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The Ultimate Local SEO Guide

Local SEO Ranking Factors

Local SEO is quickly becoming one of the most important parts of SEO and improving the traffic of local companies and small businesses.

In fact, studies suggest that “near me” mobile searches increased by 136% just in the last year

Google and search engines are always looking for ways to provide searchers with the most helpful results as close to their location as possible. So, using local SEO methods and strategies to rank high is a guarantee that your brand and business name will grow as a result. 

When we think about Local SEO, we can divide it into two main parts:

  1. What influences Google Maps, SERPs, and the three local pack rankings
  2. What influences the organic listing rankings

Now that you know how important local SEO is, let’s talk about what influences these rankings. The remaining article will explore ranking factors, Google’s RankBrain and how it works, and everything else you need to know about local SEO ranking factors.

Local SEO Pack / Map Rankings Factors

Google is an ever-evolving system. Its algorithm is complex and there are many different factors that come into play when trying to get your business to rank high in local SEO. Pack and map ranking factors are critical to improving your link-building strategy.

Here are some general local SEO ranking factors:

  • Google Business Profile (GMB) for business owners 
  • Address of point of Google search
  • A physical location in your city search directories
  • Negative and positive reviews in Google, Yelp, or Bing
  • High-quality inbound links or backlinks
  • Number of “Check-Ins” at location
  • Directory listings for your local business
  • Relevant Citations
  • Consistent search engine NAP information 
  • An optimized landing page

As you may already know, Google Business Profile has been and will continue to be a major local SEO ranking factor when trying to increase Domain Authority.

In fact, just during the pandemic alone, businesses saw a 61% increase in the number of phone calls from their Google Business Profile. So, making sure your NAP information is correct on all directory listings is vital.

Google reviews are also important local SEO ranking factors. Just one review can be a dealbreaker when trying to convert a potential lead into a qualified lead. Studies suggest that most people trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation. Although, reviews aren’t just about sales. Reviews also let Google know that your business is legit. 

Using high-quality links from trusted sources or trusted websites improves your chances of ranking. If your backlinks are from spammy or untrustworthy sources, that can hurt your chances of getting on Google’s top page. 

Believe it or not, the number of “check-ins” at your location that people do can let Google know if your location is an established business. So, if you’re a restaurant, you want people to take pictures of your food and tag your business. That is great for spreading the word and great for Google. This will help boost your local organic traffic.

Being a part of directory listings that include a physical address such as Yelp, Google Business Profile, and Yellow-pages greatly increases your chances of ranking and improving your digital marketing strategy.

Having relevant citations and up-to-date NAP information such as phone number and address will show Google that your business is trustworthy enough to send its users to your landing page

Speaking of landing pages, having an optimized, mobile-friendly website and making sure that your site is easy to navigate on a mobile device is a great idea and should be considered because 60% of searches take place on a mobile device. 

Check out this local SEO case study by Moz:

Local Map Pack Ranking Factors

You can see the #1 factor is My Business Signals – Which means you’ll need to properly optimize your Google Business Profile. But, more on that later. 

Going down the list you can see that links are very important, as well as on-page signals from your website, citation signals, and reviews.

Some call this a “blended algorithm” – previously, map results were less influenced by your website’s ranking signals, but now the two are intertwined. If you’re not ranking in maps, it may be because you need stronger signals to your website.

Let’s talk about that first.

Organic Listing and Website Ranking Factors:

This is about the section below that maps the organic results. Referring to the same Moz Study, here are the top ranking factors:

Localized Organic Ranking Factors

You can see here the #1 ranking factor is link signals. Links still remain a vital part of ranking organically. And getting on the top page of Google causes an increase in CTR by 39.6%. Ranking in any search engine is so vital for any digital marketing strategy. 

As we go down the list, we see OnPage signals (optimizing your website with appropriate keywords and content), behavioral signals, personalization, and NAP citation signals.

We’ll consider all these factors in this guide!

What are link signals?

Link signals are the number one ranking factor to getting to the top of a local Google search. As you can see, Link signals such as consist of 29% of ranking factors. 

Link signals provide Google with a concept as to how important your site is for its users. They’re when other websites link to yours. 

Search engines like when this happens. It gives the algorithm the idea that other sites find you relevant for the search query.

What are on-page signals?

On-page optimization consists of 24% of ranking factors, it’s important for local SEO, and is one of the major ways businesses get on Google’s front page. 

So, what is on-page SEO? On-page SEO is anything that can be taken directly from a website to improve its position in any search engine rank. That includes meta descriptions, alt tags, title tags, keywords in headers, and landing page optimization

It’s a really vital factor to improve when doing an SEO audit and trying to improve your traffic, rank, and citations.

What are behavioral signals in SEO?

Behavioral signals make up 11% of ranking factors in SEO and are based on a theory that the more people that click on your website or directory listings in any search result, the more times it will show up for similar results in the future. 

Basically, behavioral signals amount to a popularity contest when it comes to websites and content in general. This thought or concept is interesting because Google’s algorithm is still learning this particular theory in SEO.

Google has never really shared exact data on this theory. However, studies suggest that behavioral patterns and signals involving relevant search results and their popularity are major ranking factors.

What does personalization mean for local SEO?

