The Beginner’s Guide to Key Ranking Factors for Local Search

Did you know that people are now searching for businesses near them more than ever before? SEO strategies change all the time but local search is really changing the game for digital marketing experts. 

With the ever constantly changing landscape, marketing teams and business owners need to be flexible to act fast and optimise their local businesses online as well as understand and stay updated with key ranking factors for local search.

If you’re a business struggling to understand Google’s local ranking factors and don’t know where to start, this beginner’s guide can help you find your place on the map and make your business the “king of the hill”.

The Basics: Put Yourself on Google Maps

The very foundation of doing well in local search optimisation is to put yourself on the map — specifically on Google Maps. If you search for your business and can’t find yourself, then you’ll need to take action.

There are two ways to add your business on Google Maps but we’ll get to that in a moment. Before we teach you how to rank higher with this extremely important step, we’ll give you a quick rundown on the benefits of Google Maps.

Here’s why you should take advantage of Google Maps for local search marketing:

  • 76% of people who search for a local business on Maps will visit their physical store within 24 hours. (Chatmeter)
  • 18% of visits based on a simple mobile search end up with a purchase. (Junto)
  • Prospective customers tend to choose business listings on Google Maps as long as you have updated and accurate business information. (Google Support)
  • 46% of all searches on Google are seeking local information (Today’s Local Media)
  • Google Local Search beats social media as a traffic source by 300% (imForza) 

Convinced that Google Maps helps your business is an important local pack ranking factor? We’re glad you are. So now that you’re ready to add your business, here are the two ways you can be found faster.

1. ‘Add a Missing Place’

The directions are straightforward when you click ‘Add a Missing Place’: Fill in the business name, category and address. The location appears instantly on the map and there’s no further action needed if you simply want to have your location there.

But if you want to further optimise your listing, you’ll want to do number two.

2. Create a Google My Business Listing

Imagine a Google My Business listing as a free spot on the world’s biggest search engine. Here are the steps you can follow to create a GMB listing for free:

  1. Sign in the Google My Business page. You can use any email address you have but we do recommend to use your company email address.
  2. Type in your business name. If your business name appears on a drop-down list, you can select it from there as well.
  3. Enter your store’s physical address. You’ll also have the option to list your service outside of your address if you go to your client’s houses. This is applicable to services like plumbers, roof specialists and cleaning contractors.
  4. Choose the most appropriate business category. This rather small but extremely important part of creating a GMB listing helps Google index your business in subsequent local searches.
  5. Put in your phone number and your website URL. We recommend that you use UTM parameters — tags that help you track how well online marketing campaigns are doing — if you’re using Google Analytics and similar tools.
  6. Wait for your verification via post, which may take up to 14 days. While waiting, you can add more details like hours of operation, special hours (if you do deliveries or take aways), and a business description.

Just take note that anyone, and we mean anyone, can add a business on Google Maps. This means that there will be duplicates of your business within one location and you’ll need to take those out to avoid losing customers with the wrong information.

Claim Your Spot… Or Rather, Your Listing

In our previous point, we established that you need to create a location on Google Maps to be seen. But when you see your business on Google Maps and the information is accurate, what do you do?

You can claim that listing as yours before someone else does. 

To claim an existing GMB listing, simply:

  1. Go to Google Maps and search for your business.
  2. Click ‘Claim this business’ and then ‘Manage now.’
  3. Select a verification option and follow the next steps, which are all straightforward.

So why do you need to do this?

Aside from increasing the likelihood of your business being seen on Google local search results, claiming a Google My Business listing helps you improve the following:

  • Control information about your business. Naturally, if you claim your listing, you can manage the information that goes out. If you leave a listing on its own, either Google or other users can edit the information, which may give incorrect details – risking the potential frustration and negative experience of would-be-customers.
  • Monitor and respond to reviews and questions. Reviews are extremely important for customers as it influences their purchase decisions and makes or breaks your online reputation. On Google My Business, there are reviews and Q&A functions in which customers can leave feedback and questions on for you — and others — to see. Answer these reviews and questions in a timely manner and show your customers you are listening.
  • Your website’s local SEO strategy. Google My Business is considered a legitimate backlink that brings potential customers or clients to your website. Once you have your basic business information appearing on the Knowledge Panel on the right of each Google local search result, the GMB listing boosts the position of your website on SERPs.

