When businesses think of search engine optimization, they often think of ranking on page 1 of Google search results. In the early days of SEO, ranking on page 1 was the be all, end all. But, as time has evolved, lead counts, great user experience, community building, and engagement metrics have all battled their way to the top of a businesses marketing concerns. Ranking well isn’t out of the picture, but looking at rankings through the lens of leads, UX and engagement have changed the landscape tremendously. Because of this, it is important to understand how the relationship between a Google My Business profile and a website can be leveraged as a win for your SEO campaign.
On average, it is reported that businesses receive 943 Search views and 317 Maps views each month. This is according to a study done across many different business types by the folks at Brightlocal in 2019. In apartment marketing, we tend to see a much higher monthly range of views on client profiles, usually anywhere from 1.95k to 8.21k views in search per month and 1.81k to 25.2k views in maps per month. With this type of visibility, we feel it is important to maximize your potential on the maps platform by fully optimizing your profile and utilizing as many aspects of the profile as you can.
Google uses something they call “prominence” as one of its metrics used to rank a GMB profile in maps. Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, directories, and your website). We know that the Google review count and score are factored into local search rankings. We tend to see that more reviews and positive ratings will generally improve a business’s local ranking. From Google:
Prominence refers to how well known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands are also likely to be prominent in local search results.
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business' local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.
In a study done by Darren Shaw of Whitespark this year, the top three factors for local map pack rankings are:
1) Google My Business
3) On-page optimization tied with Links
Overall impact of 15% from your website’s on-page optimization is a huge piece of the pie that should not be dismissed or ignored. That shows that your site’s SEO health dramatically helps your GMB listing shine on in search and plays a huge part in getting your map seen. In fact, our data shows that in the past year, apartment websites are 6X more likely to be found via maps than the standard SERPs.
A robust GMB profile that shows up on page 1 of the SERPs in a highly visual map pack or a knowledge graph entry just might get a click-through over an expensive ILS listing. That is definitely something to consider! And while that probably won’t happen every time, it is definitely a scenario you would like to see in play as often as possible because your GMB listing is free.
Google also uses social metrics like reviews, behavioral interactions on a GMB profile when deciding how prominent a business is. A solid GMB profile can help a website rank better using these metrics. Here is a quote from a Search Engine Journal article:
Not only does a verified and optimized Google My Business profile stand a better chance of being in the local 3-pack, putting your presence at the top of search results, it can also indirectly help your website rank. It does this by providing social signals to Google, by driving traffic to your website, and by providing social proof in the form of reviews. Google says local search results are based on “relevance, distance, and prominence.
- Relevance: How well a listing matches the intent of the searcher.
- Distance: Google pairs searchers with verified businesses in close proximity.
- Prominence: How well-known your business is.
From the same study by Darren Shaw mentioned earlier in this article, the most important factors behind ranking in local organic results with your website are:
1) On-page optimization
3) Behavioral signals
So, if prominence helps your site rank better, it also makes your GMB profile a shining beacon highlighting the best aspects of your business. Answer questions left on your profile, provide great imagery to let them know what life at your property is going to look like, and keep asking current renters for new reviews. Reviews let potential renters know that your staff provide the best in customer service and that you are a responsive business that cares about your reputation.
Don’t stress about occasional bad reviews. Many users don’t trust a perfect 5.0 rating when they see it. Do take steps to improve issues if you are seeing a pattern of unhappy reviews, however. Make up for a bad review by being responsive, showing that you are an invested business owner. These efforts will go a long way in boosting your online reputation and local presence.
As far as volume of reviews goes, there is no magic target number to reach, and there is no stopping - a steady and constant stream of reviews is the key. It helps boost your prominence in Google’s eyes and it helps viewers feel comfortable and confident with your brand.
There are many things that you can do on your website to help the health of your GMB profile. The first and easiest one to mention is embedding your claimed Google map listing on your website. This helps Google and searchers make the connection that the map entity and the website are the same business entity.
Other important website optimizations that can help bolster GMB listings:
Proper indexation of your website - if Google can’t crawl your pages, they won’t be listed highly in the SERps
Target strong localized search phrases and implementing them in your content and meta tags - Google considers proximity and targeting city location and nearby neighborhood terms will help the right searchers find your content
Have a fast loading, responsive, mobile friendly website - included in this are Core Web Vitals metrics and ADA compatibility. These are key to good user experience
Using properly descriptive alt tags on images - helps with ADA and helps Google understand your photos (though image recognition technology is fast eclipsing alt tags for identifying the subject of photos).
Embed your claimed google map on your website - not just a plain address map.
Adding schema to your pages - helps Google understand what your page is about using entity relationships via schema markup.
Having an internal linking strategy in place for your top pages - tells Google what the most important pages of your website are
Linking out to your social media profiles - this helps Google and users connect the dots making relationships between which profiles belong to which business entities. sameAs schema references can help with this too!
While not an exhaustive list, we usually see these optimizations having the biggest overall impact.
At Digible, we work hard to maintain an alignment between GMB profiles and client websites. We feel the connection between Google My Business and a property website is even more important to the multi-family housing industry because of the nature of page one organic listings and the battle for space with the Internet Listing Services.
For many non-branded keyword searches in Google for apartment related terms, the big ILS entities (like Apartments.com, Rent.com, ApartmentGuide.com, Zillow, etc...) are taking up the entire first page of search, and sometimes some of the second page, too.
An organic website will probably never outrank a Zillow page, an apartments.com listing or even a Yelp listing for many non-branded terms, but where it can make a huge impact is in Google Maps. A map listing that ranks in the top three slots will often appear under the paid ads, but usually above the ILS listings on the SERP results for terms where they have a strong presence.
By maintaining a killer GMB profile and adding in support from a thoroughly optimized website, you can perform very well in organic search. Adding paid advertising efforts, paid social exposure, and paid ILS listings into your marketing mix, if you have the means to do so, can be a winning formula for success when marketing your rentals. But keeping a strong GMB to website connection can go a long way for less marketing dollars.
We offer our clients a comprehensive set marketing packages that take a look at all these factors. Our campaigns build a cohesive strategy for achieving increased leads, providing a great user experience online, and bolstering solid engagement among local rental communities.
Having solid optimization in place can help bolster both your website and your GMB presence. If you neglect your GMB profile, you will be missing out in a lot of traffic that the maps listing could be sending your way, and if you don’t have a strong, optimized site you could also lessen the organic signals that Google looks for when deciding how high to rank your map in the SERPs.
If you would like to learn more about our marketing services, reach out to a Digible team member. Call or fill out our contact form. Either way, we look forward to hearing from you!