Local organic search traffic remains the strongest lead generator for most local businesses, especially when they can rank well for strong-intent keywords that narrow down to a specific neighborhood, city, or region.
But how do you rank well on Google when it gets tougher as multiple local businesses in the same vertical as you fight for the same source of qualifying leads?
You can rank your local business in two major ways that tie in with Google My Business (GMB):
- Local pack or local SEO 3-pack—the listing of three local businesses Google shows in a user’s search results for a local-intent query.
- Organic search results, where you appear on local organic results pages.
What Are the Google My Business Ranking Factors?
Here are the most important Google My Business ranking factors:
- Proximity of your business to the searcher’s location
- Reviews & Ratings
- Links & Citations
- Completeness of your Google Business Profile (GBP)
- Website landing pages and authority
Let’s explore how these GMB ranking factors can help you clinch the top spots in the local SEO 3-pack and organic search results.
1. Proximity of Your Business to the Searcher’s Location
In today’s world, most interactions between potential customers and businesses begin online with a search.
When this search has a local intent, Google wants to show the searcher or user the best local businesses closest to them. It does this with the local 3-pack.
For example, a potential client looking for someone to manage their Airbnb rentals may search for “Airbnb management company” and get the local pack results below, depending on their location.
The user may refine their search even further by specifying the location by searching for “Airbnb management company Canmore”.
Here’s what the local pack looks like then, including S&T Properties, a vacation rental management business we work with:
Your business may not have much control over its location relative to the searcher’s location, but you can increase your chances of Google showing your business to the searcher.
Firstly, your business should have a real physical location in the location of the search.
Your physical storefront in a city or town can’t be shifted easily. However, when push comes to shove, you can add a second or third Google business location within a city to get closer to potential clients.
For instance, Google will show users the first three local businesses closest to them within minutes. Your business that is one hour away will scramble for a spot on the local 3-pack.
Secondly, you can rank on Google in multiple locations, whether or not you have real physical addresses in those locations.
The nature of your business dictates whether or not you must have a physical storefront in each location you target.
Let’s say you are an HVAC contractor in Austin, Texas.
You can directly serve clients in Austin and nearby suburbs, such as Cedar Park and Round Rock, rather than at your business address. Your clients’ HVAC systems aren’t located at your business address!
For this scenario, try to rank for “HVAC contractor near me Austin TX”, “HVAC contractor near me Cedar Park”, and “HVAC contractor near me Round Rock”. Here’s an example of a local business crushing it for two places:
“HVAC Contractor Near Me Austin TX” Organic Search Results 1:
“HVAC Contractor Near Me Round Rock” Organic Search Results 2:
If you have physical addresses in Austin and another city like Santa Fe, New Mexico, you want to have a Google Business Profile in both locations. You also want to have a landing page on your website in both locations to give yourself the best chance to rank in both Austin and Santa Fe.
2. Reviews and Ratings
Local businesses earn reviews and ratings for their Google Business Profile from their clients. Businesses can also generate reviews on independent sites like TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Yellowpages.
Google Business Page Reviews and Ratings
For Google Business Page reviews, quantity, quality, recency, and consistency or velocity are all important.
Google wants to see high numbers of reviews with positive sentiments to understand that customers are happy and satisfied with your business and its products or services.
The downside is that not every client will be happy with the products or services you list on your business profile. Negative reviews may hurt not only your GBP conversions but also your profile’s ability to rank well.
Native Google reviews and ratings should be as recent as possible, which means obtaining them consistently over time. These will be better than ones obtained in periodic bursts.
One way to get recent reviews and ratings is to have systems in place to ask for reviews and ratings from your clients and everyone else who interacts with your business.
Try effective strategies like email or text follow-ups and a QR code to ask for reviews and ratings.
Quality of Reviews
Undoubtedly, the quality of reviews and ratings a business receives is a key factor Google uses in its ranking systems. It’s also correct to say that potential clients check reviews before deciding if they will give you their business.
Below is an example of reviews for pet waste services. You are far more likely to hire the company with 404 reviews and a 4.9-star rating versus 81 reviews and a 4.0 rating.
You can expect Google to use the same logic when ranking Google Business Pages.
While businesses may not have direct control over their star rating, they can increase the chances of good reviews. This requires great customer service. And treating everyone who interacts with your business with respect.
Reviews as User-generated Content
Google advises local businesses to post frequently on their Google Business Profiles.
