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As Google has continuously demoted their organic listings for search results, local SEO has risen in prominence. Instead of aiming for the top search spot, more and more businesses are prioritizing claiming the top place in Google’s local search results – which typically appear before any organic listings.

Of course, getting the top spot in the local results isn’t much easier than typical SEO work. However, it is a bit different. Google prioritizes different search signals to make sure they are delivering the most valuable businesses for your searches.

To figure out exactly what search signals matter to Google the most when sorting local results, LocalSEO Guide recently completed an in-depth review of over 200 ranking factors and 100,000 local businesses across 150 cities.

What they found shows that while organic ranking factors like links, keywords, and anchor text are important, rankings reign supreme in local search.

Specifically, “having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of the city you are working to rank in, in reviews, has a high correlation with high ranking in Google My Business results.”

The findings also indicate that engagement, such as adding photos and hours to your listing, serves as a significant ranking factor. Additionally, “responding to reviews and claiming your profiles are ways to engage with your potential customers and Google’s platform to show then you are invested.”

Elsewhere, the report suggests that traditional SEO factors such as links and on-site optimization still play a significant role in rankings. However, some off-page signals like citations and reviews on third-party sites, are declining in relevance compared to past research.

The full report details more findings and statistics to indicate exactly how those who are crushing local search are doing it. However, it is important to note that these types of studies are based entirely on correlation. We can’t say for sure exactly how Google’s systems rank local results – partially because they won’t tell and partially because they are always changing.

Your Google My Business listing is one of the best ways to make sure potential customers in your area find your business. The listings provide the information about where your business is, your hours, and what types of products or services you offer, and the listings often appear above any other regular search results.

Now, Google is making it easier than ever to maintain and edit your GMB listings by letting you manage them straight from the search results pages.

When you search for your business while logged into the Google account associated with your GMB listing, you will now be shown a new dashboard where you can edit your business information, add new stylish photos, share posts about your business, and even see how many views your listing is receiving.

If you are like the many businesses who have incomplete listings or haven’t updated your business info in years, now is the time to take action. Google highlights a number of reasons that having a thorough and informational listing is important for local businesses in their announcement, including:

  • More than 80% of online searchers use the web to find local information.
  • Businesses with complete listings on Google are twice as likely to gain customer trust, and
    • 38% more likely to attract in-store visits
    • 29% more likely to see a purchase

When it comes to mobile users and the internet, there is nothing more important than speed. Every step between the first click and the final conversion gives users the opportunity to set their phone down, get a call, or just get bored.

That’s why Google is doing everything it can to help businesses streamline the process, including this week’s launch of new “action buttons” that allow people to take action with your business straight from your Google My Business listing.

The new buttons allow you to add links to specific actions, including a variety of options for businesses from a number of industries – most notably service industries like restaurants and retailers. These links will then appear on your GMB listings anytime users see them in the search results.

Possible action URLs can include:

  • Booking an appointment
  • Placing an order
  • Reserving a table
  • Searching for items
  • Viewing the menu

Adding an action button to your own GMB listing is easy and just takes a few steps:

  • Sign in to Google My Business.
  • Choose the listing you want to edit.
  • Click into the URLs section.
  • Enter your URLs in the appropriate fields.
  • Click Apply.

There is only one minor catch to these buttons. Google says in some cases it will add non-editable, third-party links into these listings when the link relies on a third-party system. The search engine says these links are added because “Google works with select third-party providers that provide booking and ordering services for local businesses.”

In most cases, these links are completely unable to be edited or removed. Google says you can reach out directly to the third-party provider and request the link be changed or removed, but I’d imagine they will be unlikely to comply.

Google has made it easy for businesses to tell users what accessibility features they provide before they ever visit the store with their latest addition to Google My Business listings.

Now, you can add accessibility information about your business or search for places which provide accessibility features like wheelchair ramps and wheelchair-accessible parking.

You can update your listing by simply going to the main menu of Google Maps for Android, pulling up the main menu, and tapping on “Your contributions.” From there, go to “Uncover missing info” and sort by “Accessibility.”

This pulls up locations near you that are missing accessibility information, including your business. Then, you can begin adding accessibility attributes as needed, including:

  • Wheelchair-accessible entrances
  • Wheelchair-accessible elevators
  • Wheelchair-accessible seating, and
  • Wheelchair-accessible parking

The set-up of the new feature allows any users to add accessibility information about any business they visit, but business owners can take the initiative to update their own listings to alert shoppers about what they offer before they make the trip themselves.

Since the release of the new listing information, Google says users have added accessibility information to almost 7 million places worldwide.

Wish you could put personalized messages into search results? Until now, the only way for you to get a specific message out to people finding your business was to send out tweets popular enough to get included or to publish paid search ads.

That’s all changing now, though. Google released a new feature this week called Google Posts for all businesses with a Google My Business Listing. With Google Posts, you can finally share your message on search results without the costs of ads or hit-and-miss nature of social media.

Any time you share a Post, it will appear in search results and Google Maps pages that include your business listing. The message will initially be just a small snippet, but searchers can expand it with a single tap to read more.

There are potentially limitless ways businesses can take advantage of the new feature. Specifically, Google suggests getting started by updating customers with information about new sales, upcoming events, and new product launches to build excitement.

In addition to your customized message, you can also include photos and custom calls-to-action to encourage making a reservation, signing-up for your newsletter, or linking to your latest special offer.

