What is a Google Business Listing?
It’s funny isn’t it? I ramble on about speaking the same language as your potential customers but when it comes to Google Local, the Big G really doesn’t make things easy!
Let me explain…
Earlier in the week I had a call from a lady who wanted to set up her Google business listing – her words. We were chatting away and I was browsing around the web looking at her business visibility when I spotted a Google Plus Local Business Page for her business.
It was a nice page. The address was verified, there were several images uploaded, a cover, a description – everything you would expect to see.
She already has a business listing. Were we talking about the same thing?
It turns out that we were.
The lady in question assumed because she was not ranking in the local listing pack in search that she didn’t have the right type of Google business listing. She’s created her local business page earlier in the year through Google Plus before the introduction of Google My Business.
What’s in a name?
This got me thinking about terminology. I often use the term Google Local since Google+ Local Business Pages emerged a while back. Business owners I talk with use a range of names to mean the same thing. I had a flick through my emails and these terms popped out:
- Google Business Listing
- Google Local Listing
- Google Places
- Google Maps Listing
- Places Listing
- Google Local Business Center (from the ark that one!)
Not forgetting Google Places for Business – the previous official Google name.
It doesn’t matter what you call your Google business listing, as long as you are clear on what it actually is. All these terms refer to the same aim – to get listed on Google with the potential of becoming one of the markers on the map in the local search results.
The marker and map listings in search are also known as the 7-pack, 3-pack or whatever number Google is experimenting with this week. You’ll usually see 3 or 7 listings.
Is it any wonder people are confused? If all the terminology drives you insane, Moz have a comprehensive Local Search Terms Glossary
The most current form of business listings are created through Google My Business www.google.co.uk/business
Google My Business doesn’t always solve the confusion as Google My Business pages may be local or brand pages. Only local pages (Shop Front or Service Area) will show in the local pack. If you created a brand page in error, I have a video showing how to change to a Local Page.
Now hopefully we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet and we can start to look at how to get your Google business listing into the pack.
Ranking Your Google Local Page
The 3 main reasons I personally see for Google business pages not ranking are:
- Your local data is a mess
- You’re breaking Google’s Local Quality Guidelines
- You’re in a very competitive industry and area
Of course, if your business just simply falls outside the area that Google deems the centroid you may never rank directly in the local pack. In that case it’s best to focus your efforts ranking pages in the organic results.
Where to start?
As with all Google search results, local search results are driven by algorithms. Us mere mortals do not know what the exact algorithms are, but we can learn by watching and experimenting. Moz publishes Google Local Ranking Factors regularly (there’s one due soon I hope) that is always an interesting read.
Like everything else online, you will see pages that obviously breach the guidelines and get away with it. For Google Local Business Pages you come across that are obviously spammy you can report them. There’s an edit button beneath the about section that works only for pages with a full address visible (not service based businesses), or try using the feedback form for service business pages. Don’t expect to hear back from Google or see any changes overnight (if any at all).
Rather than ride the slippery slope trying to game the system, focus on providing the best experience you can with your Google Local Page, your website and associated business listings.
At this point I am going to assume you have created your Local Business Page either via Google Places (when it existed), Google Plus or more recently Google My Business. Have you:
- checked you comply to the most up to date guidelines
- completed your business details using your commonly used business name and postal address
- chosen categories that are relevant to your business
- uploaded a cover photo, profile photo and images
- completed your description without keyword stuffing it or adding your location
- verified your page
Note that any changes you make may not immediately reflect on your page. Changes to your business name, address, telephone may trigger a re-verification and/or a call from Google Maps. Also be aware that any changes you make will not immediately reflect in local rankings (if at all).
Resist the urge to keep tweaking! Get all the necessary correct info on your page and other than popping in to add new photos, leave it alone. You are going to need the patience of a saint from here on in.
Who the hell are you anyway?
By far the biggest issue I come across with people who contact me about ranking their Google business page is messy data. Really messy.
The Moz Local Search Ranking Factors identify 83 foundational ranking factors and 97 competitive difference makers. What it boils down to is this:
- WHO are you?
- WHERE are you?
- WHAT do you do?
- BUZZ who is talking about you?
The Google local algo looks at:
- your Google My Business Page
- your website and its authority
- citations around the web
- reviews on Google and around the web
There was a time you could rank in the local pack without a website. That is getting increasingly rare, although you will still see the occasional listing with no website.
