Local search has emerged as the perfect tool for small local businesses that operate brick-and-mortar only. It was a perfect storm of Google’s domination of online search, the expanding use of smartphones, and the dying off of the big retailers that made it all possible. Small local businesses, who previously had no ways to compete in the digital space now have ways to use it to get more feet through their doors. The breakthrough, even though it’s not exactly new, is something businesses still have to struggle with. Because Google is in the business of providing the best possible service to its users, among other things, the company did its share to help businesses compete in the local results rankings game.

What’s Local Search Like Now?

The way local results are displayed now, only three businesses end up right in front of the person searching for a specific term, service, or product. The group of results is often called a “snack pack,” and it’s what you are aiming for.

Your business will still appear in all relevant searches. It’s just the users will have to take one extra step to reach it. As a business person, you know that putting extra steps between people and the things they need is never a good idea. That’s why it’s important that you do everything you can to ensure your business appears in the snack pack. And the way you do it is, at least partially, by following Google’s recommendations.

First Steps Towards Improved Rankings

So what does Google want you to do? First, you need to make sure that you’ve entered all the necessary information about your business. To even think about ranking on Google’s local search, you need to open a My Business Page on Google. That page will allow you to enter all the relevant information about your business. You should give the people looking at your profile all the information they need to be able to find you and do business with you.

You also have the option to verify your business’ location, which is strongly recommended. It will allow you to appear on Google Maps and in search results, which is a strong boost to your findability. Remember that you need to put in accurate working hours.

Doing the Extra Steps

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. It might not be in the case of search engine optimization, but your potential customers will surely appreciate them if you include them in your My Business page. Text is fine. But you really need to show them what your business is and how it looks if you want it to feel less abstract. You don’t have to overdo it, of course, but a couple of photos that show your business premises, products, or how you perform the services you offer will go a long way in making your business seem more real.

Finally, you have to be very cautious when dealing with reviews.

One of the best and worst things about Google’s My Business Page is that it will let people write reviews of your business. That can be great if you manage to get mostly good reviews. If, on the other hand, you get one bad review after another, it will significantly damage your efforts. On the plus side, though, bad reviews are also a great source of feedback you can use to improve your business.

Usually, you’ll get a mix of both. It’s a good idea to respond to the good ones at least occasionally. For the bad ones, however, you have to reply always. It’s damage control in its most basic form. Someone says something bad about your business. You reply them to try to mend things and to show that you are not afraid to engage your customers when they feel they’ve been wronged.

Staying on top of the local rankings game requires work. Most of the time you will be posting interesting content on your page and making sure all the bad reviews have a reply. You should, however, keep an ear to the ground for the newest updates and best practices. Google might not say it, but we all know it — the company sometimes drastically changes its algorithms. So make sure you keep track of the movements in the field.