For any local business, reaching out to potential clients in the area is crucial for success and growth.
Earlier, businesses relied on newspapers and word-of-mouth to draw the attention of customers. But today, digital marketing has taken over the world by storm. There are many online channels available to grow your business reach.
However, one of the best options to get your local business found is SEO or search engine optimisation. In this article, we’ll be talking all about local SEO, its basic definition, and its importance.
We’ll also list and highlight the local SEO ranking factors that play vital roles in improving your rankings in organic results. After all, ranking higher will improve your online visibility, allowing you to reach more users who are searching for your services.
So, without further ado, let’s begin.
What is Local SEO & Why is it Important?
First, let’s talk about the basics of SEO - SEO or search engine optimisation is the process of boosting website rankings in organic search results. When users search for a business or product, search engines provide them with a list of pages relevant to the keywords used.
Local SEO helps increase traffic and promotes brand awareness from local search by optimising a website. It’s huge for any local business, and if you can get your business to rank higher in SERPs, there’s a high possibility that you’ll be landing yourself a client.
Ideally, you’ll want to rank on the first page of local search results because 75% of Google users don’t even go through the second. As a result, you might miss out on a potential customer.
If you consider SEO statistics, 46% of Google searches have “local intent” while 29% of Google SERPs contain a local pack in the search results. In fact, 76% of consumers who search for something local end up visiting the store that same day.
So, it’s evident that local search plays a huge role in the SEO world. And Local SEO is similar to how Google search works - it scans through the index when you search for something to provide the most relevant results for your query.
It’s that important, that “near me” terms have grown 150% faster than traditional local-based searches.
What makes it unique is the fact that a different set of SEO ranking factors are used to rank local search results. In fact, local SEO comes with a set of unique signals, including:
- Presence of Google My Business Listing
- Keywords used in Google reviews
- Positive online reviews
- NAP consistency
- Number of check-ins at a location
- Keywords used in GMB profile
- Number of shares on social media platforms
- The location from where the user is searching
- Google map star rating for the business
Now, we’ll be highlighting these ranking factors in detail in the following section.
1. Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool provided by Google to make local businesses visible to users via Google maps in a simple, yet most effective way. Now, it’s one of the most crucial local SEO ranking factors that has grown significantly from 25% in 2018 to 33% in 2020.
Experts believe it to be the key local pack ranking factor of the year. And as Google keeps adding new features to GMB, you’re bound to get your business noticed by both Google and potential clients. However, it’s important to set up your Google My Business listing for this.
It’s an integral part that users come across while searching for a company, so make sure your business is listed, verified, claimed, and managed. Any comprehensive local SEO campaign will also optimise the GMB listing for improved visibility.
Note that search algorithms use signals like contact information, proximity, and updated content to analyse and then show your business to people in the area. These are the three crucial factors that help determine local search results.
You need not utilise every aspect of Google My Business if you’re only looking to boost your rankings; just stick to the essential ranking factors.
Some of these factors are keywords in GMB description, GMB services, Google post, and GMB products. Even the frequency and quantity of Google posts won’t impact local rankings.
a) Getting Verified With GMB Categories
Your Google My Business listing will determine how your business data is displayed on Google maps. So, maintain NAP consistency (name, address, and phone number) and pay attention to the category section at the bottom. Just ensure that you’ve chosen the correct categories; don’t bother about the number, but make sure the categories are accurate.
This will help customers and Google bots know what your business is all about. As such, your GMB listing will be placed in the right local search results. Now, if you wish to make more edits, you’ll need to get it verified via a postcard, email, or phone. And the eligibility of verifying your listing using these options will depend on the type of business you have.
b) Upload Photos On Google My Business Page
Once your GMB listing is verified, upload pictures and provide all the relevant information for your Google My Business profile. You can click pictures of your business location, staff, products, and even customers. They add credibility to your business, serving as an important local SEO ranking factor.
2. On-Page Signals
On-page signals are incredibly important for local SEO, and a number of its factors are taken into consideration when a website is analysed for local search rankings. They influence local organic results, accounting for 15% of the local ranking factors.
Firstly, let’s talk about keywords. Search engines look for relevant keywords to determine where your site belongs. The two terms that play vital roles here are relevance and placement.
Image Source: Digital Ducats
It’s crucial to choose the right keywords and place them strategically across the entire site to get the desired ranking in specific areas of your preferred industry. In fact, having keywords in the titles of the landing pages can also make a significant difference to local rankings.
