Most local businesses agree that word of mouth advertising and recommendations from friends are the best way to get new clients, and Google knows that too. So when Google dev1eloped their Places, they built reviews into the equation for determining which businesses should be given the highest rank. It’s not the only determining factor, but now more than ever, good – not just any – reviews are what you need to get on top and be seen in that lucky seven list of local businesses that show up on the first page for geo-targeted (local) business searches.
If yours is a local business, here are a few tips to help boost your rank in the Maps results.
I think most local businesses, if they’ve done any kind of research into what it takes to get found in Google, already know that to get found in the Maps results, your business location needs to be near the person conducting the query. But even if you’re a bit out of the way, there are some things you can do to convince Google that you are relevant and a good choice.
Check out the list of 2023 ranking factors report put out by one of my favorite local SEO resources, Bright Local. To keep this post short and sweet, I won’t be going over all of them (maybe later), but today I want to talk about #5, “Behavioral” factors.
According to their definition, behavioral factors are steps users take on your GBP (Google business page), and Google considers them pertinent because you can’t really control what someone chooses to do on your GBP and thereby fake your way to the top. These include clicks to website, clicks to call, driving directions, dwell time, leaving reviews, and asking questions.
Let’s tackle behavioral signals
I’ll talk about the others later. Today I just want to focus on behavioral signals. Why are these important? Because Google thinks that if people are trying to find your office, or store, or salon, or whatever it is, and then drive there, you must be popular. And popularity does play into Google’s ranking factors.
1. Get more driving direction requests
If you’re a plumber, you skip this section. Not one comes to you.
For everyone else, here are a few little tricks you might try to get those direction requests.
If your business takes appointments
Make sure you use some type of scheduling software that lets you send out reminders (or do it manually). Collect your clients’ cell phone number and text them a link to your GBP to get directions when they get in their car to come to you. Try to time it as close to the appointment as possible so they don’t forget to use it.
If you and others come in to work each day
Have everyone in your office go to your GBP and click the get directions every time they get in the car to come in to work. I don’t know if Google is actually watching in their Google Maps app, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. So I would recommend they open up the Google Maps app to search for your business and click the link there, just in case that matters.
If you have walk-in traffic (store, salon, etc.)
If yours is the type of business that has a lot of walk-in traffic, run a special that gets everyone coming in on a special day. If it’s something you can get registrations for, do and then text them the link to your GBP for driving directions an hour before the event.
Put a QR code to scan and send them to your GBP to get driving directions on ALL your marketing material.
2. Activity and engagement
Google also wants to see others engaging with your GBP. How can you improve that?
Post, post and post
Google gives you 4 ways to post on your GBP:
- What’s New
- Covid 19 Update
Use them all to your advantage for more engagement. Just remember why people are in Google looking for a business in the first place. They are looking to buy or hire, so don’t try to be entertaining with your GBP posts like you would in social media. Sell to them.
- Got a special deal? Post that as an “Offer” post.
- Create another “What’s New” post describing your services and how you might perform them better than others. To make it “new,” share a recent example.
- If you’re hosting a special event, even if it’s a special sale day, post it as an event.
- The Covid 19 Update may go away soon and you don’t really have any custom options here, but if they apply to you, use them. They are important to a lot of people still especially if you work in close proximity to your clients like hair stylists, dentists, even plumbers.
Products and services
Don’t be fooled into thinking if you don’t sell retail you can’t use the products feature. These are quite obvious in the SERPs, especially on phones, so use them to your advantage by filling them up with either products or services. They give your visitors a virtual “catalog” to scroll through.
And same thing applies here as to speaking to your audience. Show them you have what they came looking for and say what you need to say to convince them you’re the best option.
Here’s an example of a flashy set of animated product images we created for our client, a personal injury attorney in San Diego:
Seed your FAQs to encourage them to do the same
Plant your own questions in the “Questions and Answers” section of your GBP. Then answer them. You’ll be doing more of the tip above, but that will also let them know you’re open to discussion. So start the conversation.
I can write a book on how to do this, but to keep this short, put lots of efforts into getting reviews. There is no better activity on your GBP because it feeds the beast by both demonstrating engagement with your brand when your customers leave a review, but also by providing really engaging content to everyone else.
Pay to play
Finally, even before you can be found in Maps, you can increase your traffic there by paying for it. Here’s how to do it with a social media ad campaign:
- Create an ad that lands them on a GBP post to collect a discount code
- Create an ad announcing an in-store special and include a QR code and link to your GBP to get directions.
- And/or set up the promotion in your GBP using their promotion feature and then run an ad to that promotion.
3. Get clicks to website
Just about everything above that gets your visitors engaging with your GBP may also get them to click on the “Website” link which is in itself another behavioral signal! You can also boost that signal by including website links in every GBP post you create.
- Your clients love case studies when trying to vet a service provider. Leave an excerpt with a “Read the rest of the story here” link.
- If you’re adding a new service, link to a page explaining more of the details.
And that’s it.
Short and sweet. Hopefully it helps your maps ranking! Go forth and conquer and come back for more tips later.
Uggh. I hate it when I get these emails from my clients:
As evidenced by all their other 5-star reviews, my clients do great work, so great their clients or customers are motivated to take the time to go to Yelp and leave a review. These are real, honest, appreciative reviews. They’re not fakes. No one has been paid to leave those review.
And yet, Yelp hides them.
It’s easier with these easy-to-make review table tents and check sleeve inserts for restaurantsThese table tents may help restaurants and any business that has tables where customers sit or transaction counters such as at doctors’ offices. Scanning those QR codes will land your customers right onto your Google page where it’s very easy to leave a review.
Mike Blumenthal recently drew attention to the lack of category choices we’re all going to have to get used to in the new Google+ Local dashboard. Previously, we’d be able to create an additional 4 custom categories to describe our business services more accurately besides the one that Google provides. And we did so in hopes of giving us a better chance of showing up for those keywords.
This lack of choice has gotten a lot of Local SEO’s up in arms because as Mike points out:
“Categories are a critical piece of how Google determines the relevance (not rank) of a listing in local search and there are so few categories that the consumer search results will likely not show businesses that should be shown.”
Who am I to argue with “Professor Maps” as the Local SEO world affectionately calls him (and he deserves that distinction), but this just doesn’t make sense to me. I must be missing something. Isn’t that like saying Google doesn’t know what a web page is relevant for without the meta keywords tag it deprecated so long ago? If we rely on custom-made categories to group businesses into buckets, then aren’t we turning over the wheel to reckless drivers?
Nyagoslav Zhekov, a well-known Local SEO in the industry, recently wrote a blog comparing manual citation building with Yext, an online service that makes the normally long tedious process of citation building short and sweet.
(Citations, in case you don’t know, are mentions of your business throughout the web that include your name, address and phone number. These usually include listings in Google+ Local, YP, Yahoo, Yelp, Manta, Bing, Foursquare, Citysearch, and other hyperlocal directories and are important for helping local business get found wherever people are looking for local businesses. They also help websites rank higher in Google.)
Since there are literally hundreds of places your business can be listed, citation building is very time consuming, so when I first heard about Yext I was thrilled. Imagine being able to create and maintain 50 of these listings from one dashboard with just one account instead of 50. Truly a time and headache saver.
But, aside from the cost, Nyagoslav drew attention to something about Yext that really ‘got my goat,” so to speak.