7 Automotive SEO Best Practices For Driving Business In 2024 via @sejournal, @AdamHeitzman

Whether you’re behind the wheel of a dealership, running a tire shop, or steering any other type of automotive business, mastering SEO remains an indispensable component of a successful marketing strategy in 2024.

Today’s automotive consumers are more connected and informed than ever.

Moreover, the preference for organic search results over paid advertisements remains strong, highlighting the critical importance of SEO in today’s digital-first consumer landscape.

However, staying up-to-date on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) and algorithm changes requires diligence.

To further illustrate this, consider these insights:

  • 88% of potential car buyers now turn to digital channels to gather information.
  • Car buyers dedicate 14 hours and 39 minutes to online research and finding the perfect car for their needs.
  • 95% of car shoppers checked social media platforms during their car-shopping journey.
  • 81% of car shoppers find online activities improve their overall buying experience, citing both saving time (93%) and price transparency (valued by 78%) as key benefits.
  • Nearly half (46%) of car dealers surveyed made at least 9% of their sales through entirely online purchases.

Armed with these insights, let’s explore the top seven automotive SEO strategies for 2024, designed to put your business in the lead and drive it toward success.

1. Craft Compelling, Original Content And Leverage Rich Snippets

In SEO, content is still king. For automotive businesses, this means creating in-depth, informative content that engages and informs your audience.

Focus on valuable resources like blog posts, buying guides, and vehicle reviews that blend informative details with engaging storytelling.

Here is a great example of more informational content from a dealership in Miami. They do an excellent job of incorporating CTA’s within the helpful content to funnel users to their selection of vehicles:

What car is right for you articleImage from bramanmiami.com, April 2024

On individual car listing pages, they even add Dealer Notes to further add more uniqueness to their pages so it isn’t just a regurgitation of the manufacturer’s information:

Dealer Notes exampleImage from bramanmiami.com, April 2024

Rich snippets enhance your visibility in search results, providing a snapshot of your content’s value.

Implementing structured data markup also helps search engines understand and display your content more effectively, increasing the likelihood of clicks.

vehicle listing structured dataScreenshot from Google Search Central, February 2024

Helpful automotive-related schema resources:

Read more: How To Optimize For Rich Snippets: A Complete Guide

2. Elevate Your Strategy With Video SEO

Video content has become an indispensable tool for businesses. It provides a dynamic platform to showcase vehicles, demonstrate features, and share customer testimonials.

A recent survey shows that, by leveraging video content, 86% of marketers experienced increased web traffic, and 87% saw a direct boost in sales.

As a brand, you should use this opportunity to embrace video SEO and amplify your visibility on search engines and social platforms.

Incorporate relevant keywords in video titles, descriptions, and tags to ensure your video aligns with search queries.

You may also use short, engaging videos that highlight your inventory’s unique selling points to captivate potential buyers and drive traffic to your site.

Look at this great example from Mazda of North Miami that leverages video on their car listing pages to show the car off to potential customers:

video on car listing exampleImage from mazdaofnorthmiami.com, April 2024

Even better, they marked up this page using structured data and are now benefitting from their listing page showing the video element in the SERPs which should only further improve their organic CTR:

New Mazda for sale Google SERPImage from Google, April 2024

Read more: How Short Videos & User-Generated Content Impacts Marketing

3. Optimize For Mobile-First Indexing

With the majority of online searches now conducted on mobile devices, a mobile-optimized website is essential for SEO success.

Google’s mobile-first indexing means the mobile version of your site is the primary version Google considers for ranking.

Make sure your website is responsive, mobile-friendly, and intuitive. This is crucial for capturing the mobile audience.

This is a perfect example of how a dealership should incorporate a mobile-first design. They do an excellent job of showing the most pertinent information for a consumer to browse (pictures, specs, pricing, CTAs).

2024 BMW for sale, mobile view of websiteScreenshot from bramanmotorsbmw.com, April 2024

Read more: 14 Mobile Optimization Best Practices You Need To Know

4. Boost Your Local Presence

Local SEO is vital for automotive businesses looking to attract nearby customers.

Claim and optimize your Google Business Profile.

Strategically include local keywords in your website content and engage with local community events to enhance your visibility in local search results.

Also, testimonials and reviews act as powerful social proof. In automotive digital marketing, 82% of consumers turn to online reviews for local businesses.

To help future buyers feel confident in their choices, encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews about their experience.

Google search for [st louis car dealerships]Screenshot from search for [st louis car dealerships], Google, February 2024

Read more: Local SEO Schema: A Complete Guide To Local Markup & Rich Results

5. Build Authority Through Strategic Link Building

Backlinks signal to search engines that your site is a credible and authoritative source of information.

Automotive businesses should aim to acquire high-quality backlinks from reputable automotive blogs, local business directories, and industry publications.

These backlinks not only improve your site’s SEO performance but also drive targeted traffic, enhancing your online visibility and reputation within the industry.

This dealership in Miami does a great job of leveraging sponsorships to local events in their community to capture additional inbound links to improve their authority:

Ahrefs results form referring domains Screenshot from Ahrefs, April 2024

Read more: How To Get Quality Backlinks: 12 Ways That Really Work

6. Prioritize Technical SEO For A Healthier Website

Technical SEO ensures your website is accessible and readable by search engines, addressing issues that could hinder your site’s performance.

By conducting regular technical audits, you can identify and rectify problems such as slow loading speeds, broken links, and duplicate content.

A technically sound website provides a solid foundation for your SEO efforts, ensuring your content and keywords can be effectively indexed and ranked.

Read more: How To Do Technical SEO For Ecommerce Websites

7. Enhance User Experience With E-E-A-T Principles

Google has placed increasing emphasis on experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) when evaluating websites.

For automotive websites, this means creating content that not only showcases your knowledge of the automotive industry but also provides users with valuable, trustworthy information.

This could include detailed guides on choosing the right vehicle, practical tips for car maintenance, or insights into the latest automotive technology.

By demonstrating firsthand experience and expertise in your content, you can significantly improve your site’s authority and trustworthiness in the eyes of both users and search engines.

Look at how Edmunds.com leverages authorship to further validate EEAT principles:

2024 RAM 1500 reviewImage from Edmunds.com, April 2024

Example: You could share a series of blog posts written by your experienced mechanics on how to maintain vehicles during different seasons, offering practical car care advice. This would demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the topic and position your brand as a reliable source for your customers.

Read more: What Is User Experience? How Design Matters To SEO

Summary

In 2024, the importance of a robust, data-driven SEO strategy for automotive businesses has never been clearer.

Drive your organic presence to new heights by:

  • Creating high-quality content.
  • Optimizing for video.
  • Adopting a mobile-first design.
  • Managing your local listings.
  • Building a strong backlink profile.
  • Maintaining your website’s technical health.
  •  Focusing on E-E-A-T principles to provide a positive user experience.

Implementing these seven strategies will not only enhance your visibility in search engine results but also position your business as a leader within the automotive industry.

More resources:


Featured Image: iQoncept/Shutterstock

Compelling content examples: Brannon Miami screenshots

Video SEO example: Mazda of North Miami screenshots

Google SERP & Ahrefs screenshots: Taken by author

EEAT image: Edmunds.com screenshot

Google Search & Maps Get Upgrades For Greener Travel via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google announced updates to its Maps and Search products on Monday aimed at helping users find and choose more sustainable transportation options over gas-powered vehicles.

James Byers, Google Search’s Group Product Manager, states:

“When it comes to traveling and commuting, we want people to have the right information to make more sustainable choices.”

Eco-Friendly Route Suggestions

A smartphone displaying Google Maps navigation centered on Paris, with several greener travel routes and estimated times to a destination marked on the screen.Screenshot from: blog.google/products/search/, April 2024.

If travel times are comparable, one of Google Maps’ key new features will be the provision of transit and walking route suggestions alongside driving routes.

This update will be rolled out in over 15 major cities worldwide in the coming weeks, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, and Sydney.

Train & Bus Route Information

A smartphone displaying a Google Search for greener travel options for train tickets from Boston to Philadelphia with several travel options listed according to time and price.

