Local search has become more and more important over the years when it comes to a company’s SEO strategy.
In order to serve the most relevant results to an individual, Google is placing more emphasis on factors such as location and engagement to determine a website’s relevance.
To maximise your success in local search, you need to familiarize yourself with the most important local SEO ranking factors.
If your business thrives on local customers, optimizing your local SEO will help to increase leads. 29% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or visit that business within 24 hours, so you want to make sure you’re appearing in those results.
“Near me” searches grew by grew by more than 130% from 2014–2015 and with 88% of those searches coming from mobile, it’s clear that people are searching with intent.
Improving your local SEO will help you to get your business name in front of more people who are ready to purchase now.
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Local search incorporates many specific criteria to present the most relevant results to people who are looking for something within their area.
This article will detail how to improve your local SEO with these eight key ranking factors:
- On-page SEO
- Google My Business
- Backlink profile
- Online citations
- Behavioural Signals
- Search personalization
- Social media
Don’t forget though, when it comes to local SEO, there are two rankings you want to pay close attention to: local pack rankings and organic rankings.
In case you were wondering:
- Local pack rankings: the small box that appears at the top of SERPs with your opening hours, reviews, and business contact information.
- Organic rankings: just like general SEO, this your ranking in Google.
There’s a great list of local ranking factors over at Moz, which includes everything from the distance between the searcher and the business to the whether the website is mobile friendly. The more of these criteria a website meets, the higher it will rank for relevant local searches.
You can see a breakdown of the 8 different ranking factors for local pack vs organic search rankings:
Unfortunately, you can’t directly influence all of these factors, which means it’s important to spend time on the ones you can control. After all, 46% of all Google searches are local, and that’s a whole lot of potential traffic that you don’t want to miss out on!
8 Local SEO Search Factors
Want to make the most of your site’s local ranking? Let’s go:
#1 On-Page SEO
An obvious place to start when optimizing for local SEO is the content on your website.
Content quality is one of the most important Google ranking factors, as this makes your website a more relevant or useful result that better serves their users. This has driven the explosion of content marketing, with 89% of B2B businesses now using content marketing.
Make sure that the content on your website is well written, helpful and relevant to your keywords. While it’s important to include them on your website, make sure to use keywords in a natural way. Where possible, use them in URLs, page titles, meta descriptions, headings, alt text and anchor text, and use variations or similar phrases to strengthen the connection.
For local SEO, it’s also worth making sure that your address and phone number are featured on every page of your website. Place them in the header or footer, which allows them to be found by Google without being inserted clumsily into the main page content.
Many websites also use blogs to fill their website with high-quality, related content. Focusing on local topics such as news, events or clients in your area will further benefit your local SEO efforts.
#2 Google My Business
One of the most important local search ranking factors is your Google My Business listing.
When you create or claim your GMB listing, make sure that your business name, address and phone number are correct. This is useful not just for customers, but also because the proximity of the business to the searcher is one of Google’s main local ranking factors.
Optimize the listing by completing it as fully as possible, ensuring that you have selected the most appropriate category and included relevant keywords within your title and description. Check that your business hours are correct and that the link to your company website is current.
Adding your logo and some high-quality photos will also improve your business’ appearance in the local pack or Google Maps. This, along with some great reviews, will make your business more enticing.
#3 Backlink Profile
One of the biggest areas of local SEO that you should pay attention to is your backlink profile.
It’s estimated that off-page factors account for 75% of SEO. While your website’s content is extremely important—and much easier to control than external factors—your SEO strategy won’t be successful if you only optimize on-page factors.
Long gone are the days when more links meant better rankings, regardless of what those links were. Google values only high-quality, relevant links, and any shady-looking ones can have a drastic result on your rankings. The handy MozBar Chrome extension gives you an overview of how worthwhile a particular backlink may be.
In terms of local ranking factors, it’s a good idea to target local links. Articles in the local newspaper, a sponsor page on the city’s home team or a blog post about your company’s charitable work are all great ways of strengthening your website’s connection to your locale.
