6 Local SEO Full-Guides That Help You Rank For Your Business Type

6 Local SEO Full-Guides That Help You Rank For Your Business Type

Whether your business is brick-and-mortar, online, or both, it can be a challenge to expand your local presence and visibility. Ranking locally can be overwhelming, with the need to successfully leverage reviews, configure your business profile, and navigate the unpredictable changes in rankings caused by developments in AI.

That’s what we tackle with this Rundown.

We’ve put together some easy-to-follow guides to help you expand your local visibility.

These articles will give you pre-made strategies, tips, and solutions that are simple, yet effective, so your businesses can rank effectively without sucking up resources.

You’ll find tips for improving your rankings while streamlining your workflow. Get ready for a robust online reputation management strategy, one to expand your market reach, and rank locally, even for online-only businesses.

I especially think you’ll like “Your Guide To Dominating Local Search Marketing.” You’ll learn actionable strategies you can use right now. You’ll also gain a comprehensive toolset for staying ahead of your competition and improving your visibility.

We’ll also address ways new AI tools can assist you in your Local SEO efforts, because your time is valuable.

Until next time!

Katie Morton
Katie Morton Editor in Chief, Search Engine Journal

Google Business Profile: A Complete Guide for Local SEO

Don't miss out on the latest Google Business Profile enhancements! Regularly monitor and optimize your profile for accurate information with this in depth guide.

Sherry Bonelli Sherry Bonelli 57K Reads
Google Business Profile: A Complete Guide for Local SEO

One of the best local SEO strategies that any eligible local business can use to rank higher on Google and get local clients is to claim and optimize their Google Business Profile.

However, claiming your Google Business Profile (GBP) is just the first step – you must optimize, frequently check, and update your GBP with new information for potential customers.

Also, many businesses don’t realize that Google (and almost any user) can make changes to their GBP – like changing your address, updating your business hours, uploading photos, leaving reviews, and more.

Ultimately, a Google Business Profile is really a community profile – it’s not just yours (the merchant’s).

Virtually anyone online can contribute to your Google Business Profile, and Google encourages user-generated content (UGC), like reviews, Q&As, photos, videos, and more.

So it’s important that you regularly check your Google Business Profile to make sure that no incorrect changes were made to your profile.

Always Follow Google’s Guidelines

When you have a GBP, you are playing on Google’s playground.

That means you must follow Google’s Business Profile’s guidelines – otherwise, your business profile can get suspended. And keep in mind that not all local businesses qualify for a GBP.

I recommend that you check the guidelines at least once every three to four months to make sure there were no changes to the guidelines that may impact your Business Profile.

Ignorance is not an excuse; it’s up to you to know Google’s rules.

If you violate those rules, your GBP will likely get suspended, and you will have to appeal that suspension. (And that’s a very serious thing.)

So it’s better to be informed of the rules than be unfamiliar with them.

How To Manage Your Google Business Profile

Multi-Location Businesses: Use The Google Business Profile Manager

If your business has multiple locations or you are an agency that manages multiple client locations, the best way to manage your profiles is to log in to the GBP Manager dashboard.

Google Business Profile ManagerScreenshot from Google Business Profile Manager, November 2023

The GBP Manager gives you the most flexibility to manage multiple profiles in one dashboard.

(Note: You can also manage multiple locations from the Google Maps App on your smartphone.)

Single Location Business: Manage Your Google Business Profile Directly From Search Or The Google Maps App

If you are a local business with only one location, the easiest way to manage your GBP is from the place you probably have open on your computer all day long – Google Search!

You can also manage directly from the Google Maps App on your smartphone. So, how do you manage your profile from Search or Maps?

When you’re logged in with the Gmail email address you use to manage your GBP, you can type in your business name in the search bar, and your Knowledge Panel/Business Profile and a GBP merchant panel will appear:

GBP Merchant PanelScreenshot from search for [early bird digital marketing], Google, November 2021
Or from Google search, you can also simply enter the words my business and your merchant panel will also show up.

If you are busy and on the go, you can also manage your GBP listing on the Google Maps App. Make sure you’re logged into the email address you use to manage your Business Profile, click on your picture/image and then click Your Business Profiles.

Manage on Google Maps

Screenshot from Maps App, November 2023

You’ll then see your GBP merchant panel – which will look almost identical to the desktop version. Click on the More or Less arrow to expand or shrink the options available to you.

Note that the options you see in your merchant panel are category-specific, so you may see other features – or not as many features – available.

Maps App Merchant PanelScreenshot from Maps App, November 2023

If you manage more than one GBP listing, you can see those profiles by clicking at the top area that tells you how many GBPs you manage.

Manage More ListingsScreenshot from Maps App, November 2023

That will open a list of all the GBPs you manage so you can select which Business Profile you want to open and manage.

Maps App Showing more ListingsScreenshot from Maps App, November 2023

How To Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Let’s talk about just a few of the things you can do to optimize your Google Business Profile.

First, you can edit your main company information by clicking on Edit Profile.

Edit ProfileScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

You can add or change information about your business, like your category, business description, opening date, hours, and more.

It’s important that this section follows Google’s guidelines – especially the company’s name and address guidelines.

If you have a storefront location that customers come to, you are allowed to show your address.

If you go out to your customers and service your customers at their location, you must toggle off your address so it’s hidden and not displayed on your GBP listing.

For your business hours, if you’re a storefront, your hours should be the hours when your employees are staffed at the location to meet with customers – not the hours you answer your phone.

You can also choose to:

  • Open with main hours.
  • Open with no main hours.
  • Temporarily Closed (Show that your business will open again in the future).
  • Permanently Closed (Show your business no longer exists).
HoursScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

You even have the option to add special hours for when you will be closed or have varied hours for holidays. It’s important that you set these hours at least three days before the holiday to give Google time to “approve” the holiday hours.

Special HoursScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Also, be sure to click the More section to see attributes that may describe specific attributes about your business. These may show up as justifications in search results that can help you stand out to people who are searching.

AttributesScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Read Reviews

Choose Read Reviews to see new reviews or reviews that have been left on your GBP listing.

Read ReviewsScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Getting reviews is important to rankings and building confidence with new and potential customers. When you get new reviews – good or bad – it’s important to reply to those reviews as soon as you can.

You’ll receive an email from Google letting you know that you’ve received a new review. You will also know you have a new review because you will see a red dot in the merchant panel and an alert in the “cards.”

New ReviewScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

To reply to the review, simply click reply, and you’ll be able to respond to the reviewer.

They’ll receive a notification of your response and anyone that sees the review will also see your reply as well – so make sure you’re always courteous and polite.

Reply to review

Screenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Messages

In an age when people want a quick response, turning on the messages/chat feature may be a good idea for you. You’ll be able to quickly communicate with potential customers interested in speaking with you.

To turn chat on, click on the Messages option and click the Turn On button.

Turn on ChatScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

You’ll then see the messages dashboard. Here, you can change the settings to Available or Away, as well as read and reply to messages you receive.

Click on the three-dot menu to see the more advanced message settings.

MessagesScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023
Chat SettingsScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

In the advanced settings, you can turn chat on and off as well as turn on and off the read receipts. You should also create a welcome message people will see when they send you a message.

You can also set up custom or automatic FAQs.

These are commonly asked questions that people can see and choose from. Automatic FAQs are automatically created by Google based on your GBP and pertain to the following:

  • Business hours.
  • Appointments.
  • Contact info.
  • Delivery info.
  • Location or address.
  • Accepted forms of payment.
  • Your website URL.

So make sure the information in your GBP listing is accurate.

Add message FAQsScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Custom FAQs are specific questions and answers that you write.

Message FAQScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Anyone who’s a manager or owner on your GBP listing will be notified when someone has left a message/chat for you. So, you may want to set up guidelines for how or who is going to respond to messages.

Also, be sure to respond to messages within 24 hours. Google can take away your message privileges if you take longer than 24 hours to respond.

Tip: If you receive a spam message, you can flag it as a spam message, and that user will be blocked.

Add Photos

Local searchers love to see pictures. Photos are also a great way to get engagement from people who see your GBP – and Google likes engagement.

When you upload real pictures of your company – like your building, signage, products, services, team members, activities that your company does (like volunteer work), etc. – you are humanizing your brand.

These types of pictures help connect searchers with your company. And you can upload photos directly to your Google Business Profile!

Click on Add Photo, and you can choose whether you want to upload a photo, your company logo, or a cover photo:

Add PhotoScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

When you choose Photo, you can upload a photo or 30-second video by either dragging it from your computer to the section designated or clicking the blue ‘Select photos or videos’ option to choose the file from your computer:

Add photos and videos to GBPScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Adding a logo or a cover image works virtually the same. One thing to keep in mind about the cover image is that you can select a cover image, but ultimately, Google decides what cover image it will display on your GBP.

Tip: Do not upload stock photos or marketing material images to your photos. Those are not the type of pictures Google wants uploaded to the photos section on your GBP listing.

Edit Products

If you sell physical products at your store or business, adding products to your Google Business Profile is a great way to show off what you are selling! (Remember, online-only businesses are NOT allowed to claim GBPs.)

Edit Products -- Get StartedScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

It’s easy to list products! Fill in the simple questions:

  • Product Name.
  • Category – If you don’t have a category already set up, you can create one.
  • Price.
  • Product Description.
  • Product landing page URL. (Optional)
  • Photo.

Once you’ve entered all the information, just click Publish to make the product live on your Google Business Profile Knowledge Panel.

Add ProductScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Note: What you enter in Products must actually be products for sale, not services that you offer.

Edit Services

Edit Services works remarkably like Edit Products – but it’s catered to Service Area Businesses (SABs) (like landscapers, plumbers, handymen, roofers, locksmiths, etc.) or companies that offer services to customers or clients (like lawyers, accountants, personal trainers, etc.)

Adding services is super easy. Click on Edit Services, and you’ll see your primary category.

You may also see a list of categories that Google has pre-selected for you to choose from. If any of those pre-selected categories are applicable, just click the + sign and save.

Edit ServicesScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

You can also create custom service categories by clicking on the + Add custom service link.

Q&A

Q&A is a great way for potential customers to ask questions about your business, products, or services. Be sure to answer questions as soon as you can.

It’s also important to note that anybody can answer questions that are posted on your GBP – so make sure that you are the one who answers them!

Q&AScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

You can also pre-populate your Q&As by creating questions and answering the questions yourself!

Add Update/Posts

You can let people know about what’s going on at your business through updates (also known as posts). There are three types of posts: Update, offer, or event.

Add UpdateScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Just select what type of update you want, and a dialog will open.

On the Update post, you can add up to 10 photos to your post as well as a description. Always be sure to add a call to action!

Update PostScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Offer posts are great if you’re having a sale or some type of special offer at your business. You can even add a link to your website where people can buy or redeem the offer when you click on Add more details!

Offer PostScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

An Event post is perfect for realtors with open houses or for businesses that host events at their business.

Event PostScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Ask for Reviews

Reviews play an important role in rankings but also in building trust with potential clients and customers.

Google makes it super easy to get reviews by giving you a shortened direct link that you can provide your customers so they can easily leave you a review on your GBP.

Simply click on Ask for Reviews, and you can copy the link and give it to your customers and politely ask them to leave you a review.

When they click on the link, they’ll be taken directly to your GBP listing to leave a review. What could be easier?

Ask for ReviewsScreenshot from Google Search, November 2023

Google Is Always Making Changes To GBP

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that Google is always making changes to Google Business Profile.

Often, these are subtle changes – and sometimes, they’re bigger changes (like adding new attributes or features).

That’s why it’s so important to frequently check your GBP listing for new features or updates to your profile that may not be correct, and to keep your profile engaging for people who view your Business Profile/Knowledge Panel.