Google is expanding its ability to find long-distance train and bus routes through search.

Users searching queries like “Boston to Philadelphia train” will see schedules, prices, and direct links to book tickets on the results page.

Train route information will now be available for 38 countries, while long-distance bus routes will initially be added for 15 countries.

When users search for flights on Google’s dedicated Flight tool, they will see train route suggestions as an alternative for applicable routes.

“So it’s easy to find the more sustainable option no matter where you begin your search,” Byers stated.

Highlighting Lower-Emission Flights

In cases where flying remains the best option, Google will show you the environmental impact.

Byers explains:

“These estimates are powered by the Travel Impact Model (TIM), a methodology we published in 2022 for predicting per-passenger flight emissions.

To make this information even more accessible, TIM estimates are now also available through a developer API that allows any app or website to display flight emissions.”

Google is also releasing a Google Sheets add-on and online calculator to make the emissions estimates more widely available.

Looking Ahead

While Byers acknowledged “there’s still a long road ahead when it comes to sustainable travel,” he expressed hope that “today’s updates will give more people the information they need to choose lower-carbon alternatives.”

The new features come as consumers increasingly seek ways to make sustainable choices. By integrating these metrics into its flagship maps and travel tools, Google is nudging users towards greener options.


Featured Image: Screenshot from blog.google/products/search/, April 2024. 

Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.


Featured Image:Ismael Juan/Shutterstock

How To See Google Search Results And Rankings For Different Locations via @sejournal, @lorenbaker

As a business owner or digital marketer, understanding your local search ranking on Google is crucial for attracting nearby customers and increasing your online visibility.

With so many consumers using search engines to find local products and services, optimizing for local search has become a key component of any successful SEO strategy.

In this article, we’ll explore various methods to check your local ranking on Google, ensuring that your business stays competitive in your target market.

Why Do Search Results Vary By Location?

Google prioritizes local relevance in its search results to provide users with the most helpful information based on their location.

The search engine uses various factors to determine a user’s location, including:

  • Device location (via Wi-Fi, cell phone triangulation, or GPS).
  • Labeled places on Google Maps.
  • Home address linked to the user’s Google account.
  • Previous activity across Google products.
  • IP address.

Google uses these factors to determine your location and provide search results that are relevant to your area. This means you and your neighbor might see different search results even if you search for the same thing.

Since most people only look at the first page of search results, ranking well in local searches is essential, especially if your business relies on customers visiting your physical location.

Optimizing your website is essential to ensuring your business appears in local searches. But how can you tell if it’s working?

It would be very time-consuming to travel to different places just to check how well you rank in various locations.

Fortunately, Google provides a way to check your local rankings without leaving your office. Here’s a guide on how to do it:

Add A Local Parameter To Your Search

Google has a useful search parameter feature that allows you to search for local businesses in a specific area, even if you’re not physically there. To do this, add “&near=cityname” to the end of the search URL.

For instance, let’s say you’re in Kansas City and want to see how a coffee shop chain called “Jitters” compares to its competitors in Seattle. You can start by searching for “coffee shops near me” on Google.

When the search results appear, look at the URL in your browser’s address bar. It will be pretty long, but don’t worry about that. Just scroll to the very end of the URL and add “&near=Seattle” (without the quotes).

Hit enter, and Google will show you the search results as if you were in Seattle. This way, you can quickly check out the local competition for Jitters in Seattle without traveling there yourself.

search for [coffee shops near me], GoogleScreenshot from search for [coffee shops near me], Google, March 2024

Change Your Regional Settings

You can manually change regional settings on Google to view search results at a country level.

This gives you search results on a country level rather than providing results from your IP address or other sources.

To do this, click Settings on the bottom right corner of Google.com and select Search Settings. This will send you to the Search Settings page (obviously).

Search settings: GoogleScreenshot from Google.com, March 2024.

Scroll to the bottom, and you’ll see a list of Region Settings.

Choose the region you want to use for search and save the settings. You’ll now see search results from the country you chose.

Continuing our coffee shop example, let’s say Jitters just opened a location in Lisbon. You’ll select Portugal as your region, allowing you to check the rankings of the new Portuguese beanery.

Note: If you don’t add the local parameter discussed earlier to the search URL, you’ll continue to see results based on your current location.

Manage Your Work & Home Locations On Google Maps

Google’s local search is helpful because it uses machine learning to identify the places you often visit, such as your home and workplace.

It learns your commuting patterns, which can save you time and give you more relevant search results.

It can be challenging, though. Sometimes, Google might think you work at a job you left a while ago. But it’s easy to set your home and work locations manually.

You can set and change your home and work locations in Google Maps. This lets you search for things using phrases like [near home] or [near work].

To do this, open Google Maps and click on the Menu. Then click Your Places and choose Locations. Select Work or Home and type in the address. Click Save, and you’re good to go.

Now, when you search, you can add [near home] or [near work] to find things close to either of those locations.

Delete Location History In Your Google Account Activity Controls

Google’s apps and devices often track where you go in the background if location services are turned on.

For instance, if Google sees that you often go to a martial arts gym, it’ll guess that when you search for something related to “boxing,” you probably mean the sport, not cardboard boxes.

You can delete this history manually or switch the tracking off.

Go to the Location History part of your Google account, and you can turn it on or off with a click. You can also choose which devices you want it to track. If you want to erase all or some of your location history, you can do that from your browser or Google Maps.

Remember that deleting this info means you’ll lose some personalized features, like suggestions based on where you’ve been, traffic updates, and auto-created Google Photo albums.

Override Your Location With Google Chrome Developer Tools

If you know your way around tech, you can also use developer tools in the Chrome browser to trick Google into thinking you’re somewhere else. This lets you see how search results look from different places.

To do this, open up DevTools and then open a command prompt. Click on Show Sensors and press enter.

Under Geolocations, pick one of the listed cities or choose Custom Location. If you select Custom Location, you can type in specific longitude and latitude coordinates.

You can also select Location Unavailable to see your site’s appearance when Google doesn’t know where someone is.

Change Location Settings On Your Device

Some smartphones and tablets have a setting that allows you to change your virtual location.

For devices that don’t have this option, there are other ways to trick your phone into thinking you’re somewhere else.

The simplest method is to download an app to change your GPS location. These apps are available for iPhones (from the App Store) and Android devices (from Google Play).

Most of these apps work by connecting to a different network provider, making your device believe it’s in your chosen location.

This way, when you search, the results will be based on the new location you’ve selected, not your actual physical location.

Experiment With Google Ads Preview And Diagnosis Tool

Google offers a handy tool called Ad Preview and Diagnosis that lets you see how your paid advertisements look when people search for keywords related to your business in their local area.

But that’s not all – this tool has another cool feature that allows you to simulate Google searches from various locations.

To use this feature, open the tool and look for the Location dropdown menu. Click on it, and you can enter any location, a whole country, a specific city, or even a precise zip code.

This way, you can get a broad overview or a detailed look at how your ads perform in different places.

Another great thing about this tool is switching between desktop and mobile views.

This helps you ensure that your ads look good and perform well on both devices, which is crucial since more and more people are using their smartphones to browse the web.

View Local Search Results With Valentin.app

Valentin.app is a simple and free website that lets you see how websites rank on Google for specific keywords in a particular location.

All you need to do is enter the keywords you want to check, choose the region and language, and provide an address. The website will convert the address into coordinates and send all the information to Google.

It then opens a new tab showing you the Google search results for that location, as if you were searching from there yourself.

You don’t need any other tools or data to use Valentin.app.

Use A VPN To Change Your Location

You can remove location data from your search results by changing your device’s location settings.

The most common and easiest way to do this is by using a virtual private network (VP).

VPNs connect your device to a remote server before your connection goes to the internet. By masking your device, they can help get around frustrating location-based restrictions and hide your activity from ISPs and public networks.

They’re also a great way to get search results as if you were in a different location.

The only downside is that most VPNs have limited IP locations from which to choose. If you want to see exactly how your coffee shop ranks in searches made in Vancouver, you might be out of luck.

