Marketing your business can be intimidating. There’s a lot of things to consider when deciding how you’re going to represent your brand. However, it is SUPER important to be involved in digital marketing. The internet is where everything is happening and where many people get their information. There’s tons of platforms out there for you to get started, but there is one platform we recommend getting on no matter what— Google.
Google is the top search engine for users across the world. It’s an epicenter for networking, optimizing productivity, and communication. Many users make Google their primary source of information and it’s often used to find local businesses in the area. This doesn’t mean Google is perfect—no search engine is. It can be your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. Even so, we highly recommend you get started on the Google Business Profile Manager (formerly Google My Business). We also recommend that you stay on top of any updates that Google makes. This is where it can become a marketing nightmare if you aren’t proactive. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered! We’ll make sure you have all of the information you need to be a marketing guru.
What We’ve Seen
A recent update from Google rolled out between November 30th and December 8th, 2021, with industry experts seeing major changes on December 6th. “The Vicinity Update” or “The Proximity Update” is named after the fact that Google is putting a high priority on location as a ranking factor. Basically, the closer you are to the searcher, the more likely your business will show up as a search result. This means that Google is basically assuming searchers want to find businesses that are closest to them, regardless of what industry the business is in.
Google said the update “involved a rebalancing of various factors we consider in generating local search results”. They believe they’re rebalancing the ranking algorithm to reduce spam, but trends have proven otherwise.
We’ve seen businesses showing in irrelevant search results, reports of “fake listings” (listings that do not have a website, reviews, or backlinks of any kind), and more. We’re also seeing businesses in the local pack, what you see at the top of the page when searching for businesses in your area (not ads), that weren’t there before. This corresponds with another update Google made recently where they moved the local pack results higher and the physical map to the right. This could be Google’s way of changing the viewpoint of an area, zeroing in on a more central location.
So far, the only thing that the top businesses have in common is a high level of reviews. The Vicinity Update has affected almost all industries, but some specifically mentioned were lawyers, home services, insurance, and dentists. The businesses that seem to be doing great don’t have keywords in their business name. Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. Google has given weight to keywords for a long time so this is kind of surprising. However, they do state using keywords in your business name goes against their general guidance for businesses.
Google says that their general guidelines remain the same after the update, so we urge you to continue following the guidelines. It’s possible that this update is devaluing keywords, but we aren’t sure yet.
Other businesses that are doing well have secondary locations that are popular in the area. Even if their primary locations take a hit, their secondary locations move up in rank. The same can’t be said for businesses with offices that are far away from the areas they serve. This makes sense with the update being all about proximity, but it’s still worth mentioning. And while in the past we have seen businesses avoid the proximity factor and still rank well from far away, we don’t know the full scope of how this will affect those types of businesses at this time, but we continue to monitor trends in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
It’s important to note that the algorithm fluctuates regularly and we’ve seen it level out after updates in the past. So if you aren’t happy with where you’re landing, be sure to take note of any major changes you see and what you were doing when they happened. We will work with you to determine the best course of action when things like this occur.
What You Can Do:
Enter Complete Data
Make sure you are filling out as much business information as possible on your Google Business Profile. You also want to make sure all of the information is accurate and consistent across all platforms. If you change it on Google, change it on everything. This includes even the smallest things such as business hours.
Verify Your Locations
This is arguably the most important of the bunch. An unverified listing can easily be removed from Google Maps or not show up at all. Verifying your profile lets Google know that there is a real business there. If you need help doing this, give us a call!
Manage & Respond to Reviews
Verifying your profile lets Google know you’re a real business, but reviews let customers know you’re a real business. The majority of new customers immediately go to reviews to seek information about your business. Even if the review is negative, your response to it can make all the difference. Be sure to encourage reviews from your customers and respond to ALL reviews within a 2 week period. Not only does this look good for you as a business, but Google could encourage this practice by moving you up in rank.
As we said before, Google is often the first place people go to search for businesses in their area. Your Google listing is basically the first line of defense. Make sure you’re showing customers what your business provides/does from the very beginning.
Google can be intimidating, but you can do it! As stated earlier, we encourage you to keep up with Google’s guidelines when it comes to managing your Google Business Profile and use the tips above to keep your listing in tip-top shape.