Local search ranking signals
25 Local Search Ranking Signals Every Business Owner Must Know
Every business that provides services to customers within a set geographical area needs local SEO to thrive online.
It’s only when you optimize your online presence for local SEO that customers within close proximity to your business will begin find you in local search results.
For example, if you own a plumbing business in Flat Rock and you have optimized your online presence for local SEO, when searchers in your local area type in “plumbers near flat rock” into Google, your business will appear on the first page of search results like Everyone’s Plumbing & Handyman Services.
To rank higher in local search results, you’ll need to optimize your online presence for the ranking signals that search engines use to evaluate websites and businesses that will appear in local search.
In this article, we’ll show you 25 ranking signals that will help improve your local SEO efforts.
Here's 25 Local Search Ranking Factors
1. Google My Business (GMB)
You need to set up your Google My Business listing and make sure you fill in all the required information. Add your core business information to your profile including:
- Brand name
- Business address
- Contact information
- Business description
Make sure your information is consistent with what you have everywhere else on the internet to avoid inconsistencies that could cause Google to penalize you.
2. Keywords In GMB Name
Adding relevant local keywords to your business name is one of the most effective ways to improve your local search rankings since it is a major local ranking signal.
However, the name you use in your GMB listing must be your real legal business name and not your business name with local keywords added to it as modifiers.
Google frowns on such keyword stuffing practices and your GMB listing could be suspended.
If you want to optimize your current business name with local keywords, you can rebrand your business, and change the legal name of your company.
3. GMB Category
When setting up your GMB profile, Google lets you select a primary category that best describes your business. You can also provide business attributes and descriptions.
The category you choose will influence how Google relates your business to local search queries and you must ensure that the category you choose is one that provides the most accurate description of your business.
For example, don’t select “take out restaurant” as your business category if your business is a Chinese food restaurant.
4. Add Photos & Videos To Your GMB Profile
5. Bing Places For Business
The dominant search platform is Google, but the Microsoft Bing search engine also holds 6% of the global search market.
This isn’t much, but claiming your Bing Places For Business listing is still worth the effort. Doing so will ensure your business profile appears in search results for relevant queries on the Bing search engine.
6. Online Citations
Google checks your business listing in online directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, Citysearch, and others to verify the authenticity and accuracy of the information you provided in your GMB listing.
These directory (citation) websites also appear in search results. For example, if you type “real estate agents near Taylor MI” into Google, the bulk of the search results you will get after the Map Pack are business directories.
Use “city + industry + directory” as a keyword to search for a relevant local business directory in Downriver. Make sure the information you provide on each platform is consistent with what you have elsewhere.
7. Business Relevance
Google uses relevance to match local businesses to search queries. Relevance to Google means how well your business focus fits with the search intent of the local buyer.
If your products and services are exactly what the searcher is looking for, Google will show your business in local search results.
8. Business Proximity
Proximity looks for local businesses that are within the immediate geographical location of the searcher.
Google will determine the relevant geographical area based on everything it knows about the location of the searcher even when the user does not specify any city/town/state in the search query.
You can optimize your online presence for proximity by incorporating local keywords on your website and creating localized blog content.
9. Business Prominence
Google evaluates all online activity that relates to your brand and use it to gauge the local popularity and credibility of your brand.
If Google sees your business as very prominent, it will rank you high in local search results. The key to optimizing your online presence for this ranking signal is to populate your profile with 5-star reviews and publish lots of localized content
10. Positive Reviews
Positive reviews help instill confidence in your brand and they also convince Google to rank you higher.
93% of buyers read reviews, and poor review ratings will discourage potential buyers from becoming your customers which will negatively impact your online conversions.
Make sure you reach out to your loyal customers and explain the importance of their positive feedback to the success of your business online. If they are happy customers, they will gladly leave 5-star reviews on your online profiles.
11. Reviews With Relevant Keywords + Location
Positive customer reviews are good but the SEO impact of those reviews reaches another level when they include keywords or locations that are relevant to your brand.
