Google Local Rankings

Improve Google Local Rankings

Google local rankings are a primary revenue source for small and local business, and also for big brands with a local presence.  

There are over 4,000 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., each one servicing a local customer and local economy.

The same customer base that visits Wal-Mart is also being served by local law firms, dental practices, restaurants, pest control companies, landscapers, and all sort of small and local businesses serve.

From large corporate brands to small one per shops, Google local rankings are quickly becoming a primary revenue engine for the local economy as a whole.

So the question is, how can local businesses and big brands improve their Google local rankings so they can benefit from the increased traffic and exposure in their local markets?

That’s the question we dive into below!  

Being more informed will allow you to leverage the power of local search for your business.

3 Ways to Improve Google local Rankings

It’s important to understand that improving your Google local rankings is a function of understanding the factors that influence your local rankings.  

The more you understand and optimize the factors influencing your local rankings, the more improvement you’ll see in local productivity metrics such as website visits, phone calls, requests for directions, direct leads, and of course sales.

Here are the 3 factors that influence your Google local rankings.

Factor 1:  Relevance to local searches

In order to get found quickly in Google local search, your Google My Business listing must be relevant to what the person is searching for.

You increase relevance by making sure you cover the basics of local SEO such as adding complete and detailed business information to your Google My Business listing, select only the most relevant business categories, and creating a consistent relationship of data between your website and Google My Business listing.

For example, your hours of operation listed on your website should be accurate and complete, and should be an exact match to the hours of operation listed in your Google My Business listing.

If you select Personal Injury Attorney as your primary category on your GMB listing, then Personal Injury Attorney should be the main <h1> tag optimized in the metadata on the homepage of your website.

Creating a tight relationship between the business information listed on your website and your Google My Business listing will help you improve the relevance factor.

An improved relevance factor will help you perform better in Google local rankings when someone searches for the products and services you offer.

Factor 2:  Distance to your local business

Distance and proximity are perhaps the most powerful factors in determining Google local rankings.

Here’s a couple of stats that show the influence and relevance of distance in Google local rankings:

  • Over half of all searches are conducted from mobile phones
  • 56% of on the go searches have local intent
  • 78% of local-mobile searches resulted in a new customer for the local business
  • 88% of mobile phone owners conduct local searches
  • 84% percent of table owners conduct mobile searches

All of these data points are underpinned by the fact that near me searches have grown exponentially over the last 6 years.

Check out this near me growth chart via Google Trends

near me SEO searches

The way Google knows what businesses are near me is by using location data such as the IP address of your mobile device.  Meaning, Google is able to pinpoint exactly where you are located when you perform any given search, and then look to your immediate surrounding area to determine the most relevant businesses to show in Google local rankings.

In fact, the distance factor is so influential that people now expect Google to show locally relevant businesses even if near me is not part of the query.

Research shows over the last 2 years, locally relevant searches without near me included have grown by 150%, according to Think With Google.

When it comes to Google local rankings, understanding that you are optimizing for your relevant geographic market is extremely important.

Factor 3:  Prominence and location authority

Prominence:  leading, important, or well known (via

We’ve coined the term location authority as a way of expressing prominence in local search, which is basically the ranking of power your Google My Business listing has vs. all other competitors for any given keyword phrase.

To keep it simple, prominence and location authority are expressed in the ranking order of search results you see in Google Maps.

For example:

In the screenshot above you see the top Google Maps / Google local search results for the keyword phrase lawyers in Atlanta.

In the context of prominence and location authority, Morgan & Morgan has more location authority than any other law firm in the city of Atlanta in Google Maps.

Then John Foy & Associates would have the second highest level of location authority.

And The Law Offices of Howard J. Weintraub, P.C. would have the third highest level.

Again, this is a simplified expression of what we call location authority and prominence, but you get the idea.

How to build location authority and prominence

Location authority is built in a way that’s similar to the way PageRank and domain authority are built for websites.

Remember that domain authority is the ranking power of your website or web pages in Google organic search results… the non-local search results.

Location authority is built through a combination of backlinks, but with the added element of business citations.

Your local business citation is simply a published record of your local business information, sometimes referred to as your business NAP:  Business Name, Address, Phone Number, and website URL.

Here’s Bipper Media’s citation for our office location:

Bipper Media
855 Gaines School Rd, Ste A
Athens, Georgia 30605
(706) 363-0335

Citation distribution is the process in which your business citations are published to external resources and business directories.

And the total collection of all citations published across the web are what we refer to as your citation portfolio.

It’s not quite this simple, but you can say that the more prominence your citation portfolio has, the more location authority your GMB listing will have, and the higher you’ll rank in Google local / Google Maps for related keyword phrases.

Category selection is key to location authority

Location authority is mostly relevant to specific business categories.

For example, if you are a personal injury law firm in Atlanta, your business category would be personal injury attorney.

This business category drives relevance and authority to any search query that’s topically related to personal injury.

Google looks to understand the intent of what someone is searching.  So any keyword phrase that would appear to have the intent of someone looking for a personal injury lawyer (as an example), would trigger the search results within the personal injury attorney category.

Read a great article by Search Engine Journal called User Intent: It’s the Future of SEO.

After the topical relevance of intent is established, the distance you are located from the person making the search is considered (distance factor #2 above).

Finally, when you have topical / categorical relevance and distance established, Google will identify all of the businesses within that location that categorized as personal injury attorney, and will instantly analyze their backlink and citation portfolio to determine location authority.

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