GMB Ranking Factors and How to Influence Local Rankings

Local SEO is More Competitive Than Ever, Learn What it Takes to Rank in the 3 Pack

Hey there, it’s Chaz here, ready to discuss the top ranking factors for GMB SEO and what exactly you can do to influence as many of those factors as possible.

Ranking in the 3 Pack oftentimes requires more than completely filling-out a GMB Listing and we will be exploring these additional factors in detail.

With Google reducing the radius that local businesses can be found, and with cities showing multiple packs based on searcher proximity, every effort should be made to understand the top local maps ranking factors and which factors we can influence directly through local search optimization.




Understanding What Keyword Variations Pull a Snack Pack

Before beginning any optimization efforts it is important to start on an equal foundation, and for that, you need to understand there are 4 main Local Keyword Variations you can optimize for.

  • Keyword (based on search proximity)
  • Keyword + Location
  • Keyword + City + State Abbreviation
  • Location + Keyword

I recommend that you attempt to optimize for all four variations in order to gain as much exposure and visibility as possible, and that is the approach we take in our own GMB optimization campaigns.


Distance, Relevance and Prominence

I am inclined to believe Google when they updated their published Local Search Ranking Guide to specifically state that GMB Snack Pack Rankings are based on three elements: Distance, Relevance, and Prominence. Our own tests, as well as those done by others all, tend to support these 3 factors are the components of the local search algorithm.

we offer local maps ranking services Distance Factors

Google states, “how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location”

  • Proximity to Searcher (Google tends to show results specifically tailored to the searchers known or assumed location and travel method if known)
  • Distance from Centroid (Google tends to cluster snack pack results, this is not the center of the city, but the center of niche business cluster)
  • Method of Travel (Google tends to show results specifically tailored to the mode of transportation a searcher is using if it is determinable to them – a search on an Android while walking produces different results then when searching while driving)

Key Takeaway and Action Item – The only elements we have any control over are, a) making sure that we do use location and city keywords throughout the entire optimization process, whether we are writing a GMB description or optimizing the linked website on-page elements the use of location keywords and identifiers is of paramount importance.

we offer local maps ranking servicesRelevance Factors

Google goes on, “Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Adding complete and detailed business information can help Google better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches”

  • Searcher’s Intent and Micro Moments (Google tends to predict a searcher’s intent based on keywords and phrases used, mode of travel, and proximity to deliver individually tailored search results)
  • Buyer Intent Optimized GMB Descriptions (Ensure the GMB description is keyword optimized using search terms and phrases prospective customers would use when looking for a particular product or service)
  • GMB Categories (Ensure your listing categories are the ones that Google is showing for your targeted keywords and phrases)
  • Keyword in GMB Name (While Google tends to rank listings with keywords in the name higher, we do not recommend that this be included as an optimization strategy as it can result in listings getting suspended due to spam)
  • Physical Address in City of Search (Having an address in the searched for location is a relevance factor, but one we have little control over)

Key Takeaway and Action Items – For best results choose to optimize for locations the business has physical addresses in and then utilize your location keywords strategically with specific service and/or product keywords and descriptors throughout the GMB listing and associated local search campaign, and create as many location and geo-relevant signals as possible using geo-linking strategies and driving direction maps to help convince the local algo that our business is relevant for a particular area.

we offer local maps ranking servicesProminence Factors

Google continues, “Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization”

  • Higher Organic Rank (Google specifically states the linked website’s rank directly influences GMB listing rank. Generally, if your website does not rank in the top 20 or 30, the GMB will not rank either and if all things are equal the listing with the higher ranked website will also rank higher in local search)
  • GMB Reviews (Google tends to rank listings with more quality reviews higher than those with fewer reviews)
  • More Back Links to Associated Website (Links are still one of the top ranking factors for local search. The more quality links you have to the associated website, the higher the GMB listing tends to rank. Links containing keyword or location anchor text seemed to work best)
  • GMB Photos (Google tends to rank GMB listings with more photos higher then those with fewer)
  • Consistent NAP and Business Information (Google tends to rank GMB listings higher, where the brand has a strong, consistent and prominent online presence across the top social profiles, business directories, website landing page and other brand parasites)
  • Higher Page Rank (There is significant data that shows websites with higher PR have GMB listings that also rank higher, despite the fact that PR has been publicly denounced as any sort of ranking factor)
  • Less Time Between Reviews (Google tends to rank businesses higher that have recent reviews and frequent reviews)
  • Less Time Between G+ or GMB Posts (Google tends to rank businesses higher that post more frequently)

Key Takeaway and Action Items – Prominence Factors are the area where we, as local SEO’s, can make the most impact and truly influence local search rankings when you take a holistic and comprehensive strategy to local search optimization.