Think about what questions your potential customer might ask when they search for the products and services you offer. This will help you plan your keyword strategy.
Avoid using jargon or industrial terms your consumers may not be familiar with. And use long-tail keywords instead of short-tail keywords containing one or two terms as the competition for the latter is significantly higher.
It’s also crucial to include vital details like your business name, address, and phone number as Google uses the information to determine proximity details for your local SEO rankings.
Apart from that, focus on creating content related to your city or local area on the website pages. If your business is distributed in more than one location, create a specialised webpage for each.
This will make it easier for visitors to find the location they’re in search of, thereby improving local SEO rankings for each of the locations.
Another local SEO on-page factor is the mobile-friendliness of any website. After all, users generally conduct local searches on their mobile phones. So, make sure your website is easily accessible on mobile devices for improved user experience.
This is also an essential factor for SERPs as it optimises pages for local search.
3. Online Reviews
Remember, customers will always want to read the relevant information on a business and its offered services before making a purchase. And positive online reviews can help provide your business with a reliable, legitimate, and trustworthy image.
They not only significantly impact the decision-making process for customers, but also contribute to the local SEO ranking factors.
Image Credit: Yot Po.
The total number, frequency, diversity, and quality of reviews are considered to increase a business’s local search ranking. To explain the process, when a business receives genuinely positive response for its services, Google takes that as a sign that the customers are satisfied with the provided service.
It puts the user first, and as a result, businesses with positive online reviews rank higher on the SERPs.
This is why a significant part of local SEO campaigns encourages users to leave positive reviews on platforms such as Yelp, Glassdoor, TripAdvisor, and Google maps. But in order to get more reviews for your local business, you’ll need to keep the following local SEO ranking factors in mind.
a) Claim Your Business On Top Review Sites
The first step is claiming your business profile on top review sites like TripAdvisor, Google My Business Reviews, Yelp, and Amazon. But before that, prioritise the site which will bring your business value.
It’s also important to choose a site that’s best in the industry. Suppose you’re in the housing business; then Zillow is your best bet while TripAdvisor stands out in the restaurant industry.
You may also stick with the basics like Google reviews. They show up alongside your Google My Business page with a star rating. Facebook uses the same star rating in your business review. On the contrary, locally-targeted businesses depend on Yelp as they wish to show up on the map.
Once you’ve set up the account, the process is quite simple and similar to customers leaving comments on the business page.
You can then claim your listing by entering your business name and address. After claiming, don’t forget to verify your profile so that you can edit the page and respond to user comments.
b) Get More Reviews
The next step is increasing the number of reviews, which isn’t that challenging provided you follow a few more simple steps.
First things first, collect positive reviews through email signatures, review-prompting widgets, and email autoresponders. After that’s done, link to your website and other online business profiles. You can then incentivise them to encourage users to leave positive comments and star ratings. Also, try to resolve negative comments and reviews by redirecting them to customer service.
It’s a known fact that consumers are influenced by Google reviews. The more positive reviews you get, the greater your chances of converting potential leads into clients. So, don’t hesitate to display positive ratings and reviews on your company website.
Links play a vital role in boosting any website’s organic search rankings, making them another crucial local SEO ranking factor. In fact, the backlink profiles of local businesses enable search engines to determine the value of the website through off-page optimisation. After all, when a site links to your website, it drives traffic and signals to search engines denoting that the site trusts and validates your content.
However, getting reliable backlinks can be challenging; local businesses should focus on quality instead of quantity. When high-quality and reputable sites link to your website, it boosts your credibility as a business to improve ranking.
The other local SEO ranking factors associated with backlinks include the relevancy of the links, the inbound anchor text used to link to your site, and the linking domain authority. In fact, obtaining links from relevant publications in the industry increases your website’s domain authority in that industry, allowing users to trust your business and quality of service.
Even outbound links can influence your local SEO ranking, despite having less of an impact. So, link your website to other credible external sites.
They will direct users to other websites to find additional information relevant to the field. This shows search engines that you’re providing reliable information to support the content you’re offering.
But one thing that you have to be careful of is bad backlinks. So, it’s better to check and see the site’s quality to determine whether or not it can be a trust-worthy linking partner.
You can download the MozBar Chrome extension for this; it will help you see the site’s page authority and domain authority. If the number is high, you can rest assured the site’s quality is good.