Personalization makes up for a total of 9% for a ranking factor in local and traditional SEO. But, what does personalization mean? It’s basically just the concept of maximizing your website, your content, and your business for a targeted audience. 

Personalizing is content created just for the people you want to buy or use your services. Personalization isn’t just for a targeted audience either it’s for Google itself to show potential customers audience that your product or service is of value to a certain demographic. 

Personalization in SEO is all about data and Google’s algorithm. Any time a person uses Bing or Google, that user is sharing information about their local listing, device, and web history. This information allows Google to give a more personalized user experience for each individual person and search result.

What are citation signals?

In local search engine optimization, citations are just mentions of your business’s name, address, and phone number on a website that isn’t a part of your company. This is often referred to as NAP

Local SEO citations are important when trying to establish domain authority. Local citations make up 8% of ranking factors. 

Your web pages must have the correct and up-to-date business information across all directories because citations help Google confirm that your business is legit and trustworthy enough to show its users. 

Contact information is a must-have on any citation directory. You need to be able to have a clear way for any potential leads to either call, email, or even have a messaging system set up on your landing page so that your business doesn’t miss out on any sales. 

Contact and business information isn’t just important for sales, but it also tells Google that your company is a real business and will help you get ranked on Google’s top pages.

What are Good Business Profile Signals?

Google Business Profile, signals make up 7% of ranking factors in local SEO. Business Signals include “near me” searches of business categories. Keywords that are used to describe your business in Google Business Profile titles and other details play a major role in GMB signals. 

A few business factors play a role in GMB signals, such as location, relevance, and authority. A great way to boost your authority with Google Business Profile is to have articles written about your business, reviews and ratings, and accurate information. 

Also, if you make sure that you verify your business, that will heavily affect your niche authority. It would be best to remember that your competitors are using Google Business Profile, and that means that you should be too.

What are review signals?

Another factor is reviews. Reviews are extremely important when trying to get on Google Maps front page listings. As I’ve mentioned before, whether they are negative reviews or positive is extremely important for business. 

Google knows if people like your business or not! Google checks your reviews on your business pages as a signal of relevance and conditional leads. Customers use reviews to decide whether or not they want to use your service and trust reviews just as much as personal recommendations. It’s super important to have good reviews! 

If Google notices that your business doesn’t have many reviews or is littered with false positive reviews, that can make your company look fake or harmful to its users. In that case, your website and contact information may be lower on the ranking list or be removed from Google’s listings altogether. 

It’s important to make sure that your reviews are real and that your business responds to each and every review in a professional and helpful way. This definitely helps with organic rankings.

What are social signals?

Social signals are exactly what they sound like. It is the traffic and backlinks that are created by how many likes, comments, shares, and overall engagement on social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn.

This type of engagement contributes to a page’s overall organic search rankings and is seen as basically another form of backlinks or local citation.  

A few examples would be someone talking about and linking your website on a post on Reddit or how many likes a photo of food gets on Instagram that was ordered from your restaurant.  

These backlinks and citations that are built from social platforms show Google how popular your website, social media page, and business are to local potential leads. It also helps to boost authority over a niche and business name.

What is Google’s RankBrain and How Does it Affect Local SEO?

RankBrain is a part of Google’s algorithm which uses machine learning to figure out the most relevant results to search engine queries. In 2015, Google said that RankBrain was one of the most important ranking factors among content and keyword research

So, what does this mean for your business and how can you use RankBrain to your advantage? 

What RankBrain does for local search results is search through data with an interpretation model that goes through possible factors such as personalization, location of the user, and true intent. That’s basically how Google can deliver exact and relevant results for each search. 

Google feeds data into its RankBrain from different sources. The algorithm then calculates matches to a variety of different signals like social, personalization, behavioral, and citation. These signals display a list of results based on search engine rankings. That’s why it’s so important to optimize your business based on RankBrain methods. 

Understanding ranking factors and the way Google’s algorithm and RankBrain work is vital to understanding SEO digital marketing techniques and strategies. 

Implementing keywords and simple SEO methods won’t help you keep up with your competitors or get your business on Google Map’s top page. It would be best if you knew exactly what works for ranking and what doesn’t. For example, using one work keyword such as, “computers” in a few places on your website or content won’t boost your sales or your traffic.

You must use local SEO strategies if you want to compete with other businesses in your niche. You need to use long-tail keywords with accurate information on every business directory. You need to implement as much SEO and local SEO into your business online profiles as possible.

Meta descriptions are a great way to incorporate the concept of RankBrain and local SEO strategies into your business. Keeping your landing page, pricing page and content such as headings optimized is important for ranking and bringing in those sought-after leads. 

Social Media can also improve your click-through rate (CTR) and organic search traffic but remember that it doesn’t necessarily affect local results only SEO backlinks and other citations

Additional Resources:

Local SEO ranking factors can be a little difficult to understand; however, the information and methods used are vital to creating a digital marketing strategy that will allow your business to grow online and offline. 

It takes some understanding of Google’s algorithm, what factors matter, and what the best ways you can boost your rankings are. 

Here are some really great resources to help you get started:

If you’re a little overwhelmed or need a little help, you can schedule a call with one of our SEO specialists now! You can also take advantage of our awesome tools, services, and resources by signing up and Getting Started for Free!

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