Local search is crucial to a successful marketing strategy for small business. For any business to succeed, it must find ways to reach out to potential customers. Today, digital marketing is the go-to form of marketing and is an important part of doing business.
One of the ways to improve your local search rankings is by optimizing your business for local SEO. But how important is it to optimize your business for local search rankings?
From a distance, local search works like Google search — when a user searches for something, Google provides relevant and useful results to the specific search query. The only difference is that when it comes to local search, Google uses local ranking factors to provide local search results.
Top local search ranking factors
Unfortunately, knowing what factors Google uses to provide these results isn’t a walk in the park. Google guards its algorithm, making it hard to know what signals they use to provide local search results.
Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of top local search ranking factors you need to know about. Read along to learn more.
Google My Business
Google My Business is among the crucial local search ranking factors. This free tool by Google uses Google maps to make local businesses visible to users simply yet effectively.
First introduced by Google in 2014, Google My Business has become a critical local ranking factor.
Businesses looking to appear on top of local searches should claim and set up their local listings, which increases their chances of being found by Google and users when they search businesses like theirs.
Ideally, you should have your business listed, verified, and managed to provide more information to the users and Google — the proximity of the business to the search is among Google’s main local ranking factors.
When analyzing businesses to show in a specific area, search algorithms use signals like proximity, contact information, and updated and relevant content. Businesses should give more emphasis to these signals as they determine local search results.
As with SEO, there are no shortcuts when it comes to local search ranking.
To appear on search results, you must follow everything Google My Business recommends when setting up your account. The keywords you use in Google posts, GMB descriptions, GMB services, and GMB products are one of the essential ranking factors that Google recommends. So, instead of creating more content and posting more frequently, you should focus on using the relevant keywords.
As earlier stated, proximity is one of the crucial GMB ranking factors, meaning the search location determines a business position in local search results.
When verifying your business with GMB categories, pay attention to how your business data is maintained.
As a rule of thumb, follow the NAP consistency (name, street address, and phone number). Also, ensure to choose the correct primary category (don’t focus on the number but accuracy of the categories).
Among other things, this will provide crucial information to users and Google bots about what your business is all about. Depending on your business, you can edit your GMB listing, although you’ll have to verify it via postcard, email, or phone.
After verifying your GMB listing, upload pictures and add relevant information to your Google My Business profile to ensure Google and users get enough information about your business.
You cannot underestimate the power of online reviews for your business. Potential customers will be more willing to do business with you if you have more positive reviews. The opposite will happen if you have many negative reviews.
But this is not the only thing that makes online reviews important — it’s among the Google local ranking factors that you should focus on.
If you are unaware, Google Maps and the local pack provide an overview of your business reviews. That’s why you should aim to get many positive reviews from satisfied customers and limit negative reviews — if you get negative reviews, respond to them as soon as possible.
After all, spending your time and effort to build a local presence only for it to be ruined by low ratings and negative reviews doesn’t make sense.
And don’t just focus only on Google reviews. Also, consider other review sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, and Better Business Bureau.
The amount, frequency, diversity, and quality of reviews determine your business position in local search ranking.
In other words, when a customer gives a positive response after purchasing your products or services, Google will see that the customer is satisfied with your services. And since Google’s local search algorithm prioritizes users, it ranks small businesses with positive reviews higher on search engine results (SERPs).
One way to increase your business’s positive reviews is by encouraging customers to leave positive reviews on Google Maps, Yelp, Glassdoor, and TripAdvisor. However, only get positive reviews from real customers who are happy with your products or services.
About 70% of customers asked to leave a review do so, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Some businesses use fake reviews to boost their local presence or pay people to leave positive reviews. This is an unethical way of getting reviews you should never apply.
On-page SEO also determines your local visibility. That said, optimizing the content on your website for SEO is a crucial step when looking to improve your local search rankings.
Various on-page factors are considered when analyzing your website for local rankings.
One key thing is the use of relevant keywords when creating content. Google values quality content and prioritizes relevant and useful content to users. This explains why content marketing has become extremely popular in the digital marketing world.
To create relevant and useful content, you should perform keyword research and place them strategically to improve your site rankings in specific areas of your industry.
However, when placing keywords on your website, ensure to use them naturally. You can include them in the URLs, meta descriptions, page titles, headings, and alt text and include variations to make it more natural.
Including other vital details such as the name, address, and phone number (NAP) on pages is essential for local SEO. You can include them in the header or footer to increase the chances of your business being found by Google.
Create relevant and high-quality content on local topics such as events or news to increase your chances of local search ranking via on-page ranking factors. Besides optimizing your content for local search ranking, here are two other crucial on-page factors you should consider:
Like Google SEO rankings, you need to pay much attention to mobile search when it comes to local search rankings. If you still doubt how important mobile search is, consider that mobile search devices accounted for 63% of organic visits in 2021.
In fact, Google has stated that it will prioritize the mobile version of the webpage for indexing and ranking purposes. Optimize your website for mobile SEO to target potential customers using mobile devices to search for businesses like yours in your location.
We cannot overstate the need for a fast-loading site to improve local search rankings. Google and other search engines use your site speed to determine where to rank on search engine result pages.
Users, too, love speed and will leave your page if it loads slowly and head to a competitor’s page.
To dominate the local search world and remain competitive, pay attention to how fast your site loads; otherwise, Google will rank you lower in local search results.
Another crucial factor to pay special attention to in local search ranking is your backlink profile. Links play a crucial role in boosting your website’s organic rankings.
Of course, it’s much easier to control your website’s internal factors than external ones, but since off-page factors affect your rankings, you shouldn’t ignore them.