Keep your Google Business Profile optimized and up-to-date starting today!

More resources: 


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

Your Guide To Dominating Local Search Marketing

Unlock the power of local search marketing with game-changing tactics. Stay ahead of the competition and improve your online visibility.

SOCi SOCi 3.3K Reads
Your Guide To Dominating Local Search Marketing

This post was sponsored by SOCi. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

As a marketer, you may feel like the ground is shifting under your feet with so many changes in the world of search. From Google’s recent announcement to release AI Overviews to all U.S. users to OpenAI revealing GPT-4o, there’s a lot to keep up with.

How will these changes impact your search efforts? Do you need to shift your search strategy?

We have the answers for you and more!

In this blog, we’ll explain how search marketing has changed, what this means for your brand, and share tactics to improve your online visibility. At the end, we’ll also introduce our new game-changer for local search management.

Let’s get into it!

The Evolution Of Search Marketing

As search evolves, many marketers are worried about their brand remaining visible online. While AI-generated search experiences are so new, we do know that now isn’t the time to make any drastic changes to your search marketing strategies.

You can test how your brand appears in generative AI (genAI) results (what we’ve dubbed GAIRs), but there’s no reason to sound an alarm — at least not yet.

Today, nearly three-quarters of consumers conduct local searches at least once a week. Similarly, in the U.S., over 800 million monthly searches contain some variation of “near me,” and more than 5 million keywords are related to “near me.”

Focusing on conventional local SEO efforts is the best way for your brand to ensure its visibility in traditional and GAIRs.

Local SEO for businesses with multiple locations involves incorporating a local SEO strategy for each business location. A multi-location SEO strategy, when done correctly, will boost your local search rankings, help you gain local customers, and improve brand awareness.

If your business doesn’t have multiple locations, you can still follow the tactics below to ensure your business is visible to your target audience in your specific area.

5 Ways To Improve Your Online Visibility

Now that you understand how search has evolved and the importance of local SEO, let’s dive into five local SEO tactics your brand can leverage to boost online visibility.

1. Claim & Optimize Local Listings

Local listings are online profiles of local businesses. They appear on search engines, local directories, and platforms like Google, Apple Maps, Yelp, Bing, and Facebook.

To increase your visibility on Google and beyond, your brand must claim local listings across all major local directories and remove duplicate listings.

Additionally, you need consistent and accurate information across all listings. At a minimum, your local listings should include the following information:

  • Name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations.
  • Business categories. (Example: Sushi restaurant)
  • Business hours, especially during holidays and major events
  • Products and services your business offers.
  • Links to your website and social media profiles.
  • Attributes. (Example: Curbside pickup or wheelchair-accessible seating)
  • High-quality photos and videos.

After optimizing your local listings, you can focus on your local pages.

2. Create Local Pages For Each Location

A local page, sometimes called a local landing page, is a web page you create for an individual store location or franchisee. It’s similar to local listings but lives on your site rather than an external directory like Yelp or Google.

Your multi-location business might have dozens or hundreds of local pages, each containing specific information about that store and the surrounding area.

Local pages should contain most of the business information found on your local listings. However, they’re also high-conversion pages. Therefore, they should also contain calls to action (CTAs) such as “order now” buttons or promotional sales and discounts.

Well-designed and optimized local pages can help your business appear high in local organic search results. As mentioned, these higher rankings often lead to more conversions and business for your stores!

3. Leverage A Store Locator

Store locators are similar to local pages. A store locator is a web page that lists all of your local stores or third-party dealers that sell your products.

Store locators help move website visitors through the customer journey by displaying valuable location information and unique details about each store. They make it easier for customers to purchase online and to contact or visit local stores.

Well-optimized and compatible store locators and local pages will help improve:

  • Local search rankings.
  • Website traffic and online conversions.
  • Analytics, such as where visitors are searching and coming from.

4. Implement An Online Reputation Management Strategy

While reputation management might not be something you’d consider when you think of improving your online visibility, you’d be surprised. According to local SEO experts, high numerical Google ratings are the sixth highest ranking factor in Google’s local pack and finder. At the same time, the quantity of native Google reviews (with text) is the eighth ranking factor.

A high quantity and quality of reviews don’t just affect local search rankings — they also impact conversion rates. According to our State of Google Reviews research report, an increase in one full star on a Google Business Profile (GBP) corresponds with a 44% increase in conversions.

To improve your reputation management strategy and gain more reviews:

  1. Respond to existing reviews in a personalized manner to show customers you value their feedback.
  2. Utilize social media to encourage customer feedback, ratings, and reviews.
  3. Make leaving a review accessible! Include links to your GBP on your website and in emails.
  4. Monitor the feedback that your business receives from reviews and make adjustments accordingly.

5. Create Unique Content

Generating localized content for your local pages, website, and listings is also essential. You want to ensure that your localized content optimizes and targets specific areas.

For instance, if you’re targeting the keyword “sporting goods store Seattle,” you want to update your URL, title tag, meta description, and headings with locally relevant keywords.

You should also leverage local images, including photos of your stores and products. Remember to include geo-targeted meta descriptions, alternative text, and descriptions within your images.

Types of local content your brand can create include but are not limited to:

  • Blogs.
  • Surveys.
  • Infographics.
  • Whitepapers.
  • Social media content.
  • Neighborhood guides.
  • User-generated content. (UGC)

For a more in-depth look at what it takes to improve your brand’s local SEO strategy, download our Top 10 Things You Should Be Doing in Local SEO Now guide!

How SOCi Can Help

Now that you understand what goes into creating a solid local search strategy, it’s time to boost your brand’s visibility. As marketers, you get how crucial search marketing is, but let’s be real, coming up with a plan to roll it out on a big scale is easier said than done.

That’s where SOCi comes in! We’ve built SOCi for more than a decade to ensure multi-location businesses rank well on local search and social media platforms, can create engaging content, and have the ability to manage each location’s online reputation.