However, you’ll also have to take the spam score into account. High spam may mean that the site isn’t that reliable, so you should stay away from linking to it.
a) Local Link Building
Local link building is a bit different from general link building. You’ll have to aim at placing links to locally-targeted resource listings and blogs.
b) Strategies To Get Local Links
If you wish to get companies or businesses to backlink to your website, you’ll need to expand your local connections. Reach out to people in the area and follow the points listed below to get local links.
- Get your business listed in the most reliable business directory.
- Partner with non-profit organisations, schools, and charities to provide services, scholarships, or your office space to host events.
- Participate in community and other local events.
- Open a mentoring program for the local schools or community.
- Ask connections to set up an interview with prominent figures in the community and pitch to local newspapers.
- Connect with local bloggers or a small business in the area. Choose the most relevant connections and set up a link or promotion exchange program.
Getting featured in any of the above mentioned local resources may help you get authoritative .org, .edu, and .gov links.
A case study provided on Moz explains how the owner of a business got a link from the Wall Street Journal after opening a local scholarship and featuring in a local newspaper.
In fact, sponsoring and participating in local events will also help improve your local visibility. Now sponsoring doesn’t necessarily mean donating money, you can volunteer to help out or provide food. If everything goes right, you’ll be boosting your reputation in the area within no time.
5. Online Citations
Online citations and directories such as Yelp, Citysearch, Foursquare, and YP.com are excellent ways of getting consistent information about a business on the web.
They also help in acquiring backlinks from legitimate and reliable websites. Now, potential customers use these citations to find products and services, while search engines use them to validate the information provided about a business.
So, ensure that your business name, address, phone number, and other relevant information related to your company are the same across all directories and citation listings. This will reaffirm the accurate contact information to both users and search engines.
Errors in your listings or incorrect contact information can be off-putting for potential clients before they can even have the chance of getting in touch with you or walk through your door. This can negatively affect your local SEO. After all, if Google doesn’t think that your data is trustworthy, it will definitely downgrade your local search ranking.
Also, keep the individual citation factors in mind, which include citation quantity. It’s true that these signals are no longer considered that important in influencing local SEO ranking in SERPs. However, they still play a vital role in directing customers to the right site so that they are provided with accurate and relevant data.
Furthermore, make it a point to learn more about citations. And note that if you don’t have a business listing on sites like Facebook, Nextdoor, or Yelp, you might be missing out on vital lead sources.
That said, let’s now go through a few crucial points related to this local SEO ranking factor.
a) Optimising Local Citations
You can audit or optimise citations manually to uncover the listings and variations of your NAP. But for a quick check, you can use Moz Local. All you have to do is enter your business name in the input bar and your zip code, then click “Check My Business Listing.” The corresponding listings related to your local business will be pulled up from the main local indexing platform.
You’ll then be able to see the inconsistencies of your NAP. Record them in a spreadsheet and make it a point to contact the website owners to correct the NAP info. Now, the results are limited to the top indexing platforms so you may still have citations from less authoritative and structured sources. However, these citations will have less of an impact.
After you’ve optimised local citations, move on to building citations for your local SEO campaign.
b) Building Local NAP Citations
Businesses are different, so you’ll have to create custom citations depending on the industry and area. You can start with creating directory citations based on category and city. These lists will help you find the top directories that your business should be listed in.
Note that while creating these lists, you’ll have to fully fill out the profile with all your details, including business description, NAP, hours, photos, and more.
c) Finding Citation Opportunities
The best citation opportunities usually come from local sites. They are highly relevant and can give your Map Pack rankings a significant boost. And since you’ll be reaching out to the people of your local area, your outreach conversion rate is bound to be high. But the problem arises when it comes to finding local citations for your local SEO campaign.
You can check out the Link Intersect feature in Ahrefs for this. It’s designed for link building, but it also works well for citations. In fact, you can get links and citations from the same place as well.
All you have to do is take two to three competitors and place them in the tool. You need not always use direct competitors; any small business in your area will work as they are also building citations from local business directories.
Once that’s done, you’ll get a report listing all the sites linked to the competitors you’ve included. You can then sift through results to find good citation opportunities.
d) Reverse Engineer Competitor NAPs
The tools you use to audit and optimise your NAP can be turned against competitors. For this, you’ll need their NAP details, and you’ll be able to get a comprehensive list of all the places that have been mentioned online. This approach will definitely work better than Link Intersect as the results don’t necessarily have to link to any competitor site to show up.
6. Local Content
Users like connecting with brands related to relevant, relatable, and community-based topics. That’s why it’s important to create and publish content relevant to your local community. Search engines will identify and analyse the content, and present the information to users.
