How Google local listings information is collected and sourcedBy Solange Messier
Local listings help businesses get discovered at the right time by interested audiences who are more likely to convert. Google’s algorithm may work in mysterious ways, but there is still a lot that SMBs can do to boost their chances of appearing in Google local listings.
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Understanding how Google gathers information can help businesses take actions that will improve their discoverability. What we’ll cover in this article is how Google sources local listing information, how that information gets used, and how businesses can ensure they give Google the best intel.
What are Google local listings?
Google local listings are the business listings that appear in Google Maps or in the top right of a search result, also known as Google’s local 3-pack. These can generate high-value traffic for businesses, but the factors that determine whether a business will appear in the local 3-pack differ from the usual SEO ranking factors.
Google’s methods for sourcing information
Google doesn’t rely on a single source of information for its local listings. By knowing all the sources of information that their algorithm draws from, you can optimize them all for maximum exposure in local search.
1. Publicly available information
This includes data from government and public records available online, such as business licenses. It also encompasses information that is publicly available across the web, like on a business’s website or its social media profiles. The details found in these sources help to create an accurate representation of a local business and can include key information, such as the business's name, address, and phone number.
2. Third-party sources
When determining which businesses should appear in local listings, Google’s algorithm also takes into account licensed data from third-party sources. This information is usually collected by companies that specialize in local business data and is sold to Google for inclusion in its local listings. This might include more detailed data points than what might be found in publicly available sources, such as payment options and products and services offered.
3. User-generated data
Google relies heavily on contributions from its users to gather information for its local listings. Contributing users can leave reviews, photos, and videos of local businesses, which can help to provide a more comprehensive, up-to-date, and authentic representation of a business for prospective customers.
Google aims to show users the most relevant results for their search. This means that local listings with lots of data that might be of interest to searchers—that is, lots of real user-generated data—will be favored by the algorithm.
Business owners also contribute user-generated data by claiming their listings on Google and submitting information about their businesses. This can include descriptions, photos, videos, and text updates.
4. Google’s interactions
While Google’s documentation doesn’t exactly spell out what they mean by interactions with a business, they do use these interactions to gather information about local listings. For example, this can include direct correspondence with a business.
How does Google use local listing data?
Google uses and collects local listing data to deliver three important things:
- Relevant Google 3-pack listing results for search users
- Targeted leads to businesses
- Insights for business owners
Local listings on Google are meant to show users businesses that are most likely to meet their needs based on their search query. While the organic search results on the SERP are based on all kinds of SEO signals, such as backlinks and keywords, the local listing results are distinct. The data gathered by Google in the ways we just outlined inform which businesses appear in the Google local 3-pack listing for a given local search.
For businesses, appearing in the coveted top three Google Business Profile ranking positions (previously known as Google My Business) can mean a lot more targeted, local leads more likely to convert. Google also offers tools for those with Google local listings to gain insights:
- The Google Local Business Center dashboard. Businesses can log in and see how many views their Google local listing is getting, which keywords resulted in views, and which location the search took place from.
- The Google Analytics dashboard. This requires a little more effort since users need to follow Google’s URL builder instructions to create a URL that gets added to their local listing in order to start gathering information. However, once it’s set up, the same valuable information can be tracked through Google Analytics.
Google local listings best practices
Luckily, there’s a great deal that businesses can do to ensure that Google has the most accurate information possible about them. Following these best practices can help businesses appear in Google local listings results while improving their business listing SEO.
Update and optimize Google Business Profile
One of the most important steps businesses can take to ensure Google has accurate information about them is to update and optimize their Google Business Profile (GBP) listing. This is the main source of information that Google uses to display information about local businesses in search results and on Google Maps, so keeping it up-to-date is a must.
This means that businesses should be in the habit of updating their GBP with things like holiday hours, new promotions, and other information that may not be evergreen. When they optimize Google Business Profile for local SEO, they will simultaneously be making optimizations that support their local listing.
Update and optimize the main website
A well-designed and optimized website with recent information gives Google’s bots updated information every time they crawl the site. This can help both Google Business Profile rankings and the business listing’s SEO performance, overall.
Businesses should ensure their website contains the same information in their Google Business Profile since consistency is very important to Google’s algorithm. Addresses, contact information, product names, and anything else appearing both in GBP and on the website should be identical. Using relevant keywords in website content and meta-tags can also improve SEO and navigability, both of which are taken into account by Google.
Monitor user reviews and interactions
User reviews and interactions play a significant role in how Google collects information about local businesses, especially since you don't have the option to turn them off. Positive reviews can help businesses establish credibility and trust with potential customers. Negative reviews, while unpleasant, also give businesses an opportunity to demonstrate their responsiveness and transparency with customers and users.
Businesses should monitor their online reviews regularly and respond to both positive and negative reviews in a professional and timely manner. Using reputation management software makes it easy to do this at scale, boosting their business listing’s SEO in the process.
Manage other listings online
Finally, businesses should use local listing management tools for other online listings across the web. Inconsistent or outdated information on these sites can harm a business's online reputation, confuse prospective customers, and send a negative signal to Google.
Vendasta’s Listing Builder enables SMBs to create and update listings on all the best online business directories with minimal effort by creating one update that gets pushed out to every listing. Users can sync Google Business Profile information with other listings all through the listing builder dashboard.
Frequently asked questions
What are Google local listings?
Google local listings are compilations of information about a business drawn from user-submitted data, publicly available data, and third-party data. They can appear in Google Maps or search, helping users find businesses that meet their search criteria.
What is the Google Local 3-Pack?
The Google Local 3-Pack refers to the three businesses that appear in some Google search results at the top of the page, before the organic search results. These are relevant to the search query and location of the searcher.