Last year, Google rolled out the Snack Pack, slimming the local business results down from 7 to 3. Since then, marketers have adapted their strategy by putting a greater focus on Google Reviews. On Moz’s most recent top local search ranking factors blog, we see Google Reviews growing greater in importance, and Google My Business (GMB) factors repeatedly make the lists. Clearly, to rank on this giant’s search page, brands need to create a strong presence on Google itself.

Google Reviews

Since Google rolled out the Snack Pack, marketers placed greater emphasis on Google Reviews, specifically those with text. In Moz’s blog, marketers placed ‘Quantity of Native Google Reviews’ as their third greatest focus since the Snack Pack, and that’s not the only place this factor ranked. ‘Quantity of Native Google Reviews’ was ranked number 11 in the Top 50 Local Stack/Snack Pack Factors, and number 7 of the Top 30 Difference-Making Factors in Competitive Markets. The Snack Pack update features textual reviews in the results, so it makes sense that Google is putting so much weight on this SEO factor. Having positive textual reviews can mean the difference between being featured in the Snack Pack and not.

Further, negative sentiment in Google Reviews ranks 23 on Negative Ranking Factors, so not only do positive words help, but negative words have the opposite effect. Same goes for numeric ratings: on both the Top 50 Localized Organic Factors and Local Stack/Snack Pack Factors, high numerical ratings bumped up a business, whereas low numbers pushed its rank down. Yelp and other review sites still influence SEO, but Google is paying greater attention to reviews on its own site.

Google My Business (GMB)

GMB replaced Google Places in 2014. The Google service is free and essentially allows business owners to create landing pages and enter and verify business information on Google. Ensuring you put accurate information on GMB, and that the rest of your business’s information on the web matches it, will help you improve your rank. The top ranking GMB Factors:

  • City in GMB Landing Page Title (#3 Organic) – the city in your GMB landing page matches or is near the city the user is searching in
  • Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page (#8 in Competitive Markets)
  • HTML NAP(Name, Address, and Phone Number) Matching GMB Location NAP (#9 Snack Pack) – the NAP you entered on GMB matches the NAP you entered on other parts of the web: site, directories, etc.
  • Proper GMB Category Associations (#3 Snack Pack, #5 Competitive Markets) – did you properly identify your business’ category on GMB?
  • Individually Owner-Verified GMB Location (#13 Snack Pack) – has the owner verified the GMB location?
  • Product/Service Keyword in GMB title (#7 Snack Pack)

Similar to negative reviews harming SEO rankings, GMB also sees some negative ranking factors, including:

  • Violation Reports on GMB location (#5)
  • Mismatch NAP on GMB landing page (#6)
  • Presence of multiple GMB locations with the same phone number (#8)
  • Incorrectly placed map marker in GMB (#12)
  • Absence of crawlable NAP on GMB landing page (#15)
  • Only listed phone number on GMB is an 800-number (#16)
  • Keyword-stuffing the title tag of the GMB landing page (#17)
  • Keyword-stuffed and location-stuffed GMB description (#19)
  • Hidden GMB address (#20)

Google wants you to provide verified, consistent, and easily crawlable businesses information. Missing information or being inconsistent adversely affects your ranking. It’s important that you utilize GMB for a good SEO ranking.

What about Google+?

The 2015 Moz Local Ranking Factors list made it clear that marketers were backing away from Google+. At one point, it was likely that Google would have eventually used the platform to help decide SEO rank, but with the social channel’s declining popularity, it’s becoming a less important factor of SEO rankings. Marketers mentioned 3 factors related to Google+ that they planned to place less emphasis on:

  • Authority of +1s on website (#3)
  • Number of shares on Google+ (#4)
  • Authority of shares on Google+ (#9)

The moral of the story? Google cares about what you put on Google, but focus on GMB and Reviews, not Google+. Accurate and consistent information on GMB is a prereq for ranking, but it’s reviews that will make the difference in heavy competition. Google is constantly trying to create a user-friendly results page, and having plenty of positive textual reviews to feature on your business’s search results will help Google decide if you deserve a better rank than Company X. Use both to bump your business to the top of the Snack Pack.