Your task is to look at your web presence as a whole and try to ensure consistency across the board.
It’s much easier aim for consistency right from the very start of building your online footprint. However, businesses do expand, they move, take on partners, go limited with a different registered name or take on partners and change names. Business data can and does change over time.
It can take hours of work tracking down and cleaning data and weeks (or months) for changes to filter through. Do not expect instant results, you’ll be disappointed!
Consistency Is Key For Ranking
Let’s take a quick look at WHO…
What is your business name?
That’s not a trick question.
Time and time again, I see businesses who swap and change their business name depending on where they are listed. Sometimes this is a slow natural change as a business matures over years. Often, it’s to try and get across a particular product or service that is relevant to a specific business listing.
Rather than embarrass any particular business, I’ll use a made up example of Joe Bloggs Plumbing and Heating.
Our imaginary business has a main website for “Joe Bloggs Plumbing and Heating”. They have additional satelite websites where they brand themselves as:
- “Cheap Cityname Plumbing”
- “Cheap Cityname Heating”
- “Bloggs Cityname Plumbing and Drains”
- “Bloggs Boiler Breakdown Cityname”
Their Google My Business Local Page has the business name as Cityname Plumbing and Heating (possible breach of Guidelines depending on what their actual business name is). Their main website, postal address and phone are also used.
They have several free business listings on the same popular major directory site. All list the same address and phone number but point to the equivalent satellite websites:
- Bloggs Domestic Plumbing Services
- Bloggs Domestic Heating Services
- Bloggs 24/7 Plumbing and Drains
- Bloggs Boiler Specialists
They have several other business and trade directory listings. Their business name and website used changes from site to site depending on which specific trade they are targeting.
What they have is a data mess.
Don’t Be Joe Bloggs
The diagram makes your eyes boggle a bit. In the example, you see 9 possible business names. Unfortunately, this is not over exaggerated, I’ve seen much worse!
Now multiply the business name discrepancies by:
- address discrepancies around the web
- possible tracking phone numbers around the web
- several satellite websites they were told were a good idea
- and heaven knows how much bad scraped data that’s floating around the web
In an effort to be visible to more people online they have effectively become invisible.
- Their main website may struggle to rank because it has little authority and competes against the satellite sites
- Their satellite websites may struggle to rank because they also have little authority. They are essentially the same info as their main site so Google ignores them
- The business name on their Google My Business Local Page contains their location. It is a violation of Guidelines and may be enough in itself not to rank
- Google doesn’t have a clue who the business really is because it struggles to match data, so possibly no local pack visibility anyway
- People struggle to find them. Hopefully they do through the multitude of directories. But there’s no name consistency and that is not good news for trust or gathering reviews.
Of course, there’s always exceptions. You may see a direct competitor using the technique outlined above and crushing the rankings. It is not good practice. The best advise I can give you is be consistent and build authority on your main website rather than splitting your efforts between sites.
Why is inconsistency with business data an issue?
Your Google My Business page is not a “business listing” in the traditional sense. Yes, you can add your details and keep them updated, but Google decides what data it will use.
You have no direct control in the matter.
Google will compare data you provide with:
- Your website
- Major data providers’ information
- Business directories information
- Any other citations and mentions around the web it finds, including all those extra satellite websites
The more Google can match up data about your business, the more Google relevant Google thinks you are in your industry and area.
The more relevant Google thinks you are in your industry and area, the more likely you are to rank both in the local pack and organic search.
To sum up
No matter what name you give your Google My Business local page, it is not a business listing in the traditional sense.
Creating a Google local page does not mean you will automatically rank in Google local search pack.
From my experience failure to rank is often down to two main broad issues:
- Breaching Google’s Quality Guidelines
- Inconsistent business data across the web
Google relies on data from around the web to confirm the information you provide. Consistency of business data across the web is critical.
Over to you…
What issues do you have ranking in Google local search? I’ll be continuing this topic over the coming posts, so your input is appreciated! Leave a comment below…
Don’t forget, if you don’t have the time or patience to wade through your local business data and start cleaning it up, contact me. I offer a manual data clean up service that you may find useful!Your Google Business Listing: The Importance of Consistency by Jan Kearney