Everything You Need to Know About Local SEO Ranking Factors

Emma Grant

Head of SEO

Results-driven Emma heads up our SEO team. A champion of best-practice SEO strategies for search engine success that lasts and delivers best value, Emma’s work focuses on boosting clients’ online visibility with the ultimate goal of increasing sales. Emma applies her extensive skill and experience to create strategies that pay off quickly for faster results. She knows precisely what to do to reduce clients’ paid ad spends for greater profits, and how to boost organic leads for better long term return on investment. After close of business, when she’s not organising exciting travel adventures, you may hear Emma strumming classical guitar tunes or working on her jazz riffs.

When you need a local plumber, or want to check when your local takeaway opens, you either pick up your phone, or talk to your voice assistant. Of course, you are not alone. Thousands of people are doing this, several times a day. As we said in our post about why Google local SEO is important, if you run a local business, then you’re going to need a local SEO strategy, and to understand how local SEO ranking factors work.

But what should you include in that strategy? It’s a good question, and something that we’ve turned to the latest Moz Local Search Ranking Factors survey to help answer.

The Moz survey is split into two parts: Local Pack (or Map Pack) ranking factors, and localised organic ranking factors. We’re looking specifically at the Local Pack in this post and its eight key local SEO ranking factors.

Google Local Pack?

The Google Local Pack, also known as the Map Pack, is the prime spot for you if you run a local business.

Almost 50% of clicks on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) go to businesses listed in the Map Pack.

The great thing for the small business is that because these clicks are from local, relevant sources, they are more likely to convert into sales.

So let’s take a look at the factors that help to boost your local SEO ranking in the Local Pack.

Local SEO Ranking Factors

Ranking Factor 1: Google Business Profile Signals

Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) is used by 64% of consumers to discover contact details for local businesses. On weekdays, a staggering 94% of calls to local businesses originate from the Google Business Profile. What’s more, an average business gets discovered in more than 1,000 searches per month. This means that your local business digital marketing agency and Local Pack strategy MUST include a good deal of emphasis on your Google Business Profile.

The main signals include the proximity of the business address to the point of search, the inclusion of a physical address in the city of search, proper Google Business Profile category associations and the use of the product or service and location keywords in the profile business title. But there are other drivers that warrant inclusion when it comes to being able to rank in the Map Pack.

The good news is that Google has made it easy to engage with this platform with the likes of Google posts, Google Q&A, messaging and videos all open to the Google Business Profile account manager to make good use of.

Here’s what we suggest you include in your Google Business Profile campaign:

  1. Regular Google posts – at least once a week share your content. If you already share to LinkedIn or Facebook, extend this to your Google Business Profile. It’s something that will take seconds, but that will make a considerable difference.
  2. Add your own totally relevant questions and answers to Google Q&A.
  3. Ensure your business logo is added for instant brand recognition.
  4. Upload photos and videos – again, do it regularly so that the content is kept fresh.
  5. Add a full, compelling business description, optimised for (but not over-stuffed with) your core target keywords.
  6. Add your service and product categories. Businesses are allowed to select up to ten categories. By listing your business under relevant categories, Google will have a better idea of what you offer, and will be better able to return your listing in associated searches.
  7. Ensure your profile is 100% complete. Seen an empty field? Fill it in. New fields are being added all the time, so make a point of logging into your account at least once a week and fill in any gaps.

Regularity is the key here. The more you log in and engage with your Google Business Profile, the more Google will see that you’re an active local business owner that values its listing. In addition, the more content you include, the more engagement you’ll spark with your visitors.

Also, it’s crucial to make sure you have the right address and phone number, a link to your website and correct opening hours if you are going to successfully rank in the Map Pack.

When considering which page of your website to link to, bear in mind that the strength of your chosen page could impact the ranking success of your listing. Pages with higher domain authority and a greater backlink profile are more likely to rank in the Map Pack, so choose your website link carefully.

The more you log in and engage with your Google Business Profile, the more Google will see that you’re an active local business owner that values its listing.

Ranking Factor 2: Link Signals

Inbound anchor links, link domain authority, link domain quantity. Whatever way you look at it, links are important to the Local Pack to the tune of over 16.5 per cent of all local SEO ranking factors. Not such an easy element of your strategy to master, but important all the same.

Locally and topically relevant links are known to improve visibility in both traditional search results, and the Google Map Pack. They’re also highly effective when it comes to boosting targeted traffic for an improved click through rate and more leads and, ultimately, customers. But they need to be from legitimate, reputable sites. Anything less than this could have the opposite effect.

Always stick to Google best practice guidelines for obtaining links, and be sure to avoid spammy links.