In short, local content like blogs, articles, videos, graphics, news pieces, and announcements related to your local area can significantly improve local search rankings. However, the quality of your content will serve as a vital factor. Also, you’ll have to draw the attention of both search engines and readers.
For this, the use of relevant keywords and location-based terms is imperative.
Place them strategically throughout the content to make it search engine friendly. And try to use long-tail keywords in titles and meta descriptions as they cost less and drive more traffic. Short tail keywords are more generic and may not specify the user’s intent so they won’t be drawing qualified leads for your business.
Just try not to overuse keywords excessively to boost your search ranking. This is known as keyword stuffing and can lead to a Google penalty, which may impact your ability to rank higher in SERPs.
While incorporating keywords into your local content, ensure that you do it naturally in a way that makes sense and doesn’t disrupt the visitors’ site or reading experience.
Let’s now know more about finding suitable keywords for local SEO.
a) Google Suggest
Google Suggest works well for local searches. However, you have to keep in mind that the local search has to be related to what potential customers will generally search for.
b) Yelp Suggest
Yelp Suggest is similar to Google Suggest. All you have to do is type in a keyword that the people in your area might use to find you. But what makes Yelp unique is that at times it shows keywords that don’t include the term you typed in.
c) Local Voice Searches
As per Google, 20% of all the searches done on mobile are voice searches. Now the difference between both voice and keyword search is that the former tends to be longer and more natural. There may not be any tool to help you find voice search keywords. But this is something that should be kept in mind.
d) Google Keyword Planner
Use the Google Keyword Planner to get search volume data for specific geographical locations. This is especially helpful if you have a bunch of keywords and wish to pick the best ones. However, if you’re looking for new keywords, it’s better to use the “Start With A Website” feature.
Simply pop in the homepage URL of any competitor sites, while Google suggests a list of keywords based on the terms provided on the page.
7. Personalisation Ranking Signals
Local search ranking factors are correlated to each other, so a drop in your page ranking doesn’t necessarily mean that personalisation is no longer important.
That said, personalisation of search result mostly relates to language, device, location, and the browsing history of the user. So, a person who’s aware and has searched for specific products or services is more likely to see results for the same.
However, personalisation doesn’t play a significant role in local organic or local pack rankings. And there’s nothing much you can do to optimise the page. Now, if you serve locations with multiple languages, you can try creating content in each language to help searchers. But this is unlikely to work for local businesses.
Image Credit: Pickaweb
8. Behavioural Ranking Signals
Google’s search algorithms use many behavioural signals to determine the ranking order of search results. In other words, the way users interact and engage with a website and local business listings can affect your local SEO ranking.
Their behaviour or actions send ranking signals to Google, indicating whether or not the site is helpful, legitimate, and reliable.
We’ll be highlighting these signals in the following sections. Now, all these factors may not directly impact your ranking, but they focus on providing a smooth and positive user experience.
As a result, users will spend more time on the page, leading to a positive outcome and improved local rankings.
a) Click-Through Rate
The first behaviour that Google analyses is the click-through rate (CTR). It’s the rate at which users click on the link to your website compared to the number of users who could have clicked on the link, but didn’t.
Now, remember the click-through rate for the first three search results is higher. This is because people tend to click on the first few results as they are usually the most relevant to the searcher’s inquiry.
As such, it’s crucial that your website has a high CTR to indicate that people are interested in your business. This will help improve your local search rank, allowing you to reach out to more users and potential clients.
b) Pages Per Session
Another behavioural signal crucial to local SEO ranking is the number of pages a person visits on your website before leaving. This is referred to as pages per session. That said, it’s better to have visitors spend time going through multiple pages, and not just one or two.
This will keep them on your website longer, and the longer retention time will boost your local search ranking.
c) Organised Navigation
Visitors should be able to easily find the information they need after arriving on your website. If not, they’ll be quick to leave your site and pick a competitive business site offering the same services.
To prevent this, design your site accordingly, creating an organised navigation option that’s both user-friendly and mobile-friendly.
This will help users find what they need within no time. It’s also important to include broad headings on every page surrounding numerous innovative ideas.
d) Bounce Rate
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors that end up immediately returning to the search results after arriving on your landing page. This is one of the few negative local SEO ranking factors that may impact your website rank on search results.
Now, this can happen due to numerous reasons. For instance, the visitor may not find the required information or the page might be loading slowly. As a business in the internet economy, you’ll have to strive to keep people on your website page to reduce the bounce rate.
e) Page Speed
Users don’t like waiting for pages to load, and that’s one of the primary factors leading to a low bounce rate. If your website page takes too long to load, they will return to search results and opt for another local business listing.
