As we are nearing the end of 2019, we wanted to share critical insights into the 2019 / 2020 Google Local Ranking factors and explain them in a way that anyone can understand and know exactly what to do to get a leg up over your competition.
3.5 Billion Searches A Day – Proves that all of us depend on Google more than ever to help find whatever it is we need. That’s why it’s SO important that your business is one of the top 5 organic results that is offered on page page one.
Because we recall few details, we depend on Google to help us complete our thought and connect the dots to what we are looking for. When we ask Google to help, it will respond with its best recommendations.
If You Are NOT In The Top 5 – your competitors are taking your customers!
When you take a step back and chew on that for a second – THAT JUST SUCKS! And I know you didn’t get into business to send customers to your competitor!
Below we are going to explain what Google is looking for NOW, and guide you how, with a little effort, to start ranking at the top where you deserve to be! Local, brick & mortar businesses are especially going to benefit from this breakdown without a doubt!
Ready to get this Google Ranking party started? Let’s go!
Okay, So Why Is Google our Digital “Crack”?
When it comes to searching for something, anything … we “Google It!” Especially for something “near me”, which is the most searched term on Google.
- 80% of all searches are through Google
- 84% of all Google searches are using a mobile device
- 72% of local searches are for a store within 5 miles of the consumer
Now how ’bout these apples:
- Paid Search Ads (PPC / AdWords) ONLY amount to 26% of the clicks.
- BUT . . . Organic Results 1-5 own 74% of the click-throughs! Yeah, that’s 3 out of 4 clicks!
That’s because in our minds, organic ranking has a subconscious credibility. Whereas an “Ad”, due to PPC / AdWords efforts, means they paid their way to jump to the front of the line! We kind of feel like they are cheating their way to our attention.
Google’s New Changes Means What Exactly?
Google wants to always be our Go-To for searching. To do that, it has to offer good directions that always deliver.
Imagine if someone kept giving you wrong directions. You’ll eventually stop trusting them and not consider them as good source.
So, the 2018 Google algorithm changes focused on rewarding websites that not only met the fundamental basics, but that also delivered positive user behavior.
So grab a pen and paper and let’s get ready to help you get ahead of the curve of your competitors!
Ranking Factor #1: (25%) Google My Business Listing / GMB
One of the biggest changes in local ranking factors is the emphasis on your Google business “signal”. In 2017, your GMB listing was only 19% of the factor, but due to new features added, its importance is now 25%!
Recent updates to the GMB listing:
- Services / Menu
- Google Q&A
- Google Video Posts
BUT because your GMB settings are critical to how you are ranked, make sure you have the correct categories selected, updated address, hours of operation, photos of your business as well as Google Posts that help keep fresh content available for the algorithm to index and that encourage clicks from users.
It’s just as important that you continue to engage customers with the new Q&A feature.
This not only helps improve your ranking, but more importantly can greatly help prevent and or correct any misinformation about your business being spread around.
Ranking Factor #2: (15%) Reviews Reviews Reviews
Did You Know:
- 92% of Consumers read online reviews first before making a purchase!
- 8 out of 10 Consumers consider an online review equal to that of a friend!
- 72% of Consumers ay positive reviews make them trust a business more!
Why are reviews so important? One word … TRUST! Positive reviews about your business via Google and Facebook prove that other people find you trustworthy and a great experience.
Remember, people do business with those they trust.
And if someone is is in need, they need a way to close the “confidence gap” from stranger to trusted so they feel their hard-earned money isn’t wasted!
Positive reviews do just that.
YOUR REVIEW REPLIES CAN Drive Sales Up! Up! UP!
Here is the second aspect to why reviews are CRITICAL to the growth of your local business!
Now, have you ever given someone a compliment and they just stood there with no response? You immediately feel this sense of wanting some form of gratitude for speaking nicely of them.
I mean, hell, we’ve have been raised to at LEAST say “Thank you.” when someone gives us a compliment!
Well, Review Replies are essentially Manners 2.0!
So … don’t make it awkward! Show massive gratitude in ways that prove how much you appreciate your customer’s business!
Because if you do not reply to those reviews immediately, the algorithms of both Google & Facebook think that you don’t care about their users.
In return for your “rudeness”, they will not care about you and not reward you with higher ranking or greater content reach!
So, Google & Facebook reviews are critical for the functional aspect of ranking, BUT … there is also the sales benefit of how to convert those who left a review into a long-term brand advocate!
Once a customer has made their initial purchase, it’s now YOUR chance to show them just how much you appreciate them choosing to do business with you!
So here’s how you capitalize reviews:
- #1 – Reply Immediately
- #2 – Be personal (none of this robotic, copy / paste auto-response)! That gives off no touchy-feely warm and fuzzies. State their first name and be authentic with your response. They made the time and so should you.
