One of the most important marketing tools you have at your disposal is free. Yes, I said it. “Free.” To be successful with local marketing, you have to think about Google as your homepage. According to Google, 46% of all searches have local intent. Amongst these searches, users are most often looking for basic information about businesses around them:
- What is nearby?
- What are the business hours?
- What is the menu?
Google serves users with this basic information about businesses in their area in a simple format that the search engine can customize based on the searcher’s intent, device, location, and search preferences.
This magic listing to end all listings is none other than….Google My Business.
Leveraging Google My Business As A Lead Generation Source
With access to over 5,700 client Google My Business listings, we’ve had a lot of practice helping businesses optimize their listings for the searches most important to their business. When you boil it down Google My Business is a very simple tool, we’re going to help you harness its power by breaking it down step by step. In this article, we will answer 3 of the most important questions most marketers have about using Google My Business as a lead generation source for local marketing.
- What is the Local Map Pack?
- What determines if your Google My Business Listing ranks in the Local Map Pack?
- How can you get the most out of your Google My Business listing today?
The Map Pack
We’ve all seen the map pack on Google Search; it shows the top 3 business listings for a search that Google recognizes as being local. About 32% of all clicks on the Google Search Engine Results page go to the Local Map Pack results. Check out this example of a search for “kayaks near me.”
By clicking into the map on the Map Pack you will be directed to the Maps section of Google Search where you can scroll through all of the locations in your area that sell or rent Kayaks.
A note here: This is actually subtly different from performing a search in “Google Maps.” Take a look at the difference in the URLs:
Google Search Map:
Google Maps Search:
You will notice that the interface and results will be slightly different depending on where you are searching. Here is what a google maps search for “kayaks near me” looks like:
Notice that Vibe Kayak’s organic listing has dropped a position, Suspenz has jumped up 2 positions, Kayak Roswell has a different picture, and other listings have reordered, etc. If you are measuring your Local Map Pack search rankings to track your local search engine optimization (SEO) progress your listing may have a different position in the Google Search Map and Google Maps interface.
Despite these subtle differences, we can see both of these searches reveal the main ranking factor for both Google Maps and the Map Pack: proximity.
Map Pack Ranking Factors
In 2018, the SEO data and software authority, Moz, did a very detailed Local Pack ranking factor study. They found that the top-ranking factor, making up a quarter of all ranking factors, is a combination of your search proximity and type of business in terms of how it relates to your customers’ search queries.
Proximity And Business Category
If you own a sporting goods store that sells kayaks, in general, proximity and business category are 2 things that are pretty hard to change. Both are set in stone when and where you decide to open your business. Hopefully, you’ve set up shop in an area where people are looking for kayaks, and have a business name that accurately describes your outdoor offerings. Changing these two things would require you to move or rename your business (either of which are advised), or expand on the products and services your outdoor store offers.
Link Signals And Reviews
Luckily, these aren’t the only things that influence your Google My Business Listings search rankings. Link signals make up about 17% of the search ranking factors. This mostly has to do with the amount of buzz you’ve created online. For example, are people talking about your kayaks on their white water kayaking blog? Are they sharing your kayaks on their list of top 10 kayak dealers in Metro Atlanta? Link signals tell Google that you have valuable products, services or content that people are genuinely interested in.
Review signals make up 15% of ranking factors and communicate a similar concept to Google: you have a large customer base who are willing to back (or not back) your product or service. When many people post positive reviews of your kayaks online, Google will trust your listing to be the answer searchers are looking for. Both link and review signals are all about how much your customers recommend your outdoor shop to others.
On-page signals makeup about 14% of local ranking factors and are all about the quality of the website domain that live on your Google My Business Listing. You should have a high-quality website with your business name, address, and phone number that matches your Google My Business listing. Your website should have content talking about important products and services that you offer. Do you offer local kayak tours? Make sure you have a product page on your website telling exactly what your customers should expect and where you’ll be going (and maybe even post an event to your Google My Business listing with a link to this page). Have, at minimum, a page describing each of your core products and services.
