Local search update: Why Google reviews matter for your business

What is a local ranking?

You may have noticed the Google Maps section appearing towards the top of your search results when looking for a local business in what is otherwise known as a “local pack” result, for some time now. With Google paying more attention than ever to the physical location of a searcher, you now have to work harder to reveal your business to these local searches and rank well within a local pack.

Take a simple search for “the best accountant” – in very basic terms, a prospect searching in one area will get completely different results to a prospect searching in another area because Google is providing the closest accountant to that prospect, not necessarily the best – cue the recent update.

Why Google reviews matter more than ever

Google’s update in the local pack results now pays particular attention to reviews. It means businesses already working hard to increase their local ranking, now have to work a little harder. One of the problems arising from “the best…” phrased searches was that sometimes the closest business was not always the best one in town. With the new update, Google has introduced a filter letting users quite literally search for the best business (or in our example – accountant) by controlling which star ratings they see, also known as ‘reviews’.

It has now become more important than ever to really make sure you are gaining high quality reviews for your business, as Google’s recent update suggests that this will now be used to slightly manipulate local rankings.

While this feature is largely limited to searches including the phrases “the best”, “great”, “outstanding” and other similar terms, there is the potential that this feature could become widespread across all local results because it is a very useful feature for a searcher – and Google is all about making results as useful as possible for searchers.

What does the recent Local update mean for my business?

Businesses proactively seeking reviews:

If you are already proactively seeking Google+ reviews for your local office(s), then all we can suggest is keep going – make sure your hold true to your values and promises to customers, and answer any complaints before they escalate to ensure that any negative reviews are minimised – Google is focussing on the quality of reviews here, not necessarily quantity.

Businesses not proactively seeking reviews:

For those of you who are not seeking Google+ reviews – now is the time to start. If you don’t have a Google+ account for your business, set one up. If you’re unsure about Google+ I’d advise heading over to this blog on the latest features.

Before contacting clients for reviews, read Google’s guidelines on reviews and then start to contact your current (and past) clients. Ask them to provide a helpful review on Google that sums up why a potential client should choose you. Review your customer service and support to make sure clients are getting the most out of what you can offer. Be transparent – publish good and bad reviews so any potential clients trust you and any current reviewers know that their review will actually be published.

Take advantage of low hanging fruit

In my opinion, local ranking is a vital to any business that offers services to clients at a brick and mortar office. Local clients are the low hanging fruit who value your local expertise and also value the insight you have of local challenges that impact them.

While there is a lot of work that takes place in the background to rank successfully in a local pack, reviews are becoming an ever more important part – not just on Google, but social media too. If you have any worries about how your local rankings might be affected, contact our search team who will be happy to provide you with the right advice on an ever changing playing field.

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