Automate With Local Rank Checking Tools

Keeping an eye on how your business appears in local search results is pretty simple when you only have a few locations.

But imagine if our fictional coffee shop, Jitters, gets bought out by a bigger company that wants to expand the brand internationally.

Suddenly, you’re faced with the daunting task of monitoring local search results for all 315 locations worldwide.

Trying to handle that manually would be a nightmare! Luckily, there are tools out there designed specifically for this situation.

These tools, known as rank checkers, can automatically perform local searches and create reports for you.

With this information at your fingertips, you can quickly pinpoint where to focus your SEO efforts for maximum impact.

Some of these you may be familiar with include:

Location Is Everything

Google search results can vary depending on who is searching, where they are located, and what device they are using.

This makes it tricky to have a standard approach to optimizing your website for search engines.

Since Google prioritizes local search results, ensuring your business shows up for people in your area is crucial. This is true whether you’re handling a single location or managing a website for a business with several branches.

The good news is that you don’t need to be physically present in that area to check what local users see in their search results.

There are a few different methods for checking your rankings from various locations, each with pros and cons.

Regardless of which method you think works best for you, you can’t ignore the ability to adjust your SEO to focus on customers within a specific region.

More Resources:


FAQ

Why is local search ranking important for businesses?

Having your business rank well in local search results is essential because it significantly impacts how easily potential customers in your area can find you.

Most people use search engines to search for products and services nearby. So, if your business shows up at the top of those local search results, you’re more likely to get people coming into your store, making purchases, and becoming aware of your brand within the community.

When you optimize your business for local SEO, you have a better chance of attracting customers who are explicitly looking for what you have to offer, which often translates to more sales and a better return on your investment.

What factors does Google consider for local search relevance?

Google uses multiple methods to determine a searcher’s location, such as:

  • Pinpointing your device’s location through Wi-Fi, cell phone towers, or GPS.
  • Checking any places you’ve labeled on Google Maps, like your home or work address.
  • Looking at the home address connected to your Google Account.

Google also considers your previous interactions and activities across various Google services to better understand your preferences. Additionally, your IP address provides a general idea of your geographic location.

By combining all these factors, Google can:

  • Deliver search results that are most relevant to you based on location.
  • Offer personalized suggestions tailored to your needs and proximity.
  • Ensure that you receive the most helpful and localized information possible


Featured Image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Why And How Local Businesses Should Use Video In Their Digital Marketing via @sejournal, @JRiddall

The popularity of digital video content is undeniable.

Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, all of which are heavily video-based, are at the top of the social media ladder.

For many younger audiences, these platforms, along with a plethora of streaming services, have usurped all others as their primary source of entertainment and/or information.

Some are even being touted as the next search engines. This is still hotly debated.

Likewise, video marketing is on the rise, and many marketers have come to see this as a preferred method of engaging with their target audiences.

However, at a local business level and for local business owners, it feels like there is still something of a reluctance to fully embrace this important medium.

Perhaps this is due to a lack of time or resources – a common challenge for small business owners who are busy just trying to run their business.

Or maybe, for some, there is a fear of not producing a “polished” product.

However, one of the important aspects of video marketing is its authenticity; it doesn’t need to be perfect. We’ll talk more about this shortly.

So Why Video?

Before we get into what type of video content local business owners might consider creating, let’s review why video has become such an important marketing tool for so many.

  • Video is easy to consume and highly visual by nature, making it an engaging and entertaining content format.
  • Because video is so engaging, it lends itself to being shared via social media and other channels, thereby extending the reach of your marketing message.
  • These days, video content is fairly easy to create. While you might need a script for some specific types of videos – which we’ll also discuss shortly – creating an effective message can be as simple as turning on the camera on your phone and starting to talk.
  • Video can easily be shared across multiple platforms and embedded into other content like web pages and blogs to enhance their appeal.
  • Digital video content can be a differentiator. Because, as discussed, many small business owners are slow or reluctant to adopt video marketing, this presents an opportunity for those who do to stand out.
  • Video, and particularly YouTube, content increasingly appears in Google’s organic search results, which isn’t surprising, given that Google owns YouTube. Further, YouTube itself is a search engine within which millions of users are conducting searches on a daily basis. Videos can and should be optimized to appear in search.
  • As mentioned, video content is authentic and enables business owners to demonstrate their expertise, both of which are important factors in Google’s E-E-A-T, a significant determinant of organic search visibility.
  • Video adds incredible value on many levels for those willing to explore and experiment.

Now, For The How

Having clearly established the importance of video in the marketing mix, the question some will have is, “What type of videos should I create?”

The answer to this question is that it depends on a few factors, as do all marketing decisions, including the type of business and services/products you offer, the target audience, budget, and your imagination.

What should not be a cause for concern is relative video quality. Gone are the days of videos needing to be overly directed, produced, or polished.

For many, and particularly younger audiences, low-budget, off-the-cuff video messages are seen to be more authentic and real – as they quite often are.

Do not be afraid to simply start recording and introducing your audience to your business and the products or services you offer. It’s a great first step.

Below are a few types of videos that may fit your local business and customer base.

Service Or Product Overviews

Any service or product-based business can leverage video to easily highlight and describe its unique offerings.

For example, a landscaper may create walk-through videos of lawns, gardens, or patios they’ve worked on, while a med spa owner may demonstrate how the latest and greatest skin-tightening treatment works.

Having willing customers appear in these types of videos to provide their authentic testimonials can go a long way to establishing trust with your audience and encouraging the sharing of your content across social or other channels.

Since the pandemic, there has been no shortage of consumers willing to support their local service providers.

Promotional Videos

Brand advertising lends itself naturally to video content.

Many local business owners are familiar with running TV or radio ads, but digital video platforms have opened the door to unlimited possibilities.

Have fun and create your own commercials, again incorporating customers, staff, or relevant business partners.

Use your imagination to create entertaining promos for your services, products, or special events.

Customer Testimonials

One of the most powerful types of video content you can create or obtain is a customer testimonial.

A form of user-generated content (UGC) – which is extremely popular on social media – a positive client review is a glowing stamp of approval on you and your business.

The effect of online reviews for local businesses is already well known, but acquiring, publishing, and sharing authentic video testimonials takes your trustworthiness to another level.

People like to buy from businesses they trust and many rely on reviews and testimonials as their proof.

How To Videos

Some businesses offer services that lend themselves well to creating value-packed how-to videos.

For example, a plumbing company may create and share a video on their website or social channels on how to prevent clogged or frozen pipes as free advice.

Then, when those pipes do get clogged or frozen, they will be top of mind for their viewers and just a click or call away.

How-to videos have the added benefit of demonstrating the expertise that Google is so fond of.

Ask Me Anything Or FAQs

Like how-tos, video can be a great vehicle for answering your customers’ common or most pressing questions and, where necessary, incorporating short demos or other relevant visuals for clarity.

And by recording a video, you can avoid having to answer the same or similar question repeatedly.

Here, too, you can consider getting your audience involved by having them pose the questions, with you or your appropriate staff members providing the answers.

Short video FAQs can be added to enhance the written FAQs on your website. FAQs, by definition, are solid SEO-oriented content providing a natural boost to your authority.

Behind The Scenes Footage

The popularity of television shows like “How It’s Made” proves people like to be able to pull back the curtain, go behind the scenes, and get a glimpse of how certain processes work – particularly those that result in a product or service they consume.

These videos are similar to a product or service overview but perhaps go a little deeper into details for those customers who need to know more.

Describe and demonstrate a technique, product, or process you specialize in or which is unique to your business. This can set you apart from your competition both online and off.

Webinars Or Live Event Recordings

Local professional services businesses can build important brand recognition and a sense of community by hosting or sponsoring live webinars or in-person events.

Anyone who attends these types of events will be interested in a recording for future reference.

These recordings can naturally be shared on a website events page and via appropriate social media channels.

When broadcasting and subsequently sharing these video events via social media, be sure to include unique hashtags, e.g., “#[Location]TaxAdvice2024,” as they serve multiple purposes: brand/event awareness, important search key,  and an opportunity to incorporate product or service related keywords for SEO purposes.

