If you want your business to reach local customers in Orange County, having a complete, accurate, and optimized Google My Business profile is no longer negotiable. Google’s My Business tool launched in the Summer of 2014 and has since grown to be one of the most important factors in local SEO strategy. In fact, a whopping 64% of consumers rely on Google My Business to find contact details for local businesses.
One of the biggest contributors to Google My Business’s success is its Google Map Packs. The Google Map Pack consists of three business listings customers see at the top of a Google search result (under the advertisements and visual map), as shown here:
With the sharp rise of mobile search and the trend of consumer tastes leaning more toward visual and graphic search results, being included in Google’s Map Pack has become a top goal for many local businesses.
In this blog, we’re going to walk you through how to optimize your Google My Business listing, enhance your chances of being included in the Google Map Pack for your Orange County SEO Strategy, and ultimately, bring in more local business.
Let’s jump in:
Learning to Play by Google My Business’s Rules
If you already have a good handle on local Orange County SEO strategy, be advised that the rules can be quite different to achieve success with Google My Business.
Essentially, Google My Business is its own separate type of SEO entirely, so it’s important to know its unique optimization techniques, and how they differ from traditional SEO.
For example, here are just a few techniques you’d typically use to optimize local SEO sites:
- Use SEO tags with an emphasis on local and geo modifiers
- Link building strategies
- Adding local and relevant content to your site on a regular basis
- And on-site optimizations (like the use of keywords on pages, meta tags, etc.)
With Google My Business, there are similar things from this list you can do, but really moving the needle with your ranking includes a different set of items to focus on:
Google My Business Optimizations
The optimizations I’m going to be sharing below are things I’ve seen really make the greatest difference in my own Google My Business ranking, as well as the rankings for many of my clients — including inclusion in the Google Map Packs.
Completing your Citations
If you’re not familiar with citations, they refer to an online reference to a business that features the business’ name, address, and phone number— typically on an online business directory.
Citations are a local SEO strategy that actually works for both organic search and Google Maps.
Because making sure your citations are complete will help provide a baseline in getting your business recognized by Google search and Maps. Citations provide Google with a certain level of confidence that you are representing a legitimate local business.
In other words, ensuring your citations are built, complete, and accurate on major local directories will help signal to Google that they should register you as a trusted local business.
Unlike link building, citations aren’t a ‘more is better’ strategy. The amount of citations you have won’t necessarily help increase your SEO, as once Google has recognized your legitimacy, it has the information it needs to include you in future search results.
Reviews are a heavy-hitter for any online business when it comes to increasing traffic and conversions, but they’re also a super important success factor for ranking on Google My Business.
Reviews on Google My Business don’t necessarily have an impact on organic SEO, but through our work with local clients, we’ve seen that it has a very strong correlation to being listed in the Google Map Pack.
For example: one of our current clients has 100+ reviews on their Google profile. Their average competitor has less than 10. Aside from that, there’s not much difference in the Google My Business profiles. However, that 10x difference with reviews has been a huge factor in having their Google My Business profile rank consistently above their competitors.
So, the takeaway here is very simple: if you want to increase your Google My Business ranking, you need to focus on collecting quality Google reviews from your customers. (Bonus points if you can get your customers to include keywords you’d like to rank for in their reviews! Don’t be afraid to ask.)
Site & Content Optimizations
One of the other major correlations we’ve seen in Google My Business ranking success is the relationship between ranking position and keyword-rich content on site pages.
When a consumer performs a local search, they’ll often see a Google My Business listing pop up with a message from Google that reads:
This website mentions [keyword from search term]
This message makes it pretty clear that Google My Business puts a big emphasis on ranking companies with corresponding website pages that use keywords matching the search query and in a Local SEO sense, that they have local keywords as well.
So, in order to take advantage of this, be sure that the content of your pages naturally works in popular keywords and keyword phrases that your target audience is likely to use in addition to geo modifier keywords like the city, county, state, etc.
This might be the easiest step in optimizing your Google My Business Profile: making sure the business description, services, and product descriptions within your profile are complete.
Although this step is super simple, a lot of businesses neglect to do it, which can be detrimental to their ranking!
Having a complete and accurate Google My Business profile gives Google a clear picture of what your business offers. It’s like having a direct line to their algorithms to feed them information on your company.
Your profile should give a complete and complementary representation of your business. Along with your descriptions, include strong quality photos of your business as well. This helps to speed up Google's verification process, but it also enhances user experience and makes your profile a more attractive choice for Google when it comes to ranking.
Google My Business Posts and Questions & Answers
Another area of Google My Business that you can optimize is the Question & Answers section and the Google My Business Posts.
We wanted to include this as the last point on our list because although it’s fairly easy to optimize, we have not been able to find any research to actually prove that it can improve Google My Business rankings.
We recommend that businesses simply copy and paste the Questions & Answers section or FAQ’s from their website into their Google My Business’s Q&A section. This will allow you to both ask and answer each question, which gives you the opportunity to naturally add more keyword rich content to your Google My Business profile.
While we’re skeptical about the positive difference this can make for rankings in Google My Business, we know it definitely won’t hurt them. And giving more information to your customers via Google My Business is never a bad thing.
There are some SEO techniques, however, that may actually hurt your Google My Business ranking. Let’s look at those next:
Optimizations Not Meant for Google My Business
Some local SEO optimizations that work great for boosting organic search ranking actually do the opposite for Google My Business. Here’s a few of our top tips on what not to do on your Google My Business profile:
SEO Tags & Keyword Optimizations
When it comes to organic search, SEO optimization through the use of keywords in title tags and meta descriptions is a basic best practice.
However, this is not the case for Google My Business!
Google actually considers it against their regulations to add anything to your business name on your Google My Business profile. Your business name must be listed exactly as-is, and not include any keyword modifiers.
For example, if your business name was ‘Joe’s Furniture’, it would be against Google My Business’s rules to list it on your Google My Business profile as ‘Joe’s Furniture Orange County’.
This can be confusing for business owners, because there are currently tons of listings on Google Map results that present themselves this way. However, there has been a big push by Google and supporting players to either take these accounts down or force their owners to make accurate edits— so in my opinion, it’s simply not worth the risk!
In organic SEO, link building is a central pillar. However, when it comes to building links to your Google My Business profile, there’s really no need. There is some evidence that strengthening your link building strategy to your main website may help your Google My Business profile rank, but again, link building to your main site is just a general best practice overall. So, keep your focus on building links to your website, not your Google My Business profile.
As you can see, Google My Business has quite a few parallels with traditional local SEO techniques when it comes to trying to rank in Orange County, but there are important unique differences as well. The best strategy is to treat your Google My Business profile as its own priority to supplement your local Orange County SEO efforts.