There is no lack of discussion and debate about what is considered a ranking signal within Google My Business (GMB). But “Trust Signals” is slightly different. There is some overlap, but trust signals are broader. On one side there are trust signals that your GMB listing gives out to potential customers influencing a purchase decision. On the other end, trust signals are given to Google to determine if your business seems legitimate and worthy of ranking.
Today we will take a look at the following aspects:
- How do we define trust signals?
- Which GMB features send out trust signals?
- What parts of GMB can negatively impact trust in your business?
- How do trust signals carry through to your website?
- Top 5 tactics to build and maintain trust signals within GMB.
How do we define trust signals?
Trust signals within Google My Business are those elements that help your customers trust the business to engage with it or buy its products/services. When customers interact with the business it sends signals to Google. Therefore, the greater the positive sentiment the higher the trust in your business from Google and vice versa.
Trust signals apply to all industries and all business sizes thus, every business needs to be cognizant of its trust signals. However, trust signals are easier to apply to tangible products e.g. e-commerce, and retail industries whereas it is harder to give out trust signals in the finance, and medical sectors.
People are more likely to leave reviews for products whereas even though an individual had a great divorce attorney they are less likely to get reviewed as it is obviously awkward. Therefore, the type of industry does make a difference, however, there are more than one ways to build trust, and hence, everyone must be thinking about their trust signals.
Trust signals have largely been assumed wherein it’s good to have reviews and a secure website but beyond that, it is largely forgotten. But trust signals are important from a holistic SEO and business perspective. To get started you should ask the following questions:
- Why should I buy from you?
- Why should I engage on your website?
- Does your website have reviews?
- Does the website have case studies?
- Does the website have a page about the people working for the business?
Once you identify one or more problem areas from the questions above you can work towards what is missing. Some common problems to solve are as follows:
- How can you get more reviews just beyond the 5-star reviews given by your friends and family?
- How do we improve a specific service line we are offering?
- How do we get old customers to give us case studies?
Which GMB features send out trust signals?
Following are the GMB features that send out trust signals:
- QnA function – This is commonly left out of the strategy. A professional question and response between a business owner and his/her customers help build trust signals.
- Posts – A lot of people ignore posts. A lot of people do them wrong. This is slightly different from social media posts where you can go an extra mile to showcase a new client, new hires, and new case studies to build that extra layer of trust which you may/may not share on social media. GMB posts should be seen as a pull marketing opportunity whereas social media posts are more push marketing focused.
- Complete your GMB profile – Having a profile that is frequently updated, has accurate information, and has all the information filled out adds up to the GMB trust signals. Completing your profile should not be seen as a one-time activity. You should actively update your profile ideally weekly or in the worst case once a month. You won’t leave your social media profile e.g. Facebook not updated for a couple of weeks, then why should you leave your GMB profile not updated as it is more likely to be viewed by potential customers.
What parts of GMB can negatively impact trust?
- GMB profile last updated – If you have completed your GMB profile once and not constantly updating it, this can negatively impact trust. For example, if you are a restaurant, you have updated your offline menu but your last online menu update was two years ago it is likely to turn customers away and also has a potentially negative impact on your trust signals sent to search engines.
- Reviews – This is a known factor to directly correlate with your map pack ranking.
- New photos – Profiles with more recent quality photos tend to rank better than those that have few or no photos.
There is no official guidelines or statement of factors that negatively impact trust. However, having managed multiple local SEO clients across various industries, I found that GMB is a tool by Google. When you regularly update Google’s tool, along with other digital marketing activities these GMB profiles are more likely to be trusted than other profiles that are not so frequently updated.
The ideal way to look at trust signals is to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and ask yourself or your friends to get feedback. If you have a positive response or you feel this is right, when you put yourself in the shoes of the customer, then you would have done what is right to build the trust of your customer and automatically build trust in search engines like Google.
It does not necessarily have to be a ranking factor. Focus on what you think will have a positive impact on a user or be well perceived by your customer and good things will follow. Your SEO efforts should be to make the overall user experience better and thereby, your customers will love your website and so will search engines and you will not have to worry about algorithm updates.
How do trust signals carry through to your website?
In addition to a GMB profile, a local business should have a location page that has the following elements:
- Business Name, Address, Phone Number.
- An embedded Google map to get directions to the business.
- Reviews from Google My Business profile and other sources like Facebook, Yelp, Trustpilot, etc.
- Make your GMB profile mirror your actual website – Add business services, products, and key business contact information as you have available on your website in your GMB profile.
- Send people to the right page from the GMB profile – Ensure your GMB profile CTA hyperlink matches the destination. For example, if you have a link to a product and your user is taken to a home page. This is not what the user expected. They expected to land on a product page. When this happens the users get turned off and they leave the website without spending too much time on the page. This can be easily avoided if the users land on the right page of your website when they click through from your GMB profile.
- Schema markup – Leverage local business schema to help search engines better understand key business information.
Top 5 tactics to build and maintain trust signals within GMB
- Reviews – Respond politely to both positive and negative reviews to appear professional and trustworthy. It is not necessary to have only 5-star reviews. In fact, having only a few 5-star reviews is seen as a red flag. It is not possible to please everyone and in its due course, a business is likely to get a 1-4 star review as well. However, see this as a chance to improve your existing processes, and by responding in a timely, friendly, and professional way tells customers you are listening to them and they are likely to give you another chance. Tactfully handling positive and especially negative reviews can set the tone for other customers as well.
- Photography – Have good quality photos that accurately and transparently depict your business. Avoid stock photography. Add photos of real people. This increases engagement and trust.
- QnA – Regularly update and revert to QnAs without disclosing sensitive information.
- Posts – For instance, if you are a small business and post blogs or new content regularly, do not miss the chance to share your blog post of GMB. It is likely to get more eyeballs on the GMB posts than on your website.
- Consistency – Align your GMB to your website. This is not limited to products but applies to all industries including services sectors.