Video Optimization

Digital videos, just like any other content, can be optimized for optimal organic search visibility. When creating, publishing, and sharing these videos, consider the following:

  • Incorporate relevant keywords into the video filename and then the title, description and hashtags depending on the platform the video is being hosted on or shared to.
  • Add a call to action and link to a related product or service page near the top of your video description on YouTube, where it can be readily seen and clicked on.
  • Include calls to action and embed links to relevant website products, services, and event pages or to other related videos within videos posted on YouTube, Instagram Stories, or other platforms.

One quick tip on video length: less is more.

Video, like images, are worth at least a thousand words, and we all know today’s consumers, especially those in the younger demographics, have limited attention spans.

Where possible, the length of most videos should be kept in the one to three-minute range, and the shorter, the better to ensure optimal engagement.

However, on platforms like TikTok, it is not uncommon for videos to be under 30 seconds, and YouTube now offers “Shorts,” which are limited to 60 seconds.

Further, one of the ranking factors on YouTube is engagement time, i.e., whether or not videos are viewed in their entirety, so you want to ensure your viewers are fully engaged from start to finish.

And — Action!

Knowing all of the potential, are you ready to start creating and sharing some videos?

As noted, the accessibility and preferred authenticity of video created on a mobile device enables virtually all local business owners to leverage this powerful medium relatively quickly.

Incorporating video into a local business’s digital marketing strategy is not just a trend; it’s a necessity.

Video content enables businesses to communicate their message more effectively, connect with the local audience on a personal level, and stand out in a crowded digital landscape.

Your first step, as in any marketing campaign, should be to get a feel for your audience along with the types of video and platforms they prefer.

Then go ahead and start recording, optimizing for search, sharing, and watching to see what resonates.

By being creative and authentic, you will set you and your business apart.

So, grab your camera or smartphone, start brainstorming creative ideas, and let the power of video propel your local business forward.

You may even find yourself going viral! #videorocksin2024

More resources: 


Featured Image: Juan Pablo Olaya Celis/Shutterstock

Google Integrates Social Media Posts Into Google Business Profiles via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google has introduced a feature that automatically displays social media posts from platforms like Instagram and Facebook directly on Google Business Profiles (GBP).

This update aims to give customers a more comprehensive view of a business’s online activity and engagement.

According to a Google help page, businesses that have associated their social media links with their GBP may now find their social media posts automatically surface on their profiles.

This feature is currently available for select regions and may not be accessible to all Business Profiles.

Manage Your Social Media Links

To take advantage of this new feature, businesses can manage which social media links are displayed to customers on their Google Business Profile.

You can add one link from each platform: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, X (formerly known as Twitter), and YouTube.

Google emphasizes the importance of following specific formats for social media links to ensure they function correctly within the Business Profile.

For example, a Facebook link should follow the format “https://www.facebook.com/{username},” while an Instagram link should adhere to “https://www.instagram.com/{username}.”

Adding, Editing, & Removing Social Media Links

Adding, editing, or removing social media links is straightforward.

Navigate to your Business Profile, go to the “Edit profile” section, click on “Business information,” and then click on “Contact.”

From there, select “Social profiles” to add, update, or remove links.

Google may automatically add social media links to eligible Business Profiles. If you need to edit those links, you can add a new link for the same social media site by following the above steps.

Additional Notes

Google’s help page addresses common questions businesses may have regarding this new feature.

Google confirms that different Business Profiles can use the same social media link and that one link per social media site can be added to a Business Profile.

While performance metrics for social media links are unavailable, businesses can simultaneously manage their links via the API for multiple locations.

Here’s an example of what the feature looks like in action:

Looking Ahead

As Google continues to roll out this feature to more regions, businesses may see enhanced visibility and engagement by automatically displaying their social media posts on their Google Business Profile.

This update also incentivizes maintaining an active social media presence to capitalize on this new opportunity for increased exposure.


FAQ

How does Google’s integration of social media posts into Google Business Profiles enhance a business’s online presence?

Integrating social media posts into Google Business Profiles (GBP) enriches a business’s online presence in several ways:

  • It provides customers with a more holistic view of the business’s activities.
  • The feature increases the business’s visibility and engagement by displaying real-time updates directly on the business’s GBP.
  • This level of integration emphasizes the importance of businesses’ active social media presence, which can directly influence potential customers’ impressions.

What are the steps for businesses to manage their social media links on their Google Business Profiles?

Businesses can manage their social media links on their Google Business Profile by following these steps:

  • Access the “Edit profile” section within their GBP.
  • Click on “Business information” and then “Contact”.
  • Select “Social profiles” to add, update, or remove links, ensuring they adhere to the specific formats required by Google.
  • Google also allows businesses with multiple locations to manage social media links through an API.

Can businesses connect multiple accounts from the same social media platform to their Google Business Profile?

According to the latest updates, businesses can connect only one account per social media platform to their Google Business Profile. This is a measure to keep the information presented to users clear and consistent. Businesses should choose their most active or relevant account to display.

What should businesses do if a social media link is automatically added to their Google Business Profile but needs to be changed?

Suppose a social media link is automatically added to a Google Business Profile but requires updating. In that case, the business owner can add a new link for the same social media site following these steps:

  • Add a new link within the “Social profiles” option under the “Contact” section in the “Edit profile” area.
  • Ensure the new link follows Google’s specific format requirements to function correctly within the Business Profile.
  • Once the new link is added, it should replace the previous one that was automatically integrated.


Featured Image: VDB Photos/Shutterstock

Local SEO For Non-Physical Businesses: Overcoming The Challenges via @sejournal, @AdamHeitzman

It’s hard to overstate the value of maximizing your organic visibility for location-based searches.

A well-executed local SEO strategy lets you reach far more local customers, which can deliver a massive boost to your in-store and online traffic and sales.

But if you don’t run a brick-and-mortar business, can you still take advantage of local SEO?

Fortunately, the answer is yes!

Today, we’ll explain how to overcome the challenges of building a solid local search presence without a physical storefront.

Difficulties Of Local SEO For Non-Physical Businesses

Search engines take into account the physical location of businesses when determining the most relevant listings to rank for local searches.

If a company has an address in Nashville, Google may rank it higher for user searches in and around the city.

But this poses an obvious concern for businesses without a physical address.

If search engines use the physical proximity of a business to a search user when ranking location-based results, how can a business with no physical location compete, even though it serves the local area?

The good news is that although having a physical address may make maximizing your local SEO presence easier, you can still succeed without a physical address.

For example, provided you run a service-area business (that is, you still have face-to-face contact with customers — just not at your own business address), Google allows you to create a Business Profile to manage your local visibility across Search and Maps.

For clarity, here’s Google’s official word on the matter:

“You can have a profile if your business doesn’t have a physical address as long as you make in-person contact with customers… You may also have a profile if you’re a service-area business that visits or delivers to customers directly, but doesn’t serve customers at its business address, like a plumber or cleaning service.”

And besides creating a Google Business Profile, there are a few other techniques non-physical businesses can use to boost their local SEO presence.

Let’s look at each solution in turn.

5 Ways To Master Local SEO Without A Business Address

1. Correctly Configure Your Google Business Profile

The first approach is to properly set up a Google Business Profile (GBP) for your service-area business.

A Google Business Profile is a tool that lets you create and update a free listing for your business across Google. Essentially, your GBP gives Google users a quick snapshot of your business, providing helpful information about things like opening hours, contact details, and customer reviews.

Here’s the GBP for a mobile car wash near me in Memphis, TN:

google search: mobile car washScreenshot for search term [mobile car wash], Google, January 2023

Google’s guidance for configuring a GBP for a service-area business differs slightly from its guidance for brick-and-mortar establishments.

The main difference is you have to specify your service area by city, zip code, or other type of area – not by your address. You can select up to 20 service areas, but the boundaries of all the combined areas should be within 2 hours’ driving distance from where your business is based.

Also, ensure that within Business Profile Manager, you leave the business location field blank under the Info tab. Setting your service area is enough to let Google (and search users) know where you operate.

