Ronak Kothari is the founder of RONKOT, a full-service digital marketing agency.
It’s a fact that Google keeps search algorithms as confidential as possible to maintain a fair and transparent ranking system. However, it offers best practices for webmasters to optimize their website and Google Business Profile (GBP) for ranking higher in local search.
Ranking in the local pack and organic search relies on several factors, which makes it difficult to know where you should dedicate your efforts. However, to rank well on the relevant local search terms, it’s important that you pay attention to local SEO ranking factors.
Today, getting success in local SEO has become more competitive than ever. That’s why we are going to dive deep into the top local SEO ranking factors that small business owners must focus on.
Top Local Search Ranking Factors to Boost Your Local Presence
Keep in mind that the following ranking factors present a combined value for both local pack and organic search. Thus, they are not ranked in the order of importance. Some of them will have a strong impact on the local pack (Map results) but not on the organic results.
However, we’ll explain what local SEO factors should you consider the most when optimizing either of the two. But for now, let’s start without further delay.
1. On-Page Signals
As per data by Whitespark, on-page signals have as much as 34% importance for websites while for GBP optimization, it carries a weightage of 16%. So, mastering this SEO aspect for your small business will always be essential to build a local web presence.
On-page factors such as domain authority, content quality, keyword optimization on websites & GBP landing page impact greatly on your local rankings. Irrespective of the importance level, on-page signals increase your chances of appearing in both organic as well local pack rankings.
Here’s what you can do to improve your on-page signals:
- Improve content quality and relevancy.
- Write for humans first and not for bots in a way that fulfills users’ search intent.
- Optimize for location-specific keywords in titles, headings, meta descriptions, and URLs.
- Create dedicated pages with local content in mind to boost your local authority.
- Frequently mention the location you serve throughout your website or GBP landing page.
2. Link Profile Signals
Backlinks are an important ranking signal with a 31% score for websites and 17% for local pack results. The link profile signals include anchor text from referring domains, authority of referring domains, & quantity of unique referring domains.
When building links, quality vs quantity is a highly debated point. The quality is, of course, important when building links as one quality backlink is more valuable than ten bad backlinks. However, that’s not enough to rank well on top.
As per Backlinko research, the #1 Google page has an average of 3.8 times more backlinks than pages ranking on #2 to #10. Thus, to outrank your competitors, you’d have to build as many quality backlinks as possible. And here’s how you can approach the same:
- First, form a link-building strategy with all the possible ways to acquire new links.
- Reach out to the local press, news publications, and relevant businesses to seek a mention of your website on their platform.
- Find blogs that publish relevant content as your business for guest blog publication.
- Find more authoritative local business directories, industry-specific directories, and sponsorship opportunities to build quality links.
- Monitor your competitors and try to replicate their link profiles.
3. Google Business Profile Signals
GBP signals are primarily used by Google to determine the local pack rankings. It has an almost 36% weightage for the local pack, while only 6% for organic rankings.
If you are more concerned with the local pack ranking of your small business that too in the vicinity of your location, optimizing the Google Business Profile is your best bet.
Local businesses like plumbers, contractors, and others that need higher rankings in local searches, must optimize their Google business profile. This can draw in a significant amount of traffic and quality leads.
GBP factors that affect local rankings include relevance, distance, primary category, target keyword in the title, and others. Here’s more on how you can optimize the same:
- Assign the right category to your GBP.
- Include the target keyword in your business name for a higher ranking. Insertion should not look forceful.
- Keep it as relevant as possible as Google may show you GBP even if your business is furthest away from the searcher’s location.
- Be thorough when filling out your GBP profile as customers are 2.7 times more likely to consider a reputable business, 70% are more likely to visit, and 50% may consider purchasing only if the GBP profile is complete and provides necessary information.
4. Review Signals
Reviews are another important local SEO ranking factor with great influence on local pack results but not so much for organic results. Since they are vital as 98% of consumers read reviews when they want to engage with small businesses.
What mostly affects your ranking is the number of reviews with positive sentiment, response rate, review diversity, high numerical rating, and more such things. Here’s what you can do to improve your review signals:
- Ensure you get a high number of reviews with a positive tone and sentiment.
- Go an extra mile to offer world-class services to your customers that inspire them to leave a review.
- Handle negative reviews aptly to convert them into positive experiences.
- Encourage or incentivize customers to leave a review after they engage or visit your store.
- The recently added positive and keyword-driven reviews provide clear benefits for your local SEO rankings.
5. Behavioral Cues
Behavioral cues like dwell time, click-through rate, bounce rate, and others have a mild impact on your local SEO rankings. Their importance as ranking signals has varied over the years.
However, optimizing for such signals is essential as they are a reliable source of information for Google and are less prone to manipulation. Let’s see how you can improve your behavioral signals:
- Instead of finding ways to exploit them, focus on providing the best user experience.
- Improve your website’s page speed, content, blogs, and other things for higher dwell time, CTR, and other local SEO KPIs.
- Improve the relevance and reputation of your business to get a high CTR for your GBP.
6. Citation Signals
Citation from local review sites, its volume, location data, NAP consistency, etc. are important signals that somewhat impact your local rankings.
As a ranking factor, citations have consistently dropped in percentage from 18% & 11% in 2013 for local pack and organic search to 7% in 2021 for both respectively. Still, they are valuable for Google when determining how much ranking exposure it should give a particular page or GBP profile.
Here’s what you can do to keep your rankings high:
- Keep tabs on your business information across all citations to ensure everything is in order.
- Create as many structured citations i.e. business listings on relevant directories and forums as possible.
- Citations are a quick way to earn backlinks from trustworthy & authoritative sources and are considered valuable by Google.
7. Personalization Signals
Personalization may affect your organic ranking a bit more than your local pack rankings. Their importance has also declined over the years, however, personalization impacts your behavioral data, which then impacts your on-page signals and ultimately helps improve your local rankings.
It includes search history, user location, devices used, search medium, and others. Even though there’s not much from an SEO perspective you can do, here’s how you can personalize the experience of users to improve your local rankings:
- Improve mobile friendliness for users accessing your website from mobile.
- Implement translation of pages based on the user location/country.
- Improve customer experience to make them keep coming back for the same.
So, these were the top local SEO ranking factors grouped into 7 categories. Some of them have a strong impact while few have a mild impact on your local rankings. Let’s get deeper into the individual local SEO ranking factors for local pack and organic search results.
Now that we have discussed the factors affecting your local rankings, you can start at once to optimize your websites, GBP, and other local business listings to see an improvement. One of the primary challenges small businesses faced was to give direction to their local SEO effort.
Since we have covered the most prominent factors, businesses can concentrate on — to not only improving their local rankings but also their conversion. If still in doubt, you can always contact an expert-led team of local SEO professionals such as Ronkot.