The Google algorithm is like a giant jigsaw puzzle- we’re talking like one of those giant 10,000 piece ones that make you pull your hair out before you’re through. When you’re not ranking, it can be frustrating because you’re sometimes unsure of where to begin.

Quick Audit

The first step to figuring out why you’re not ranking locally is to check out your site from the 30,000 foot view. Take a look as an outsider, and consider any opportunities or challenges as you do so. A quick audit from Moz goes something like this, comparing your company to one of those ranking in the local map pack for your main keyword.


  • GMB landing page URL
  • Local Pack rank
  • Organic rank
  • Organic rank among business-owned sites – Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors
  • Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address? – Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure
  • Business listings
  • GMB review count
  • GMB review rating
  • Most recent GMB review – Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter
  • Proper GMB categories?
  • Estimated age of GMB listing – Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate
  • Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates) – Tool:
  • Moz Local duplicate findings –*Tool:
  • Keywords in GMB name
  • Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag
  • Spam in GMB title – Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies
  • Hours and photos on GMB?
  • Proximity to city centroid – Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.
    Proximity to nearest competitor. Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.
  • Within Google Maps boundaries? – Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries




Doing this may take some time, maybe an hour, but it will allow you to compare apples to apples. One problem that business owners have is they look at factors that they perceive, but that aren’t real ranking factors. For example, I had a client that looked at a competitor and told me how big their company was and how they had thousands of customers, how could they compete with that?

The size of a company can have an indirect role in its online presence, but most of the time it matters very little. Company owners see other companies as companies, not as online competitors. By performing an audit, you can compare what’s actually happening instead of what you think is happening.

Check For Google Updates

For the past couple of years, businesses have been pretty gun shy about trying anything aggressive for fear of landing a famed Google penalty. You can check MozCast, a kind of weather report for SEO findings, that shows disturbances in “the force”. Search Engine Land is also pretty quick to report findings of any major updates.

Also check out the Local Search Forum for local-specific findings, as well as the GMB Forum. Remember, the algorithms for organic and local affect each other, so just because you see a change in one, it doesn’t mean the other isn’t affected.

Ability to Rank

If you’re wanting to rank for a local area, ask these four questions, provided by Moz:

  1. Does the business have a real address? (Not a PO box, virtual office, or a string of employees’ houses!)
  2. Does the business make face-to-face contact with its customers?
  3. What city is the business in?
  4. What is the exact keyword phrase they are hoping to rank for?

If the answer is “no” to either of the first two questions, the business isn’t eligible for a Google My Business listing. And while spam does flow through Google, a lack of eligibility could well be the key to a lack of rankings.

For the third question, you need to know the city the business is in so that you can see if it’s likely to rank for the search phrase cited in the fourth question. For example, a plumber with a street address in Sugar Land, TX should not expect to rank for “plumber Dallas TX.” If a business lacks a physical location in a given city, it’s atypical for it to rank for queries that stem from or relate to that locale. It’s amazing just how often this simple fact solves local pack mysteries.

Couple of other things to consider:

  • Are you a business, or a solo practitioner?
  • Do you have any duplicate listings?
  • Do you share a workspace as another company in the same industry?

These factors can also play a role in how you rank. Morningdove Marketing offers a one-off audit if you are interested in seeing how you stack up against your local competitors.

Another consideration is whether or not your local citations are all uniform and accurate. These are your Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, etc that have your name, address, and phone number listed on them. If you have the wrong information listed on any of these, Google may not want to decipher and just keep you off the front page of the maps.