Local SEO Ranking Factors For 2018
Did you know that there are 8 crucial local SEO rankings factors that every local business needs to be aware of if they want to rank anywhere near the first page of the Google search results?
If you're a local business owner gone are the days when you can simply create your website, put it live on the internet and hope people can find your website.
If you're not focusing on local SEO to boost your organic search rankings, you are likely losing a lot of business.
Why? Because no one can find your business online.
When a potential local customer searches for something pertaining to your business and you don't show up, guess where they are going instead?
Directly to your competition because they've at least applied a little local SEO to their website.
So if you're a local business looking to rank higher on Google for local search results and dominate your competition, this article and the awesome infographic below will tell you all about how local SEO can work for your business.
Let's so this.
Local SEO Ranking Factors Infographic
What Is Local SEO Anyway?
Great question, we're off to a good start already. Here is what local SEO is all about in a nutshell...
Local SEO is the absolute best way to market your local business online. This is the most important part - it helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they’re looking for them.
Local SEO uses a variety of strategies — getting your site ranked on search engines like Google (and even Bing - you've heard of Bing right?), business directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, YellowPages, your Google My Business listing, Bing Places for Business page, localized content on your website, online reviews and other strategies.
Think about your potential customers out there. Almost all of them use local search every single day to find the best local businesses close by that will serve their needs.
You can help increase your chances of getting found by these potential customers, by working with a local SEO company, who knows how to properly use proven local SEO strategies to help grow your business.
Now let's (finally) dive into the 8 local SEO ranking factors for 2018 that you need to be aware of.
1. Google My Business
Google My Business is easily the number one local SEO ranking factor and it’s a proven fact thanks to Moz’s yearly local SEO ranking study.
So, while you should do everything on this list, if you only choose one thing to do to boost your local SEO rankings, make sure it’s this one.
Basically, what it comes down to is ensuring your Google My Business (GMB) is 100% complete, optimized and updated.
To guarantee local SEO success from your Google My Business Page, make sure:
- The business category is set correctly and matches your business
- Your relevant keywords are within the GMB business title
- Your website link is provided, functional and crawlable
- Your hours of operation are included and accurate
- The address is correct! (Very important, the map pack also ranks proximity when it comes to the search. If the address is wrong, it won’t list at all.)
- You upload a minimum of five photos of your business and/or products
- Enter a full business description to tell your future customers what your business is all about (don’t forget keywords)
- Fill out the Services section for a more complete profile. This is also a great place to display some of your best-selling products.
It’s that simple. Just be thorough. Take the time to do this right, it’s worth it.
2. Links aka Backlinks
Link signals or backlinks as they are commonly referred to, are the second most important factor for local SEO success and to help show up in the map pack results.
It’s really important to note that backlinks are the most important for ranking high in organic search results.
Anyone familiar with SEO knows about that link signals are important and getting high quality backlinks is vital to your local SEO dominance.
Even after all the changes that have been made to Google’s search algorithms in recent years (and more changes are coming), link building is still one of the primary ways to get your website ranked as high as possible.
However, not all links are the same. You want to make sure that you are doing your best to get the right kind of links from high quality, high authority sites.
Getting backlinks from the wrong kind of sites can have the exact opposite effect and severely damaging your site’s rankings. If taken too far you may even get a Google penalty and those are never fun to dig out of.
So, what makes a good quality link? Here’s what to focus on when growing your backlink profile:
Link Authority: You only want high authority, reputable, legitimate sites linking to your site. How can you tell if a site has a high authority ranking? An easy way is to download the Moz Search Bar for the Google Chrome browser. It will show you every site’s page and domain authority. Aim for sites with a page and domain authority of 40 or higher.
Stay far, far away from any site that looks spammy as it will increase the chances of your website getting a Google penalty. Also, to be safe, try to make sure that the site linking to your site is as relevant to your business as possible. This will help boost your website authority.
Link Quantity: Back in the wild, wild west days of SEO, the more backlinks you had, the better and back then it didn’t matter that much where the links came from. Times have changed.
Now, it’s all about quality. The more quality authoritative backlinks your site has, the better it’s going to rank.
That’s why it’s worth taking the time and finding ways to generate high quality backlinks. How? Here’s a couple quick win tips:
- Create super high quality relevant content (aim for over 2000 words)
- Reach out to high-quality blogging sites in your niche
- Become a guest on a podcast
- Start creating infographics (or have someone create an infographic for you (this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get backlinks fast. Try Fiverr or Upwork to find someone to build an infographic for you).