We’ve enhanced our CoMarketing Cloud with SOCi Genius, an AI automation layer to help automate all of your daily localized marketing tasks. As part of SOCi Genius, we recently released Genius Search, a game-changer in search marketing!

As the newest innovation within the CoMarketing Cloud, Genius Search transcends traditional listings management by offering a dynamic, data-driven local search strategy that aligns with evolving consumer behaviors and market trends.

Genius Search uses the top data signals, such as reviews, search keywords and volume, weather, holidays, and others to deliver monthly AI-powered recommendations that can be accepted with the click of a button. Once accepted, these optimizations instantly improve your business listings’ rankings to directly relate to each location’s community.

It’s time to level up your local search strategy, and SOCi is here to help. Request a personalized demo today for more insight on Genius Search and our other Genius products!

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for SOCi and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by SOCi. Used with permission.

Local SEO For Non-Physical Businesses: Overcoming The Challenges

Learn how to overcome the challenges of building a solid local search presence without a physical storefront.

Adam Heitzman Adam Heitzman 6.3K Reads
Local SEO For Non-Physical Businesses: Overcoming The Challenges

It’s hard to overstate the value of maximizing your organic visibility for location-based searches.

A well-executed local SEO strategy lets you reach far more local customers, which can deliver a massive boost to your in-store and online traffic and sales.

But if you don’t run a brick-and-mortar business, can you still take advantage of local SEO?

Fortunately, the answer is yes!

Today, we’ll explain how to overcome the challenges of building a solid local search presence without a physical storefront.

Difficulties Of Local SEO For Non-Physical Businesses

Search engines take into account the physical location of businesses when determining the most relevant listings to rank for local searches.

If a company has an address in Nashville, Google may rank it higher for user searches in and around the city.

But this poses an obvious concern for businesses without a physical address.

If search engines use the physical proximity of a business to a search user when ranking location-based results, how can a business with no physical location compete, even though it serves the local area?

The good news is that although having a physical address may make maximizing your local SEO presence easier, you can still succeed without a physical address.

For example, provided you run a service-area business (that is, you still have face-to-face contact with customers — just not at your own business address), Google allows you to create a Business Profile to manage your local visibility across Search and Maps.

For clarity, here’s Google’s official word on the matter:

“You can have a profile if your business doesn’t have a physical address as long as you make in-person contact with customers… You may also have a profile if you’re a service-area business that visits or delivers to customers directly, but doesn’t serve customers at its business address, like a plumber or cleaning service.”

And besides creating a Google Business Profile, there are a few other techniques non-physical businesses can use to boost their local SEO presence.

Let’s look at each solution in turn.

5 Ways To Master Local SEO Without A Business Address

1. Correctly Configure Your Google Business Profile

The first approach is to properly set up a Google Business Profile (GBP) for your service-area business.

A Google Business Profile is a tool that lets you create and update a free listing for your business across Google. Essentially, your GBP gives Google users a quick snapshot of your business, providing helpful information about things like opening hours, contact details, and customer reviews.

Here’s the GBP for a mobile car wash near me in Memphis, TN:

google search: mobile car washScreenshot for search term [mobile car wash], Google, January 2023
Google’s guidance for configuring a GBP for a service-area business differs slightly from its guidance for brick-and-mortar establishments.

The main difference is you have to specify your service area by city, zip code, or other type of area – not by your address. You can select up to 20 service areas, but the boundaries of all the combined areas should be within 2 hours’ driving distance from where your business is based.

Also, ensure that within Business Profile Manager, you leave the business location field blank under the Info tab. Setting your service area is enough to let Google (and search users) know where you operate.

2. Create Localized Content Targeting Location-Based Keywords

Generating location-specific content is another effective way to boost your site’s relevance for local searches, even without a physical location.

This involves creating content, service pages, blog posts, success stories, and other forms of content about topics relevant to the different communities you serve.

Incorporating geo-specific keywords into your content (like the name of the city or neighborhood you’re addressing) will help amplify your search visibility for relevant local searches.

For example, if you run a pool maintenance service in Phoenix, you might create articles titled “Top Challenges of Pool Maintenance in Phoenix’s Summer Heat.”

These articles integrate local keywords, address specific issues Phoenix pool owners are likely to encounter, and showcase your company’s understanding of local pool maintenance needs.

3. Develop Location-Specific Landing Pages

Creating dedicated landing pages for each of your target locations is another way to enhance your ranking potential for local searches.

These pages could include information about the specific services you offer in that area, local management, testimonials from local customers, and region-specific offers or promotions. Once again, be sure to incorporate local keywords to signal to search engines the relevance of your pages to local searches.

However, if you choose to implement this tactic, don’t just replicate the same basic page across different locations, changing nothing except the name of your target area.

Each localized landing page should be unique, providing genuinely useful and relevant information specific to that area. Duplicate content with only minor changes can negatively impact your SEO efforts.

4. Encourage Reviews And Testimonials From Local Customers

Accumulating reviews and testimonials from local customers is yet another way to boost your local SEO as a non-physical business.

Such reviews provide social proof to potential customers and demonstrate to search engines that your business is relevant and reputable within a specific area.

For this reason, you should encourage your local customers to leave reviews for your business on platforms like Google Business Profile, Yelp, and Facebook.

Keep in mind that asking for positive reviews in exchange for discounts, free services, or other financial incentives violates these platforms’ policies.

Instead, you should solicit honest customer reviews via thank you pages on your websites, follow-up emails, social media posts, and so on.

Responding to reviews is just as important as asking for them. Engaging with customer feedback reinforces your reputation for high standards and willingness to improve your services.

Plus, Google actively encourages businesses to engage with reviews to help improve local rankings.

Likewise, showcasing reviews and in-depth testimonials on your site, particularly location-specific landing pages, will instill confidence in potential customers about the credibility of your company.

5. Manage Your Local Citations

Finally, creating and updating online mentions of your business’s name, service area, and phone number can help your local SEO efforts.