So, your to-do list to improve your links should include researching the sites your local audience frequents, and doing whatever you can to earn links on those sites. Look at things like local news, blogs and community sites. Spending time on the research will ensure you get the most relevant links possible.

Link Building

Locally and topically relevant links are known to improve visibility in both traditional search results, and the Google Map Pack.

Ranking Factor 3: Review Signals

Boosting the quantity, velocity and diversity of your local business reviews will help enhance your local SEO ranking. Over 15% of local SEO factors are connected with reviews, and the importance of reviews has grown considerably as social proof has become vital in creating a sense of trust and credibility amongst businesses.

The Google Maps listings that command the Local Pack top spots tend to be the ones with the most reviews. How recently the reviews were posted and whether the business owner is responding to reviews are also important factors.

Top digital marketing experts are suggesting ploughing time and effort into achieving Google reviews, not just because of the boost in local SEO ranking, but because positive reviews are generally good for business. They are what prompt people to make that all-important call. In other words, reviews drive conversions.

Reviews also create priceless, keyword-rich, user-generated content, the value of which cannot be over-emphasised.

Your to-do list:

  1. Make it part of your sales transaction process to ask customers for a review. Draft an email, grab your short review link from your Google account, and start making those requests. And don’t forget to go over your entire customer base, not just the new ones!
  2. Encourage keywords in your reviews. Ask customers to mention your product or service when they write their comments.
  3. Always respond to reviews, good and bad. Google lets the reviewer know when you’ve responded, and they’ll appreciate it. It also looks good to potential reviewers to see other reviews being responded to, as it shows they are valued by the business owner.

It’s also important that you don’t just focus on Google reviews. There are other review sites that will also drive your local SEO rankings.

Trustpilot for example is a valuable general review site, as are Feefo and Facebook. For leisure and travel reviews, Tripadvisor is invaluable, and for trades, Checkatrade has become the go-to source for recommendations. We recommend seeking out specialist review sites for your particular industry sector.

Take a look at where your competitors are being reviewed, and make sure you have a presence there too.

Finally, reviews on your own website are also important and will be considered by Google as part of the review signal. So try to add as many as you can. Video testimonials are good for engaging visitors, and adding a photo of the reviewer to a written post will add to the trust factor.

Submit Reviews

The Google Maps listings that command the Local Pack top spots tend to be the ones with the most reviews.

Ranking Factor 4: On-Page Signals

On-page signals include the presence of your local business name, address and phone number (NAP); keywords in your page titles and domain authority. Almost 14% of local SEO ranking factors are influenced by these signals.

Here’s your task list:

  1. Make sure your local business name, address and phone number are all included as searchable text on your website.
  2. Run through all your web pages and get your primary keywords into the titles.
  3. Write meta descriptions for all your pages. Optimal length is 130-150 characters to engage visitors. Ensure the content is compelling and include the primary keyword for the page.
  4. Get your location into your page URLs.
  5. Ensure all your images include alt text that refers to your business name and / or location, making sure it’s relevant to the image.
  6. Increase your domain authority – OK this is not an easy task, but it’s a worthwhile one. Moz uses more than 40 different factors to determine domain authority, so you’ll need to work on the most important. These include improving unique backlinks; publishing quality content; increasing social outreach and boosting your site’s SEO in terms of structure and user friendliness.

There are some really useful tools you can use to help with domain authority. MozRank scores external links on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the highest, and MozTrust measures how closely a site is connected to trusted websites. In other words, it helps you work out whether your external links are good quality.

On page local SEO signals

Almost 14% of local SEO ranking factors are influenced by on-page signals such as meta descriptions and page titles.

Ranking Factor 5: Citation Signals

Almost 11% of local SEO ranking factors are attributed to citations. This is where the consistency of your NAP, and the amount and relevancy of local citations you have, all become very important.

Search for a local service or shop and you’ll see the top local search results are all occupied either by the Google Local Pack, or online directories.

We’ve written a whole blog on the subject of local citations, why they’re so important for your local SEO ranking and how to clean them up and get them really working for you. Here’s a summary of what you need to be doing to get this ranking factor up to speed:

  1. Check your existing local citations for consistency and correctness
  2. Clean up any errors by claiming your listings or contacting the listing provider
  3. Check that your requests for changes have been actioned
Local Citations

Search for a local service or shop and you’ll see the top local search results are all occupied either by the Google Local Pack, or online directories.

Ranking Factor 6: Behavioural Signals

Over 9.5% of local SEO ranking factors are governed by the likes of click through rate, mobile clicks-to-call and check-ins as well as searches for your small business brand name, requests for driving directions, engagement with your listing and website and credit card transactions.

Signals sent by real people engaging with your business online are powerful indicators to Google when it comes to analysing your popularity.

