Everything You Need to Know About Local SEO Ranking Factors
July 17th 2019 | By Emma Levy
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. But what should you include in that strategy? It’s a good question, and something that we’ve turned to the latest Moz 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey to help answer.
The Moz survey is split into two parts: Local 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 is the prime spot for you if you run a local business. The Pack governs a whopping 44 per cent of the total clicks on search engine results. 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.
Ranking Factor 1: Google My Business Signals
Google My Business (GMB) has grown hugely to now account for over 25 per cent of the local SEO ranking factors (in 2017 it was just 19 per cent). This means that your local business digital marketing and Local Pack strategy MUST include a good deal of emphasis on GMB.
Whilst 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 GMB category associations and the use of the product or service and location keywords in the GMB business title, there are other drivers that warrant inclusion in our strategy focus.
The good news is that Google has made it so much easier to engage with this platform with the likes of Google posts, Google Q&A, messaging and videos all open to the GMB account manager to make good use of.
Here’s what we suggest you include in your Google My Business campaign:
- Regular Google posts – at least once a week share your content. If you already share to LinkedIn or Facebook, extend to GMB.
- Add your own totally relevant questions and answers to Google Q&A.
- Upload photos and videos – again do it regularly.
- Ensure your profile is 100 per cent 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.
Regularity is the key here. The more you log in and engage with your Google My Business listing, 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.
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 Maps 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.
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.
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 per cent of local SEO factors are connected with reviews, and the importance of reviews has grown considerably from just under 11 per cent in 2015.
The Google Maps listings that command the Local Pack top spots tend to be the ones with the most reviews. 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.
Your to-do list:
- Make it part of your sales transaction process to ask customers for a review. Draft an email, grab your short review link from your GMB account, and start making those requests. And don’t forget to go over your entire customer base, not just the new ones!
- Encourage keywords in your reviews. Ask customers to mention your product or service when they write their comments.
- Always respond to reviews, good and bad. Google lets the reviewer know when you’ve responded, and they’ll appreciate it.
- Don’t just focus on Google reviews; there are other review sites out there, and they will all drive your local SEO rankings.
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 per cent of local SEO ranking factors are influenced by these signals.
Here’s your task list:
- Make sure your local business name, address and phone number are all included as searchable text on your website.
- Run through all your web pages and get your primary keywords into the titles.
- 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.
- Get your location into your page URLs.
- Ensure all your images include alt text that refers to your business name and / or location, making sure it’s relevant to the image.
- 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.
Ranking Factor 5: Citation Signals
Almost 11 per cent 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:
- Check your existing local citations for consistency and correctness
- Clean up any errors by claiming your listings or contacting the listing provider
- Check that your requests for changes have been actioned
Ranking Factor 6: Behavioural Signals
Over 9.5 per cent 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.
We’ve put together five core strategies for improving click through rate and they’re well worth a read if you’re serious about boosting your local search results.
Here are a few more tasks you can work on to get this ranking factor delivering for you:
- Make sure your Google My Business listing 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.
- 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 My Business listing.
- As already covered under Ranking Factor 1 above, optimise your Google My Business listing so it is primed for user engagement. Relevant images, videos, posts – whatever you can add to it to make it more engaging, do so.
- Website engagement is important as well as engagement with your Google My Business listing, so invest in a site that prioritises user experience and makes visiting your site a simple, pleasant encounter.
Ranking Factor 7: Personalisation
The personalisation factor accounts for just under 6 per cent of local SEO ranking factors.
Search engines these days are tailoring the user experience. Using 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 factor is location. But there’s more to it than that.
A mobile friendly website for example is important to the user who is accessing it from a mobile device. Voice search is another vital consideration. It accounts for 20 per cent of all mobile searches, so it’s important that the type of language used (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 per cent of local SEO ranking factors, is social signals. These include engagement with the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Digital marketing experts have determined that social signals have some impact on local SEO rankings. So, here’s what needs to be done:
- Work on growing your following on the main social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
- 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.
- Encourage your customers to engage with your platforms: offer incentives if you have to. 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!
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.