In SEO Tips and Tricks, T-Time with Tillison

In this T-Time show, Mark Tillison establishes some surprising results when exploring the ranking signals used to determine Google Local Business Rankings – which business is shown at the top of the local results for any given search term.

Local search is explained using the search example “indian restaurants birmingham”.

Results from a local search on Google show what is known as the local search stack at the top of the listing, ahead of the standard organic stack. The local listings shows three restaurants in the results, but if you click on more places it takes you to the Google Map results which are in order of relevance to the query.

Google Local Business Rankings and Signals

The research carried out has been across various locations, restaurants and takeaways. The data suggests that various signals and strengths of those signals have an influence over the rankings in local search. This is measured for things like:

Relevance to the Search Term – takeaway would be considered weaker than restaurant with relevance to the search term, for example.

Google uses a mix of signals, so there won’t be any one of these that you can optimise to propel you instantly to position one.

In this session Mark explores some of the signals to help with the optimisation of Google+ page.

Proximity Signals in Google Local Listings

In Google Local Listings, a weak proximity signal can be overcome by a stronger reviews signalClick To Tweet

This is how close the business is to the location in the search query. In this case, we are looking at how close the business is to the centre of Birmingham. As we look down the local business rankings, they are moving further away from the centre, however a weak proximity signal can be overcome by having a strong reviews signal.

Review Signals in Google Local Listings

The number, scores and recency of the reviews seems to influence Google local business rankings.

Common sense says that 10 more recent reviews may have a stronger signal that a restaurant with 25 reviews that are older. Mark’s research has shown that the top 10 restaurants in the search result all have reviews that have an average of 3.5 or higher.

Purely the number of reviews is not a strong signal on its own. However, if you have 10 and everyone else has five it is likely that you will be ranked higher.

Google Local Business Description

The description of the business should meet with the relevance of the search term. In this example, takeaway would be considered a weaker signal than restaurant.

Ensure that the business description includes some popular search terms. In the case in the video, you would expect to see Indian Restaurant featured.

Additional Google Business Page Functions

See Inside is an online function that allows your customers to see the inside of your business (pretty handy for restaurants!), with a full 360 view taking in the decor and ambience. You may need to get a professional photographer to do this for you.

Mark’s research has shown that companies that use this function do tend to be in the top 5 of the search results, although this may just be a coincidence as right now Google doesn’t seem to be counting this function as a really strong signal. Do use the See Inside function to enhance your customer’s experience and gain more footfall. Don’t use this function purely to try and rank higher in Google.

Google Business Classification

As we check through the search results, the business classification field becomes weaker, some only say restaurant for example rather than Indian restaurant. Along with that, the proximity and reviews signals also become weaker. The search term did match text in the business description, so a strong signal from that.

Google Maps

It is possible to change the criteria of the search by moving the Google map. The search term indian restaurant birmingham remains, however, the search results update to reflect the positioning of the centre of the map.

Ranking for a Search Term

There are so many contexts now that you really can’t say that your business is number 1, or number 2, or number 3 on Google. It really depends on:

  • Where the centre of the map is
  • Whether the user is using a mobile device
  • How many reviews you have had on a particular day
  • Whether the user has visited that restaurant before
  • If the user has bookmarked the restaurant
  • If the user has left a review before

All of these contexts affect the user’s personal search and the results Google displays. For now, the elements which you can optimise to improve your Google Local Business Rankings are:

  • Be a great business with a great product or service
  • Give your customers a good experience
  • Ask your customer to place reviews
  • Make sure the business classification is correct
  • Make sure you include keywords in your business description
  • Encourage customers to place (5-star) reviews

If you know that you should be doing more for your business with SEO or on social media but you don’t know where to start then one of our social media training courses, or  some one on one sessions with an SEO Specialist could help point you in the right direction. However if you have just a quick question please share in the comments section or send us a tweet at @TeamTillison.

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