Click-through rate is incredibly important and should form a key element of your focus when looking to improve your local SEO ranking. Click-through rate is what your return on investment revolves around. It’s all very well getting great rankings in the search engines, but if no one is clicking onto your website, there is little point putting in all that effort.

Here are a few tasks you can work on to get this ranking factor delivering for you:

    1. Make sure your Google Business Profile is complete with the correct address and phone number so it’s easy for visitors to click on your phone number to call you from their mobile, or tap for directions.
    2. Be sure to include a clickable phone number on your website. This should ideally have a local area code for geographical relevance, and it must be consistent with the phone number you have on your Google Business Profile.
    3. As already covered under Ranking Factor 1 above, optimise your Google Business Profile so it is primed for user engagement. Relevant images, videos, posts… whatever you can add to it to make it more engaging, do so.
    4. Website engagement is important as well as engagement with your Google Business Profile, so invest in a site that prioritises user experience and makes visiting your site a simple, pleasant encounter.
Click through rate

Click through rate is an incredibly important behavioural signal and should form a key element of your focus when looking to improve your local SEO ranking.

Ranking Factor 7: Personalisation

The personalisation factor accounts for just under 6% of local SEO ranking factors.

Search engines have been tailoring the user experience for some time now. Using artificial intelligence machine learning, search history and cookies and other information gathered about the user, they are delivering results in a personalised way.

When it comes to local SEO, the most important personalisation factor is location. But personalising for mobile and voice search are equally important.

The mobile friendly experience

A mobile friendly website for example is important to the user who is accessing it from a mobile device. In fact, it’s more than important. It’s absolutely vital.

57% of local searches are conducted using a mobile device. And this is why a website that’s not mobile friendly is an absolute non-starter.

What’s more, in September 2023, Google made a total move to mobile-first indexing. This means that it’s the mobile version of a website that’s primarily used by the search engine, which it crawls using its smartphone agent, for indexing and ranking a website.

80% of the websites that rank at the top of Google are mobile optimised. So Google clearly gives preference to mobile friendly websites.

The answer is to use responsive website design, which is what Google itself recommends:

“We recommend using responsive web design because it makes it easier for users to share and link to your content with a single URL.”

Responsive design also improves the efficiency of site crawling and indexing. It also reduces load time, which enhances user experience.

Other than embracing responsive design, there are several additional tactics that will make a website more of a pleasurable experience for mobile users. These include optimising website speed; taking care when using pop-ups so that users can easily close them, and don’t see them too early on; simplifying graphics so they don’t clutter the view; providing a clear navigation and being mindful when writing content to ensure it works on a smaller screen.

Personalisation

A mobile-friendly website is important to the user who is accessing it from a mobile device.

Optimising for voice search

Voice search is another vital consideration. As of 2023, there are 4.2 billion active voice assistant devices in circulation, and 27% of searches in the Google App are now done by voice. A billion voice searches occur each month via mobile and voice search devices.

With all this in mind, it’s important that the type of language used in voice search (as in questions, not keywords) is factored into your web content.

Ranking Factor 8: Social Signals

Our final ranking factor, accounting for just under 3% of local SEO ranking factors, is social signals. These include engagement with the likes of Google, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).

Digital marketing experts have determined that social signals have some impact on local SEO rankings. So, here’s what needs to be done:

  1. Work on growing your following on the main social platforms such as Facebook and X.
  2. Research the type of content your followers enjoy and are more likely to engage with. Likes, comments and shares are big social signals, so invest time into posting the sort of thing your audience is going to get involved in.
  3. Encourage your customers to engage with your platforms: offer incentives if you have to, and make it easy for them to follow you, for example by adding a direct-link QR code to your emails or product packaging. Ask customers for posts about their experiences. Get them to mention you as part of a competition. Apply some initiative to get things moving!

Whilst there is no real guarantee for results using these strategies, there is no harm in being active on social media. After all, your competitors will be!

Social signals for local SEO

Digital marketing experts have determined that social signals have some impact on local SEO rankings.

In Summary – Improved Local SEO Ranking = Increased Sales

Improving your local SEO ranking and netting a Google Local Pack top spot is quite a task, but it really is worth the effort.

If you run a local business, you need to get yourself in front of the thousands of people who are searching for what you offer every day. Because if you don’t, your competitors will.

Not all local SEO ranking factors are going to be straightforward to master so, if you could use some expert help in getting them all working for your business so that your presence in the local search results is boosted and, as a result, your sales increase, why not talk to the SEO specialists at Figment?

We have proven experience in getting exceptional results for our local business clients, and know all the strategies that drive better value outcomes, faster. We look forward to helping you.

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