No matter what you choose to call it... Google+, Google Plus for Business, Google Places, or the latest, Google My Business, the importance is the same:

Building your small business’s Google profile chock-full of real reviews from customers is the most important local SEO move you can make.

To clear up any confusion, I am not referring to Google+... the dwindling social network. While Google made a real attempt at competing with Facebook in the social media world, it never really found momentum in the human-to-human social networking space.  But what ended up being the most successful was the business page portion.  Which eventually turned into 'Google My Business.'

Since around 70% of all online searches are conducted via Google, businesses now have a major opportunity to get their business to the top of search results via their Google My Business page.

Google Map Pack

Google is becoming monolithic, in that it has developed or acquired almost every aspect of search results pages.  In other words, Google always has Google’s best interest in mind.  It’s one of the reasons why they’ve taken over the top half of local search inquiries with what is known as the ‘Map Pack.’  What started as seven local listings, is now only three:

Google Local Map Pack

As you can see from the image above, the Google Map Pack is prime real estate these days.  If you’re able to get to the top of the map pack, you’re giving your small business a HUGE boost.  Studies show that the Map Pack results are at the top of search results pages 93% of the time - driving home the importance of not only getting your small business to the top of the pack, but having your complete profile filled out.  Here’s why:

Additional studies show that most users click on the name of the business in the Map Pack, which triggers an additional Google results page:

Google My Business Results Page

The page you see above now often serves AS your website.  In other words, people are no longer clicking right to your website from search results.  Google is driving them to the Google My Business page you’ve created - one that is hopefully full of pictures, content, and, most importantly, positive online reviews. 

Another huge benefit of ranking at the top of the Map Pack derives from the mobile view. When a search is conducted on a mobile phone, the users are able to quickly call directly from the listing.  For example, if a homeowner's water heater breaks in the middle of the day and they search for local home repair service company - who do you think they'll call?  The business with no reviews or the company with 15 5-Star reviews?

Online Reviews Impact on SEO

Even though Google+ failed as a social network, there are a few pieces of low hanging SEO fruit that remain:

  1. Everything that you post on your Google My Business page gets indexed immediately

  2. Online reviews left on a Google My Business page make up for a significant chunk of Google’s ranking factors

Let’s focus on the second point above.  

According to MOZ's Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. Here's a chart Moz provided to visually break down the different variables:

In addition, Moz points out that reviews are used in a total of EIGHT ranking factors in the Google Maps (Map Pack) results:

  • Quantity of native Google Maps reviews (w/ text)
  • Quantity of third-party traditional reviews
  • Overall velocity of reviews (native + third-party)
  • Product/service keywords in reviews
  • Quantity of reviews by authority reviewers
  • Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present
  • Velocity of native Google Maps reviews
  • Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present

Don’t worry if you don’t know what any of the above points mean...just know that you should focus on driving real, honest reviews from your actual customers.

If you do that, and have your Google My Business page optimized with content, then you’ll greatly increase the likelihood that your company performs well in local search.

Additional reading: How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

If you're looking for a local SEO company to help build your online presence, contact us today.  Our website design and SEO services are built to drive results, all at a small business budget.