What is Local Search Engine Ranking?
Search is evolving more than ever: here are the top predictions for SEO this year.
Local search engine ranking factors for 2019 have been announced in the latest yearly round up by Moz.
According to Search Engine Land, nearly half of all the searches made online are for local business services or solutions (you can read the full post here which goes in-depth on the ins and outs of the study).
Local search engine ranking allows your website to be easily found on search engines when someone performs a localized services search. For example, when a search is made for services your company provides from a location near you, you should be easily found in the search results.
It’s important to understand what causes local search engine rankings to occur. Understanding the top factors for ranking will greatly influence your rankings on search engines.
From Google’s perspective, it is estimated that the majority of local businesses are missing out on this opportunity as they are not well optimized for local search engine rankings.
Factors that Influence Local Search Engine Rankings
Google’s ultimate objective is to provide search results that are most relevant to the search made and will result in the highest user satisfaction. This business made them a whopping $63 billion last year.
Find more statistics at Statista.
Here’s a look at 3 of the top ranking factors for Google local SEO.
Relevance is when you have positioned your online content effectively to provide solutions that are searched for on search engines.
Here are some of the top content factors you can control:
- The content on your Google My Business page
- The content on your website
Above all other SEO activities, relevant content is the top factor that will help you achieve competitive rankings.
To enhance your relevance, and consequently your local rankings, identify the keywords used by search engine users who want the services you provide. Then, curate the description of your business on your Google My Business (GMB) page and tailor content that has accurate target keywords and offers relevant information to the user on your website.
To enhance your website’s relevance, you also need to set up locations where you have a physical presence on your GMB and website. (Secret Sauce Tip: Embed a Google Map on your website which will help provide direction to users and Google regarding your physical location.)
When creating your Google My Business page (the top factor for higher local search engine rankings) it’s important to fill it out completely. When doing this, ensure that you enter address location information nearest to the city you’re trying to rank (you must be able to receive mail at this location for a pin code) as Google will show results that are closest to the searchers IP location.
For example, let’s say you are traveling to a new city and you’re hungry. You whip out your mobile device and search for coffee shops in the city that you’re in (i.e. “coffee Seattle”). This is known as geo-modified search, as Google tracks and indicates the name of the city you are in based upon your geolocation.
Once you’ve completed your search, coffee shops within the city that fit the relevance of your search and have indicated their location in the Google My Business page will appear.
Non-geo modified searches, on the other hand, do not include a location name (they are most often searched as “coffee shops near me”). If the search term is for a quick solution such as ‘coffee shops’, search engines will also return results of coffee shops based upon their distance from you and their content relevancy.
(Secret Sauce Tip: Ensure that you have a website where you implement content on the service you provide and the location where you provide the service. You need to have your services and locations in a web page title, description, and in the content that you use.)
Businesses should ensure that they manage their reputation both online and offline. Every business owner claims they provide amazing services (which is not that unique) but most businesses fail to request good reviews from their customers (this is the secret sauce that can help you beat your competitors).
Search engines want to ensure that they provide users with highly reputable businesses. Businesses should develop as good a reputation and image online as they have offline.
There are several methods for enhancing the online reputation of a business. The main one is reviews.
Reviews are the online version of word of mouth. If a company has several glowing reviews from customers, search engines will show it more often as it has already been approved by others as a reputable and relevant solution provider to their problem.
It is also very important that businesses respond to negative reviews appropriately to ensure that they do not reflect badly on the business and lower the business rankings on local search engine search results.
When seeking to improve the local search engine rankings of your business, remember to build and manage online relevance and reputation and to ensure that your business and service locations are prominently displayed in your Google My Business (GMB) listing and all other online business directories that you use.
Top Factors Affecting Your Google Map Rankings
Claim and optimize your Google My Business Page
This is the first step to high local search engine rankings. Claim your GMB listing and ensure that you fill in all the details appropriately. Fill in the correct name of the business as it is known. Ensure that you provide the correct contact information and opening and closing time.
If you have other listings in other online directories, ensure that all the details provided are consistent and accurate. When the information on your Google My Business listing and other directories is not consistent, your search engine rankings are likely to be affected, as search engines want to offer only correct and relevant information. This is called “NAP Consistency” (Name, Address, Phone).
If your business has a website, link it to your Google My Business listing. Also, remember to give directions to your location and also embed a map for easier viewing and traveling to your location.
If you have several physical locations, claim a separate Google My Business listing for all your locations and have separate location pages on your website (each should be linked up appropriately).
You need to ensure that you also fill in the correct categories.
Filling Out Categories in the “Google My Business” Listing
When filling out the Google My Business listing, ensure that you fill in the categories relevant to your business.
The categories in Google My Business listing are keywords that help with ranking on local search engine results.
When you fill in the wrong category, you will appear in searches for different products which will not help you out at all.