If you are a service-based business and you have listed your services on your GMB listing, Google usually prompts searchers to provide feedback on the relevant service that the reviewer experienced.
This gets reviewers to post content about your business that will likely include keywords that are relevant to your brand.
12. Reviews With Responses
For positive reviews, show your appreciation to your loyal customers and thank them for supporting your business.
On the other hand, every business will get negative reviews, and what’s important is how well you respond to complaints of such reviewers.
13. Your Facebook Business Page
Lots of local buyers use Facebook to search for local businesses and you need to create a Facebook page for your business.
Google looks at social signals like Facebook following, brand-related shares, age of Facebook account, and consistency of your profile information.
14. Facebook Reviews
Just like reviews on your GMB profile and your profiles on other review sites, customer reviews on Facebook is also an important ranking signal.
Make sure the overwhelming number of customer reviews on your page are positive and aim for a 5-star review rating.
15. Other Social Media Profiles
Facebook is not the only social media platform where you can create a profile for your local business and engage with customers.
Research your target customers and identify the social platforms that they frequent.
Create a presence on those platforms and make sure you are super active.
16. Social Mentions
A social mention is when anyone name-drops your brand-name on any of the social media platforms.
The more social mentions you are getting, the more Google deduces that your business is popular with the local audience and will rank you high in local search.
However, the social mentions you are getting must largely be in a positive context. Google will gauge the perception of your brand on the internet to determine if the overall sentiment is positive or negative.
You can use a tool like Hootsuite to track social mentions of your brand.
17. Consistent NAP
This is your business name, address, and phone number. This information must be the same on your website, GMB profile, industry directory profile, and every other place your business details are available online.
I have highlighted the importance of consistent information multiple times in this article and that’s because Google values accurate and consistent information.
You can use a tool like Synup to search the internet and verify the consistency of your NAP information across the different business listing platforms.
18. Mobile Responsiveness
This is one of the most important ranking factors for both traditional and local SEO.
With 77% of local searchers use their mobile devices to look for local businesses, Google won’t give much attention to businesses with websites that have not been optimized for mobile.
Test the mobile-friendliness of your website with the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool and if your website is not mobile-responsive, you need to work with your web designer to make the necessary changes.
19. Page Speed
Just like mobile responsiveness, page speed is a major ranking factor for traditional and local SEO.
Google cares about user experience and few customers will wait patiently while your business website takes 15 seconds to load.
Slow site speed will lead to high bounce rates and this is a negative signal that will make Google penalize your website in search rankings.
20. Structured Data Markup
Schema markup is code that makes it easy for search engine bots to better understand the content of your website.
Markup can help provide clarity about your business type, opening and closing hours, business address, contact information, and others.
21. Click-Through Rates (CTR)
This is the number of people who clicked the link to your website compared to the total number of searchers that saw your website link in search results.
If more local searchers click the link to your website, your CTR will increase and vice versa.
If you want to improve your CTR, optimize your page titles and meta descriptions that appear in search results with the right local keywords.
22. On-Page Signals
23. Localized Content
Blogging is an essential strategy to populate your website with relevant local keywords and to build awareness about your business.
When writing articles for your blog, create content that is useful to your local customers and optimize each article for SEO.
24. High-Quality Backlinks
A high number of high-quality backlinks from local authority sites in your niche signals to Google that those websites are giving your site a vote of confidence on the quality and credibility of your content & brand.
The higher the domain authority (DA) of the local sites linking back to you, the more Google will trust your site and rank you higher.
It is also great for SEO when the inbound links from those authority sites include your location and keywords relevant to your brand.
25. Personalization Signals
This cannot be influenced by your SEO optimization efforts since it is shaped by the browsing history, language, device, and location of the searcher.
Personalization signals are factors like the search history and language of the user which Google uses to determine the type of content that will be relevant to the searcher.
You can’t do much to optimize for this ranking signal except to make your website content available in multiple languages.
Final Thoughts on Local Search Ranking Signals
Only Google knows the full scope of ranking signals used in local search, but optimizing your website for the 25 ranking factors listed above will go a long way to boost your online presence for local SEO.