Outbound links are also considered, and exchanging links with relevant local businesses can help to improve your local rankings. A wedding venue might share links with related vendors such as florists, photographers or wedding dress stores. This will boost local rankings and help Google to understand your company’s position within the online market.
It’s not just potential customers who will view your website as being more legitimate if you’ve got lots of positive reviews. This is another one of the many local SEO ranking factors that Google uses to determine how well you rank
Remember that Google Maps and the local pack show an overview of your business’ reviews, so it’s advisable to focus on getting good reviews from happy customers. There’s no point in spending all your energy getting into the local pack only to have a low star-rating put people off.
You might think that only Google reviews are taken into account, but many major review sites are factored in. Some of the key review signals come from Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, Better Business Bureau and Foursquare.
It’s never okay to use fake reviews to boost your online presence or to reward people for leaving a positive review. Instead, try to get as many reviews as possible from real customers. Try asking clients to leave you a review at the end of their purchase and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get results. 70% of consumers who are asked to leave reviews go on to do so.
#5 Online Citations
Wherever your business is mentioned online, make sure that the business name, address and telephone number are correct, and that they match the information on your website.
If the address on your website says “123 Example Street” but your Yelp listing says “121-123 Example Road” then this can confuse things. Particularly for local search, you want both Google and any customers to be absolutely certain of your location. Local SEO aside, 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business names online, so it’s important to keep on top of your citations.
Whenever you create new citations yourself, double-check the details before you submit. Unfortunately, many are created by a third party or by a robot crawling web data, which means that incorrect citations could exist without your knowledge.
Get into the habit of checking regularly for any new listings for your website and claim or edit any that are inaccurate. There are many tools that you can use to monitor your inbound links, which is a great way to keep an eye on new citations.
#6 Behavioral Signals
Google is more inclined to serve your site in the SERPs if it has a reputation for being helpful.
Factors such as click-through rate, clicks to call and check-ins show Google that people are interacting with your company and that it is a useful result. The more people interact with you, the higher up in the rankings you will appear.
A great way to boost your behavioral signals is by optimizing your website for local SEO. 79% of users will search for another site to complete their task if content is not optimized. If this happens, you lose out on potential conversions and these unsatisfied users will teach Google that your website is not helpful to their query.
The content on each page should be as relevant as possible to the targeted search terms. Use landing pages to ensure that you have a strong page specific to each of your most important keywords. This will provide a better user experience, which will in turn inform Google that this particular page is a useful result that should feature high up in the rankings.
#7 Search Personalization
Years ago, everyone saw the same results if they typed in the same search term, regardless of where they were. When it comes to local search, this approach doesn’t offer the most useful results.
Search personalization was introduced more than a decade ago to to provide the most relevant results for an individual. Back in 2011, around 50% of Google searches were personalized. Now they all are.
While some generic results will be the same regardless of who is searching and where, factors such as physical location and a user’s browsing history will influence the rest of the results. If a user often selects a particular website from the SERPs, Google learns that it should be shown more frequently to that user.
While it’s difficult to improve your click-through rate for an individual, you can work to make the website experience a positive one so they’ll want to come back. The more individual users receive personalized results that favour your website, the more this will help your local rankings overall.
#8 Social Media
The high domain authority and user base of social sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram mean that Google pays close attention to them. If you search for any company name, you’ll likely find their social media pages along with their website at the top of the SERPs.
If people are talking about your brand on social media, this will feed into your rankings. Remember that Google’s algorithms are smart enough to know whether these mentions are positive or negative, so monitor them and engage with your audience to preserve your reputation.
While it’s an important aspect of the holistic SEO approach, focusing solely on social media isn’t going to give you instant results. Incorporate social into your wider local SEO strategy and allow it to work alongside the other criteria we’ve already discussed.
Improve Your Local SEO Rankings
With so much to consider when it comes to Google ranking factors, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Local SEO is a complicated task that requires ongoing upkeep in many different areas.You can’t simply optimize your Google My Business listing and expect to land in the local pack overnight.
There are many more local search ranking factors that Google takes into account, but we’ve included those that we feel are the most important, as well as those that you actively have control over.