The truth is, your local search strategy won’t be successful if you ignore off-page ranking factors.
When a site links to your website, it drives traffic to your site and shows Google that your site is trustworthy and the content you posted is valuable and relevant.
However, not just any links are beneficial to your business. To get the most from backlinks and improve your local search rankings, you must focus on getting quality backlinks — yes, quality over quantity here because Google values high-quality and relevant links.
When high-quality sites link to your website, it boosts your authority and credibility, which increases your rankings. Having low-quality and irrelevant backlinks will only lower your search rankings.
Another critical thing to focus on when creating backlinks for better local search rankings is to target local links.
For instance, you can gain local press backlinks by creating content for local press or creating local resources to gain local resource backlinks. Of course, you must prove that you can provide value to get backlinks from such resources.
Here are strategies you can use to get local backlinks:
- List your business in reputable business directories
- Participate in local events
- Start a local mentoring program
- Connect with small businesses or bloggers in your area—go for the most relevant connections and initiate a backlink partnership program
- Pitch interviews in local newspapers and publications
The idea is to focus on receiving high-quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative sites to boost your placement in local search results.
Online directories and citations are an excellent way to get information about your business online and acquire backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites.
Citations and directories such as Yelp help potential customers find products and services and help search engines validate your business information.
Ensure that your business information, including business name, physical address, and phone number are the same across all directories and citations. In other words, ensure that your business information in these directories matches what is on your website.
Double-check your details whenever you create new citations before you submit them. After all, this is what users and search engines will use to confirm the accuracy of your business information.
Inconsistent contact details will make customers lose trust in your business, so you must keep that in mind. Google, too, will lower your local search ranking if your details are inconsistent.
The best thing is to keep checking for any inconsistencies in your new listing.
You can do this manually or use tools like Moz Local to discover variations in your listings. If you notice variations of your NAP, note them down on a spreadsheet and request the website owners to correct the NAP details.
Local sites provide great citation opportunities as they’re highly relevant and can boost your local search rankings. The Ahrefs’ Link Intersect feature can help find local citations for your local search campaign by checking your competitors’ citations from local business directories.
Google will only place your website on top of local search results if it’s relevant and helpful. Ideally, Google uses several behavioral signals to provide local search results.
Behavioral signals are your audience’s actions that show how they interact with local business listings and websites. To better understand this, let’s look at the common behavioral signals:
Pages per session
The first user behavior that search engines analyze for local search ranking is the number of pages a user on your website visits before leaving. The more users spend more time on your site going through multiple pages, the better for your local search rankings.
Click-through rate (CTR)
Another behavior that search engines analyze is the CTR, clicks to impressions ratio on a link to your website. To enjoy a higher CTR, focus on being among the first three top local search results.
Bounce rate is a crucial web traffic analysis in internet marketing. It refers to the percentage of visitors who leave your website immediately after arriving on your landing and head back to search results.
Some reasons that lead to a higher bounce rate include a slow loading page, poor navigation, unresponsive website design, etc., which can negatively impact your local search rankings.
Search engines use these and other factors to determine which businesses are most relevant and valuable to searchers. Track these behavioral signals and make the necessary changes for a successful local search ranking campaign.
We cannot overstate the need for publishing relevant and useful content when it comes to local searches. Publishing relevant content to your local audience opens a window through which users and potential customers can interact and connect with your brand.
When you create relatable content, search engines will analyze it and serve it to users when they perform relevant searches. The content can be in the form of blogs, local news, videos, local events announcements, graphics, etc.
However, to ensure your local content serves the interest of users and search engines, use relevant keywords and location-based language and terms.
Like when creating international content, place the keywords strategically within the content to make it easier for search engines to notice it. For better results, include long-tail keywords in meta descriptions and titles to drive more traffic (the best part is that they cost less).
Also, avoid keyword stuffing, as this will reduce your chances of ranking higher in local search results.
Another crucial thing to remember is to optimize for local voice search. After all, about 20 percent of all Google searches on mobile are voice searches.
Optimizing for local search provides an opportunity for your website to appear on top of search results for local searches done on mobile devices.
Social media sites are great search tools. For example, about 1.5 billion people search on Facebook daily, with over 600 million users visiting Facebook business pages.
This means search engines like Google cannot underestimate the power of high authority social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Today, it’s not uncommon to find a business’s social media page when you search for a company on the website. Google says it treats Twitter and Facebook like any other pages in its web index.
That means if something occurs on these platforms, and they can crawl it, they can show it in search results. While not much is said about whether social media helps SEO rank, the Google algorithm may consider your social media mentions to determine whether they are positive or negative.
We recommend engaging with your social media audience to preserve your reputation.
Of course, focusing only on social media won’t give quick SEO results, but it’s an important aspect to incorporate into your local SEO efforts.
Last but not least on our list of local search ranking factors is the Domain Authority (DA). Developed by Moz, DA is a search engine ranking score that determines whether a website matches search engine results to a given query, including local search results.
Ideally, a business with a high DA can rank higher in local and organic results than one with a low DA.
Closing thoughts on local search ranking factors
That’s it. Those are the top local search ranking factors in 2022. Knowing the above factors is only the beginning; you need to optimize your website for those factors to rank higher on local search results and outdo your competitors.
Getting such results cannot happen overnight.
You need a complex and systematic approach to enjoy local search benefits. We recommend partnering with reputable local SEO experts to ensure your website is local search engine friendly.
You will get a higher return on investment (ROI) from local SEO efforts and generate qualified leads.