SEOs and online marketers must constantly be on their toes. As algorithms improve, Google begins to understand the user on a more personal level. Google continually strives to formulate a better search engine for users. Internet and convenience go hand in hand, and users want relevant search results that’ll lead them to the products or resources they need in as little time as possible. Every year, the factors that have the most influence in a local businesses’ search rankings can shift. It’s vital for businesses to be aware of these changes so that their website continues to benefit from the power of local search.
The Local Search Rankings Factor Survey helps local businesses determine the most important factors impacting local search rank. The coveted number one spot on a search results page isn’t easy-to-claim territory, and this survey helps reverse engineer Google’s ranking system so that business owners can strive to improve their website and content in areas where they need it most. The top local SEO experts chime in to rank over 130 different factors impacting local search.
The 2017 Local Seo Ranking Factor Results:
Proximity Has the Throne
The proximity factor is based on how close a business is to the point of search. In 2015, it held the number four spot, and now it sits high and mighty at number one. For local businesses, this was a big change. The problem with this is many people are willing to drive a bit farther for a higher quality product or service. Though convenience does play a big role in how users make their purchases, quality is more often than not worth the little extra bit of money, gas, or mileage.
Though proximity has a larger role now than in previous years, local SEOs can instill a solid strategy to beat the odds and push businesses to high ranks. Also, businesses should still consider Proximity of Address to Centroid as an important factor. Though it dropped from #16 to #50 in 2015 and 2017, respectively, it’s still important to consider when a business is looking for customers outside of their city. Hotels and amusement parks, for example, would benefit from examining this factor in closer detail.
Linkage is loved. Authority is greatly determined by the quality, quantity and diversity of links, both inbound and outbound. The acquisition of reputable links is a bit of a balancing act. Having a bunch of links in either direction that aren’t of the highest quality can hurt you; not having enough high-quality links might make a headache of your ranking efforts.
Citations On Downward Trend
Citations are references to your business name, address, or phone number that appear anywhere but your own website. Though citation factors reveal a downward trend, inspection GMB citation signals and other citation signals still account for more than 32% of how Google ranks your business. Survey results simply point to a change in overall opinion of the importance of citations, which are less important in competitive terms when compared to factors such as link signals and review signals. Consistency of citations has been broken down into four new factors (Primary Data, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3).
Other citation factors that have been added are: completeness of citations, presence of business on expert-curated best of lists, prominence on key industry-relevant domains, proper category associations on aggregators and top tier citation sources. Citations shouldn’t be neglected. However, focusing on improving the quality of citations from key sources is most important.
Any factors that pertained to editable description on GMB listings have been removed from the survey since it is no longer an option. For everyone but the spammers, this is a good thing. Keyword stuffing created problematic GMB results that frustrated authentic businesses and users looking for relevant information. Luckily, the description wasn’t used for ranking, so keyword-stuffing really only led to penalties.
There is an increased importance in including location keywords in GMB Business Title whereas Product and Service Keywords have remained stagnant. Quite a surprising result as product and service keywords are some of the strongest factors in local pack/finder rankings. Again, stuffing the title with keywords (of any sort) won’t do you any good. Bounty hunters of the SEO world will track you down and see to it that you are not rewarded for your ingenuine efforts. Plus, even if you’ve gotten lucky, Google can track your complete history of GMB changes and penalize you after the fact.
Age of GMB Listing has dropped in the survey, but top contributors at Google My Business Forum claim that it is an extremely important factor. Despite the results of the survey, consider the words of the GMB’s top contributors---remember, the survey results aren’t rules set in stone.
Even in 2017 it’s impossible to get numbers that mirror the importance of behavioral factors. Google has access to these, but SEOs must use their best judgement to figure them out for themselves. Comments from various SEOs may be your best frame of reference when determining how to put a value on these ethereal factors. Entity authority seems to be the biggest behavioral ranking factor of all. How does Google define a local entity? Well, this can be a combination of a number of factors, like how engaged users are with the business entity, how widely known the entity is, how many people subscribe to the newsletter of that entity, how many people visit its stores, etc. But the best way to ensure that you make the most of behavior factors is to stay engaged with your customers and be consistently impressive.
Factors You Need Vs. Factors To Put You Ahead of Competition
The survey this year separates foundational optimization factors from competitive factors. Foundational Factors are the high school diplomas of search rank. You need them to be eligible to rank on Google, and without them, you’re gonna have a very hard time. When you’ve got the foundational factors taken care of, you’re not really going to have an edge over the competition. You’ll be on an even playing field, and you’ll need to make use of Competitive Factors (your college degree) with which you can rank higher and higher, far above the competition.
Foundation factors include:
1) Proper GMB Category Associations
2) Consistency of Citations on Primary Data Sources
3) Physical Address in City of Search
4) Proximity of Address to Point of Search
5) Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Sources
Competitive factors include:
1) Quality & Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
2) Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain (from domains relevant to industry)
3) Quality & Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
4) Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains
5) Quantity of Native Google Reviews
By continuing to strive for quality content, many great reviews, and plenty of quality & industry-relevant links, you should be able to outrank the competition. Getting ranked high on local search is a great way to increase in store traffic and raise online visibility. Nearly everyone begins their shopping journey with a Google search, and making the effort to reach the top will bring your business in front of people who may have never stumbled upon it on their own. Though these factors are sure to change over the next year, work toward maintaining a competitive edge so that you won’t have to start from scratch when the new numbers come in.
Mike Hodgdon- SEO & Digital Marketing Expert Consultant