Many small to mid-sized businesses understand the importance of optimizing their Google Business Profile (GBP), previously known as Google My Business, to enhance local search rankings and increase leads on Google Maps. However, with numerous items to manage and Google’s constant updates, it can be challenging to determine the local ranking factors to focus on in 2023.
This article examines the GBP items that affect rankings, enabling you to appear in more searches, and the items that are beneficial but do not impact rankings. Keep reading to learn more, and contact us to speak with a professional today!
Overview of Google Business Profile ranking factors
Here is the impact of different items on Google Business Profile:
- High impact on rankings: Business name, categories, landing page, address, and reviews.
- Low to moderate impact on rankings: Photos, hours of operation, images and alt text on the landing page, review responses, and identity attributes.
- No impact on rankings, some impact on engagement: Posts, products, services, messaging, booking, opening date, service areas, a local area phone number, FAQs or a Q&A section, answers in the Q&A section, and an optimized business description.
- No impact: Keywords in reviews, keywords in review responses, keywords in posts, geotagging images, and keywords in the business description.
8 local ranking factors on Google Business Profile
We’ve discovered that the following eight elements have an effect on local keyword rankings. If you want to optimize your Google Business Profile, these are the areas you should concentrate on. Some factors have a direct and significant influence on rankings, while others have a more indirect impact.
Local rankings are not just about being at the top of a rank tracker or for a particular search in a specific location or time. Local rankings differ based on factors such as location, time of day, search history, and more, so we take a broader approach to ranking.
We evaluate the items that influence both your ranking position and the frequency with which you appear in the maps results, local finder results, and local packs.
1. Business Name
Your business name is one of the most important factors in determining local rankings. Adding keywords to your business name can even impact your local keyword rankings. However, you should not stuff your name with keywords — keyword stuffing goes against Google’s guidelines and could result in suspension.
Google’s Vicinity update in December 2021 lowered the impact of keyword stuffing your business name. However, the business name still affects rankings significantly, especially after the March 2022 local algorithm update, which was considered a correction to the Vicinity update and lessened its impact.
Both primary and secondary categories have a significant impact on rankings, so it is crucial that you choose them wisely.
Does the primary category impact rankings?
The primary category holds more weight in terms of rankings than secondary categories. This segnment is one of the most impactful items that you can directly control on your profile. So, if you’re looking to rank well for relevant searches, you must use the best possible primary category.
Do secondary categories impact rankings?
While not as impactful as the primary category, secondary categories can still have a significant and immediate impact on local rankings. Adding additional categories will help you to show up for more searches, so monitoring competitors’ categories and adding additional relevant secondary categories is an effective strategy for 2023.
3. Landing Page
Like categories and your business name, your landing pages also affect your local rankings. Google looks at the content of the landing page as well as the link authority of the URL you choose. Often, your homepage will be the best option, even if it doesn’t have the best content for your primary products/services.
Rather than using a landing page from your site, you can also create a website through GBP. We’ve found that GBP websites do not get better rankings — and have limited functionality — so we recommend sticking to your site.
Whether you’re running a storefront, service-area business, or hybrid, the address has a big impact on rankings.
Google ranks your business based on the location you use to verify the listing, and you’ll rank best close to that location and rank worse as you get further away. It is also much harder to rank for keywords that mention a specific city if the address is not considered part of the city.
There is another way in which the address can impact rankings. If there are two or more businesses at the same or neighboring addresses, then one of them can get filtered out of the local search results entirely.
It isn’t simple to update your business address, so only consider this factor if you’re moving your business or opening up a new location. To choose the best address for local rankings, ensure:
- The address is in the city you want to rank
- There is significant search volume in a small radius around the address
- You’re not right next door to another business with the same primary and secondary categories.
There is a bit of debate on whether GBP photos impact rankings. While some studies have found that adding photos does not impact rankings, Google states that adding photos to your Business Profile can help improve your local ranking.
The true answer is likely more complicated. There’s likely a ranking benefit in adding some photos to your listing over having none, but that does not mean there’s a continued benefit of adding additional or better photos.
No matter the impact on rankings, GBP images are still one of the most crucial optimizations in terms of increasing engagement, sales, or leads. Images are showing up more often for local searches. High-quality images are critical to gaining customer trust, and replacing stock photos with ones of your team or completed projects can help increase conversions.
Does Geotagging Images Impact Rankings?
Despite this being a commonly mentioned and utilized strategy, geotagging images has no impact on rankings. At MadHouse Media, we recommend against adding latitude and longitude information to your photos and instead using that time to focus on optimizations that will have an impact.
Reviews are one of the most important local SEO ranking factors, and they help consumers choose you over other businesses. However, there are many misconceptions about which parts of reviews impact rankings and which don’t.
Does review count impact rankings?
This study found that a listing tends to rank higher once it hits 10 reviews. Increasing review quantity behind the first 10 still influences rankings to a lesser extent. Getting higher review counts also increases trust and credibility while beating the competition.
Does star rating impact rankings?
Review rating also has a significant impact on local rankings. Star rating may not impact the organic results, but Google has stated that positive ratings can improve your business’s local ranking.
Having a higher star rating also ensures you show up more often as you’re less likely to get filtered out of the map’s results should users filter out results that don’t meet certain star rating thresholds.
There is also a conversion rate benefit to having higher rankings, as 54% of U.S. shoppers pay attention to the star rating, and 97% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.
Does responding to reviews impact rankings?
Responding to reviews can have a minor impact on rankings. This Google support document on improving your local rankings states: “respond to reviews that users leave about your business. When you reply to reviews, it shows that you value your customers and their feedback.”