Citations from reputable sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and local business directories signal to Google the relevance of your company in a specific area.

The key thing to remember when managing your local citations is that your business details should be accurate and consistent wherever they appear. This uniformity gives search engines more confidence to surface your business in local search results.

Also, keep in mind that the quality of your local citations is more important than the quantity. It’s best to prioritize getting listed on directories relevant to your industry and area of operations.

What About Online-Only Businesses?

So far, we’ve focused our attention on non-physical businesses that still make in-person contact with customers within a specific area.

But what about fully virtual businesses? Can they still enjoy the rewards of local SEO?

Again, the answer is yes – but it’s more difficult to achieve.

The main disadvantage virtual businesses face with local SEO is the inability to create listings on Google Business Profile and online directories that require, at the very least, a clearly defined service area.

That said, online-only businesses can still amplify their local search relevance by implementing the other tactics listed above: Creating localized content, targeting location-specific keywords, developing local landing pages, and gathering reviews and testimonials from local customers.

No Address? No Problem

Running a business without a physical address doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of local SEO.

There are several other ways to let search engines know that you operate within a specific geographic area, from creating a GBP to publishing location-specific content.

Just remember that managing your local SEO efforts is an ongoing process whether or not you have a business address.

More resources:


Featured Image: WBMUL/Shutterstock

A Guide To Star Ratings On Google And How They Work

Discover the importance of Google star ratings for your business. This comprehensive guide explains everything you need to know.

Chandal Nolasco da Silva Chandal Nolasco da Silva 100K Reads
A Guide To Star Ratings On Google And How They Work

The elusive five-star review used to be something you could only flaunt in a rotating reviews section on your website.

But today, Google has pulled these stars out of the shadows and features them front and center across branded SERPs and beyond.

Star ratings can help businesses earn trust from potential customers, improve local search rankings, and boost conversions.

This is your guide to how they work.

Stars And SERPs: What Is The Google Star Rating?

A Google star rating is a consumer-powered grading system that lets other consumers know how good a business is based on a score of one to five stars.

These star ratings can appear across maps and different Google search results properties like standard blue link search listings, ads, rich results like recipe cards, local pack results, third-party review sites, and on-app store results.

How Does The Google Star Rating Work?

When a person searches Google, they will see star ratings in the results. Google uses an algorithm and an average to determine how many stars are displayed on different review properties.

Google explains that the star score system operates based on an average of all review ratings for that business that have been published on Google.

It’s important to note that this average is not calculated in real-time and can take up to two weeks to update after a new review is created.

When users leave a review, they are asked to rate a business based on specific aspects of their customer experience, as well as the type of business being reviewed and the services they’ve included.

For example, “plumbers may get “Install faucet” or “Repair toilet” as services to add,” and Google also allows businesses to add custom services that aren’t listed.

When customers are prompted to give feedback, they can give positive or critical feedback, or they can choose not to select a specific aspect to review, in which case this feedback aspect is considered unavailable.

This combination of feedback is what Google uses to determine a business’s average score by “dividing the number of positive ratings by the total number of ratings (except the ones where the aspect was not rated).”

Google star ratings do have some exceptions in how they function.

For example, the UK and EU have certain restrictions that don’t apply to other regions, following recent scrutiny by the EU Consumer Protection Cooperation and the UK Competitions and Market Authority about fake reviews being generated.

Additionally, the type of rating search property will determine the specifics of how it operates and how to gather and manage reviews there.

Keep reading to get an in-depth explanation of each type of Google star rating available on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

How To Get Google Star Ratings On Different Search Properties

As mentioned above, there are different types of Google star ratings available across search results, including the standard blue-link listings, ads, local pack results, rich snippets, third-party reviews, and app store results.

Here’s what the different types of star-rating results look like in Google and how they work on each listing type.

Standard “Blue Link” Listings And Google Stars

In 2021, Google started testing star ratings in organic search and has since kept this SERP feature intact.

Websites can stand out from their competitors by getting stars to show up around their organic search results listing pages.

Text result showing google star ratings in the SERPsScreenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Organic SERPs

If you want stars to show up on your organic search results, add schema markup to your website.

Learn how to do that in the video below:

As the video points out, you need actual reviews to get your structured data markup to show.

Then, you can work with your development team to input the code on your site that indicates your average rating, highest, lowest, and total rating count.

structured markup example for google star ratings and reviewsScreenshot JSON-LD script on Google Developers, August 2021

Once you add the rich snippet to your site, there is no clear timeline for when they will start appearing in the SERPs – that’s up to Google.

In fact, Google specifically mentions that reviews in properties like search can take longer to appear, and often, this delay is caused by business profiles being merged.

When you’re done, you can check your work with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Adding schema is strongly encouraged. But even without it, if you own a retail store with ratings, Google may still show your star ratings in the search engine results.

They do this to ensure searchers are getting access to a variety of results. Google says:

“content on your website that’s been crawled and is related to retail may also be shown in product listings and annotations for free across Google.”

If you want star ratings to show up on Shopping Ads, you’ll have to pay for that.

Paid Ads And Google Stars

When Google Stars appear in paid search ads, they’re known as seller ratings, “an automated extension type that showcases advertisers with high ratings.”

These can appear in text ads, shopping ads, and free listings. Both the star rating and the total number of votes or reviews are displayed.

In addition to Google star ratings, shopping ads may include additional production information such as shipping details, color, material, and more, as shown below.

Google shopping ads showing star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024

Paid text ads were previously labeled as “ads” and recently have been upgraded to a “sponsored” label, as shown below.

paid ad showing google star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Paid Ads

To participate in free listings, sellers have to do three things:

  • Follow all the required policies around personally identifiable information, spam, malware, legal requirements, return policies, and more.
  • Submit a feed through the Google Merchant Center or have structured data markup on their website (as described in the previous section).
  • Add their shipping settings.

Again, some ecommerce sellers who do not have schema markup may still have their content show up in the SERPs.

For text ads and shopping ads to show star ratings, sellers are typically required to have at least 100 reviews in the last 12 months.