Link Anchor Text: Lots of local business owners are confused about what anchor text is. In a nutshell, anchor text is the text of a link. You’ve probably seen this type of anchor text link before – “click here” to learn more. The anchor text of that link is “click here.”
Google’s algorithm uses anchor text as hints as to what a page is all about.
For example, using “SEO Services” as your anchor text would tell Google that this specific page is about SEO services and would help the page rank for those keywords.
Quick tip, repeating the same anchor text over and over and over again can result in a penalty from Google as it looks spammy.
3. On-Page SEO
With everything going on in SEO these days, it can easy to forget that on-page signals are still a very important ranking factor when it comes to local SEO.
Taking a look again at Moz’s local SEO ranking factors study, on-page signals rank third and second in importance for showing up in the map pack results and organic page rankings respectively.
What are on-page signals? On-page signals refer to the influencing factors on the page you’re trying to rank.
Specifically, instances of NAP (name, address and phone number), keywords (especially the business location!) where relevant and authority of that domain.
As with anchor text (the #2 ranking signal, just in case you forgot), you do not want to stuff the page full of keywords or your city (or other cities you are trying to rank for).
However, mentioning your business name and location is going to give a good boost to the local SEO ranking chances of your site and strategically using keywords that are relevant to that page will also boost your local SEO rankings.
Some key places to pay special attention to on every page are:
Page Title Tag: This is easily one of the most important places to ensure your keywords are appropriately placed. Location and business name are key here and stay within the 50-60-character limit.
Meta Description: While this is more for users than for search engines, it is still very important as a well written meta description can increase your clickthrough rate drastically in comparison to your competition who barely has any description at all. Stay within the 100-300 character limit, use your main keywords and tell people why they should click your link.
The Page URL: Using you’re the city nad location where you business is located is a good start., especially if you have more than one location. If you can also include your targets keyword, you’re going to do really well.
Heading Tags: The first thing someone reads on your page is the page’s title and it should be in the form of a h1 tag. Be absolutely sure that the heading is relevant to the keyword you used to get people to your page from Google. The same rule applies for local SEO – always ensure anything in a heading tag is keyword-appropriate.
Alt Texts: This is for all your images. Any time you have an image, use its alt text as a means to reference your business name or location appropriately to the image.
But as always, be smart and pay attention to the rules. Keyword stuffing and creating low quality content as an attempt to boost your rankings will only work against you and waste your time.
4. Local Business Citations
A lot of local businesses owners aren’t aware of business citations and how they can affect their business, but citation Signals go hand-in-hand with your on-page and Google My Business signals.
So, what are citations signals?
Basically, citation signals are how well your business details – your NAP (name, address and phone number) - can be verified from other sources online. These sources are often business directories (such as Yelp or YellowPage), reviews from other sites and social media platforms.
Search engines (especially Google) are constantly crawling all over the internet looking for relevant data and any updates or changes.
If these crawlers find your business details specified in Google My Business, even without a link back to the business, shown elsewhere – it’s a positive factor your business and is another checkmark to Google showing that your business should be ranked higher.
Having the exact same address on the many different directories means your business is who you say you are.
This is very important.
The more coherence there is, provided they’re not on shady/spammy sites and directories, the more credible your business appears and with more credibility comes better ranking.
The only thing that really requires some focus when it comes to citation signals is NAP (name, address and phone number) is making sure your business shows up the same everywhere it’s mentioned on the internet.
If you search for your business online, you might even find places where your business is listed that you never thought was possible, which can be kind of scary.
The internet is a pretty big place, so how do you go about finding all your business citations? You can use a free tool from Whitespark to see every listing your business has online.
5. Online Reviews
This might not be that surprising, as reviews have been around before the internet came around. Back then reviews were referred to as “word of mouth.”
Now online reviews are a vital part of your businesses online success and simply can’t be ignored.
However, here’s a lesser known fact: Google is beginning to factor online reviews of a business into the way they rank their results. However, it’s primarily for the snack pack (Google Maps) results that they’re doing this.
Encouraging customers to provide honest (and hopefully good) feedback based on their experience at your business, on your Google My Business page, goes a long way towards legitimizing your business’ standing with Google.
There are a few best practices when it comes to reviews, that you need to be aware of:
- Never, ever pay for or solicit fake reviews as fake reviews will always do more harm than good. They can not only result in the site getting penalized, but fake reviews cam be spotted a mile away and if a customer sees fake reviews, they think bad service and that’s bad for your business.
