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How Local Businesses Can Improve Online Visibility with Google My Business

by Ariana Hooper   |   Nov 16, 2021

As the country continues to experience the effects of COVID-19, it’s easy for consumers to turn to national ecommerce retailers and services industries, resulting in a decrease in local brick and mortar foot traffic.

To compete, local restaurants, boutiques, and service providers are shifting to meet consumers where they are: online.

So, how can local businesses improve their online presence in search against large scale competitors?

Now more than ever, a strong digital presence helps local businesses reach consumers in their geographic area across all devices.

Google’s search statistics reflect buyers’ desires to shop small. In 2020, Google searches for “support local businesses'' grew by over 20,000% (Google Blog, June 2021); a clear movement to support local businesses and keep communities afloat during the pandemic. With a renewed interest in shopping small, local businesses can and should capitalize on digital traffic.

Benefits of Using Google’s Free Listing Tool, Google My Business

Local businesses can maximize free digital capabilities to attract and serve consumers in search.

Enter Google My Business (GMB). GMB is Google’s free service directory that businesses can claim to update business information displayed in a search results listing and traditional search catalog.

GMB listing

Impact of Local Search on Local Businesses

In 2017, Think With Google identified that since 2015, searches for local businesses with the qualifier “near me” grew 150% faster than comparable searches not including “near me.” As of 2021, consumers still want to find businesses close to them, but may not explicitly include “near me” in their search. Google’s local search algorithm continues to improve and provide results based on the user’s location, regardless of locally related terms.

Still, plenty of search queries include “near me” to generate results for an explicitly local search. When users include “near me,” historical data indicates they likely clicked through to a site from a GMB listing.

Google search results including "near me" show local options
Google search results without "near me" still display local options

Google’s Local Search Factors

Google’s algorithm tracks users’ locations and displays business results that are close and convenient. In November 2019, Google began using neural matching in their local search algorithm to help search engines understand the relationship between search terms to improve local search. This change didn’t impact how businesses represented themselves, but helped improve Google’s ability to rank businesses in relation to user location.

Google considers three key factors in their local search algorithm to influence GMB results:

1. Proximity or distance

For local service businesses, the familiarity and presence within a geographic area can be a driver for consumers. While for local retailers, the option to purchase a unique product without having to pay or wait for shipping makes local businesses all the more appealing.

2. Relevance

Relevance refers to how closely related a business is to a user’s search terms. Relevance is influenced by the business information provided in a GMB listing.

3. Prominence or notoriety

Prominence refers to how well-known the business is, considering both offline and online signals. Prominence is related to a variety of factors, including reviews, articles, and other information across the internet.

With these factors in mind, a GMB listing should include the business’s name, address, phone number, and website to appeal to Google’s consideration of proximity. Adding a business category will help the algorithm determine relevance, and including reviews displays prominence or notoriety with previous customers.

How GMB Helps Improve the Digital Presence of Local Businesses

When improving a local business’s digital presence, think about what consumers are asking and how a GMB listing can answer their questions. A consumer may ask:

  • Is the business near me?

  • Does the business have what I’m looking for?

  • Is the business available to serve me?

  • How can the business serve me? (Delivery, pick-up, and online options have all become more important to consumers during the pandemic.)

  • How can I contact this business?

With the peaks and valleys of the pandemic, businesses may be operating under adapted hours, limited product/service offerings or staff, and required precautionary measures. GMB is key to showing up for local searches, highlighting availability, and updating consumers on varying business circumstances. Claiming a GMB listing can not only give local businesses the autonomy to edit their business offerings and information, it can also increase real estate in Google’s local map pack results as GMB drives the Google Maps listings.

GMB Features for Service and Retail Businesses

Local service businesses without a brick-and-mortar location can improve visibility for their service offerings and service area by including a service area in their GMB listing. The service area includes the geographic areas the business serves within a 2 hour radius.

For local retailers, displaying products in a GMB profile can be helpful to show consumers current product offerings and stock. According to Google, consumers are searching for “who has” + “in stock” 8,000% more frequently year over year (Google Keyword Blog, June 2021).

GMB Listings and Mobile Search Traffic

In the digital age, smart phones allow users to search for local business information on the go. According to SEMRush, 60% of web searches are done from a mobile device. When local businesses claim their GMB listing, they are eligible to show up in the highest ranking mobile search position for 60% of total searches. That’s search real estate not to be missed.

Wrap Up

From unique products to quality, personalized services, GMB listings help local businesses build their reputations as the shops, restaurants, and services consumers frequent time and time again. Local businesses using Google My Business listings improve their digital presence by showcasing their proximity, availability, and quality of offerings.

Are you a local business owner interested in claiming and optimizing your G listing? Check out our Local SEO services for more information.

portrait of Ariana Hooper

Ariana Hooper

Ariana graduated from VCU with a Mass Communications degree. After graduating, she decided to keep enjoying Richmond and its continued growth. She came to us from a Richmond-based community organization and is excited to focus on digital marketing and help clients with their SEO. As a beach girl at heart, she enjoys any water view and once worked as a stand up paddle board instructor in her hometown of Virginia Beach. When not at the office you can find her spending time outdoors, cooking a new recipe, enjoying one of Richmond’s many festivals or checking out the newest RVA addition whether restaurant, boutique or brewery.