Paid advertisers must also meet a minimum number of stars for seller ratings to appear on their text ads. This helps higher-quality advertisers stand out from the competition.

For example, text ads have to have a minimum rating of 3.5 for the Google star ratings to show.

Google treats reviews on a per-country basis, so the minimum review threshold of 100 also applies only to 1 region at a time.

For star ratings to appear on a Canadian ecommerce company’s ads, for example, they would have to have obtained a minimum of 100 reviews from within Canada in the last year.

Google considers reviews from its own Google Customer Reviews and also from approved third-party partner review sites from its list of 29 supported review partners, which makes it easier for sellers to meet the minimum review threshold each year.

Google also requests:

  • The domain that has ratings must be the same as the one that’s visible in the ad.
  • Google or its partners must conduct a research evaluation of your site.
  • The reviews included must be about the product or service being sold.

Local Pack Results And Google Stars

Local businesses have a handful of options for their business to appear on Google via Places, local map results, and a Google Business Profile page – all of which can show star ratings.

Consumers even have the option to sort local pack results by their rating, as shown in the image example below.

Google star ratings on search resultsScreenshot from SERPs local pack, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Local Search Results

To appear in local search results, a Google Business Profile is required.

Customers may leave reviews directly on local business properties without being asked, but Google also encourages business owners to solicit reviews from their customers and shares best practices, including:

  • Asking your customers to leave you a review and make it easy for them to do so by providing a link to your review pages.
  • Making review prompts desktop and mobile-friendly.
  • Replying to customer reviews (ensure you’re a verified provider on Google first).
  • Be sure you do not offer incentives for reviews.

Customers can also leave star ratings on other local review sites, as Google can pull from both to display on local business search properties. It can take up to two weeks to get new local reviews to show in your overall score.

Once customers are actively leaving reviews, Google Business Profile owners have a number of options to help them manage these:

options to manage review on google business profileScreenshot from Google Business Profile Help, Google, February 2024

Rich Results, Like Recipes, And Google Stars

Everybody’s gotta eat, and we celebrate food in many ways — one of which is recipe blogs.

While restaurants rely more on local reviews, organic search results, and even paid ads, food bloggers seek to have their recipes rated.

Similar to other types of reviews, recipe cards in search results show the average review rating and the total number of reviews.

recipe search results on desktopScreenshot from search for [best vegan winter recipes], Google, February 2024
The outcome has become a point of contention among the food blogging community, since only three recipes per search can be seen on Google desktop results (like shown in the image above), and four on a mobile browser.

These coveted spots will attract clicks, leaving anyone who hasn’t mastered online customer reviews in the dust. That means that the quality of the recipe isn’t necessarily driving these results.

Google gives users the option to click “Show more” to see two additional rows of results:

expanded desktop recipe search resultsScreenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024

Searchers can continue to click the “Show more” button to see additional recipe results.

Anyone using Google Home can search for a recipe and get results through their phone:

Google assistant recipesScreenshot from Elfsight, February 2024

Similarly, recipe search results can be sent from the device to the Google Home assistant. Both methods will enable easy and interactive step-by-step recipe instructions using commands like “start recipe,” “next step,” or even “how much olive oil?”

How To Get Google Stars On Recipe Results

Similar to the steps to have stars appear on organic blue-link listings, food bloggers and recipe websites need to add schema to their websites in order for star ratings to show.

However, it’s not as straightforward as listing the average and the total number of ratings. Developers should follow Google’s instructions for recipe markup.

There is both required and recommended markup:

Required Markup For Recipes

  • Name of the recipe.
  • Image of the recipe in a BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, or SVG format.

Recommended Markup For Recipes

  • Aggregate rating.
  • Author.
  • Cook time, preparation time, and total duration.
  • Date published.
  • Description.
  • Keywords.
  • Nutrition information.
  • Prep time.
  • Recipe category by meal type, like “dinner.”
  • Region associated with the recipe.
  • Ingredients.
  • Instructions.
  • Yield or total serving.
  • Total time.
  • Video (and other related markup, if there is a video in the recipe).

To have recipes included in Google Assistant Guided Recipes, the following markup must be included:

  • recipeIngredient
  • recipeInstructions
  • To have the video property, add the contentUrl.

For example, here’s what the structured markup would look like for the recipeIngredient property:

example of structured markup for recipe steps in Google AssistantScreenshot from Google Developer, February 2024

Third-Party Review Sites And Google Stars

Many software companies rely on third-party review sites to help inform their customer’s purchasing decisions.

Third-party review sites include any website a brand doesn’t own where a customer can submit a review, such as Yelp, G2, and many more.

Many of these sites, like Featured Customers shown below, can display star ratings within Google search results.

Example of star ratings showing in SERPs from third-party review sitesScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

Rich snippets from third-party reviews, such as stars, summary info, or ratings, can also appear on a Google Business Profile or map view from approved sites.

For local businesses, Google star ratings appear in different locations than the third-party reviews on a desktop:

third party reviews and google stars on desktop resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

On mobile, ratings are displayed on a company’s Google Business Profile. Users need to click on Reviews or scroll down to see the third-party reviews:

third party reviews in local mobile resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

On a map, the results from third parties may be more prominent, like the Tripadvisor review that shows up for a map search of The Hilton in Vancouver (although it does not display a star rating even though Tripadvisor does provide star ratings):

third party reviews in map resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Third-Party Review Sites

The best way to get a review on a third-party review site depends on which site is best for the brand or the business.

For example, if you have active customers on Yelp or Tripadvisor, you may choose to engage with customers there.

third-party reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

Similarly, if a software review site like Trustpilot shows up for your branded search, you could do an email campaign with your customer list asking them to leave you a review there.

Here are a few of the third-party review websites that Google recognizes:

  • Trustpilot.
  • Reevoo.
  • Bizrate – through Shopzilla.

When it comes to third-party reviews, Google reminds businesses that there is no way to opt out of third-party reviews, and they need to take up any issues with third-party site owners.

