Here’s why your competitors might be ranking above you, and what you can do about it.
If you want to improve your online presence, the first thing we’ll tell you to do is complete your Google My Business profile—that is, fill out all fields for your contact information, get customer reviews, seed your Q&A section, and regularly publish posts. Why? Because a complete Google business listing performs better in search results (increasing your visibility) and makes your listing more appealing to searchers (increasing your engagement).
However, it is not uncommon to find competing businesses that, though they have an empty Google listing, are still ranking higher than you. Why is this?
So…Why is This Business Ranking Above Me?
Here are some potential reasons why another business’s seemingly empty Google My Business listing may be ranking above yours, whether in Google Maps results or in the local section of regular Google Search results.
The impact takes time
While updates and additions to your profile are usually instant, the impact is cumulative.
All of the sections of your profile—logistical info, customer reviews, visitor Q&A, and even posts—help Google to know which searches your business should show up for. The more information you supply, the more search terms you will appear for. More information also means more interaction with the increased number of people who are now finding you in search. More activity with your listing provides more information for Google, which improves your ranking. More activity with your listing also means more customers, and more customers means more reviews, which also improves your ranking.
As you can see, visibilty and engagement form a positive feedback loop that only gets stronger and faster. It just takes a little bit of time to set those wheels in motion.
They have other online assets optimized
A Google My Business profile that is less complete and has fewer reviews than yours might also be showing above yours because that business has other assets that they have optimized for search as well. You see, SEO is more than just Google My Business.
While your Google My Business profile is the first and most efficient online asset you should optimize for search, it’s just one of many. Your website, other directory listings, and perhaps even your social media profiles all send signals to Google about your business as a whole; so this other business might appear to have nothing because their Google Business listing is incomplete, but they might be strong in other areas.
To make sure your website, listings, and social media profiles are all optimized for Google, check out these posts:
They have strong off-page SEO
There are also things a business can do—apart from their own online assets—to increase their visibility, such as by getting high-quality backlinks. Backlinks are links to your site from other trusted and credible sites, and are a well-known Google ranking factor. For one reason or another, this other business could have:
- Backlinks to many different pages on their site.
- Many backlinks to one page on their site.
- Few backlinks from a really popular and widely-trusted site
To learn more about off page SEO, check out this post: On-Page vs Off-Page SEO
They have been around longer
Sometimes, other companies have just been around longer, which means that even if they have fewer and weaker signals to send to Google, Google has had more time to accumulate them. Plus, Google is big into trust, so if a site or listing has been around for a while without any issues, Google may be more comfortable displaying them in results than a newer site. This discrepancy will not last forever; over time, Google will come to realize it can trust your site too.
Their business name incudes keywords
Keywords are the words or phrases that your ideal customers type into Google when in need of the product, service, or information that your business provides. The presence of keywords in a website or listing helps Google to categorize it, and the frequency and location of those keywords helps Google determine relevance. If a business’s name is or has a keyword, they might have just enough of an advantage to outrank you.
Their reviews include keywords
Similar to the reason above—the reviews that customers have written about this business could contain keywords that are highly relevant to the search terms popular in your industry, and therefore signal to Google increased relevancy. This is why it is important to collect reviews and respond to them consistently, as this supplies updated content about your business to Google that is super relevant to your audience.
Google can detect location via IP address, so even if a person’s search isn’t location based, (“physical therapist near me ” or “acupuncture Smithsburg”), it will still yield local results. Two businesses might be in the same town, but one business might be mathematically closer to what Google has assigned as the geographical target for a particular search.
Other Things to Consider if a Competitor is Outranking You
Is their listing attractive?
Their listing may show up above yours, but is it attractive? Take a look at the Google Maps results for “interior design honolulu”:
Business A shows up first because it is a paid listing. However, it has no reviews. Business C shows higher than Business D, but it also has no reviews. Business D, on the other hand, has reviews, its hours displayed, and even a description. Which listing gives you the best impression?
While a business may show up above you, they aren’t going to make a great first impression if they display no information. Having all of your fields complete and updated shows that you are active, conveys more trust and availability, and makes your business more attractive to potential customers. Over time, as more people interact with your more complete listing, Google will pick up on this and adjust the rankings accordingly. This goes back to the earlier point that the impact of your changes may take some time.
Does their listing promote engagement?
So they may be showing up above you, but if there’s nothing for searchers to do once they encounter that business, their higher ranking isn’t likely helping them. Remember, a complete Google My Business profile doesn’t just help you to show up higher; it encourages more action to be taken by the people who find your business.
Take a look at the Google My Business profile below:
Notice that this listing has an option for booking a class, a website link, and FAQs for newcomers and potential customers.
Now take a look at the Google My Business profile for another yoga studio:
This profile has less information and fewer opportunities where online searchers can interact with the studio. If your business isn’t yet showing up as high as you want in search results, you can at least improve your profile so that those who do discover you will be most likely to engage with you.
Google may be a machine, but its algorithm is centered on quality and trust. As long as your Google My Business profile, website, and other online listings are as informative as possible for potential and current customers, the ranking part will take care of itself. It may take some time, but once your improvements start to take effect, they will set in motion a positive feedback system that self-strengthens over time.
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