2. Create Localized Content Targeting Location-Based Keywords

Generating location-specific content is another effective way to boost your site’s relevance for local searches, even without a physical location.

This involves creating content, service pages, blog posts, success stories, and other forms of content about topics relevant to the different communities you serve.

Incorporating geo-specific keywords into your content (like the name of the city or neighborhood you’re addressing) will help amplify your search visibility for relevant local searches.

For example, if you run a pool maintenance service in Phoenix, you might create articles titled “Top Challenges of Pool Maintenance in Phoenix’s Summer Heat.”

These articles integrate local keywords, address specific issues Phoenix pool owners are likely to encounter, and showcase your company’s understanding of local pool maintenance needs.

3. Develop Location-Specific Landing Pages

Creating dedicated landing pages for each of your target locations is another way to enhance your ranking potential for local searches.

These pages could include information about the specific services you offer in that area, local management, testimonials from local customers, and region-specific offers or promotions. Once again, be sure to incorporate local keywords to signal to search engines the relevance of your pages to local searches.

However, if you choose to implement this tactic, don’t just replicate the same basic page across different locations, changing nothing except the name of your target area.

Each localized landing page should be unique, providing genuinely useful and relevant information specific to that area. Duplicate content with only minor changes can negatively impact your SEO efforts.

4. Encourage Reviews And Testimonials From Local Customers

Accumulating reviews and testimonials from local customers is yet another way to boost your local SEO as a non-physical business.

Such reviews provide social proof to potential customers and demonstrate to search engines that your business is relevant and reputable within a specific area.

For this reason, you should encourage your local customers to leave reviews for your business on platforms like Google Business Profile, Yelp, and Facebook.

Keep in mind that asking for positive reviews in exchange for discounts, free services, or other financial incentives violates these platforms’ policies.

Instead, you should solicit honest customer reviews via thank you pages on your websites, follow-up emails, social media posts, and so on.

Responding to reviews is just as important as asking for them. Engaging with customer feedback reinforces your reputation for high standards and willingness to improve your services.

Plus, Google actively encourages businesses to engage with reviews to help improve local rankings.

Likewise, showcasing reviews and in-depth testimonials on your site, particularly location-specific landing pages, will instill confidence in potential customers about the credibility of your company.

5. Manage Your Local Citations

Finally, creating and updating online mentions of your business’s name, service area, and phone number can help your local SEO efforts.

Citations from reputable sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and local business directories signal to Google the relevance of your company in a specific area.

The key thing to remember when managing your local citations is that your business details should be accurate and consistent wherever they appear. This uniformity gives search engines more confidence to surface your business in local search results.

Also, keep in mind that the quality of your local citations is more important than the quantity. It’s best to prioritize getting listed on directories relevant to your industry and area of operations.

What About Online-Only Businesses?

So far, we’ve focused our attention on non-physical businesses that still make in-person contact with customers within a specific area.

But what about fully virtual businesses? Can they still enjoy the rewards of local SEO?

Again, the answer is yes – but it’s more difficult to achieve.

The main disadvantage virtual businesses face with local SEO is the inability to create listings on Google Business Profile and online directories that require, at the very least, a clearly defined service area.

That said, online-only businesses can still amplify their local search relevance by implementing the other tactics listed above: Creating localized content, targeting location-specific keywords, developing local landing pages, and gathering reviews and testimonials from local customers.

No Address? No Problem

Running a business without a physical address doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of local SEO.

There are several other ways to let search engines know that you operate within a specific geographic area, from creating a GBP to publishing location-specific content.

Just remember that managing your local SEO efforts is an ongoing process whether or not you have a business address.

More resources:


Featured Image: WBMUL/Shutterstock

Google Business Profile Suspended? Here’s How To Get Reinstated via @sejournal, @sherrybonelli

For most small businesses, Google Business Profile (GBP) is their marketing lifeblood.

Because it’s free, many local businesses rely solely on their Google Business Profile to generate traffic and calls, as well as to bring customers to their business.

Marketers know it’s risky to put all your marketing eggs in one basket.

But for a local business that has a limited budget – or no marketing budget at all – a free GBP listing is often all they have to promote their business online.

When a business’s GBP listing gets suspended, it can literally make a company’s sales come to a screeching halt. And in some cases, I’ve seen companies go out of business due to a suspension.

A suspended GBP listing will cause the business owner a lot of stress and worry – especially when most aren’t sure why they were suspended in the first place.

What Is A Google Business Profile Suspension?

A Google Business Profile suspension is when your GBP listing is no longer visible on Google and Google Maps, or you have lost control of your listing (your business listing is essentially “unverified,” and you can’t manage it.)

You will know that your listing has been suspended when you see one of these notifications in your GBP dashboard:

Suspended notificationScreenshot from Google Business Profile dashboard, October 2023
Disabled NotificationScreenshot from Google Business Profile dashboard, October 2023

You will also get an email from Google letting you know that your GBP listing has been suspended.

Appeal Notification EmailScreenshot of email, November 2023

When your listing gets suspended, in the email you receive, Google will give you the “violation type.” This will give you a general idea of the reason your listing got suspended.

GBP listings can get suspended for various reasons – many of which have to do with spammy tactics or if the GBP listing owner breaks Google Business Profile Guidelines.

Google can also give you a Manual Suspension if it reviews your listing and finds an issue with it.

This review often comes after someone reports your listing through GBP’s Redressal Form.

It’s also possible for a user to report a listing on Google Maps or search through the Suggest an edit feature.

Suggest an EditScreenshot from Google, February 2024

If that person is “trusted” enough by Google, it is possible that their suggestion to remove the business listing or make negative edits could take effect almost immediately. Sometimes, these changes can cause a suspension.

Suspensions can also happen after you make changes to your listing.

For instance, one of my client’s listings was immediately suspended after he correctly changed his landscaping business from a storefront with a physical address (his home) to a service area business by deleting the address.

Immediately after he deleted the address from the listing, his GBP profile was suspended.

There are two types of suspensions:

  • A hard suspension.
  • A soft suspension.

What Is A Hard Suspension?

A hard suspension is when you do a search for your company’s name and city, and your Knowledge Panel/Business Profile doesn’t show up online – which is a very bad thing because potential customers won’t be able to find your GBP listing on Google Maps or search results.

Hard suspensions usually happen when Google determines that your business doesn’t qualify for a GBP listing or you’re using spammy tactics.

What Is A Soft Suspension?

A soft suspension is when your business’s Knowledge Panel/Business Profile still shows up online, and you can access it in your GBP dashboard, but it looks as if it hasn’t been verified and you can’t manage or update your listing.

If you have a soft suspension, your GBP profile can be subjected to user-suggested edits more easily – making it more vulnerable to incorrect changes and displaying incorrect information.

Also, some industries are more likely to get suspensions than others.

These categories are known to have more spam and fake listings, which makes them more prone to suspensions.

Google and SEO professionals have been trying to crack down on spammy and fake GBP listings, so if you’re in one of these industries, someone may report your profile if you are violating any Google Business Profile rules.

These spammy categories are typically Service Area Businesses (SABs) and include:

  • Locksmiths.
  • Lawyers.
  • Plumbers.
  • Pest control services.
  • HVAC.
  • Etc.

The Dreaded Google Business Profile Suspension Email Notification

If your listing hasn’t been suspended yet, you’re lucky.

Most listings, at some point or another, will face a suspension. (So it’s best to be prepared!)

Why Would Your Google Business Profile Get Suspended?

If your GBP listing gets suspended, you have likely done something that looks suspicious or spammy, you broke Google Business Profile guidelines, or you violated the terms of service of another Google product or service.

Google suspends listings for various reasons – especially if you are violating Google Business Profile Guidelines.

How Do You Know If Your GBP Profile Has Been Suspended?

Most business owners first notice a decrease in calls or visitors to their business.

They will then do a quick search online and may not find their listing at all, or they will log in to their Google Business Profile dashboard and see a notification that alerts them that their listing has been suspended:

Suspended NotificationScreenshot from Google Business Profile dashboard, October 2023

And they will receive an email letting them know that their listing was suspended, too.

