases
The initial step in this Google Maps marketing and optimization strategy is to create a list of key phrases that your potential customers are using to find you. For example, if you offer pet services, your key phrases may include “dog groomer,” “dog walker” or “pet-sitter.” Also include the variants such as “overnight pet sitting.” Make sure to cover all the services that you offer in your specific location.
Using the keywords that are relevant to your business, try to search for them when choosing the relevant category for your business and tick those that apply.
SEO marketing strategy tip #2 Determine which category your competitors are using
Now, this marketing strategy can be a bit tough since your Google My Business listing dashboard will not show you the category of other GMB listings. But it’s important that you have this information since knowing what category other businesses are using gives you an insight into what works for your line of business. If other business listings are using a vital category and you are not, this could greatly affect your search engine and Google Maps ranking, thereby passing many possible business opportunities to others.
So how do you check the category of other Google My Business listings in your location? This is one of the specialty areas of GMB Crush. With a click of a button, you can immediately generate a report showing the main category and hidden category that your competitors are using.
You would want to make sure that you also ticked the category that your competitors are using in their various listings. That way, your competitors will have no competitive advantage over your business when it comes to category. Instead, you’ll have a better advantage if you selected a vital category that your competitors might have overlooked.
What you want to make sure here is that if a user searches for a specific keyword, your business will appear on top of the SERPS, preferably in the local 3 pack.
SEO marketing strategy tip #3 Consider adding Google’s suggestions
Within the Google My Business listing dashboard, Google will sometimes make suggestions about categories you might consider adding. Don’t miss the opportunity to check if Google is giving you relevant category suggestions as this can help in optimizing your listing for better ranking in Google Maps.
Many businesses are curious to know the maximum number of categories you should choose for your Google My Business listing to gain more visibility. The answer is you could select as many categories that are relevant to your business. As long as all the categories apply to you, you should be fine.
3. User reviews
Reviews can influence your potential customers to make a decision. Simply put, a positive review can convince a website user to get your service while a negative review can make the user say no.
Prioritizing your reviews can also help your listing rank higher in Google Maps and Google search results in general. Among all the ranking factors, reviews cause much worry among business owners as reviews can either pull your business up or pull your business down.
While it’s true that you can’t control discussions about your brand, there are certain tips that can influence your customers to leave reviews that can help build a positive reputation for your business. We will give you some steps on how you can make reviews work for your business:
Reviews tip #1 – Train your staff to provide a better customer experience
We agree that among the ranking factors, reviews are a bit challenging to manage but as a business owner, you can set the stage to receive more positive feedback.
Reviews are generally a reflection of the quality of experience you provide your customers with. A study discovered that more than 55 percent of negative reviews revolve around poor customer service and bad employee behavior. This is something that you would want to avoid.
As a business owner, you can set policies and strategies to better prepare and equip your employees to provide the best customer experience that would encourage positive reviews. Make sure your staff and crew have the necessary support they need to handle various issues that your customers may have. If they can resolve issues during the time of service, you will reduce the chances of having customers voicing out their complaints via review websites.
Review tip #2 – Make your business complaint-friendly
The most common mistake of many businesses is that they aren’t proactive in handling complaints until they become a negative review.
It’s important to note that the earlier you catch a complaint, the easier it will be to resolve. And the soonest you resolve a concern, the least likely that the customer will give you a negative review. With that in mind, you will be saving your business and customers a great deal of trouble if you ensure that the customers’ complaints are taken care of in a timely manner.
Apart from that, another way to make your business complaint friendly is to hang visible signage inviting your customers to let you know immediately if the service is not satisfactory. Visibility is key here. You may also resort to having a mobile-friendly complaints form on your website or a special number where your customers can send complaint-related messages.
After catching complaints, make sure to facilitate documentation and immediate resolution. If possible, you can pacify unhappy customers by offering them something like a discount coupon for their next visit.
Moreover, you should take negative feedback with a grain of salt. You can get valuable signals and inspiration from complaints that can help improve your business operation.
