The author’s views are entirely his own (with the exception of the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect Moz’s views.
Have you noticed that we all play a great concentration game for the marketing industry these days, where we tailor everything we do to intent? Google plays it, SEOs play it, local SEOs play it …
Because Google wants its SERPs (and we want our SERPs) to stand out as places where people can find exactly what they need. Google accomplishes this goal from several different angles, but there is one particular hand I dearly want to get you to grapple with today as you market local businesses: local justifications.
It’s okay if this is completely new to you – I’ve found that local justifications have largely gone unnoticed. Today we’re going to quantify the importance of these fascinating snippets and show you how to play a winning hand that is an exciting way to stand out from your local SERP competitors!
What are local justifications?
A local justification is an additional snippet of text that Google can display in business listings in the local packages, local searchers, and Google Maps to signal to searchers that a function of the company specifically corresponds to their perceived intention.
In the example above, Google compares my search for “corte madera accent chairs” with a highlighted notification that this furniture is available in nearby stores. These notifications really stand out in the listings and have the potential to improve click-through rates on your listings.
Justifications have been around for at least 2019, and it was former Google employee Joel Headley who I first heard of shared Google’s terminology for this listing feature.
How common are local justifications?
Photo credit: Amy Ray
My wise friend and colleague, Dr. Peter J. Meyers, has done an excellent job over the years tracking the presence of all types of featured snippets in the SERPs. I was thrilled when he offered to pursue local justifications for me so we could try to create a number about how common this type of snippet has become in the local packages.
Pete started MozCast, which collects 10,000 keywords per day – half of which are generic for the US and half are localized for specific cities across the country. Here’s what he found for us in terms of desktop results:
2,063 out of 5,000 localized keywords returned a local package (that’s 41%).
2,018 of the 2,063 local packages contained the typical three listings (that’s 98%).
1,175 of the 2,063 local packages contained justifications (that’s 57% – wow!)
And of those 1,175 local packets that included justifications, 32% had them on one listing, 355 had them on two of the listings, and 445 had them on all three listings.
Pete wanted to make sure we mentioned that MozCast tended towards headwords rather than longer terms, and he noted the most common types of justifications for broad product / service keywords and categories. What we both thought was amazing is this More than half of the local SERPs contained justifications, most frequently in all three listings in the local packages.
With Google giving justifications at this wasteful rate, local business owners and their marketers should definitely come forward and act to sway these snippets as much as possible.
Cards on the table time.
What local justifications are there and how can you influence them?
Photo credit: Amy Ray
There’s now an in-game Animal Rummy virtual deck with local justifications that takes intent matching to new heights. It is entirely possible that I did not discover all of them. If you know others, please mention them in the comments. These are the seven types I’ve seen the most, with pointers on how to influence them if you can.
Check the justifications
The justifications for the review come from the Google My Business reviews. Finesse your review request requests to get customers to discuss certain, longer-term aspects of the business, and you can see their language being extracted to exactly match a searcher’s refined intent. I’m going to mention here that my search for “organic was X City,” but I also saw that Google made semantic links between “organic” and “organic vegetables” that they highlighted from other reviews .
Website justifications are obtained from the website linked in your GMB listing. Note that the linked URL does not have to be the page that mentions the topic in the justification. In my example, the listing referred to the home page of the website that did not specifically mention “jewelry repairs” in the body of the page. Rather, that terminology was in a drop-down link in the navigation menu, which then points to a page for that service.
That being said, you can try tweaking the GMB landing page with a term you particularly want to highlight as a justification and see if Google picks it up. It’s wonderful to think that your on-page strategies are backing up your efforts to justify yourself, given that you are in full control of the content of your website.
You also have full control over the content of your Google posts. If you highlight the intent of a longer tail in what you write about like “bespoke engagement rings” you can get a flashy justification like this. The good news is that these justifications don’t need to be gleaned from your last post. I’ve seen examples of excerpts from posts that were over a month old.
Justifications for services
These appear to be pulled directly from the Services section of your Google My Business dashboard. I believe the Services section was introduced in 2018. If it’s available in the left navigation menu of your dashboard, be sure to add as many relevant services as you can imagine to sway this type of justification.
Around 2017, Google really started expanding its menu functionality in relevant GMB dashboards. I couldn’t confirm if menu reasons came solely from GMB list menus. So make sure your menu is correct on your website and in any third-party delivery services you use to avoid inaccurate information of this kind of justification.
Justifications in stock
Justifications for stocks seem to come from Google’s SWIS (See What’s In Store) program, which in my example leads to such results for the Crate and Barrel location. Google’s SWIS function was introduced in 2018 and is related to the partnership with the point-of-sales solution provider Pointy – a company that they acquired in early 2020. In 2021, this Google Merchant Center document is the best place to start for determining eligibility and uploading inventory: List your local products on Google for free. Google Platinum product expert Yan Gilbert confirmed for me that you will likely need to use a solution like Pointy or DBAPlatform to get this up and running. The review can take several months, but your inventory may be worth it to be seen.
The nice thing about SWIS is that the product interface, at least for the time being, directs users to your website instead of transactions taking place via Google for a fee. If you are eligible, you should definitely consider joining this program to increase your chances of getting justifications in stock.
Sells justifications here
This is the most mysterious of the seven types of justification I’ve seen. It comes from data that Google has about your business, but the sources are unverified and may include your website, ratings, and user feedback that Google found “Do you know this place?” Pop-ups for checking facts related to Google Maps. Since we cannot verify a single source for this data, this is one of those times when you just want to apply general best practice of posting as much information as possible in as many places as possible about the products being sold by each local company you are marketing.
Intent is a high card, but questions remain
It’s inspiring to believe that our local search marketing efforts can affect Google’s ability to better serve local search intent. However, there are questions that deserve further investigation, including:
Why isn’t it the other 43% of companies that we saw as winners? Why doesn’t Google give them justification treatment when they have websites, reviews, reviews, inventory, and other qualified items? Of course, you can never force Google to show anything like a justification. However, if you have the resources to deserve this treatment, why should Google hold it back?
Why does Google choose one type of justification over another? For example, if a company has both a review and a Google Post that mentions “organic salad,” how does Google decide to display the reason for the review over the reason for the post, or vice versa? Is there an if-then hierarchy here in which one type of justification is seen as more powerful than another?
To what extent does the presence of justifications affect the click-through rate? A study alone would be great.
Would one type of justification have a bigger impact on click-through rate than another? For example, is a justification in stock a much better call-to-action than a justification for a review, which generates more user action? If you are doing a study on it please let me know as I would love to read it.
I hope the Moz community will be inspired to explore these concepts further, but for now the most important takeaway is that it will be a high card if we can get Google to understand the intent of searchers about the different types of content that are which result from our efforts to better serve the local brands we market.
Because even if we achieve good visibility in local parcels, local finders and maps, we still strive for this the one business this really stands out in a dense field of options. When some aspect of our listing signals to a customer that our business is what it can best Do her purpose, it’s such a win. Justifications would certainly count as a big signal, and fortunately, a signal that is at least partially workable for the local brands you market.