Alexa, What’s the magic formula for getting my company into Google’s local 3-pack search results?
Wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple?
The formula for landing in the top-three for local search results is both complex and ever-changing. And while the changes may look subtle or incremental to the online searcher, the underlying algorithms that produce the results change rapidly and dramatically, causing many companies’ SEO plans to go from best-practice to bad-practice overnight.
It used to be all about keywords, keywords, keywords to get best organic search results. Brands would “stuff” their sites full of the words and phrases that they thought best described their services, incorporating their location into the keywords, and using informed guesswork in the hope that they would rank higher than competitors.
With a focus on quantity over quality, a clever SEO strategy could indeed drive traffic, but also invites manipulation and an explosion of fake or spammy websites. Imagine a site that draws you in with a promise of watching a cute kitten video, talks all about how cute kittens are, has lots of images of cute kittens, but is really trying to sell you socks.
Google, ever evolving its algorithms, soon changed the game and stopped rewarding winners for keyword stuffing. Now, quality content is king. Today, Google’s algorithms punish businesses that overuse keywords.
Brands shifted focus to producing and sharing engaging, educational and consumable content that demonstrates expertise. The better the content, the more it was consumed, shared and back-linked — and the better its chances were of showing up in organic search results. While keywords were still relevant, the were no longer the only driver of an effective SEO strategy.
SEO Reinvented — Again
Fast forward only a few years, and the Google search rankings game has changed again. Content is still king, but user-generated content (UGC) in the form of online reviews also has a profound effect on search relevance — in several ways:
Each user-generated review is treated as new, relevant content, increasing results ranking based on recency.
Google’s algorithm considers both company content and UGC (among many other factors such as accurate business listings), improving your ranking based on volume and backlinking.
Your average star rating affects your visibility in results, regardless of how well you perform in all other areas of SEO.
Add them up and you’ve got the new SEO paradigm — highly rated sites get the best search results.
Online Reputation is the New SEO
So how do brands achieve — and maintain — a highly rated site? By ensuring they have a high volume of high-quality, positive reviews.
To that end, Online Reputation Management (ORM) has quickly become a key component of the digital marketing ecosystem. SEO strategies that do not include ORM are incomplete — and therefore less effective. An SEO strategy that fully incorporates ORM will feature:
A Methodology for Building Review Volume: More reviews means higher overall star ratings, so be proactive in seeking reviews from all customers And as a bonus, ORM platforms will help you leverage customer feedback in the reviews to improve experiences with your brand and create happier, more loyal customers.
Focus on Google: ORM platforms can help ensure that a substantial number of your online reviews are evenly distributed across Google, Facebook and other major review sites.
Streaming Reviews to Your Locations Pages: Customer reviews are crawlable by search engines, and an ORM platform will stream reviews to your locations and other pages, improving you locations’ rankings.
Traditional SEO practices such as content marketing are still very important. But they won’t improve rankings and attract traffic in a vacuum. You won’t get into Google’s local 3-pack without a high-quality online reputation, no matter how much content you generate or how much it is shared. And you can’t build a high-quality online reputation without the help of a comprehensive ORM platform that can help you harness the power of consumer reviews.
For more insights on how Online Reputation Management is redefining traditional brand management, download our eBook: Top Trends for Online Reputation Management in 2018.