With so many customization options on your Google My Business profile, it can be difficult to decide what to focus on. But when it comes to ranking in the SERP, there are actually only four GMB fields that will affect where your business will end up.

In this brand new Whiteboard Friday, MozCon spokesperson and owner / founder of Sterling Sky, Joy Hawkins, walks us through the fields she and her team found to create (and not create) rankings.

4 GMB fields that affect the ranking

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Video transcription

Hello Moz fans. My name is Joy Hawkins, and today I'm going to talk about which Google My Business fields affect ranking in the local package. At my agency Sterling Sky we do a lot of tests to find out which things actually affect the ranking and which don't.

We have come to the conclusion that the Google My Business dashboard only has four things that a business owner or marketing agency can edit that have a direct impact on where they rank in the local results on Google.

1. Company name

To get started, I'll start with the first thing that affected the ranking, which is the company name. This is one that is kind of frustrating because I don't think it should have that much influence, but it does.

This year, I ranked this my number one in the Local Search Ranking Factors study. Of all the things that influence the ranking, in my experience this has the greatest weight, which in turn is unfortunate. As a business owner, you obviously think, "I can't change my company name that easily." If you happen to have a keyword rich business name, you'll see an advantage there.

The real action, however, would be to see if your competitors are taking advantage of this by adding descriptive words to their company name and then sending corrections to Google as it is against the guidelines. So I'm not saying go out there and add a whole bunch of keywords to your company name on Google. Do not do that. However, you should keep an eye on your competitors to see if they do. If so, you can report it to Google using the Google Business Complaint Form.

Well, one thing that's kind of a tip here – it has nothing to do with Google – but we've seen the same thing on Bing that isn't much talked about, but Bing is actually allowed to have descriptors in your company name, so do it there.

No impact: questions and answers

Now I'm going to move on to something that we found didn't affect the ranking at all, which is questions and answers. I kind of pushed it over there because it's not on the dashboard right now. There's no Q&A section there, but it's in Google's knowledge section. You should receive an email notification whenever someone posts a question about your listing.

We ran a series of Q&A tests and found that despite random keywords and very specific things, there was no measurable ranking impact in the questions we posted, nor in the responses.

Unfortunately, this is not an area where you can manipulate the ranking for your customers.

2. Categories

Let's get to the second thing that we found affects ranking – categories. Categories might sound simple because you choose your categories.

There are 10 that you can add there, but one thing I want to highlight is that Google currently has around 4,000 categories and they keep adding categories and then sometimes removing them as well.

So we've been tracking this month month after month and we usually find that the categories have about two to ten (average) changes every month. Sometimes they add those that didn't exist before. For example, over the past year we noticed that many restaurant categories as well as auto dealer categories were added. But there are also industries like dentists who received a new one for dental implants a few months ago.

So it's something that you kind of want to keep an eye on, and we hope that we will soon publish a resource where we can log all the changes for you.

No impact: services

Now let's move on to another thing that doesn't affect the ranking and let's move on to the services here.

So the service area – at first glance it looks like an SEO dream. You can insert all kinds of descriptive words there. You can tell Google a lot about the different services you offer.

But we found that whatever you put there doesn't actually affect where you rank. So I wouldn't spend a lot of time on it. It's not very visible either. Currently, it's not really visible on the desktop at all. Then when you switch to a mobile device, it will be hidden on a tab. It's not something that we found really heavy, so spend a few minutes on it, but it's not something I would repeat quite often.

3. Website

Then, if we get back to the things that affect ranking, number three would be the website field.

So here you want to consider and possibly even test which page of your website your Google My Business entry should be linked to. Often times people link to the homepage, which is fine. However, we've also found that for companies with multiple locations, sometimes it's better to link to a location page.

So you want to test this out somehow. If you are a company that has a lot of different listings – like you have departments, or you have practitioner listings – you also want to try to make sure you link these to different pages on your website to maximize your exposure and get posts Make sure you are not trying to rate all of the entries for the same thing as it is not. They are just filtered. So this is a section I would definitely recommend doing some testing and figuring out what works best for you and your industry.

No impact: products

Moving to something we found didn't affect the ranking products.

So this is a feature that Google launched about a year ago. It is available in most offers. They're slowly rolling it out on all entries at the moment, except for a few categories that don't have it. This section is kind of cool because it's very visual.

If you are a company that offers products, or even if you offer services, you can technically list them in this section with photos. One of the nice things about the product area is that they are clearly visible in the knowledge panel on both desktop and mobile phone. So it's something you want to fill out, but unfortunately we found that it doesn't affect ranking. However, this does affect conversions for certain industries.

So, if you are a business like a florist or a car dealer, it definitely makes sense to fill out this section and keep it updated based on the products currently on offer.

4. Reviews

Then, let's go back to the last thing we found: number four for what affects ranking is reviews (which most of you probably won't be shocking). However, we have found that the amount of reviews has an impact on the ranking.

That being said, we've also seen yields go down. For example, if you're a business and you run out of reviews, say 20 or 30 reviews, your business might appear farther from your office, which is great. However, if you go from 30 to 70, you may not see the same elevator. So this is something to think about.

But of course there are many reasons you might want to focus on reviews, and we see that they actually have a direct impact on ranking.

There was an article that I wrote a few years ago that is still relevant on Search Engine Land that talks about the changes I saw when a whole bunch of companies lost reviews and just watched how their ranking actually fell within 24 to 48 hours. So that's still true and still relevant, but I would also keep it in mind when developing a strategy for your business.


In summary, the four things to think about that you can actually use in Google My Business to influence your ranking are: first the company name, second the categories, third the website field and finally the review area on Google.

Thank you for listening. If you have any questions, please suggest me in the comments.

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