Local SEO data indicates 61% of people expect search results to be tailored to their location. People are on the go now more than ever, and they want to find businesses that solve their needs as fast and as physically close to them as possible.
To no surprise, Google has rewritten the rules on how to rank in Google local search once again. Previously, Google determined local rankings based on a few simple factors: complete and accurate business information in Google Business Profile, relevance, and distance. Here’s a quick recap of what these ranking factors mean.
Original Local SEO Ranking Factors
For your business to show up in relevant searches in your area, it’s crucial that you give Google updated and accurate information about your company. Giving Google the needed information means that you verify your location, make sure that your NAP (name, address, & phone number) information is correct, keep your hours accurate, and anything else that lets Google and your customers knows where you are and what you do.
Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches up with the term or phrase that someone is searching. For instance, if someone searches for “Italian restaurant near me” and neither your name nor your business description says anything about Italian food, you most likely won’t rank well for this search. That being said, make an effort to give Google the most complete and detailed information you can about your business to improve your chances of ranking for relevant searches.
The distance sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s still important. Google prioritizes search results based on how far each potential search result is from the location that the user searched. If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, such as if they just searched for “Italian restaurant,” then Google will calculate distance based on what they know about the user’s location.
There’s a New Kid on the Block: Brand Prominence
Now, Google decided to throw another local SEO ranking factor into the mix, known as brand prominence. Brand prominence is similar to brand awareness in that it indicates how well a business is known. Some places are far more well-known offline, like famous landmarks, museums, hotels, and popular store brands that are familiar to people without the Internet. So, Google considers this in local search rankings.
Brand prominence is also based on information that Google knows about a business from other sources around the web, including outside links, articles, and directories. Other elements that are included in local search rankings are the amount of Google reviews and rating scores that your business has. The more reviews and positive ratings your business has, means greater brand awareness, which means improved local rankings for your business.
What You Need to Know About Brand Prominence
Although brand awareness is not a new idea to the online world, it is, however, new to the Google algorithm that calculates local SEO rankings. Google kept the Pigeon update of 2014 rather vague, saying that they incorporated “traditional web signals” into the local SEO algorithm and didn’t provide specific factors or best practices at the time. Now, Google has confirmed that traditional SEO best practices combined with brand prominence creates a direct impact on local search results.
How Prominence Affects Rankings
Think about brand prominence as it relates to local SEO regarding competing with a big fish in a small pond. If you are a local business competing for the same keyword as a major local landmark or national brand, it is likely that you’ll have to put in a little more work in order to compete.
So, How Do You Gain Brand Prominence?
Brand prominence doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly isn’t just handed to you. To gain popularity across the web and for Google to recognize you takes some effort. The more link building you do, the more positive reviews you get, and the branded searches your business has, is a recipe for better local positioning.
As far as reviews go, most businesses have some negative reviews, especially as it relates to customer service. Don’t worry; a couple of negative reviews isn’t going to damage your brand prominence and local search rankings completely.
Google has “search quality evaluation guidelines” which determine prominence ratings.
This means that Google looks at the overall reputation of your business online, taking into consideration the good and bad reviews, and gives sympathy to businesses which are mostly positive. Even if you do have some negative reviews, do your best to respond to them in a professional and timely manner and address quality issues. Google likes to see this, and if you’re addressing your negative reviews as well as promoting the positive ones, you’ll likely rank higher in your local market.
Start Ranking Locally Today
To create a positive brand reputation, work hard to delight your customers and improve their experience with your brand so that hopefully they’re more inclined to leave more positive reviews in person and online. Make sure that you’re recognized in the local community. Get to work on building valuable, informative content that lets your customers and Google know that you have a brand they can trust.
If you’re looking for some steps to take to improve your brand prominence we recommend starting with our on-site optimization guide as well as our guide to building local citations.