Responding to reviews also has additional benefits, such as improving trust, showing that you care about feedback, and proving that you look to address issues, all of which can improve conversion rates!
Does having keywords in reviews or responses impact rankings?
Contrary to popular belief, including keywords in reviews or review responses does not impact local rankings. Too many keywords can also make reviews read weirdly and sound spammy.
Like reviews themselves, there is no ranking benefit to adding keywords in review responses. So instead of using keywords in your review responses, make them sincere, personal, and concise.
Additional review factors and whether they influence rankings or not
The following local search ranking factors can help you understand and optimize reviews:
- Review recency: Having recent reviews can help to improve rankings! The timeline depends on how competitive the industry is. Getting new reviews can improve rankings, and not having any new reviews can hurt rankings, so make sure you’re getting fresh reviews when possible.
- Review length: Although this factor does not have an impact on rankings, review length does impact how long a review stays in the top 10 positions.
- Reviews written by local guides: Getting reviews from local guides has no impact on rankings, but these reviews also stay in the top positions for longer.
- Reviews with images: Like the two factors above, reviews with photos will not influence rankings, but it will help the reviews show up more prominently and stay in the top positions for longer.
7. Hours of operation
Hours of operation play a minor role in rankings — being open for more hours will help your listing show up more often. When a business is closed, its rankings decrease. A business can also get completely filtered out of the results if a user selects the open now or open 24 hours options.
8. Identity attributes
Surprisingly, identity attributes play a minor role in rankings, and it can help you show up for some more searches. Adding identity attributes, such as black-owned or veteran-owned, won’t help improve your rankings for general searches such as “home goods store near me.” However, it will help for searches directly related to the attribute, such as “black-owned home goods store near me.”
10 items that don’t influence local rankings
Many misconceptions exist about the items below, but we have found that they do not influence local rankings.
That doesn’t mean that optimizing these items is useless. In fact, many of these items are great for getting more calls or clicks to your website, so they should still absolutely be a part of your local SEO strategy.
GBP posts — now known as updates — do not have any influence on rankings, nor does stuffing the posts with keywords. Posts are still a very valuable tool in increasing engagement and increasing leads, but they don’t impact rankings as much.
Adding keywords to your posts also does not impact rankings, and it can make your business look spammy, so we advise against this practice. Instead, you should use non-keyword stuffed posts to promote your team, deals, awards, announcements, and FAQs to potential customers actively searching for your products and services in their area.
GBP products provide a great opportunity to prominently display your products, services, and product categories on your search and maps listings. Utilizing GBP products can be a great way to increase engagement and conversions.
GBP services don’t affect your rankings, and it doesn’t matter how they were added — predefined options based on the category, custom-added services, or Google-added services.
Services also don’t have as much visibility as other GBP items, such as posts and products, so they don’t have as big an impact on engagement and aren’t worth spending a lot of time on. The main thing to watch with services is what Google automatically adds, as they may not accurately represent your business.
Messaging is an instant message feature available in Google Business Profile. Enabling messaging on your profile does not impact your rankings, but it makes it easier to communicate with customers and get them to inquire about your products or services.
Does promptly responding to messaging improve rankings?
Promptly responding to messaging also does not impact local rankings, but it is a must if you decide to enable messaging. Google may deactivate messaging if you’re not responding fast enough. Plus, responding quickly gives potential customers less time to look elsewhere.
Like messaging, the GBP bookings feature also does not have any impact on rankings. The booking feature, also known as Reserve with Google, can be a good way to increase leads. This tool gives customers the ability to make appointments right from your profile.
6. Opening date
Adding an opening date does not impact local rankings, but it can be a good differentiator and help improve your conversion rate. By adding your opening date, your years in business can show up in the local pack or local finder results, and that can help show your expertise and experience compared to the competition.
7. Service areas
Service areas do not have any impact on your rankings in those areas, but still have some benefits as they allow customers to quickly see whether you can help them or not. Whether you’re displaying an address or not, your listing will rank based on the address used to verify the listing.
8. Phone number
There is a myth that using a local business phone number can help to improve rankings. This claim is inaccurate, but there is a different benefit to using a local number. If a potential customer wants a local business, they may prefer to see a local phone number over a toll-free number. Thus, utilizing a local number can help to improve trustworthiness in some cases.
9. Business description
Another common local SEO misconception is that adding keywords to your business description will improve keyword rankings. Our research on optimization has found this to be untrue, as neither the business description nor adding keywords into the description impacts rankings.
Instead of focusing on keywords, you should write captivating descriptions that explain your business, why you do what you do, and why people should choose you over the competition.
Utilizing the question-and-answer feature on GBP does not influence rankings, but you should still utilize the feature. Responding to questions from users ensures there is a trustworthy and well-written, accurate answer. If you don’t respond, someone else can, and there’s no guarantee that the answer will be accurate.
You can also plant Q&As to address common questions people have about your company, products, or services. This can help you to get more qualified customers and reduce difficulties for potential customers in trying to find the answers to their questions.
How to optimize your Google Business Profile
While it may be tempting to focus mainly on the items that boost rankings, this may not be the best strategy. Often, it is best to have a well-rounded strategy that improves rankings, gets more people to view your profile, and encourages more of those viewers to become customers.
Partner with MadHouse Media to target Google Business Profile ranking factors
Utilizing all these local search ranking factors effectively and keeping up with GBP’s fast-paced changes may seem a bit overwhelming, but that’s why we are here to help!
MadHouse Media has a team of 100 local SEO subject matter experts ready to help you navigate all the changes and get more leads. We’ll put together a comprehensive local SEO strategy that helps you get the most out of your GBP.
Ready to get started? Request a quote online, or browse our local SEO services today!