Proximity: How To Combat Google’s Most Unfortunate Ranking Factors

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Have you ever wondered why some businesses rank higher on Google search results than others, even if they offer similar products or services? One crucial factor that often goes overlooked is proximity. Proximity can significantly impact your search engine rankings, and if not managed properly, it can potentially harm your online visibility and competitiveness. This can be especially frustrating for service area businesses like pest control – where you go to your customers instead of them coming to you. Fortunately, there are ways you can combat this unfortunate ranking factor.

What is the Google Business Profile, and Why is it so Important?

Google first started considering local search intent almost 20 years ago. Google My Business was introduced in 2014, consolidating various Google services that manage business information online. Over the years, features like online reviews, photo uploads, and detailed business data have augmented it, and Google My Business was rebranded to Google Business Profile in 2021.

Today, GBP is an essential tool for any business – it’s essentially a mini-website on Google. Also known as the “local pack” or “map pack,” your GBP includes essential business information like your name, address, phone number, reviews, services offered, etc. An optimized, up-to-date GBP is fundamental in helping your business appear in local search queries. It’s a cornerstone of any effective local SEO strategy. Why is GBP so important?

● “Near me” searches have increased by over 500% in 2023.

● 97% of users primarily learn about local companies online.

● There was a 61% increase in calls directly from Google Business profiles in 2023.

● 48% of local searches lead to clicks on the Google Local Pack.

What you need to know about the GBP Right Now

Ranking Factors: How Does Google Decide Where You Show Up?

Google uses a variety of factors to determine rankings on its search engine results pages. Proximity refers to how close a business is to the user's location, while relevance assesses how well a business's content matches the user's search query. Prominence measures the popularity and reputation of a business online, while behavioral factors look at how users interact with a website, such as click-through rates and time spent on site.

In recent years, Google has increasingly focused on proximity as a key ranking factor. Unfortunately, this means that if you don’t have a physical business location close to your customer base, the rest of the ranking factors stop mattering. Google claims to focus on a 10-mile radius around your office space, but we think this is inaccurate – we’ve seen it closer to two or three miles. Ultimately, you can have great reviews and a well-optimized profile and website, but if your address is 10 miles outside of where your ideal customers are, you likely won’t appear in the map section of the search engine results page. This is why understanding and managing proximity is crucial for your online visibility and competitiveness.

Different types of GBP Profiles: Which one do you need?

There are two different kinds of GBP profiles: the Standard GBP, which includes a physical location visible on the profile, and the Service Area Business, which does not include a physical location. We recommend that pest control businesses set up standard profiles even though they are service area businesses. Standard profiles typically rank better, and they are more likely to rank for “near me” keyword searches.

How Consumer Searches Are Changing—and How GBP Plays Into That

Zero-click searches are on the rise, making your GBP even more critical. Because users can now find exactly what they’re searching for right on the search engine results page (SERP), they’re clicking straight through without visiting your website. The best way to combat this is to have a presence in both paid Google Local Search ads and in the local pack with your GBP – you need to have at least three reviews on your GBP before setting up GLS ads – because customers are making decisions based on:

• Visible businesses on the search engine.

• Having a lot of high-quality reviews

• Images you put on your GBP

• Services that you offer listed on GBP and GLS

• Products and bundling options that you offer listed on GBP

More zero-click searches also mean less traffic coming to your website because customers don’t need to go there to get the information they’re looking for. While your website is still important – a solid, optimized website helps you rank higher in search results – the onsite experience becomes less important, while a high proximity ranking for GLS and GBP becomes more beneficial. Ultimately, both the free GBP and the paid GLS ads play a key role in your overall marketing strategy and gaining more zero-click searches.

How to Combat Proximity

Set up office locations using a “digital franchise model.”

As we mentioned earlier, proximity is a key ranking factor for the local pack: You’re probably not showing up in search results at all outside of the city you’re physically in. That’s why we recommend opening new physical locations and setting up a “digital franchise” model to help your service area business rank higher and gather more leads across your market.

A digital franchise model maximizes your visibility and increases the virtual “foot traffic” in your desired markets. This will help you maximize your spend on GLS ads, gain visibility in the local pack, increase clicks to your site from the local pack, and get more phone calls from your GBP.

Think of it as the equivalent of having a McDonald’s or Starbucks on every corner. Of course, this model works best for larger businesses that can cover multiple service areas or businesses with diverse services that cover different verticals.

There are some challenges to this model as well. It can result in more GBP suspensions, and there are more hoops to jump through to get verified through Google. Also, it requires work and updating. You can’t just open a new storefront, set up a GBP for the address, and forget it. Review generation is critical to making your new GBP successful, and review generation takes some work. And finally – and significantly – how much you pay in monthly rent will impact your ROI.

Effectively Opening an Office Location

The goal is to incur a low-cost marketing expense that can generate more leads at the same price you’re already paying in other channels. You’re essentially moving your budget around to maximize your spend more effectively. It’s important to be strategic and do your research when opening a new location:

·  Start with market research of your desired location, including search volume, population, number of households, owner-occupied households, etc. Does the area make sense for where and how you want to expand?

·  Make sure rent is low

·  Ideally, the new location wouldn’t be an operational office

·  If it is an operational location, then it should be viewed as much of an operational expense as a marketing expense

What About Results?

Opening offices one by one in new locations with huge service areas is not going to result in a groundbreaking amount of new leads immediately – but that’s not the goal. It’s all about scalability. The bigger your company gets, the more your service area expands; this digital franchise model is meant to build a consistently growing flow of low-cost leads. When compounded, this can create another source of leads that won’t break the bank.

Coalmarch Can Help!

At Coalmarch, not only do we understand the pest control industry, but we’re digital marketing experts – and we’re on top of Google’s constant changes. Partner with us, and we can help you significantly enhance your company’s visibility and competitiveness with innovative, proven, data-driven strategies designed to maximize your marketing spending and lead generation. We’re here to help. Get in touch today and start thriving!