To avoid this, use tools like Google Pagespeed Insights to keep track of how your site is performing. It will also indicate where and how you can make improvements to increase page speed.
f) Responsive Website Design
Your company or business website should be responsive so that it adapts to whichever device the potential customers may use.
If you’re a local business, keep in mind that people generally use their smartphones to find places near them. So, the site should be mobile-friendly, allowing users to find your business in no time.
You can keep potential customers interested in your page by designing and including simple navigation to improve user experience. Making improvements in your website design will also improve your local SEO ranking and digital presence in the industry.
g) Call-To-Action (CTA)
Give users a sense of direction by creating a relevant call-to-action (CTA). This will help increase the number of pages people visit on your website while encouraging them to take action by either downloading or signing up.
These behavioural signals will increase your local SEO ranking as people spend more time on your business or company website. You may include a click-to-call button on your contact page to direct users to your business phone number.
All the above-mentioned ranking signals are carefully scrutinised by search engines to determine the relevant local businesses that will obtain valuable attention from searchers. You can start a local SEO campaign that will closely track these behavioural signals and make adjustments to provide a better user experience for local searchers.
This will help your GMB listing rank higher in local results to draw more potential clients to your business.
Advanced Local SEO Guide - Tips & Strategies
Now that you know all about the local SEO ranking factors, let’s progress to the end of the guide with a few advanced local SEO tips and strategies. They won’t replace the conventional local ranking factors, including GMB optimisation, link building, and NAP building. But they can give your local rankings a little boost.
Take a look at this useful infographic by Simpli Learn with 11 Local ranking factors:
1. Embed Google Maps on the About Page
You’ll want potential clients and Google to know where your business is specifically located. For that, it’s important to allow people to find your business on Google maps. So, hit the little dropdown menu in the top left corner of the map screen and click on “share or embed map” to get an embed code. You can then embed the map on your website’s contact or directions page.
2. Use Location-Focused Keywords
Using location-focused keywords to show up at the top of your site in a headline can improve rankings in organic results. And it’s better to highlight the title in an H1 tag so that whenever a local searcher lands on your site, they’ll know that you serve the area within seconds.
3. Title Tag Double Dip
This is a pretty conventional local SEO approach that works well in improving rankings even today. Simply optimise the homepage title tag around two to three relevant keywords. The strategy works in the local SEO world because local businesses get very few links to internal pages.
4. Optimizing Meta Descriptions For Local Search Ranking Results
You can improve organic results by including a well-written meta description that explains what your business or content is all about. But the biggest mistake local businesses make is that they stuff descriptions with keywords. Instead, you should consider using Google Ads to find a suitable description copy that’s proven to get clicks.
5. Thumbstack Suggest
Thumbstack Suggest is a great way to find local keywords for optimisation. If you type in a term, it will provide you with a number of suggestions which you can use to create landing pages for your website.
6. Use Schema For Local SEO
Google doesn’t rely on Schema Markup that much for Map pack rankings. But if implemented correctly, you can use Schema to markup your business address and phone number. In fact, there’s an entire category of Schema markup for local businesses.
Before concluding this article, we’d like to highlight our key findings related to local SEO ranking factors.
1. The most important local ranking factors for pack rankings are Google My Business, on-page signals, positive online reviews, backlinks, and NAP citations.
2. You’ll need to focus on behavioural signals, links, and on-page ranking factors to rank higher in local organic results.
3. Online reviews are overtaking links as crucial SEO ranking factors for local pack ranking.
4. If we go by expert opinions, the top three local SEO ranking factors are keywords in the anchor text of inbound links, quality of inbound links, and the volume of quality content.
5. The key local pack ranking factors are GMB category, keywords used in GMB title, and the local searcher’s proximity.
Local Ranking Signals Conclusions
To sum up, there are many local SEO ranking factors that can influence your spot in local search ranking. But there’s no magic bullet that will get you to the top of the ranking list within no time.
It takes time and effort to understand and identify all ranking factors that affect local SEO rankings. And that’s just the beginning of your local search marketing journey.
If you wish to see long-term local SEO benefits, you’ll need a systematic and comprehensive approach, integrating the ranking factors involved with search visibility.
With that, we’ll now conclude this guide on the top local SEO ranking factors. Do keep in mind that local SEO is one of the most powerful and effective tools in the digital marketing world. So use it to the fullest and increase your traffic as well as the quality of leads.