Google Posts are already available to any business with a verified Google My Business account. You can get started sharing your messages and customizing your listings now from any desktop, iOS, or Android device.

Do you have a website for your business? If you’re like 60% of small business owners around the world, the answer is no. Whether it is because you lack the expertise or can’t afford it, Google wants to help.

This week, Google officially released a simple one-page website builder designed to make getting your brand online quick, easy, and (most importantly) free.

The new feature, called “Website”, allows you to create and edit a basic website for your business in just a few minutes. You can even make your site on a smartphone, as well as from a desktop device or tablet.

Website is being touted as a new part of Google My Business, meaning you will have to sign-up and fill out business information before you can use the tool. However, this also makes the process of making a site easier, since Google automatically uses this information to fill out your website. From there, you can customize it with a selection of themes, pictures, and customizable text.

If you don’t already have a GMB listing for your business, Google will automatically ask if you’d like to create a site when you sign-up. Those with existing listings on GMB can click the “Manage location” tab and select Website from the menu to get started. You can also skip right to making your website by clicking here.

The process is extremely simplified. Google will walk you through the steps and you can spend as much or as little time as you want tweaking your page before publishing it onto the web. You don’t even have to worry about hosting.

Any sites made with Website will have a URL following the structure “yourcompanyname.business.site” by default, but you can also purchase a custom domain through Google My Business within the Settings menu.

Once your website is online, any changes you make to your GMB listing will automatically be applied to your website as well.

Of course, the tool is designed to be used for very basic websites and lacks many of the features you would expect from a more comprehensive website management system. You won’t be able to create additional pages to highlight specific products or services, let alone operate a blog or robust sales page. On the upside, having a simple website for free is still better than nothing at all.

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Have you ever given a marketing company control of your Google My Business accounts and listings so they can help manage your local marketing? Have you ever tried to get your account bad after you decided to part ways?

It has been notoriously difficult and time-consuming to regain ownership of your Google My Business listings in the past, but Google has launched a new feature to streamline the process.

If you’ve been unable to reclaim your listings, you can now start the verification process to prove you are the rightful owner or representative for your listings with just a few steps:

  • Go to Google My Business.
  • Log in with the Google account you use to manage your business.
  • Enter the business name or address and select your business from the search results.
    • There is a chance you may see text showing part of the email address that originally verified the listing. If you control this email address, you can sign into that account to access your business listing.
  • Complete and submit the form.
  • Google will contact the current owner of the listing asking them to contact you. In the meantime, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to check the status of your request.
  • Allow seven days for the current owner of the listing to respond to the request. If they do not respond within a week, you will be able to verify your affiliation with the business and regain control of the corresponding listings.

Negative SEO alert

There’s a new malicious SEO tactic making the rounds and your Google My Business listings could easily be the victim, according to web security company Sucuri. The company says individuals are sneaking inappropriate or damaging photos into GMB listings with the intent of damaging a business’s reputation and image.

What makes this type of exploit unique, however, is that it doesn’t take any hacking skills to do. Unlike other negative SEO tactics, this specific technique does not include hosting images on a client server, malicious code, or even breaking into an account.

Ultimately, the attack is taking advantage of Google’s lax rules for uploading photos to a business’s location in Google Maps. Anyone can upload images to a business’s listing, and any of these images can be used for Knowledge Graph data about the business.

While Sucuri doesn’t have evidence of this, it is possible for a person to spam a business’s listing with lewd images and then send fake hits to them to increase their perceived popularity – all with the end goal of making sure they come up when people see your business online.

How to Protect Your Listings

Unfortunately, the nature of this type of attack makes it difficult to guard against. There is no way to limit who can upload photos to your listings or determine which image gets used in Knowledge Graphs. The best you can really do is to actively keep an eye on your listings and which photos are appearing next to your listings.

You can also watch to make sure no one is uploading inappropriate pictures to your Google My Business photos. While you can’t stop people from uploading lewd images, you can easily remove any associated with your location.

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When it comes to marketing your business, it’s all about image. How people perceive your business will decide whether they decide to come in the door or walk away. This is especially true online.

One of the first images people will see when they find your business is almost always your photos in your local listings on search engines. Thankfully, Google has given you more control and more data on how your images are performing.

With the new insights for photos on business listings, you can see how people are responding to your listing and images and compare them against your competition.

You can easily see the new insights in your Google My Business listing by clicking the Insights tab on the top navigation bar. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll find a graph comparing your business to “businesses like you”.

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You can refine the time-period you want to look at by the past 90 days, past 30 days, and past 7 days.

Unfortunately, you can’t select exactly what businesses you are comparing your site against, nor do you even get to know who the “businesses like you” are. But, the new tool can still be an effective way to make sure you are making a great first impression with your listings on Google.

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Your Google My Business Page is the epicenter of all your local online marketing for your brand or business. Now, Google is making it easier to see how users find your GMB page with enhanced insights that show where your visitors are coming from.

The biggest question the new insights help answer is where your GMB page visitors are coming from. Specifically, are they coming from Google Maps or Google Search? With enhanced insights, you can now see a simple breakdown of how many visitors are coming from each source straight from your GMB dashboard.

The new insights also help you understand how people are finding your page. Some may be searching directly for your brand or business name, but others are likely to find you by searching for a related keyword.

You can now view a comparison of who found your page by searching for your name and who searched for a related keyword. Don’t expect to be able to see which keywords they were searching for, however. Those are currently ‘not provided’.

While these new insights are being added, Google is also removing the Google+ statistics from the GBD dashboard.