As a local outdoor store, your site doesn’t have to be super complex, just easy to navigate with a strong internal linking structure and full of information on the purpose of your business. Putting a little effort into researching the keywords your customers are searching in relation to your business and making sure these terms are used within your website content goes a long way in terms of your local search visibility.
Citation And Social Signals
Citation Signals makeup about 11% of ranking factors and simply include having your business listed on popular local directories other than Google My Business like Yelp, Apple Maps, Bing Places, Foursquare, etc. If there are any local, categorical listings relevant to your business type make an effort to get listed on these types of websites. Having a high number of citations with consistent business name, address and phone number is all it takes to cover this ranking factor.
Social signals make up less than 3% of local search ranking factors and have to do with your presence on social media and how many people are sharing your content. Building up a social media following can be very beneficial to your business (this is an entirely different blog), but simply having a Facebook and Instagram profile and posting often will cover this signal.
Behavioral Signals And Personalization
Behavior signals makeup about 10% of ranking factors and have to do with how much customers are interacting with your Google My Business listing and website. Are people who search for kayaks calling your business or going to your website? Do they look through pictures of different kayaks you have posted? Do they sift through your reviews?
Personalization makes up about 6% of local search ranking factors and has to do with making it easier for your customers to interact with your business, this includes having order online or chat features on your Google My Business listing and website. Personalization will vary in importance depending on your business type and location.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Google My Business Listing
Now that you’re an expert on map pack ranking factors, how can you leverage your newfound knowledge to build the best dang business listing since the yellow pages were invented?
1. Fill out all relevant fields on your Google My Business Listing.
Grab the low hanging fruit! The quickest way to help your Google My Business listing rank better is to fill out everything. Make sure you have a strong business description that uses keywords that are important to your business. Here is an example of a great localized business description from Kayaks To Go ATL:
Their description is full of local modifiers like “Chattahoochee,” and “Georgia.” They use keywords important to their business like “Kayak concierge rental,” “drop off and pick up services,” “kayaks,” and “river tours.”
You can see that they also utilize the “Products” section of the Google My Business listing with a detailed description of their “All Day Kayak Rental” service and pricing with a link back to their website for customers to take action.
They also upload posts and photos of their business with some great content and call to actions:
Other types of businesses should utilize features that Google provides for their business type. For example, restaurants should fill out the “Menu” feature and utilize “Order Ahead” and “Delivery” features on Google My Business listings. Service focused businesses like plumbers or interior designers may want to turn on the “Messaging” feature so their potential customers can ask questions and get quotes in real-time.
2. Solicit reviews from happy customers.
Reviews are a HUGE ranking factor. Successful businesses don’t just magically start getting reviews, successful businesses ask for reviews. Train your employees to identify happy customers and casually ask them to review your business online.
If you have a system that collects customer emails or a rewards program you can use an automated Net Promoter Score (NPS) software (there are a lot of free and inexpensive options available) to ask for these reviews. NPS software automatically sends surveys to your customers to give you feedback about your products and services, if a customer gives you a good review most software will direct customers to your Google My Business listing or website to post a public review.
Reply to all of the reviews you receive, positive or negative, and use important business keywords in your reply.
3. Measure your progress.
You can’t measure your progress if you don’t know where you started. Main KPIs for Google My Business listing include your Local Map Pack search rankings and various statistics about your listing that Google provides you with:
Direct Queries: These are searches for your business name or location.
Indirect Queries: These are categorical searches for generic products or services related to your business.
Branded Search: A branded search is when a customer finds your listing when searching for a brand related to your business (for an outdoor store this might be a specific brand of kayak).
Total Views: Total number of impressions a location receives from search.
Total Actions: The total number of website clicks, phone calls, direction requests or chats on your business listing.
Focus on improving your indirect queries and total views to increase your search visibility, and search rankings to increase your click-through rate on important search queries. These Google statistics disappear after 90 days so investing in a tool like Adplorer that stores this information.
Racking up 35% of the clicks on the Search Engine Results Page, Google My Business is a vital piece of your local marketing strategy. Having a strong Google My Business listing that ranks well for important keywords will generate traffic both to your website and directly to your business. The only thing it costs is your time.