- Business owners and workers should never write reviews themselves. This goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many reviews are written by employees and are stuffed with keywords.
- No matter what you do bad reviews are bound to happen and this can actually be a good thing because it humanizes your business. No one is perfect, and no business is perfect. Be sure to deal with negative reviews is gracious manner and make sure to actually respond as it can make your business actually look better for it.
6. Customer Behaviour
Behavioral Signals might sound strange, but they are important if you want your business to rank higher in local search results.
These signals are the information search engines collect on how users interact with your businesses website. There’s a lot of technical information that goes into behavioural signals, such as:
This is how often someone is clicking your business’ link in the search results compared to any other. The more people click through, the more relevant the business page will seem and the higher your business will rank.
If people arrive on your site and instantly realize this is not what they were looking for and immediately hit the “back” button to go back to the search results page, the search engine will start to assume the result they provided the searcher (the results being your website) isn’t relevant and lower its ranking.
Don’t be too worried. Bounce rates impact on local search rankings is still a controversial topic, so it might not even be an issue at all, but it is something you should pay attention too because if people are leaving your site, you are losing customers to your competition.
Mobile clicks to call:
If people on mobile are clicking to call your business directly from the search results, the search engine can assume it’s a good result and will reward your site by upping its ranking.
According to a study by Google and Ipsos, more than 40% of mobile searchers use click-to-call. That’s a lot of business to be made. Your phone number is set up so people can click the number and call you instantly from your website, right?
This is where people are “checking-in” to a business location, which is actually crawlable information for search engines. But that topic goes so deep, it’s worth reading Search Engine Land’s article on it instead.
When it comes to local SEO behavioural signals, there’s not much a business can do besides making their webpage relevant to its keyword. However, it’s always worth looking at optimizing a site if its loading slow or has any annoying attributes.
Search engines are evolving. Google is constantly changing up its algorithm and how it crawls websites. No two people get the same identical search any more.
Using cookies, previous search history and other known information about the searcher – search engines will tailor the search result in a slightly unique and personal way. For Local SEO, the most significant factor here is, obviously, location. But that’s not the full story.
Other factors that come into play in the personalization of a search are things like the mobile-friendliness of a site. If a person is searching from a mobile, your site isn’t going to perform well in the rankings of that search if Google don’t consider your site mobile friendly.
Having a mobile friendly website is more important than ever as over 60% of local searches are now done on a mobile device (thanks to Search Engine Land). Think about all that business you could be losing if your site isn’t mobile friendly.
Another great example of how personal searches are evolving is the use of voice-search.
When we use voice-searches, which account for almost 20% of all mobile searches, we ask questions – not keywords. Accounting for those questions (or long-tail keywords) will help a lot in the rankings.
8. Social Signals
Social signals are a controversial and confusing topic, especially when it comes to local SEO ranking factors. But in a few years, this might be #4 as it could be very important down the road.hen
There has been word from Google that social signals do play a role in local SEO and also that social signals don’t play a role in local SEO.
So, which one is it? This is why social signals can be so confusing.
However, with a ‘social signals study’ conducted by some intelligent marketers – it was determined that there is some impact that they have.
With that in mind, anyone looking to increase their ranking in local search results should pay close attention to:
- Growing your Facebook fans audience
- Getting as many Facebook likes and comments as possible
- Encouraging Facebook shares: Facebook shares are pure gold, as they result in another indexed page linking back to your business’ site
- Growing your Twitter follower base
- Encouraging customers to tweet about a brand and their experience there: Similarly, to the Facebook shares, tweets about your business provide another indexed page linking back to a business’ site
But, it is worth noting that there’s no real guarantee for real local SEO results here besides the social proof impact – for now.
Which is why it’s good to get ahead of the game if you can because it’s still worth being active on social media channels – that’s how you create customers that love your business!
SEO is a tricky topic. But hopefully, this was enough of an entry into the world of local SEO for you to get what you need from it. The only thing left for you to do is to take control of the information learned here and apply it in a relevant way.
Done right, over time you will see your business climb up to the first page of Google.
If done incorrectly, you could be stuck spinning your wheels, wasting your time getting nowhere, or worse, lose any rankings you had and start going backwards.
So, if you’re struggling, naturally – we’re here to help.
We are really good at SEO. In fact, some people call us SEO experts.
Contact Digital Envy today for all your local SEO needs.