This goes to show that claiming your Google My Business listing is a must if you want to rank high in local search.

NAPs are Important

We all love naps and so does Google. But we don’t mean those power nap slumbers on a Sunday afternoon. We mean:

  • Name of business
  • Address
  • Phone Number

These are the three basic details you need to add on your Google My Business listing. This is because Google scans all sorts of information about your business to determine ranking. Incorrect NAPs means poor user experience and low search results.

Face it: People are searching for you. They’re searching for your business and they want to know how they can reach you. So if you push the right NAP out there, customers won’t be sleeping on your brand but waking up and walking towards your store.

Categories for Easier Googling

When you create a Google My Business listing, one of the details you’ll have to enter in is a business category. There are a myriad of categories and you need to pick the most appropriate one for your business.

For example: You own a family-own pizza parlour named Joe’s and Moe’s in one of Melbourne busiest streets. You don’t have a direct competitor in the area but if there’s someone looking for a pizza place nearby, they might skip on your establishment because you don’t have the right business category. 

When you realise this, you’ll need to change your primary category from ‘Cafe’ to ‘Pizza restaurant’. You can add ‘Cafe’ as a secondary category if you serve coffee in the afternoons. 

Categories are a huge ranking factor for local search results. Aside from your NAP, your primary category helps Google index your listing and push your information to users searching for nearby businesses like yours.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

When you search on Google, how do you form your query? For many, it’s framed as a question, while others use important words and skip on the articles, prepositions and proper sentence formation altogether.

What’s most important though is the keywords users type in. So when you do your keyword research, think of what your customers will most likely ask when they search on Google.

Let’s go back to that pizza place in the previous point. You’re the head marketing honcho and you want to improve your local SEO strategy. What questions do you think your customers are writing on the search bar for your business to appear on search results?

  • Pizza place melbourne
  • Pizza place near me
  • Pizza place open 24/7
  • Pizza place that delivers near me
  • Pizza place family friendly

These are just a few queries that you can take advantage of when you form your Google My Business listing description and future posts. Skip the generic phrases though and use broad and competitive search terms like ‘cheese pizza in melbourne’. Use industry keywords to help describe your products or services and think of modifiers like ‘best pizza place in melbourne’.

Write Localised Blogs

Last but not least, let’s go back to your website. We’ve extensively talked about how Google My Business greatly helps improve local search optimisation but we cannot neglect an important piece of the puzzle: your website.

Just because you have a listing and it’s ranking quite well doesn’t mean that you can forget about updating your website. They actually go hand-in-hand. When you write blogs, make sure that you’re talking about your community and use keywords related to your local business. 

Remember how we talked about your GMB listing serving as a backlinking tool? You can use this for your blogs as well. Google My Business enables owners to publish posts that promote updates, offers, new products and other details that you want your customers to know. Write a quick caption and paste in your blog on the CTA button and hit ‘Publish’. 

If it’s time-sensitive and relevant to your area’s activities, you’ll see it bring in more customers sooner or later.

Google’s local search ranking factors help you get ahead of your competition. Use this in your SEO strategy and see search results convert to customers when you properly optimise your GMB listing and use it alongside your website. 

Stuck on improving your business’ local search ranking factors? Social Fox is here to help. We specialise in search engine optimisation in Australia, helping local businesses reach their audiences and convert those queries into profits. Visit our website to take a look at our services or contact us right away to avail of our SEO services.

Luke Stocker

Luke Stocker

I work with businesses to automate their sales and marketing.

Luke Stocker

Luke Stocker

I work with businesses to automate their sales and marketing.