- #3 – Incentivize them to return as part of your gratitude strategy. Don’t just say “Thanks. Hope to see you again soon!”
Since they’ve done business with you, it is your obligation to compel them to do business with you AGAIN – but you have to give them a reason.
58% of consumers are more likely to do business a 2nd time IF they had an amazing first experience AND you give them an incentive / discount to return.
But also … give it a window of 30 days or so. That creates a sense of urgency and people will prioritize if given a reason like an expiration date / time-frame.
They in turn leave positive reviews, and your ranking continues to climb as well as your new business opportunities from strangers!
Now – How To Turn Them Into Brand Lovers
53% of 2nd Visit Customers have a great experience, they will make a 3rd purchase … if incentivized!
64% will make a 4th … if their 3rd visit was exceptional AND they were incentivized again! You now have a loyal customer with a growing Lifetime Value!
So yeah … Reviews matter a LOT!
Ranking Factor #3: (50%) Website Performance
Okay, the Website Performance Factor is made up of 4 parts and each carry serious weight to Google AND Facebook algorithms that determine who gets rewarded or penalized!
- Website Load Speed
- User Experience / UX
When was the last time you clicked on some link or image that got your attention and it took you to a site that didn’t load immediately?
Your reaction was to click back because it didn’t deliver.
1. Website Load Speed
Well, if your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load … you’re causing the same reaction to your prospective customers!
Because we are used to websites loading fast, if yours doesn’t, it’s immediately negated in our minds and we will look for another option.
- 50% of your website visitors will leave if it takes 3-5 sec to load
- 90% of your website visitors will leave if it takes 5-10 sec to load
Since it is now the norm, anything slower than 3 seconds is detrimental not only to your ranking, but the growth potential of your business!
Meaning, if you don’t load, you’re old, slow and driving business to your competitor who is fast and ready!
2. Website Security – SSL
If your website does not have an active SSL Certificate activated to your URL, Google considers your site unsafe for its users and will not reward you with higher ranking.
Same goes for Facebook / Instagram.
Not sure if your website has a SSL certificate? Simply go to your website and it will either show:
if it is NOT secure (above), and if it is secure with an active SSL Certificate … will show as ours is (below)
3. Mobile-First Website
So, you may have heard the term “mobile responsive”. Meaning, a code was built to let the website know to respond to the device a website was being visited and adapt to the screen size automatically.
Historically, in order to index web pages, Google used to evaluate their desktops’ versions first and foremost.
To put it simply, indexing is the process by which a search engine scans and saves the information from a website.
Based on this information, the algorithm can then decide what will be the ranking of the website for a specific keyword search.
But since 81% of all website visits are accessed from these tiny things called smartphones, the emphasis put on desktops for the indexing process didn’t really make sense anymore.
This is why Google announced in November 2016 a project to reverse the way pages were indexed:mobile-first indexing.
It means that the mobile version will be considered the primary version of your website when it comes to indexing.
Bottom line – if your website is not Mobile-First – You’re Last in line to be indexed against your competitors who are!
4. User Experience / UX
The websites that offer a visitor an easy, intuitive and friction-free experience will win every time.
If people are forced to swipe in and out to zoom in order to read and/or click buttons, they will leave.
If that’s your website, like below-left, it is outdated and driving customer-confidence down, creating a pain-point AND sending business to your competition.
Don’t force people to think they need reading glasses just to navigate your website. Think like an app.
Mobile-First is now designing a website for the mobile device, though a separate, desktop version needs to be developed as well.
Not sure of the difference? Think of Facebook and how the app is a streamlined version compared to the desktop UX (User Experience) below.
The goal of your website for a visitor is to keep them engaged, provide them with what is important to them in a FAST and EASY way and continually provide top quality content they like.
Now, here’s the kicker!
If you have attempted to do any social media marketing through Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, and your website isn’t meeting ALL of the above demands, not only is Google penalizing you, but so is Facebook / Instagram with poor content reach and ad delivery.
So now that you’re head is spinning from all of this information, you could be in a mild panic … as you should IF … you now see why your ranking and social media results are diminishing.
Start a checklist and work it until each element is up to par so that your efforts of being the best option to your prospects are not in vain.
In closing, IF you want to be rewarded by Google with higher ranking AND by Facebook / Instagram with better content reach & ad performance for 2019, make the following 6 Updates ASAP:
- Update Your Google My Business Listing
- Up Your Review Game ASAP
- Mobile Site Load Speed – 3 seconds or less
- Secure Server – Activate your SSL Certificate to your domain
- Update your website to Mobile-First
- Make the User Experience Fast, Intuitive and Friction-Free