This email contains valuable information about the “violation type” – or the general policy your listing violates.

Email violation typeScreenshot from email, November 2023

Common Reasons Why A GBP Listing Gets Suspended

There are many common reasons why a Google Business Profile may get suspended.

For instance, if you are in a high-spam industry like lawyers, locksmiths, or plumbers, you might get your listing suspended just because of the industry you’re in.

If you sat down at your computer and made several updates to the main information on your Google Business Profile listing in one sitting, that also can sometimes cause Google to be suspicious and trigger a suspension.

Here are some other reasons why GBP listings get suspended:

  • Keyword stuffing your business name.
  • Using a P.O. Box or UPS store address.
  • You set up your listing at a virtual office or co-working space address.
  • You have a Service Area Business (SAB) and are displaying a physical address.
  • You have an online-only business.
  • You are in a high-risk business category, like lawyers, plumbers, HVAC, locksmiths, rehab centers, etc.
  • If another business shares your same address – especially if it’s a residential address.
  • You have made a bunch of changes/edits to your GBP profile in one sitting.
  • The URL you add to your GBP profile forwards/redirects to another website or links to a social media page.
  • If you change your listing from a Storefront to a SAB – or vice versa.
  • Having multiple GBPs in an area that has service areas overlapping.
  • Your address or hours don’t match what is listed on your website or other online business directories/citations.
  • You list your business hours as 24/7.
  • A manager on your listing had their account suspended – so your listing was also suspended.
  • You created multiple listings for the same business at the same address.
  • You violated the terms of service of some other Google tool or service.

Seeing that suspension notice and email will probably cause you to panic – and you may be tempted to fill out the appeal form right away.

But wait!

Before you can apply for an appeal, you have to fix what’s wrong with your listing.

If you’ve done any of these things, you will need to fix the issues before you submit your appeal and try to get your GBP reinstated.

Now, many people who get their listings suspended think they should just create a new listing to avoid fixing the suspended profile.

Do not create a new listing!

Doing that will just complicate things and is a direct violation of Google’s guidelines. (Plus, chances are very high that if you do create a new GBP listing, that profile will immediately be suspended, too.)

When it comes to fixing what caused the suspension, you should first carefully read about the violation type identified in the email you received and next review the Google Business Profile Guidelines to make sure you didn’t violate any of those rules.

For instance, if you have keyword-stuffed your business name, you need to fix your company’s name to get your listing reinstated.

Name Stuffed GBPScreenshot from Google, October 2023

In the example above, the real estate agent added extra, spammy words to the name of her business.

Before she submits her reinstatement form, she needs to delete the words “- Florida: The Smart Choice For Real Estate!” from her business name.

If you think you were suspended because you have your hours listed as 24/7, then you should adjust your hours to be something like 8:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. before you submit your appeal.

(Note: The hours you list on your GBP profile should be the hours that you have employees at your business location to meet with customers.

If you’re a SAB, it should be the hours that you are actually available to serve your customers at their location. Not when you answer your phone. Google wants to know when you have employees at your business to physically help customers.)

Do you have a duplicate listing problem, or have you set up more than one business at the same address?

You would need to fix these issues before you try to get your listing reinstated.

Duplicate AddressScreenshot from Google, October 2023

Once you think you’ve figured out the issues and have fixed your GBP, it’s time to fill out the appeal form.

The Appeal Tool Process

Once you’ve fixed the problems with your listing, it’s time to use the Appeals tool.

The Google Business Appeal process is pretty straightforward, but you must be prepared ahead of time. That’s why reading through this article in its entirety is important.

First, be sure to look at the Help document about the appeal process and become familiar with it. Next, let’s look at how the appeal process works.

When your GBP listing gets suspended, you will receive an email that looks like the one below. This email contains a blue button that says Appeal. You will need to click on the Appeal button that takes you to the Appeals tool.

Appeal Suspension Notification Email

Screenshot from email, January 2024

The Appeals tool will be your central headquarters for working on your appeal and checking the status of your appeal.

Before you begin, double-check to make sure you’re logged in using the email address that you use to manage the suspended GBP listing account, and then click Confirm.

Appeal tool after clicking appeal in emailScreenshot from Google, January 2024

Next, select the business profile that’s suspended. If you only have one business location, only the suspended location will appear here.

Select ProfileScreenshot from Google, January 2024

On the next screen, you will see when the Business Profile was suspended, the reason for the suspension, and the details/status:

  • Cannot be appealed.
  • Eligible for appeal.

Note that not all suspensions are eligible to be appealed.

If you see that your Google Business Profile can’t be appealed – you’re out of luck. You cannot create a new GBP; you are simply done with Google Business Profiles.

If the Details/Status says Eligible for Appeal, click Next to move forward through the appeal process.

Review Profile To AppealScreenshot from Google, October 2023

Pro Tip: This next section is very important. Once you click the Submit button on this next screen, you have exactly 60 minutes to upload official documents to prove you are a legitimate business.

If you are not sure if your evidence documents are the correct ones, are unsure of the process or whether your GBP listing complies, it’s best to hire a true product expert to help you with the Appeal process.

Do not move forward with this process without product expert help if you are uncertain about what’s required. This is just too important to the future of your business to leave to chance.

You will want to upload evidence to prove you are a legitimate business.

Google Business Profile Appeal Evidence List:

  • Official business registration – shows you’re an officially established business.
  • Business license – proves you’re authorized to operate your business.
  • Tax certificate – shows your tax ID and that you’re validated.
  • Utility bill at the business’s address – these can include electricity, phone, gas, water, sewage, trash, recycling, TV, or internet.

Your Business Registration/License must display the business name and address that matches the Business Profile you are appealing for. The utility bill must display the same business name and address as your registration/license or tax certificate.

Basically, all the documents you submit must match the business name and address on your Google Business Profile listing.

You must double-check all your documents to ensure that your business name and address match your GBP listing exactly.

It’s best to provide as many items as possible to ensure you have the greatest chance for reinstatement. You can upload a zipped file if you have more than two documents you want to upload.

Once you have all your documents gathered and are ready to upload, click the Submit button.

Submit AppealScreenshot from Google, January 2024

This is where you want to start a timer for 60 minutes.

It’s very important that you click on the very subtle Add Evidence link on this screen to open the form so you can upload your evidence documents.

If you choose not to submit any evidence, the chances of your Google Business Profile getting reinstated are slim.

Remember, you have one chance to upload the evidence, so do not miss this step.

Appeal Submitted Add EvidenceScreenshot from Google, January 2024

When the Evidence Form opens up, it’s pre-populated with your email address, business name, address, and Google Business Profile ID.

There are options to upload two files, but you can upload zipped files. So, if you have more than two files to upload, zip up those files and upload the zipped file. (The more evidence you can provide Google, the better!)

There is also a text box where you should provide a narrative as to why your profile should be reinstated, what you changed to fix your Business Profile to get it in compliance with GBP Guidelines, and any other information that would be helpful for Google to know.

Keep everything about the facts.

You are allowed 1,000 characters in this space, so use your words carefully.

Once you have uploaded your documents and filled out the rest of the form, click the Submit button.

Evidence FormScreenshot from Google, January 2024

After you submit the evidence, you will be sent back to the Appeals tool, where your Details/Status should be changed to Submitted.

Return to tool after appeal submittedScreenshot from Google, January 2024

The Google Support team will need several days to manually review the evidence you have submitted and to check your Business Profile to ensure your GBP listing complies with guidelines.

You can check the Appeals tool to see if the Details/Status has changed to either of the following:

  • Approved.
  • Not Approved.

Once Google has reviewed your evidence and GBP listing, you will receive one of two emails.

If your evidence proves that your business is legitimate and your Google Business Profile follows Google’s Guidelines, you will receive an email letting you know that your appeal was approved.

Appeal ApprovedScreenshot from email, November 2023

The Appeals tool will show that your listing appeal was Approved.

Appeal status approvedScreenshot taken by Ben Fisher from Google, January 2024

But if your GBP listing is still in violation of guidelines and/or your evidence does not satisfy Google’s requirements, you will receive an email denying your appeal.

