Tip Tuesday: Five Obstacles To First-Page Rankings on Google for Local Businesses

Tip Tuesday: Five Obstacles To First-Page Rankings on Google for Local Businesses


For local businesses, getting that coveted first-page ranking on Google searches continues to become harder and harder. As Google gets smarter and updates its algorithm to better match user intent, the search engine can make it more difficult for businesses to be visible, especially in their local market.

Understanding the obstacles and opportunities that govern first-page rankings on Google can help you come up with a long-term strategy for your local visibility. A solid plan can help you to weather the algorithmic storm as it continues to change.

Here are five obstacles your may face when trying to rank, and five opportunities you can take advantage of:


  1. Think you have 10 opportunities to rank in the organic search results on Google? Think Again. Those coveted 10 organic ranking spots on the first page of Google aren’t just going to local businesses. They are also going to directory sites such as Yelp or BBB or industry specific directories such as AVVO or Justia.com, as well as occasional news stories and other sites. You will more likely be duking it out for 5 to 7 places with your toughest competitors, which wasn’t always the case.
  2. There are less map location on the first page of Google than there were a year ago. For the longest time, Google offered us 5 map locations in a local business search, but now they only offer us three. This makes ranking in the maps on a Google search even more competitive and difficult.
  3. The physical location of your business can both help you and hurt you when it comes to ranking in the maps. Not only is the three pack hard to get into to begin with, but your business’s physical location as well as the physical location of the searcher can affect the results. The further you are from your main competitors or searchers, the harder it may be for you to rank.
  4. Competitors with important keywords in their names or URLs can be tough to beat. If you have an important location or service related keyword in your name, this can be helpful when it comes to rankings. However, if your competitors have important keywords in their names and you do not, this can make outranking them more difficult. With that said, there will always be opportunities to rank for your business regardless. You may just struggle to outrank these competitors a bit.
  5. Most organic search results are now below the fold on Google. After Google moved the ads it had placed on the side of the first page into the main area of the page, organic search results got pushed down. Now, in most cases, the page will have ads, one organic result, and the map results above the fold, and the rest below. This means that if you are relying on organic search results solely, you are getting pushed further down on the page than you used to be.


  1. If you can’t beat the Directories showing up Google’s search results, join them! The downside of directories on the first page of Google is that there are less places for your site to rank, but the up side is that you can have a listing on these sites. Beyond the fact that having citation and backlink listings can be good for your rankings, this also gives you an opportunity to be seen even if your potential lead picked a directory site over your listing. Remember to optimize these listings so that they are clean and accurate, and for review sites to promote having your existing clients leave you positive reviews to encourage potential clients to contact you.
  2. Make sure your home page and location pages are fully optimized for better chances of ranking. SEO optimization may change a bit over time, but in general you can be sure that having good SEO on your site will help you obtain rankings. While traditional optimization may not be the be all and end all when it comes to ranking, it is still very important. Homepages and location pages are the most likely pages to show up in local search, so make sure these pages are well optimized to make sure that Google can get all of the information out of them that they need.
  3. Make sure your Google maps listing and Google My Business listings are claimed and optimized for better chances of ranking. Again, this is basic SEO and it remains relevant. A well optimized Google My Business Page and Google Map can help you achieve better rankings and can help you educate Google as to where you serve and what services you offer.
  4. Longer tail keywords give you more opportunities to find clients. Don’t only duke it out with your top competitors for obvious keywords and keyword combinations. There are lots of great opportunities to rank with longer tail keywords. These keywords often answer an important question a potential client may have. By targeting these keywords you can potentially dominate niche markets and gain more quality clients.
  5. Google Paid Ads can get you on the front page regardless of rankings. If you are struggling to reach the first page of Google through SEO alone, paid ads on Google are another great way to be seen. You can target the specific keyword searches that you want your ads to appear for. Ads are Pay Per Click, which means you can set a budget and when you have reached your maximum number of clicks on your ad it will disappear until the following month.

We can never fully predict what curves Google will throw at us next, but we can do our best to understand what our best courses of action may be with the current state of Google. Ranking may get harder yet, but with creativity and smart SEO and marketing, a business can still thrive with the help of Google rankings.

Amy Leach is Commexis’ SEO project manager. She has a BFA from Rowan University with minors in music and art history.

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