Local SEO can be a great tool for small businesses to get more clients by being at the top of search results. But local SEO ranking factors are ever changing so it can be hard to understand what to focus on when creating a local SEO strategy.
Some local SEO ranking factors are more important than others so you can focus on a few factors to see the biggest results for improving your local rankings.
What Are the Top Local Ranking Factors?
In 2018, Moz conducted a study to measure the most important ranking factors for local SEO. After conducting a survey, they broke up the eight most important ranking factors for the Local Pack. The most important ranking factors include:
- Google My Business Listing
- Google My Business Categories
- Photos & Virtual Tours
- Directions & Engagement
- Website Engagement
- On-Site Optimization
- Schema Markup
- Localized Content
If you’re interested in taking your small business local SEO to the next level, you should focus on these factors to quickly improve rankings. In our experience working with small businesses to improve their rankings, we’ve found the following 11 top local SEO factors drastically improve local SEO and rankings.
(Not sure you have all of these? Try following our local SEO audit process or get in touch for a free local SEO consultation.)
1. Google My Business
Your GMB listing is the most important ranking factor for local search engine rankings. In fact, it makes up 25% of how you rank in search engines. This is mostly due to the fact that searchers see GMB listings in three different areas: Google Search, Google Maps, and Local Finder. If you want to rank on local Maps, having a GMB is a must.
GMB allows you to post updates to your listing, share photos and videos, answer questions, and more.
Not only is your GMB listing the top factor for local search, engagement with your GMB listing also impacts your ranking. Engagement sends positive signals to search engines that customers are actively engaging with your business and that you’re a good fit for similar searches. The more complete your GMB listing is, the more user engagement you’ll have while users click around on your listing, which can help increase your overall ranking in Google.
2. Google My Business Categories
The biggest GMB ranking factor is your business’ categories. Google local listing rankings show businesses with relevant local business categories to a search.
Your local business categories are the terms in your GMB listing that best describes your business, who you are and what you do. Your GMB categories tell search engines what type of searches you are relevant to.
For example, if you’re an attorney and you specialize in different categories, instead of just choosing “Law Firm” as your category, you may choose “Tax Attorney.” You should focus on adding the most specific categories possible to your business listing to boost your local rankings.
3. Proximity to Searcher
Another important local pack ranking factor to consider is your proximity to your searcher. Your GMB signals considers proximity to be one of the biggest things to consider for Google local ranking factors. It’s also one of the more difficult local SEO problems for small businesses to solve.
Proximity is to how physically close your business is to the searcher. The closer you are to a user when they’re searching for you, the more likely you are to appear first in local search results. If you’ve done everything you can to optimize your business for Google Maps marketing and it’s still not working, moving your business to a better location may be the best solution.
4. Photos & Virtual Tours
Searchers are often visual people. Many of them rely on photos and videos to have a better understanding of what they’re getting when they work with your business. Adding photos and videos to your business profile humanizes your business and may make you seem more approachable and real.
Adding photos and virtual tours of your business adds to the user experience and can help your SEO local rankings by boosting engagement. Part of building a complete Google My Business listing incorporates photos and virtual tours that help your business listing increase engagement and stand out from your local competition.
The more photos you have to click through, the better engagement signals Google sees from your business. If you’re a restaurant owner or entertainment business, images play a key role in the Local Snack Pack rankings, or the 3-4 Map listings on organic search results.
5. Get Directions & Engagement
One quick trick to boost your local rankings is to increase the number of people getting directions to your place of business. Not only can your customers do this on Google apps, they can do this on your website too.
One of our best tips for Google Maps is to increase engagement by embedding a Google Map to your business on your website. Doing this puts your business in Google Maps and will encourage people who visit your site to click on driving directions to see where you’re located, which can help you rank better locally.
6. Links From Authority Sites
Citations and links from authority websites are a great way to help search engines identify the trustworthiness and legitimacy of your business. People may not always be searching for your business on Google. They may go through other authority sites like YellowPages or Yelp to find what you offer. Additionally, directories tend to dominate search results for local listings so it’s a good idea to claim, verify, and complete your profiles on other local directories.
Although tons of backlinks and citations aren’t as important, getting citations from authority sites can have a huge impact on how you rank on Google local search. According to the survey by Moz, citations are the fifth highest ranking signal for local SEO.
7. Reviews & Responsiveness
Reviews are critical to your local business and your Google My Business listing success beyond ranking because your potential customers read them before doing business with you. As well, Google reviews are becoming more and more important as a ranking factor and tend to have a positive impact on how you rank for local SEO.
Asking for reviews encourages customer engagement, builds trustworthy relationships, and also gives you a chance to interact with your customer base. Whether you have positive reviews or negative reviews, you should be responding to all reviews in a professional manner. Not all local SEO services include review management so if you’re looking for a local SEO provider, make sure to ask if that’s covered.
8. Website Engagement
Although engagement with your GMB listing is more important, customers that engage with your website can help create higher local rankings too by helping Google understand your website is relevant to their search.
You can improve user engagement by making your website more comprehensive and relevant to your ideal customers. A great website includes the information your ideal customers are looking for, like your contact information, information about what you offer, and tips and tricks on how to get the most from their experience with your business.
9. On-Site Keyword Optimization
In order to rank for local SEO, you should implement local SEO keywords that are highly searched in your area to your website. Keywords are the terms people use in search engines to find businesses like yours to help them so it’s natural to include these terms in your website. Using local keywords in your website copy can help Google better understand what your business does and how it helps people.
Keep in mind that you want to use the right keywords for your local area, not just what is most searched in Google. Nationally searched keywords may not be the same as highly searched keywords in your local area so when you’re doing keyword research and optimization, make sure to consider what words your local customers use when talking about your business.
10. Schema Markup
Schema makeup was created by search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo as a specific group of tags that could be used by search engines to provide support and better understand user display data. In other words, schema is code that’s not shown to people who visit your website that helps search engines better understand what your website is about, what your business does, and how you serve customers.
Schema markup can be particularly important to local SEO best practices because it can create a competitive advantage in search engine results pages (SERPs). Local SEO generates specific SERP display data that is specific to your business. Adding schema markup can greatly improve your local SEO and attract more visitors to your site by helping Google get a more complete picture of what your business does.
11. Localized Content
As previously mentioned, national SEO and local SEO are very different from each other. This means that the way they are ranked in Google is different as well. It’s important to add localized keywords and optimized meta descriptions to your website to outrank the other local competition and give a localized context to your website.
Additionally, Google tends to favor blog content that is meaningful to the niche group of people you’re wanting to target. By posting about things that your target audience wants to know about and optimizing it with local keywords, you have the ability to outrank your competition and increase traffic.
You’ll want to create content specific to your region, town, or even neighborhood to help Google understand where your business is based as well as to more actively market to your local customers. For example, if your town has an annual festival, creating content related to your business about the festival is a great way to showcase your business and attract attention from the festival crowds.
Want To Improve Local Search Rankings Quickly?
Going through each of the top 11 rankings factors to improve your local search rankings can take time and commitment. If you want to get your listings and website up to par with Google best practices, hiring a local SEO agency can help.
We offer local SEO solutions to boost your rankings, increase engagement, and help you perform better. Get your free initial consultation to learn how to get your business to the top of search results and solve your biggest SEO problems quickly.