Review tip #3 – Claim your profile on major review platforms
A number of platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor allow you to claim your business so that you can respond to reviews. This is an important aspect not just for your Google Maps SEO but for your overall digital marketing efforts. As reviews are considered one of the vital Google My Business ranking factors, it’s just right that you don’t leave any stone unturned.
After you claim your profile, you need to respond to feedback in a timely manner, regardless if they are positive or negative in nature. This is the only way that web users will know that you are serious about providing quality service.
Review tip #4 – Increase your number of quality feedback by making it easy for your customers to leave feedback
Before you make any marketing effort to increase your reviews, let’s remember that various review platforms have their own set of guidelines when it comes to seeking feedback. For instance, Yelp doesn’t want businesses to ask for feedback while Google My Business allows it as long as there are no gifts or money involved.
Once you have identified the websites that allow you to seek feedback, get the direct link to your review page then share that with your consumers. When it’s easy for people to leave feedback, you’ll be able to increase the number of people leaving reviews for your business.
Review tip #5 Respond in a tone that reflects your brand
In your local SEO and digital marketing strategy, add responding to reviews as a priority. As a business owner, you would want to monitor your reviews regularly, and monitoring involves responding on time.
Here are some dos and don’ts for review responses:
- Give a sincere apology for the bad experience.
- Show empathy when a customer expresses distress.
- Accept complete responsibility for the situation.
- Offer something to pacify or make amends such as a discount offer, a free drink or a replacement product.
- Show your commitment to fixing the issue.
- Be honest and transparent.
- Keep your response brief and sincere.
- Let customers know you welcome complaints.
- Transfer the blame to the customer.
- Make excuses.
- Accuse the customer of lying.
- Refuse to apologize.
- Use profane language.
Google’s ranking factors for Google My Business listings also include the website field. If you want your business listing to rank higher in Google Maps and other related Google services, you would want to carefully choose the landing page of the URL that you’ll use in your GMB listing.
More often, businesses prefer to link their website homepage which is okay but there may be better locations on the website where you can drive the visitors to. This is something you should test first before adding a URL to your listing especially if you have multiple departments or multiple service offers. The main goal when choosing a URL that links to your website is to maximize your exposure and encourage the user to take action when they visit your website.
With your GMB listing, you can include 2 types of URLs to your website and these links will make it easier for your site visitors to learn more about your products or services. Your potential customers may also take action from your listing on Search and Google Maps.
Ideally, your link should direct the user to:
- Your website page where they can view a menu
- Your website page where they can review your list of services
- Your website page where they can book an appointment or reservation or place an order
If your business has different categories, you may also add up to 10 website URLs per category.
As Google considers the business name, category, reviews and website as important ranking factors in Google Search and Google Maps, it’s a good idea to conduct a detailed review of your Google My Business listing now to see if you have fully optimized those four sections. This step is vital to ensure that you are on the right track with your digital marketing efforts.
What About The Other Sections?
Now you might be surprised that we did not include several other important sections here such as posts, photos, products and services. Those fields too may help you rank higher in Google Maps. In fact, many digital marketing efforts around Google My Business involved optimizing those four fields.
What we are trying to suggest is that you first focus on the four sections with the most impact on your Google ranking. Once you are confident that those sections are fully optimized for local digital marketing, your next step is to work on the rest of the Google My Business listing fields.
GMB Crush Takeaways
We can’t emphasize this enough that the accurate information you put into your Google My Business listing can have a tremendous impact on your ranking and overall digital marketing success. So if you are moving to local digital marketing, you should consider setting up and optimizing your Google My Business account.
It may take a lot of effort and time to fully optimize your Google My Business account, but one thing is for sure: your efforts will pay off. But if you want to expedite this part of your digital marketing campaign, GMB Crush can help. Our audit tool will give you vital insights into what other businesses you are competing with are doing with their Google My Business listings, and if Google lets them rank higher because of their strategies. From the data that GMB Crush can provide you, you can better strategize to rank higher in Google Search and Google Maps.
SEO Lover, my motto is Action Over Words.