Making Google posts on your business profile can be a huge pain point, especially when tight on resources like time, personnel, and money.
Here’s where reviews from users come to your rescue. Reviews are user-generated content that can help your business profile in two ways.
Reviews are user-generated content that can help you convert more visitors to customers.
Secondly, Google sees a business with plenty of local reviews on its GBP as being alive, active, and appreciated by the public. This helps your profile rank higher on both local pack and organic search results.
Business Owner Responses to User Reviews
It is good practice to respond to both positive and negative GMB reviews.
According to a 2023 local user review survey by BrightLocal, 88% of users consider supporting businesses whose owners respond to all reviews regardless of their negative or positive sentiments.
Avoid the temptation to ignore negative reviews or respond negatively.
What you’ll want to do is to respond to every negative review positively.
- First of all, apologize to the individual. And then address each complaint that was mentioned.
- Second, thank them for having chosen to do business with you.
- Third, suggest that they contact you directly to resolve the issue. Leave them your business email address or phone number.
Here’s a good sample response to an unfavorable Google review:
Another consideration when responding to reviews is using keywords in your responses. While adding plenty of business- or industry-related keywords here seems a good idea, this practice may work against you.
Google may consider the overuse of keywords in your Google Business Profile review responses as keyword stuffing, which may hurt your rankings.
Use keywords moderately to find the sweet spot between self-serving and user-friendly responses. Easy does it!
Third-party Review Sites
What key aspects matter in third-party ratings and reviews? These include:
- The quantity and quality of reviews and ratings
- High-figure numerical ratings
- The diversity of third-party entities
- Keywords in the reviews
Quantity and Quality of Reviews and Ratings from Industry-specific Websites
Both the quantity and quality of ratings and reviews matter. These review sites are connected to your website, and sometimes you can even link them to your Google Business Page.
The ratings and reviews could also be from structured sources such as data aggregators like Factual, Infogroup, Localeze, and Acxiom.
Traditional third-party reviewers like Yellowpages, TripAdvisor, and Yelp also review and rate local businesses.
Your local business will also be lucky to have its profile appear in best-of lists compiled by trusted industry experts.
More reviews and ratings help your Google My Business page rank better in local searches, especially when they are sentimentally positive and from authoritative third-party entities.
High-figure Numerical Ratings
Showing ratings using figures is an excellent way for customers, third-party reviewers, and Google to see how the public values a local business.
Many ratings with high figures will help your GBP, while many low-figure ratings may hurt your rankings and conversions.
Satisfying your customers improves the chances of getting high-numerical ratings because raters are more likely to give you a high rating based on overall customer reviews and ratings.
Diversity of Third-party Raters and Reviewers
A Google Business Profile has better ranking chances if the third-party reviewers and raters linking or mentioning it are diverse. You’ll want reviews and ratings from different sources, including social ones like Facebook reviews.
Keywords Used in the Reviews
Besides using your business title and linking to your Google My Business page, it is helpful if third-party reviewers use industry-relevant keywords in their content.
Potential customers searching for a local business on Google can find these reviews with searches such as “pet store Calgary reviews”.
3. Links and Citations
Inbound links or backlinks are a major ranking factor for both Organic SEO and Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) rankings.
Obtaining quality backlinks that point to your website and more specifically to your GMB landing page is an important ranking factor for your Google Business Page.
The GMB landing page refers to the specific page you insert in the ‘website’ field when creating your GMB profile.
It is most common for businesses to insert their website’s homepage in the ‘website’ field. If yours is a multi-location local business, insert the specific location page for that city.
When it comes to local SEO, local relevance and industry relevance are more important than overall website authority.
You’ll want your inbound links to flow consistently over time instead of on and off bursts. Sustained active local link building can help you gain backlinks consistently.
These backlinks help rank your local business better, whether or not they use your business name or title as the anchor text.
Indeed, diversity in anchor text is ideal. But you don’t have much control over this besides ensuring your business title or name is consistent wherever it appears online, starting with your Google Business Profile.
What About Internal Links and Outbound Links?
Internal links are another crucial ranking factor for your Google Business Profile.
You should have internal links pointing TO your GBP landing page from other optimized pages on your website.
Excellent internal linking strengthens the page authority of your GMB landing page and location-specific pages.
Note: Internal links FROM your GBP landing page and city or location landing pages to other pages on your website are also important. However, the link juice tastes better when internal links point to the landing pages.
Ensure you use diverse anchor text when internally linking to and from your location and GBP landing pages.