Denied Appeal EmailScreenshot from email, January 2024

The Details in the Appeals tool will show that your appeal was Not Approved.

Appeal Status Not ApprovedScreenshot from Google, October 2023

If your appeal is denied, you may have the option to have Google re-evaluate your appeal decision. However, we do not have details yet on how this process works.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about GBP suspensions, you will hopefully be better prepared should you see the Suspended notice in your dashboard.

Remember, GBP suspensions can sometimes happen for random reasons – like if you make too many changes at once, if a competitor suggests an edit, or even if there’s a glitch on Google’s end.

Make sure you’re prepared and that you are not just counting on Google Business Profile for all your online marketing efforts.

And always try to follow Google’s rules. Don’t forget that Google has the upper hand, as it makes this amazing – and free – marketing tool available to merchants.

More resources: 


Featured Image: FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock

A Guide To Star Ratings On Google And How They Work via @sejournal, @ChandalN

The elusive five-star review used to be something you could only flaunt in a rotating reviews section on your website.

But today, Google has pulled these stars out of the shadows and features them front and center across branded SERPs and beyond.

Star ratings can help businesses earn trust from potential customers, improve local search rankings, and boost conversions.

This is your guide to how they work.

Stars And SERPs: What Is The Google Star Rating?

A Google star rating is a consumer-powered grading system that lets other consumers know how good a business is based on a score of one to five stars.

These star ratings can appear across maps and different Google search results properties like standard blue link search listings, ads, rich results like recipe cards, local pack results, third-party review sites, and on-app store results.

How Does The Google Star Rating Work?

When a person searches Google, they will see star ratings in the results. Google uses an algorithm and an average to determine how many stars are displayed on different review properties.

Google explains that the star score system operates based on an average of all review ratings for that business that have been published on Google.

It’s important to note that this average is not calculated in real-time and can take up to two weeks to update after a new review is created.

When users leave a review, they are asked to rate a business based on specific aspects of their customer experience, as well as the type of business being reviewed and the services they’ve included.

For example, “plumbers may get “Install faucet” or “Repair toilet” as services to add,” and Google also allows businesses to add custom services that aren’t listed.

When customers are prompted to give feedback, they can give positive or critical feedback, or they can choose not to select a specific aspect to review, in which case this feedback aspect is considered unavailable.

This combination of feedback is what Google uses to determine a business’s average score by “dividing the number of positive ratings by the total number of ratings (except the ones where the aspect was not rated).”

Google star ratings do have some exceptions in how they function.

For example, the UK and EU have certain restrictions that don’t apply to other regions, following recent scrutiny by the EU Consumer Protection Cooperation and the UK Competitions and Market Authority about fake reviews being generated.

Additionally, the type of rating search property will determine the specifics of how it operates and how to gather and manage reviews there.

Keep reading to get an in-depth explanation of each type of Google star rating available on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

How To Get Google Star Ratings On Different Search Properties

As mentioned above, there are different types of Google star ratings available across search results, including the standard blue-link listings, ads, local pack results, rich snippets, third-party reviews, and app store results.

Here’s what the different types of star-rating results look like in Google and how they work on each listing type.

Standard “Blue Link” Listings And Google Stars

In 2021, Google started testing star ratings in organic search and has since kept this SERP feature intact.

Websites can stand out from their competitors by getting stars to show up around their organic search results listing pages.

Text result showing google star ratings in the SERPsScreenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Organic SERPs

If you want stars to show up on your organic search results, add schema markup to your website.

Learn how to do that in the video below:

As the video points out, you need actual reviews to get your structured data markup to show.

Then, you can work with your development team to input the code on your site that indicates your average rating, highest, lowest, and total rating count.

structured markup example for google star ratings and reviewsScreenshot JSON-LD script on Google Developers, August 2021

Once you add the rich snippet to your site, there is no clear timeline for when they will start appearing in the SERPs – that’s up to Google.

In fact, Google specifically mentions that reviews in properties like search can take longer to appear, and often, this delay is caused by business profiles being merged.

When you’re done, you can check your work with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Adding schema is strongly encouraged. But even without it, if you own a retail store with ratings, Google may still show your star ratings in the search engine results.

They do this to ensure searchers are getting access to a variety of results. Google says:

“content on your website that’s been crawled and is related to retail may also be shown in product listings and annotations for free across Google.”

If you want star ratings to show up on Shopping Ads, you’ll have to pay for that.

Paid Ads And Google Stars

When Google Stars appear in paid search ads, they’re known as seller ratings, “an automated extension type that showcases advertisers with high ratings.”

These can appear in text ads, shopping ads, and free listings. Both the star rating and the total number of votes or reviews are displayed.

In addition to Google star ratings, shopping ads may include additional production information such as shipping details, color, material, and more, as shown below.

Google shopping ads showing star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024

Paid text ads were previously labeled as “ads” and recently have been upgraded to a “sponsored” label, as shown below.

paid ad showing google star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Paid Ads

To participate in free listings, sellers have to do three things:

  • Follow all the required policies around personally identifiable information, spam, malware, legal requirements, return policies, and more.
  • Submit a feed through the Google Merchant Center or have structured data markup on their website (as described in the previous section).
  • Add their shipping settings.

Again, some ecommerce sellers who do not have schema markup may still have their content show up in the SERPs.

For text ads and shopping ads to show star ratings, sellers are typically required to have at least 100 reviews in the last 12 months.

Paid advertisers must also meet a minimum number of stars for seller ratings to appear on their text ads. This helps higher-quality advertisers stand out from the competition.

For example, text ads have to have a minimum rating of 3.5 for the Google star ratings to show.

Google treats reviews on a per-country basis, so the minimum review threshold of 100 also applies only to 1 region at a time.

For star ratings to appear on a Canadian ecommerce company’s ads, for example, they would have to have obtained a minimum of 100 reviews from within Canada in the last year.

Google considers reviews from its own Google Customer Reviews and also from approved third-party partner review sites from its list of 29 supported review partners, which makes it easier for sellers to meet the minimum review threshold each year.

Google also requests:

  • The domain that has ratings must be the same as the one that’s visible in the ad.
  • Google or its partners must conduct a research evaluation of your site.
  • The reviews included must be about the product or service being sold.

Local Pack Results And Google Stars

Local businesses have a handful of options for their business to appear on Google via Places, local map results, and a Google Business Profile page – all of which can show star ratings.

Consumers even have the option to sort local pack results by their rating, as shown in the image example below.

Google star ratings on search resultsScreenshot from SERPs local pack, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Local Search Results

To appear in local search results, a Google Business Profile is required.

Customers may leave reviews directly on local business properties without being asked, but Google also encourages business owners to solicit reviews from their customers and shares best practices, including:

  • Asking your customers to leave you a review and make it easy for them to do so by providing a link to your review pages.
  • Making review prompts desktop and mobile-friendly.
  • Replying to customer reviews (ensure you’re a verified provider on Google first).
  • Be sure you do not offer incentives for reviews.

Customers can also leave star ratings on other local review sites, as Google can pull from both to display on local business search properties. It can take up to two weeks to get new local reviews to show in your overall score.

Once customers are actively leaving reviews, Google Business Profile owners have a number of options to help them manage these:

options to manage review on google business profileScreenshot from Google Business Profile Help, Google, February 2024

Rich Results, Like Recipes, And Google Stars

Everybody’s gotta eat, and we celebrate food in many ways — one of which is recipe blogs.

While restaurants rely more on local reviews, organic search results, and even paid ads, food bloggers seek to have their recipes rated.

Similar to other types of reviews, recipe cards in search results show the average review rating and the total number of reviews.

recipe search results on desktopScreenshot from search for [best vegan winter recipes], Google, February 2024

The outcome has become a point of contention among the food blogging community, since only three recipes per search can be seen on Google desktop results (like shown in the image above), and four on a mobile browser.

These coveted spots will attract clicks, leaving anyone who hasn’t mastered online customer reviews in the dust. That means that the quality of the recipe isn’t necessarily driving these results.