Influencing the Local SERPs

Whether if you choose to outsource the GMB optimization process to a white label company like Web 2.0 Ranker or to do all of the tasks for yourself, you should also incorporate elements such as:

Organic SEO: Remember businesses with higher ranking websites also tend to significantly rank higher in the Snack Pack, so it is imperative that you use a holistic strategy. Optimize your GMB listing but also rank your website.

Local Review Funnels: Use a service like Get 5 Stars or Birds Eye to offer online review management and review gathering. Remember, businesses with more real reviews more frequently tend to rank higher.

Local review funnels also make for a great up-sale or value add-on service for your clients. It is easy to show the value of filtering negative reviews while encouraging positive online reviews for their business. Simply do a Google search and ask them would they call a 1 star dentist or a 4.9 star dentist to fix their children’s teeth?

Linkbuilding – Niche and Location Specific: It makes sense that link building remains a top GMB ranking factor when you also consider that quality link building will also help rank your website organically. Google sees each link as a vote of confidence for your website and therefore for your brand.

And if you decide to outsource your link building, Web 2.0 has teamed up with Mark from LCT to offer a quality niche link building service called Niche Placements and with Brian Willie of Maps Liftoff to offer Geo-Local Links.

Social Profile and Brand Account Optimization: Each GMB optimization campaign should also include Social Account Set-Up and Optimization, Branded Web 2.0 Set-Up and Optimization and the Top Online Business Directory Set-Up and Optimization as well.

Not only are these complimentary tasks for any holistic SEO campaign, these important brand mentions are what builds a brand’s authority. These brand signals Google uses to evaluate the strength of a brand.

Our National Business Listing Service Allows You to Update Your Business listings on the top directories and Ensure a Consistent NAP Across the Top Directories

Additionally, we continue to offer complete social account building and optimization packages designed to allow a brand to easily claim and optimize the top 45 social profiles and brand accounts.

Remember the importance of building out and diversifying your local optimization efforts beyond Google to places like Yelp, Apple Maps and Facebook. Make sure you’re on Apple Maps, Yelp, BBB, TripAdvisor, Avvo, Angie’s List, etc, and that your profiles are claimed, optimized, and enhanced with as much information as possible. If the local pack results are crap, a lot of people will click on Yelp, YP, a Local Facebook Page or Angie’s List. You want to be where they are clicking.

Understanding the Possum Filter

The Possum Update was a major shake-up to local search, with many verified GMB listings simply disappearing from search results. The prime effects of Possum are most seen in the following 4 scenarios:

  • Similar Businesses that Share the Same Address
  • Similar Businesses that Share the Same Owner
  • Similar Businesses that Share the Same Affiliation
  • Similar Businesses that are Located Very Close to Each Other

Despite the Hawk Update softening the effect of the Possum filter, the filter still exists and it is still necessary to understand how to identify Possum and learn strategies to counter it.


How to Easily Check for the Possum Filter

we offer local maps ranking services1st

Perform a Local Search that pulls a Snack Pack and Click “More Places”

we offer local maps ranking services2nd

Note Only 4 Listings in Our Example – Now Click the “+” Button to Zoom on the Map

we offer local maps ranking services3rd

Now Note the 2 Pages of Results that Are Being Filtered By Possum

Strategies to Overcome Possum

Now that we know Possum affects the weaker listings that have a similar address or affiliation it becomes easier to understand how to beat the Possum filter and increase your local rankings. You need to employ strategies and tactics to ensure that your listing is not the weakest, meaning you need to optimize your listing, build your online brand, and start ranking your website. It’s all the same things you need to do to rank in the 3 pack!

At it’s most basic you beat Possum by outranking your competition. The most prominent and relevant brand wins whether discussing Possum or the 3 pack.

So let’s recap exactly how you build the strongest local brand:

  1. Choose the Correct GMB Category
  2. Create a Local Link Strategy
  3. Build the Online Brand Foundation
  4. Optimize Your GMB Listing
  5. Create and Share GMB Posts
  6. Create an Optimized GMB Website
  7. Optimize the Attached G+ Page (depreciated)
  8. Build Branded Links
  9. Claim and Optimize Other Map Listings
  10. Link Networks and Link Building
  11. Niche and Local Link Building and Brand Mentions’