Outbound links from your website to other websites or Google Business Profiles MAY not be much of a ranking factor.
However, I encourage local businesses to create outbound links for the following reasons:
- Enhancing trust and credibility with both search engines and users. Linking externally to authoritative and relevant sources enhances trust.
- Improves user experience by providing additional resources or information on the topic. This can increase user engagement and dwell time.
- Building healthy relationships with other local businesses that may link back to your website later.
Whenever your local business is mentioned in print or on the web, that’s a citation.
Citations can be from structured sources such as data aggregators like Yellowpages or unstructured sources like government sites, newspaper articles, industry associations, and blog posts.
Data aggregators like Localeze, Factual, and Infogroup may also cite your business.
Another crucial aspect to consider in citations is the anchor text, which may be branded citations (using your business title) or unbranded mentions (they don’t include your business title).
Ensure your citations have the correct and consistent Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP).
To achieve this correctness and consistency, ensure your business profile includes your correct local business name, address, and phone number.
I would recommend searching your business name on Google and checking if the entities that mention your business use the correct NAP, and whether they have linked to you.
Reach out to these entities to request them to fix your NAP or link back to your GMB in the case of unlinked mentions.
4. Completeness of Google Business Profile
A verified and complete Google Business Profile increases its chances of ranking better on Google. Both Google and searchers are more likely to trust a verified, complete business profile.
Below are the most crucial aspects a complete Google My Business Profile contains:
- Correct Name, Address, and Phone Number
- Properly placed Google Map pin
- Physical address in the location of the searcher (where applicable)
- Correct primary GBP category
- Correct business operation hours
- Correct area code
- Relevant photos
- Enabled GBP booking feature
- Enabled messaging feature
- Dedicated landing page on your website for every service you offer
- GBP business title complete with relevant keywords
- Relevant inbound links to GBP landing page
- GBP landing page complete with a title, keywords in the title, H-tags, and alt text, enough content, and internal links pointing to it
Note: I haven’t listed the above factors necessarily in their order of importance. Also, these factors help with better rankings in both local SEO pack and local organic search results.
5. Optimized Website
According to Google, Google My Business makes your business website more visible on Google Maps and Google Search.
But what key aspects of your website help your Google My Business page rank better?
- Proper keyword research
- Quality website content that covers all of your services or products
- On-page SEO
- Inbound links
- A mobile-friendly, secure, and fast website
Proper Keyword Research
Many businesses invest resources into content production to improve their chances of ranking high in local organic results.
Good content starts with good keyword research, meaning you must find and target industry-relevant keywords with local intent.
I strongly recommend you check out our massive guide on how to do local SEO keyword research. You’ll also see what tools to use and handy keyword research tips.
Quality Website Content
High-quality content on your website can give a major boost to your Google Business Profile. For starters, your website will rank higher on Google and receive more users who will then check out your business profile.
The key aspects to consider with content are content quality and quantity.
Google has recently gone on record saying it doesn’t worry much about how content is produced as it relates to human-produced content versus AI-produced content.
The focus should be on providing content that is useful. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to satisfy Google’s algorithm (you do). It means that you should write content that is lengthy enough AND is helpful to users.
It’s not enough to create quality content. You’ll want to optimize it to help it rank higher on Google and other search engines.
Be sure to add relevant keywords in the title tag, image alt tags, heading tags, meta descriptions, and URLs across the whole website.
Healthy and high-quality backlinks to your website from industry-specific or related sites help build your website’s trust and authority. This improves your website and Google Business Page rankings.
Secure, Mobile Friendly, and Fast
Users want to know their information is safe when using your website. Have a secure website with a https configuration.
Make your site responsive and mobile-friendly to boost user experience and encourage more user visits and engagements.
I recommend getting your site speed below 2-3 seconds to reduce bounce rate, an important user experience metric Google tracks.
Too Long, Didn’t Read: GMB Ranking Factors Summary
This has been a long read, and I hope you’ve been with me all through. Here are the key highlights:
- The most important GMB ranking factors are the proximity of your business to the searcher’s location, a complete Google Business Profile, quality reviews & ratings, links & citations, and an optimized website.
- Focus on generating as many five-star reviews as possible.
- Your local business website and Google My Business page complement each other.
- Optimize your GMB to boost your website’s visibility on Google Maps and Google Search.
- Optimize your website with proper keyword research, quality content, on-page SEO, and a healthy user experience.