Local search intent is the holy grail of appearing in the local pack. Here, local SEO expert Joy Hawkins breaks down how justifications in Google My Business (GMB) can help you understand and match this intent, and sometimes even tell you why you’re ranking!
What Are Justifications in Local SEO?
Justifications are little snippets that Google shows in the local pack to help “justify” why the business is there and is showing up for that search. There are several types of justifications. The type you see highlighted in the local pack varies based on what you search.
Types of Justifications
1. “Sold here” justifications
Can you influence them? No.
These justifications show a searcher looking for a specific product that it’s sold by your business.
According to Krystal Taing, this is taken from “Know this place?” questions on Google Maps.
Google often prompts users with push notifications on their phones (from the Google Maps app) to answer questions about a place after they have visited.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to control what questions people get asked, and we assume it varies for people that Google knows have physically visited the location.
We currently don’t know why some get a checkmark icon and some do not.
2. Posts justifications
Can you influence them? Yes, in your Google posts.
These pull in words from Google posts and have an exclamation point icon next to them. They can overwrite other justification types and pull from Google posts that were created in the last 60 days.
Post justifications get updated with the most recent Google post that matches the search query. However, they don’t just look for an exact-match: for example, I searched “internet marketing companies” and got a post about “SEO companies” because these words are related.
If you’re trying to optimize for post justifications, remember that posting about a single topic looks much better than having a long post that lists all your services.
It’s not just one post type that can get used in justifications, either. Different types of posts can get highlighted. We have seen event posts get highlighted and we’ve seen regular update-types highlighted.
3. “Provides” justifications
Can you influence them? Yes, in the ‘Services’ section of your GMB profile.
This type of justification uses a checkmark, just like “Sold here” (which is confusing), but instead it pulls from items that are added under ‘Services’ in Google My Business.
Be careful how you word your services, because otherwise things can end up looking really dumb in the search results. For example, I’m pretty sure none of these lawyers offer “slip and fall injuries” as a service (h/t to Justin Mosebach).
4. “In stock” justifications
Can you influence them? Yes, by using ‘See What’s In Store’.
This type of justification shows up for listings that have an activated See What’s In Store (SWIS) function, which is powered by Pointy from Google. There are a few third-party platforms that can get you this feature, such as dbaPlatform.
5. “Their website mentions” justifications
Can you influence them? Yes, with content on your website.
This type of local justification pulls from content on your website. If you click on it, it will often expand and show you the exact page of the site that it’s pulling the content from. This can include a meta description or alt text and a photo.
Unlike other justification types, this one is useful for your local SEO strategy, because it’s likely giving you insight into why that listing ranks, and is showing you the content on the site that likely influenced the ranking.
6. “Menu highlight” / “On the menu” justifications
Can you influence them? Partly, in the Menu on your GMB.
This type of justification shows up for restaurants, and shows things that are either listed on the menu in your GMB or are featured in the menu highlights section of your Business Profile, which is controlled by users and the photos they add.
7. Review justifications
Can you influence them? Yes (by encouraging reviewers to use preferred keywords in their reviews).
These are pulled from business reviews left on Google.
Everything (Else) You Need to Know About Justifications
Justifications Don’t Cause Rankings
Justifications do not mean that these “things” they are pulling from are what is causing it to rank. For example, if you see a post justification, it’s because the business already ranked for that query and has just created a Google post that is relevant to the query. And in our testing at Sterling Sky, we found that Google posts don’t impact ranking.
The one exception to this is website justifications. When you see “their website mentions”, it is often an indication that the content from the website is what is helping the business rank for that query.
57% of Local Packs Feature Justifications
A study by Moz found that 57% of local packs featured justifications. Sometimes, when you click to expand the listing inside the Local Finder, it will actually show you multiple justifications, or things related to your search.
Top Tip: If you see the “onsite services” and “online appointments” attributes inside Google My Business, these actually block justifications from showing in the local pack. We tested removing these from a listing and after about 48 hrs we started seeing justifications showing up instead.
Justifications Get Updated Fast
The justifications in the search results get updated in real-time. I was able to see a post highlighted for a client in the search results that I had just posted five minutes prior.
Justifications Vary Based on the Device Used
What justifications show, and what type you see, varies based on the device you use. For example, mobile results show a horrible review snippet…
…which isn’t there on a desktop.
Justifications are a fun way for businesses to help get more information about their business to surface in the search results. Make sure you look at all the different types listed here and add the correct information to your Google My Business listing (and website) to help maximize all the opportunities available.