A study by search marketing consultants brings a new level of white-coat precision to what’s ultimately a guessing game: Figuring out how Google ranks local businesses in its search results.
Consultants Local SEO Guide partnered with the University of California at Irvine’s Center for Statistical Consulting, to analyze 30,000 listings for local businesses on Google. In particular, they looked for clues on why the Google My Business page for a business made it into the “3-Pack”, the box with the map just below the ads at the top of the first search page. Like these lucky plumbers:
So, based on science, here are Local SEO Guide’s highly educated guesses on what works in local search engine optimization (SEO).
Links: Most Important
For both the Google My Business and website rankings, the number and quality of links pointing to a website came out as the #1 signal in the survey.
Website: More Words = Better Ranking
Relevant keywords, yes, but just more words on the page appeared to push sites higher.
“Citations”: Necessary but Not Sufficient
Citations = SEO-speak for listings on directory sites. If they’re missing or inconsistent across directories, fixing them greatly improves chances of moving up to the top. But if they’re not in disrepair, improving them doesn’t appear to reliably move a site higher, researchers found.
Google My Business Page: Fill It Up
You can add reviews and photos to your Google My Business page, as well as verify with Google that the information is correct – and you should. Statistics showed a strong correlation between high ranking and bells and whistles on the GMB page.
Business Name: Better with Keywords
A descriptive business name for Google My Business, like “Golden West Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical”, came out as a strong positive ranking factor—even though it can be ridiculously abused by spammers who put every keyword they can think of in the business name. On the other hand, adding a city and state to the GMB title apparently does not impress Google, though SEO consultants often recommend that as a best practice, says Local SEO Guide.
The Bottom Line:
Based on the findings of the study, Local SEO Guide recommends you divvy up your local search engine optimization efforts, following this scientific-looking chart:
Read more about the research study on the SEO Local Guide site.
Dex Media offers search engine optimization services for local businesses.