This is a story we hear all the time: You want to see the results of your local search marketing, so you search Google for your business, but nothing comes up.
What gives? Either you’ve been working hard, or you’ve partnered with a digital marketing agency that is promising you some local search magic. But, here you are, searching for your business, and you're nowhere to be found.
Today, we’ll talk about why this happens and try to give you a better understanding of how local search rankings work.
And, we’ll finish things up by giving you tips to make sure your business shows up in the right searches!
What Is Used to Determine Local Search Rankings?
To start, we need to identify how Google’s local rankings work.
These are the three main factors that determine whether your business will show up in a search:
Relevance relates to how closely your business matches the search terms or keywords. It takes much more than just saying “hey, I’m a roofing contractor, so show my business when someone searches for a roofing contractor!” (If only.)
Complete business details and a fully optimized website help determine your business’s relevance to a search in addition to your primary category.
Distance is self-explanatory. Your business has a specific location that Google knows, and the searcher has a specific location. Google wants to show the businesses closest to the searcher.
Prominence has just as much to do with branding as it does with digital signals. Positive reviews, other directory listings, articles and relevant links all contribute to prominence.
So, where does Google find all the information that helps it determine your ranking?
Where Does Google Get Business Information?
We’ve talked a lot about business information, so it is important to know where Google gets its information about your business:
- Information you’ve added to your Google My Business account
- Your website
- User-submitted information
- Third-party sources (like directories or Facebook)
The business owner is the primary provider of business information on a listing. This happens typically when a listing is created and managed. There shouldn’t be inconsistencies with what you provide.
Your website is also crawled and indexed by Google, and that information helps validate the information on the listing.
If your hours, address, or phone number doesn’t match what you put on your listing, Google may make the correction automatically, or not trust the information from either source. It’s important to keep your website up-to-date at all times.
Users can also provide information about your business through reviews or suggesting edits to your listing.
Google may also ask users to answer questions about a business they recently visited, like “does this business only accept cash payments?” These answers can lead to inaccuracies, so it is best to ensure all information is accurate by checking the listing on a regular basis.
Google and other directories will also receive information from business listing databases and other services.
Since you don’t have direct control of this information, it is important to validate any changes on these listings on a regular basis or even submit the information directly to ensure everything is completely accurate.
Most Common Issues Affecting Visibility
Now that we know how Google ranks your business, let’s talk about why you might not be showing up in those searches:
- Inconsistent information
- Violation of guidelines
- Recent changes to information
- Your search history
An unverified listing has very little chance of appearing in local search results. If Google can’t validate your business, why would it put you in search results? There is no substitute for a verified Google listing.
Your business’s presence on additional directories can increase its prominence. There’s a catch, though. All that information needs to match your Google info. Small things can be detrimental here: Incorrect address formatting, wrong phone number, missing website URL, etc.
Violating the guidelines of any directory is an easy way to decrease your visibility. This could come in the form of using an invalid address, keyword stuffing, or multiple listings at the same address.
If you are in violation of any listing guidelines, it’s safe to say you won’t show up often.
Recent changes to your business information will influence visibility as well (especially moving locations). This is usually temporary though, and your listing can rebound.
And, your search history and location have a lot to do with things. How many times have you searched for your business without clicking it? Are you inside your gym and searching for a gym?
If that’s the case, Google might not show your business. It just doesn’t seem like the right answer to your search. And don’t forget: If you’re at home, 40 minutes from your business and searching for it, it’s probably too far away, just like we talked about in the distance section.
This doesn’t mean other people won’t see it. It just means that you may be searching for the same thing too often.
Improving Your Visibility
Google has identified a few key things you can do to help improve your business’s visibility in local search results:
- Complete ALL available data fields
- Verify the listing
- Ensure your hours of operation are accurate
- Add photos
- Manage and respond to reviews
Google provides many data fields in a business listing, and they are used to help determine your relevance to each search. The more data fields you have filled out, the better.
Verifying the listing can be one of the easiest ways to help your visibility. A typical verification process involves receiving a postcard at the business address and keying in the PIN code Google provides.
Google sources some of the information about your business from its users, so watch out for inconsistencies in hours of operation! This can lead to less visibility.
Consumers want to see your business before they contact or visit you. Google also looks very favorably upon photos, as they are an additional layer of validity for your business, so add some behind-the-scenes photos to improve your local search presence.
Responding to reviews helps Google see that you are actively involved in managing your listing and allows customers to see that your business views and reacts to customer feedback.
Who Sees Your Business: You or Your Customers?
Let’s say you’ve done everything right according to the information above, but you still can’t find your business in local search results.
What do you do now?
If you can’t find yourself in searches, you might think that no one else can find you either. Again, this probably is not the case.
Instead of searching and trying to find yourself, check your Google My Business Insights. You’ll be able to see how a customer found your listing (searches), where a customer found you (views), and what they did (clicks).
You will also need to identify which is more important to the visibility and health of your business: you seeing your listing, or customers seeing your listing.