App Store Results And Google Stars

When businesses have an application as their core product, they typically rely on App Store and Google Play Store downloads.

Right from the SERPs, searchers can see an app’s star ratings, as well as the total votes and other important information, like whether the app is free or not.

App store reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERP play store results, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On App Store Results

Businesses can list their iOS apps in the App Store or on the Google Play store, prompt customers to leave reviews there, and also respond to them.

Does The Google Star Rating Influence SEO Rankings?

John Mueller confirmed that Google does not factor star ratings or customer reviews into web search rankings. However, Google is clear that star ratings influence local search results and rankings:

“Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”

Even though they are not a ranking factor for non-local organic search, star ratings can serve as an important conversion element, helping you display social proof, build credibility, and increase your click-through rate from search engines (which may indirectly impact your search rankings).

For local businesses, both Google stars and third-party ratings appear in desktop and mobile searches, as seen above.

These ratings not only help local businesses rank above their competitors for key phrases, but they will also help convince more customers to click, which is every company’s search game.

How Do I Improve My Star Rating?

Businesses that want to improve their Google star rating should start by claiming their Google Business Profile and making sure all the information is complete and up to date.

If a company has already taken these steps and wants to offset a poor rating, they are going to need more reviews to offset the average.

Companies can get more Google reviews by making it easy for customers to leave one. The first step for a company is to get the link to leave a review inside their Google Business Profile:

Ask customers for reviews linkScreenshot from Wordstream, February 2024

From there, companies can send this link out to customers directly (there are four options displayed right from the link as seen above), include it on social media, and even dedicate sections of their website to gathering more reviews and/or displaying reviews from other users.

It isn’t clear whether or not responding to reviews will help improve a local business’s ranking; however, it’s still a good idea for companies to respond to reviews on their Google Business Profile in order to improve their ratings overall.

That’s because responding to reviews can entice other customers to leave a review since they know they will get a response and because the owner is actually seeing the feedback.

For service businesses, Google provides the option for customers to rate aspects of the experience.

This is helpful since giving reviewers this option allows anyone who had a negative experience to rate just one aspect negatively rather than giving a one-star review overall.

Does Having A Star Rating On Google Matter? Yes! So Shoot For The Stars

Stars indicate quality to consumers, so they almost always improve click-through rates wherever they are present.

Consumers tend to trust and buy from brands with higher star ratings in local listings, paid ads, or even app downloads.

Many, many, many studies have demonstrated this phenomenon time and again. So, don’t hold back when it comes to reviews.

Do an audit of where your brand shows up in SERPs and get stars next to as many placements as possible.

The most important part of star ratings across Google, however, will always be the service and experiences companies provide that fuel good reviews from happy customers.

More resources:


Feature Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock
All screenshots taken by author

How Can You Begin To Rank In New Markets (Local, National, International)

Explore strategies for local, national, and international markets, optimizing Google Business Profiles and Schema to expand your online presence effectively.

Adam Riemer Adam Riemer 3.3K Reads
How Can You Begin To Rank In New Markets (Local, National, International)

Today’s ask an SEO question comes from Mark:

“How can a small company that only ranks in its local markets begin to rank in another market? What would you do to help the small company rank in a new area?”

Great question, Mark! The good news is that the answer is fairly easy and can be applied to local, national, and international in the base strategy.

All three can also require foreign language versions, but that is for another post. I’ll give some hints in this one for that situation, though.

I’m going to cover the basics of getting SEO traffic in new markets here, making the assumption it is regional vs. new products, and then share some tips specific to local, national, and international.

Google Business Profile (GBP)

If you’re local or have a national footprint, when you expand, make sure to update your area served or serviced by location. This link goes to Google’s guide for how to use a service area.

Make sure to keep your hours up-to-date on the website, landing page, and on your GBP.

This helps the search engines to understand where you’re now offering services, what your footprint is, and when customers can access your offerings.

You can also launch new profiles for new locations. Just make sure you verify ownership for each one and keep them up-to-date. This includes holiday hours and closings.

Schema

Do you have service area or organization schema on your site or pages? Make sure to fill out and update the “area served” fields by referencing Wikipedia or Wikipedia’s entries.

Wikidata has almost every city, county, state, country, and region to help you define where your products, services, stores, etc., are located.

The more you can help the search engines know where you offer services, and the hours you offer them, the better job they can do at showing you as a provider to people in those markets.

Do you offer services in all of North America (US, Mexico, Canada)? There’s a page for that, too. This way, you don’t have to reference all three.

But something really weird here is that Wikidata includes “Greenland” as North America.

That’s definitely not accurate for your locations, although it is technically part of the continent (geographically). Politically, Greenland is part of the EU, as it is currently a territory of Denmark.

Here’s a screenshot of the page with a date stamp. This likely wouldn’t impact your ability to rank, so don’t second-guess yourself here.

I’m using this as an example because it could be confusing as to why you may reference this page when you don’t offer services in Greenland.

wikidata considers greenland north americaScreenshot from Wikidata, January 2023

Localize Or Regionalize Your Titles And Descriptions

Meta descriptions are not a ranking signal or used in rankings – at least, that’s my opinion – though they do influence how many people click through to your site. But only when a search engine uses the meta descriptions you create.

Title tags, however, do move the needle, based on my experience, when combined with other on-page elements.

When the description reinforces the region or market the title displays for, you create an enticing ad for a consumer to click on.

And meta descriptions are vital.

If you are optimizing for tourists and mention you’re right by a specific landmark, they will know you’re close to their location and may click on your listing over another business higher up that shares generic titles and descriptions.

This can work for retailers, pharmacies, restaurants, housing or car rentals, etc. Here’s a guide I created for writing localized meta descriptions and title tags.

Build Citations And Do PR Work

This one is a double win! Look up local blogs, newspapers, and magazines, then focus on getting featured and mentioned.

By being featured, you can get referral traffic and customers to your business and signal to search engines you have a new local location or expansion. In some cases, you may get a backlink.

