How to Get Your Business to the Top of Google’s Search Results: 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors
An online presence is essential for businesses who want to show up when potential customers Google their services, but how can you ensure you appear above your competition?
According to Bright Local, 53 per cent of consumers search for a local business at least once per month. So getting your business to rank at the top in Google when potential customers Google ‘lawn care company [insert your city here]’ or ‘[city] plumber’ is every service business owner’s goal.
How do you make that happen?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of optimizing your website, so that it is found on search engine results pages. The ultimate goal is to get your website at the top of the first page of search results, and this relies on a long list of constantly shifting factors. This is especially true when it comes to how Google ranks searches for local businesses and services.
Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, breaks down the nitty gritty details of how you can optimize your site so you can move up the Google results page in your local area. Moz’s article is full of interesting data for those who want to dive into the technical details.
In this article, we’re going to go over the top five (in order of impact) local search ranking contributors, and we’ve even sourced further insight from the survey author himself, Darren Shaw.
1. Google My Business listings
This factor is the easiest to implement, so if you do one thing after reading this article please create a Google My Business listing.
Google allows you to create a business listing where you can indicate your industry, hours, website, phone number, and location. Setting this page up also allows you to collect reviews, and post photos.
This year, photos seem to be playing a small role in helping to boost your search ranking, the thinking being that photos of your work help Google ensure that you’re providing quality service. So make sure that you snap some before and after shots of your great work to post to this page.
Filling out your business hours also affects your search ranking, so take a few minutes to fill in those blanks.
Having your industry or service indicated in the spot for your business name is important. If your lawn care company is called ‘The Green Crew’ then you may want to list yourself as ‘The Green Crew Lawn Care.’
But don’t try and take shortcuts by loading up the spot for your business name with popular search terms. ‘Amy’s Pest Control’ should not become ‘Amy’s Pest Control Exterminators Cockroach Killers.’ Google may penalize you with a lower ranking for spammy behavior like this.
What you can add to your business name is your location, and that will help bump up your search ranking. ‘Amy’s Pest Control Seattle’ gets the green light when it comes to modifying your business name as it actually helps Google give local searchers more accurate results.
Visit our post on setting up your Google My Business listing for more information on the impact that setting up this page can have on your website traffic.
‘Amy’s Pest Control’ should not become ‘Amy’s Pest Control Exterminators Cockroach Killers.’ Google may penalize you with a lower ranking for spammy behavior like this.
2. Links to your website
When other trustworthy websites link to your site, also known as inbound links or backlinks, these mentions play a big role in upping your search ranking. Why? Google sees a link from a website in good standing (no spam sites!) to your site as a sort of vote of confidence that your business’ website is legitimate.
According to survey author, Darren Shaw, developing links is well worth your time.
“More than anything this year, we’re seeing that links to your website will have a positive impact on your rankings. Especially links from locally relevant websites.”
Where to start?
“Work on getting links from businesses you partner with, local charities and non-profits, local business organizations, etc.,” says Darren.
Developing links isn’t easy, but as Darren mentions, you likely have some existing local connections that could place your website address.
For an in-depth look at link-building, check out this article Darren (in his other role as founder of Whitespark, a company that provides local search expertise) sent us that provides 7 local link-building tactics.
3. On-page signals
Does your website contain the right information to help Google identify it as a local plumbing, HVAC, landscaping, etc. company?
Your business name, address, and phone number (or NAP, as it’s often called), and relevant keywords in text and page headings are examples of on-page signals that affect your search ranking.
Ensuring that ‘pest control company’ makes it into your website text is also important if you want Google to recognize your business when people search ‘pest control company.’ You can do research to uncover the popular keywords people use to search for your services so that you can ensure the top phrases are found on your site. We cover the basics of keyword research in our post on getting started with SEO.
Moz has a category of articles dedicated to this topic if you want to dive deeper. If getting this technical isn’t your thing, but you know your website needs some work in this area to rank higher, then talking to a digital marketing agency that can recommend and make these SEO tweaks for you might be worth the investment.
A citation is a listing of your business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP again!) on other websites such as business association or trades directories. If Google sees that your business’ NAP is listed on multiple sites then it will determine you’re a legitimate business and bump you a bit higher than businesses without any citations.
However, Darren cautions against spending too much time on this factor.
“Citations used to be the go-to tactic for local search. They are not a competitive difference maker anymore, but they are still the foundation of local search rankings. If you don’t have the core important citations in place, you won’t rank, but building 300 more citations isn’t going to move the needle once you have the foundation in place.”
Having your business’ NAP listed on your Google My Business page is a good start, and you can find a list of other key sites to place citations at the bottom of our article on starting your Google My Business page.
Darren Shaw, Whitespark
If you don’t have the core important citations in place, you won’t rank, but building 300 more citations isn’t going to move the needle once you have the foundation in place.
Customer reviews on your Google My Business page are becoming more and more important when it comes to ranking in Google, and that’s no surprise considering that 84% of local consumers trust web reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Colan Nielsen, of Powered by Search, sheds some light on why Google My Business page reviews matter when it comes to Google rankings.
“…just put yourself in Google’s shoes for a minute. Do you feel there is more value to the searcher (and to Google’s own interests) in showing them a listing with no reviews, where the user needs to go to Yelp and other places to get more information to make a decision? Or is it more valuable to show a listing that has a ‘story’ about that business in the form of reviews, which allows the user to get all the information they need to either choose or not choose that business?”
7 out of 10 people will leave a review if you simply ask, so make it a habit to simply ask a customer to leave a review as you finish up a job, or send them a follow-up email asking for a review with a link to your review pages.
There you have it, the top five contributors that will help your business rank higher than your competition in Google search results. Technical? Yes. But effort that could result in plenty of new customer inquiries.
Don’t know where to start? We suggest starting with your Google My Business Listing, and following that up with some time spent filling out quality citations, along with implementing a simple review collection plan. Got those bases covered? Then head into on-page signal and link-building territory.
Have any burning questions about SEO and local search ranking factors? No inquiry is too technical, so leave your comments below and we’ll find an expert to address your question!