If you’ve made any effort to get your business more visible on Google’s local map, you’ve seen competitors whose visibility there surprises you. Either they’re deadbeats and you have no idea why they rank well, or they’re hardworking and you’re not sure what part of their work has paid off.
In either case, you want to know why they’ve put the squeeze on you in the local search results.
I don’t know your situation, and probably couldn’t say with 100% certainty what’s going on even if I did know. But I can tell you what I’ve observed over the years.
Here are what I’d say are the 7 most-likely explanations – some shoes to try on:
1. They’ve got better links to their site, or more good links. Not necessarily more than you’ve got, grand total. Quality over quantity. In either case, the best of their links are highly relevant to their industry or local area (or both), or were included in write-ups in the press. How they got those links and how you can get similar (or better) links is a question for another read. For now, I’ll just say that the overall quality of the link profile is in my experience the most common reason one business outranks another and stays ahead long-term.
2. They’re using a landing page URL with a link profile that’s better than yours. Maybe you’re using a subpage or subdomain on your site as your landing page URL for Google My Business (because maybe you’ve got multiple locations). That’s nice as far as the on-page optimization goes, but your location-specific landing page probably doesn’t have as much “link juice” as your homepage has – or as your competitor’s homepage has.
As I’ve written, I’ve found that you’re more likely to rank well in the Maps results if you use point your Google My Business and other local listings to the linkiest page on your site – which is probably your homepage. I call it “economizing your links.”
(“But that’s a bad user-experience,” you say. Nah. Add a blurb about each location, and link to each “location” page.)
3. They get consistently higher click-through from the search results. For instance, if their name is more relevant or they’ve got more or better Google reviews (or both), more people may click on your competitor than on you. That seems to affect your rankings, if Google observes enough behavior to conclude that searchers clearly prefer one search result over another.
4. Their business name – real or fake – is more relevant. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way. Maybe it’s not really the name of your competitor’s business – and he or she is just spamming.
In any case, it’s a factor in your rankings, and it influences click-through (see point #3), which in turn also influences who outranks whom.
(Thanks to Darren Shaw for reminding me of this point.)
By the way, if it’s a fake name, do a “suggest an edit” and tell Google what the real name is and where they can see the business’s real name. Recently I’ve had good luck recently in getting those anti-spam edits approved.
5. They’ve got a longer track record of being a relevant search result. That’s often a byproduct of having an older Google My Business page, but not always. If your competitor has been in business for longer, or has had an online presence for longer, or has more name-recognition, then Google has more data on who clicks, where they’re from, and what they typed in before clicking on your competitor. To Google, your business is a giant bucket of data. Google never empties the bucket, because it cares about what’s in the bucket.
6. They’re being tested. Sometimes Google just flies a business up the flagpole to see who salutes it (see point #3). Google often throws a “new” business into the search results with the businesses that more deserve to be there. If the new kid seems popular with searchers, Google will keep it around unless and until searchers seem to lose interest.
7. Google’s black box. If none of the above is a plausible explanation for why your competitor outranks you for now, then it’s probably for a mish-mash of reasons that only one pocket-protector-toting Google engineer might know.
That may sound like a cop-out on my part, and maybe it is, but Google’s local results are mighty deep seas.
Which specific search terms does one competitor vs. another outrank you for? How close are you to that business vs. to your business? What did you type in previously? What device did you use? What do your customers see? Exactly what did they type in? Where were they located? How long have the rankings been like that? And so on.
Just a quick word on what are, in my experience, the unlikely explanations for why that one [BLEEP]in’ competitor outranks you:
- “They’ve got 170 more citations than I have.”
- “Their site is mobile-responsive.”
- “Their site is so optimized!”
Those things are easy. Sure, they usually factor into your rankings, but they won’t separate the sheep from the goats.
Any questions or observations? Leave a comment!