Whether the backlink is natural and good or not depends on the site linking to you and the type of link.

As an added bonus, if the new market you have moved into recognizes and trusts the media company’s brand, feature the logo on your page.

This may help build trust to increase conversions both online or for foot traffic if they’re deciding between two businesses to try.

If you were to expand into my city (Washington D.C.), focus on Washingtonian Magazine, Popville, or ARLnow. These could be recognizable by locals in our area.

Other Things To Pay Attention To

One thing to keep in mind when you expand your footprint is that demographics may change location by location.

You may find the new location has a different skew for race, religion, single vs. married, income levels, or age ranges. This means the way you market also needs modifying.

  • If you offer new languages, make sure to check your hreflang tags so they reference the correct language version for products, services, and content. Here’s Google’s guide on this.
  • Update the imagery to match the demographics of the customers who will be contacting you for services or visiting your location.
  • Make sure the wording makes sense for their needs. If your original location is in a DINK-heavy area (dual income, no kids), and the new one has multiple elementary schools, mention the new location is kid-friendly or add in relevant promotions, e.g., “kids eat half price.” While you might do this for the kid-friendly location, keep the wording focused on relaxing, calm, quiet, and romantic for the DINK location.

Expanding a business or service is exciting, and it is easy to begin getting traffic, customers, and sales from it.

You just need to put in the work, make sure you cater to the needs of your new audience, and that your content and code are updated regularly. I hope this helps.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Toey Andante/Shutterstock

How Local Businesses Can Rank For Popular Near Me Searches

How can local businesses optimize for popular local search terms? One business did it with a creative name - here are some more practical ways.

Kristi Hines Kristi Hines 5.6K Reads
How Local Businesses Can Rank For Popular Near Me Searches

A recent feature on The Verge highlighted businesses that try to get an edge in local search rankings with clever names like Thai Food Near Me.

So, I set out to discover if this strategy could impact local rankings and, more importantly, if other local businesses could replicate it.

Before I get started, I should preface this with some good and bad news.

Bad News: Distance Is An Important Ranking Factor

Most restaurants will not rank as the best restaurants near me unless they are physically located near the search user’s location.

The reason? One of the three critical ranking factors for Google local search results is distance.

Suppose a restaurant owner wants people in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York to discover their dining establishment with the term best restaurant near me.

For that, they must optimize for the best restaurant AND have a physical location in those cities. And not just in those cities but in the precise location of the searcher.

The real question: does a restaurant need to be ranked number one in search results as the best near someone in Philadelphia if its only physical location is in San Diego?

Maybe – if the restaurant has something to offer outside of a sit-down dining experience, such as a physical product to ship.

Or if it is the best restaurant in the region, diners would be willing to travel over half an hour or even plan a getaway to try it.

With hundreds of thousands of monthly searches for terms like best restaurants, best breakfast, best food, etc., near me, it’s hard not to want to optimize for those phrases.

Screenshot from Semrush, October 2023

But as noted by the orange to red shaded Keyword Difficulty (KD%) indicators next to each phrase, it could be challenging to rank for many of the best ____ near me terms.

Good News: Relevance And Prominence Also Matter

The good news is many local businesses don’t need to rank for the best anything outside of the area in which they are located.

Most restaurant owners only need the attention of customers physically near them in search to generate profit.

The better news is there are ways to help local businesses boost relevancy and prominence using popular keyword phrases.

Focus On Review Sites With Keyword-Optimized Lists

Encourage customers to review the restaurant on sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, or similar networks that already rank for terms like best restaurant near me with pages like the Top 10 Best Restaurants in your city.

Screenshot from Google, October 2023

Promote Keyword-Optimized Reviews

Spot keyword phrases in customer reviews that you would like to optimize for and share those on the restaurant website and social media pages.

Screenshot from TripAdvisor, October 2023

If the restaurant reviewed above has a blog, for example, it could create a post that includes the phrase best restaurant in India in the title and feature this review.

Connect With Local Media

Connect with local journalists, reporters, and reviewers to get featured in articles or features about the best restaurants in your city.

Screenshot from Google, October 2023

Specifically, find the people who have created similar content – and their editors – and start engaging with them on the social networks that they use most. Not the social networks they post to the most, but the ones they engage with others or the ones where they have the most reach.

Connect With Social Media Influencers

Don’t forget that Google isn’t the only name in search. 40% of Gen Z have turned to TikTok and Instagram as an alternative search engine. As such, some of the same search terms are also popular on social platforms.

Screenshot from TikTok, October 2023

Use the search bar on each respective network to find the influencers that create content matching keyword phrases like best restaurants near me or best restaurant in Phoenix.

Screenshot from Instagram, October 2023

Begin engaging with those influencers and seek out chances for a content partnership.

Create A New Brand To Target More Keywords

What if you want to target more keyword phrases than the restaurant ranks for?

Denny’s, a restaurant that often ranks for best breakfast near me, did not also rank for best burger near me.

While it wasn’t to rank for a keyword phrase, the company did create two new virtual brands.

One – The Burger Den – appears in a search for the best burger near me via Yelp’s list of Best 10 Burgers in my area list.

Screenshot from Yelp, October 2023

This could allow a brand traditionally known for one product to become equally famous for another.

It Takes More Than A Clever Business Name

In summary, the landscape of local search rankings is more dynamic and multifaceted than ever.

While distance remains an immutable factor, there are other creative strategies that local businesses can employ to optimize for near me and other local search terms.


Featured image: The Image Party/Shutterstock

6 Local SEO Full-Guides That Help You Rank For Your Business Type
In partnership with Rundown

The Local SEO guides you need to expand your local presence and visibility, all in one place.

This Rundown includes:

  • A guide to the latest Google Business Profile changes & features.
  • The ways to overcome the challenges of ranking locally with non-physical businesses.
  • How to unlock the power of Google star ratings.
  • The keys to ranking in new markets, from local to international.

 

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