Google gives users the option to click “Show more” to see two additional rows of results:

expanded desktop recipe search resultsScreenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024

Searchers can continue to click the “Show more” button to see additional recipe results.

Anyone using Google Home can search for a recipe and get results through their phone:

Google assistant recipesScreenshot from Elfsight, February 2024

Similarly, recipe search results can be sent from the device to the Google Home assistant. Both methods will enable easy and interactive step-by-step recipe instructions using commands like “start recipe,” “next step,” or even “how much olive oil?”

How To Get Google Stars On Recipe Results

Similar to the steps to have stars appear on organic blue-link listings, food bloggers and recipe websites need to add schema to their websites in order for star ratings to show.

However, it’s not as straightforward as listing the average and the total number of ratings. Developers should follow Google’s instructions for recipe markup.

There is both required and recommended markup:

Required Markup For Recipes

  • Name of the recipe.
  • Image of the recipe in a BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, or SVG format.

Recommended Markup For Recipes

  • Aggregate rating.
  • Author.
  • Cook time, preparation time, and total duration.
  • Date published.
  • Description.
  • Keywords.
  • Nutrition information.
  • Prep time.
  • Recipe category by meal type, like “dinner.”
  • Region associated with the recipe.
  • Ingredients.
  • Instructions.
  • Yield or total serving.
  • Total time.
  • Video (and other related markup, if there is a video in the recipe).

To have recipes included in Google Assistant Guided Recipes, the following markup must be included:

  • recipeIngredient
  • recipeInstructions
  • To have the video property, add the contentUrl.

For example, here’s what the structured markup would look like for the recipeIngredient property:

example of structured markup for recipe steps in Google AssistantScreenshot from Google Developer, February 2024

Third-Party Review Sites And Google Stars

Many software companies rely on third-party review sites to help inform their customer’s purchasing decisions.

Third-party review sites include any website a brand doesn’t own where a customer can submit a review, such as Yelp, G2, and many more.

Many of these sites, like Featured Customers shown below, can display star ratings within Google search results.

Example of star ratings showing in SERPs from third-party review sitesScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

Rich snippets from third-party reviews, such as stars, summary info, or ratings, can also appear on a Google Business Profile or map view from approved sites.

For local businesses, Google star ratings appear in different locations than the third-party reviews on a desktop:

third party reviews and google stars on desktop resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

On mobile, ratings are displayed on a company’s Google Business Profile. Users need to click on Reviews or scroll down to see the third-party reviews:

third party reviews in local mobile resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

On a map, the results from third parties may be more prominent, like the Tripadvisor review that shows up for a map search of The Hilton in Vancouver (although it does not display a star rating even though Tripadvisor does provide star ratings):

third party reviews in map resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On Third-Party Review Sites

The best way to get a review on a third-party review site depends on which site is best for the brand or the business.

For example, if you have active customers on Yelp or Tripadvisor, you may choose to engage with customers there.

third-party reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024

Similarly, if a software review site like Trustpilot shows up for your branded search, you could do an email campaign with your customer list asking them to leave you a review there.

Here are a few of the third-party review websites that Google recognizes:

  • Trustpilot.
  • Reevoo.
  • Bizrate – through Shopzilla.

When it comes to third-party reviews, Google reminds businesses that there is no way to opt out of third-party reviews, and they need to take up any issues with third-party site owners.

App Store Results And Google Stars

When businesses have an application as their core product, they typically rely on App Store and Google Play Store downloads.

Right from the SERPs, searchers can see an app’s star ratings, as well as the total votes and other important information, like whether the app is free or not.

App store reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERP play store results, Google, February 2024

How To Get Google Stars On App Store Results

Businesses can list their iOS apps in the App Store or on the Google Play store, prompt customers to leave reviews there, and also respond to them.

Does The Google Star Rating Influence SEO Rankings?

John Mueller confirmed that Google does not factor star ratings or customer reviews into web search rankings. However, Google is clear that star ratings influence local search results and rankings:

“Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”

Even though they are not a ranking factor for non-local organic search, star ratings can serve as an important conversion element, helping you display social proof, build credibility, and increase your click-through rate from search engines (which may indirectly impact your search rankings).

For local businesses, both Google stars and third-party ratings appear in desktop and mobile searches, as seen above.

These ratings not only help local businesses rank above their competitors for key phrases, but they will also help convince more customers to click, which is every company’s search game.

How Do I Improve My Star Rating?

Businesses that want to improve their Google star rating should start by claiming their Google Business Profile and making sure all the information is complete and up to date.

If a company has already taken these steps and wants to offset a poor rating, they are going to need more reviews to offset the average.

Companies can get more Google reviews by making it easy for customers to leave one. The first step for a company is to get the link to leave a review inside their Google Business Profile:

Ask customers for reviews linkScreenshot from Wordstream, February 2024

From there, companies can send this link out to customers directly (there are four options displayed right from the link as seen above), include it on social media, and even dedicate sections of their website to gathering more reviews and/or displaying reviews from other users.

It isn’t clear whether or not responding to reviews will help improve a local business’s ranking; however, it’s still a good idea for companies to respond to reviews on their Google Business Profile in order to improve their ratings overall.

That’s because responding to reviews can entice other customers to leave a review since they know they will get a response and because the owner is actually seeing the feedback.

For service businesses, Google provides the option for customers to rate aspects of the experience.

This is helpful since giving reviewers this option allows anyone who had a negative experience to rate just one aspect negatively rather than giving a one-star review overall.

Does Having A Star Rating On Google Matter? Yes! So Shoot For The Stars

Stars indicate quality to consumers, so they almost always improve click-through rates wherever they are present.

Consumers tend to trust and buy from brands with higher star ratings in local listings, paid ads, or even app downloads.

Many, many, many studies have demonstrated this phenomenon time and again. So, don’t hold back when it comes to reviews.

Do an audit of where your brand shows up in SERPs and get stars next to as many placements as possible.

The most important part of star ratings across Google, however, will always be the service and experiences companies provide that fuel good reviews from happy customers.

More resources:


Feature Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock
All screenshots taken by author

Websites Created With Google Business Profiles To Shut Down In March via @sejournal, @kristileilani

Do you have a website created through Google Business Profiles for your local business?

If so, you must find an alternative website solution as Google plans to shut down websites created with Google Business Profiles in March.

Websites Created With Google Business Profiles Will Redirect Until June 10, 2024

A redirect will be put in place from your GBP website to your Google Business Profile until June 10, 2024.

“Websites made with Google Business Profiles are basic websites powered by the information on your Business Profile.

In March 2024, websites made with Google Business Profiles will be turned off and customers visiting your site will be redirected to your Business Profile instead.

The redirect will work until June 10, 2024.”

How To Find Out If You Have A Google Business Profile Website

To find out if your business has a website made with Google Business Profile, search for my business or your business name on Google. Once you find your Google Business Profile, edit your profile and check for your website in the contact section.

If you have a Google Business Profile site, it should say, “You have a website created with Google.”

Otherwise, it will allow you to add the link to your website.

Websites Created With Google Business Profiles To Shut Down In MarchScreenshot from Google, February 2024

Choosing An Alternative Website Builders For Small Businesses

Google suggests Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, Google Sites, Shopify for ecommerce, Durable, Weebly, Strikingly, and WordPress as alternative website builders to create a new website or ad landing page to replace the Google Business Profiles site.

While some, like WordPress, offer a free website builder with generative AI features, its users’ content may reportedly be sold to OpenAI and Midjourney as training data unless they opt out.

Regarding Core Web Vitals, WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace showed the most improvements in performance.

It’s also worth noting that while Google Deepmind used a Google Sites website to introduce Genie, its new AI model, Google Sites may not be best for SEO.

Updating Ad Campaigns

If you have a Google Ads campaign that links to a website created with Google Business Profiles, the ad campaign will also stop running on March 1, 2024, until the website link is updated.

There’s still time to update your business website to ensure visitors are not sent to a 404 error page after June 10, 2024. If you haven’t chosen a new website builder or hosting service, review the reviews to find the most reliable, affordable, and optimized solution for your business.

Featured image: Vladimka production/Shutterstock