For example, if a diner fills in the category of a “pizza restaurant,” it will appear in searches for pizza. If you’re sending customers to your diner who expect a pizza place, then they are probably not going to give you a great review when you don’t have pizza! This could also negatively affect your rankings on search engines.
You need to fill in only those categories specific to your business.
Organic: Google Local Pack and Organic Results
Google Local Pack refers to a box on the Google search results page that returns three local business or solutions relevant to the user’s search. We also call this the “snack pack”. Organic results then follow the local pack. The businesses that appear in this box have claimed and optimized their Google My Business listing.
For better local search engine rankings, it’s important that every business strives to also appear in organic results. This requires both on-page and off-page SEO efforts, which constitute about 30% of the reason why your GMB listing ranks higher.
- On-page is the proper organization of the content on your website.
- Off-page is the proper organization of the content off of your website.
On-Page: Have a Website with Relevant Content
Relevancy is a huge factor in ranking for both local and national SEO. To appear on local search engines, it’s important that your website contains high-quality content that engages the visitor and keeps them coming back for more.
When this occurs, Google considers your site an authority site. I’ve created an exhaustive post here on the effects on-page SEO can have on your rankings – on-page signals constitute up to 70% of the reason why you rank.
Authority sites have a high quantity of high-quality inbound links. They also have high-quality outbound links from their posts and pages. These links lead to search engines to view them as relevant and reliable sites for the solutions that they provide.
Ratings & Reviews
Like offline businesses, high ratings and reviews by search engine users ensure that local businesses rank high on local search results.
High ratings and reviews convey that a business is good at what it does. It shows that it is an authority in its field and search engines love authorities and experts.
Experts who are able to attract more people to their site and business and solve pertinent problems are given higher priority by search engines and thus help improve their local search engine rankings.
Volume of Searches for the Business Name
When search engines realize that a specific business has a high volume of searches for their brand, they consider it to be an authority and expert in its field. This is a top ranking popularity signal that will help improve your local results.
Providing Images of the Business Location
All search results that appear on the Google local pack have images. It is important that businesses provide images of their business location; add as many images as possible in your GMB.
Factors Affecting Local Rankings in Organic Results
Besides the Google Pack of local search results, local search engines result pages also produce organic results just below the Google pack.
If your business does not get featured on the Google local map pack, you may need to work on your organic results. Again, organic signals are about 30% of the reason why you rank.
One major similarity with ranking in the Google pack and high in the local organic results is the requirement to ensure that the Google My Business listing is completely filled in, as this is still the top factor for rankings (8%).
Here’s some other factors that also affect organic:
Local SEO, just like web SEO, is also reliant on links coming to and from different websites. Search engines identify and recognize the expertise, relevance, and usefulness of a website through the links that link to and from it.
High-quality inbound links denote that the website is an authority in its field. As a result, it will rank high in the organic results for search engine users (27%).
Volume of Quality Content in the Website
When local businesses set up websites, they should ensure that they have regular content updates, as this is a factor that determines how well they will do in the local search engine rankings (26%).
Pages and pages of high-quality content that link to one another ensure that visitors spend more time on a site. This is a good indication to search engines that the site is not only filled with content, but also has high-quality, relevant, and useful content.
A content strategy is a key aspect of local SEO discipline. A good content strategy provides lots and lots of ideas to the business to ensure that they can deliver high-quality content regularly to their audience and search engines.
Generally, the more quality content, the higher the chances of a search engine ranking the website well.
Indication of a Physical Address
Local search engine results are geography based. For websites to rank highly on local search results, it is important that they indicate the specific location they provide their services from.
For websites without a real physical location indicated on them, it will be highly unlikely for them to rank high on local search results.
Additionally, it is important that businesses append the map that provides directions to their actual physical location (GMB signal 8%).
Service and location is an important factor to consider for high rankings on local search results. Take for example an attorney working out of a large city such as New York. For their website to rank highly for a busy city it should have a keyword for the physical location and service provided such as “Divorce Lawyer in New York.”
Including a keyword for the location and service that is likely to be searched for leads to higher chances of being found by both search engine users and by the search engine themselves. Learn more about keyword research here.
Is your business listed in local business directories (8%)?
You need to have your business name, address, and phone number listed correctly across all the top ranking citations sites like Yelp, info.com, and Facebook.
Quality of the Website
How well is your site designed? Is it secure and safe according to search engines? Websites that use the HTTPS protocol by default are considered safe and secure by search engines.
It is unlikely for unsafe websites to rank. Website owners should install an SSL certificate and use a quality hosting service like WPEngine.com, which we use for all of our clients at Fannit.
You may need to redesign and develop your website for better usability, or you may need to audit your website for SEO issues. Here’s an in-depth post on how you can audit your website.
Mobile Responsiveness of the Website
Mobile device access is a major contributing factor to behavioral habits (11.5%).
Local searches are often conducted with mobile devices.
When it is difficult to use websites on mobile devices users tend to leave and search for another site that is more mobile device friendly.
Ready to optimize your website? Download our checklist and start today: