Most companies are aware of their need to improve their SEO rankings but don’t know how ranking factors differ from the traffic to their site. Ranking factors are determined by how often your site is visited from different sources and devices. So, if you’re running a small business, it’s important to understand how Google’s recent changes in its algorithm will affect your ranking.
Before we jump into the specific ranking factors, it’s important to get your bearings on what we mean by local search engine optimization. “Local SEO” is a term used to describe the process of optimizing a website for Google’s map pack results. This can be different from traditional SEO, which is the process of optimizing a website for organic search engine results.
Why is local SEO important?
I won’t throw out random data. I want to show you some interesting facts that show how much SEO has impacted our businesses. 44% of all search results are local based (Search Engine Roundtable). 97% of searches on Google include local packs (RankRanger.com). This means local search accounts are an important part of the SEO industry. And when you have a local company in this search, it is conceivable that people will be calling you up in just a few minutes.
Intro to The Map Pack
The Map Pack or Local Pack consists of 3 local businesses that pull their location from Google maps for certain keywords. If you search for Barber Boston then you will see Google local search results. We’re going to talk about how Google is ranking businesses in Local Pack later. Map Packing is an algorithm that uses the same rulebook as any other pack. Certainly, ranking factors such as backlinks are useful for your local organic search results as well as organic results. Other criteria (like NAPs) are mostly only important to rank the maps.
The following are some of the most important local ranking factors you need to be aware of:
Google Business Profile Signals
This is a critical ranking factor for local businesses. Make sure you have complete and accurate information listed on your Google Business Profile, including your business hours, website, and contact information. You can also increase your chances of getting ranked in the Map Pack by using Google Business Profile posts.
Your Google Business Profile can contain rich data that will show up as justifications in the local search algorithm when visitors search certain keywords. For example, if you’re a locksmith, and someone searches for “locksmith near me,” your Google Business Profile might show a justification below your listing that says “provides locksmith services” because of the rich data it contains.
Other justifications can be pulled with your operating hours, your reviews, or even your linked website! It’s very important to make sure every field is filled out on your Google Business Profile.
Distance and Proximity
One important ranking factor for local business listings is proximity. Yes, Google is tracking your location whenever you use the search engine. Certain keywords only display local results, while others may show national or global businesses. The closer you are to the searcher, the higher you’ll rank in the Map Pack.
You can use tools to determine where you rank in local search results around your business address or your service area. One of our favorite tools is BrightLocal. It provides a map rank tool that looks similar to this:
NAPs are HUGE
NAP Citation is another important local Search Engine Ranking indicator. A NAP Citation is a site in which the name you are contacting is listed along with your physical address and phone number. Tell me the significance and importance? Google uses NAPs to ensure you have accurate business information. The more they see NAP Citations on your business, the more they are certain you have the address you are using and the phone is the right one. Therefore it’s important to obtain the same NAP Citations from all reliable sites you can.
There are several tools that can help you build citations. The most popular one is called Yext. You can also use Whitespark, BrightLocal, and Moz Local to get started.
It’s important to understand that you should not just spam your NAP to every business directory on the internet. You should only cite your business on relevant and strategic directories.
For example, if you run a roofing business, you should not cite your business on Tripadvisor because nobody would look for hotel reviews for a roofing company. However, you should definitely cite your business on directories like HomeAdvisor and Angi because people looking for roofing companies are likely to also look there.
Make sure the NAPs are consistent across all of your citations. This includes the spelling of your business name, the address, and the phone number.
Google Reviews and Ratings
One of the most important ranking factors for local businesses is native Google Reviews and Ratings. These reviews will help your business rank higher in the Map Pack and in local search results.
Make sure you encourage your customers to leave Google Reviews for your business. You can use a tool like Google Review Link Generator to generate a unique review link for your business.
You should make sure you respond to all of the reviews you receive. This will show Google that you’re engaged with your customers and that you care about their experience with your business.
Local Schema Markup
One of the best ways to show Google that you’re a local business is by using Local Schema Markup. This is a code that you can add to your website’s HTML that will help Google identify your business as being local. You can use the Structured Data Testing Tool to check if your website has correctly implemented Local Schema Markup.
You can also use the Google Business Profile plugin to add your business information to your website. This will help you automatically generate Local Schema Markup for your website.
What is Structured Data and Why is it Important?
Structured data is a way of organizing data so that it can be understood by computers. This is important because it allows search engines to understand the content of your website.
By adding structured data to your website, you’re telling Google that you want your website to be displayed in the Rich Snippets section of the search results.
There are several types of structured data that you can add to your website, but the most common one is the Schema Markup. This code tells Google which type of business you are and provides additional information about your business such as physical address, phone number, hours of operation, and website.
Local SEO Ranking Factor: Google Business Profile Tips
Research indicates that about 68% of searchers prefer the 3-pack Map Pack while 27% prefer organic results and only 10% trust the paid search results. This is why it is so important to optimize your Google Business Profile! These tips will help you nail it with local SEO rankings.
Google Business Profile Categories
Another way of telling Google that you’re a local business is by choosing the correct primary category for your business in the Google Business Profile.
There are several categories to choose from, but you should choose the one that best describes your business. Google may define new secondary categories for you based on your linked website, reviews, or Q&A content.
Categories are an excellent way to immediately get ranked for those relevant searches.
Google Posts are a great way to boost your local SEO.
Posts are short updates that appear in the Google Posts section of your Business Profile. They’re a great way to share news about your business, current promotions you are offering, customer testimonials and success stories, or featuring services or products.
We recommend posting 4 times monthly at a minimum.
Make sure your business hours are correct and up to date in the Google Business Profile.
This is important because it tells Google when your business is open. If you’re closed on Sundays, make sure to list that in your profile. Google may suspend your profile if someone reports that you are not open during the business hours you define, so be careful here!
You can also use business hours to encourage visitors to book an appointment with your business listing.
Service Area Definition
If you offer services in specific areas, you can define your service area in the Google Business Profile.
This will tell Google which areas you service and will help you rank for those relevant local searches.
The best way to rank for service areas is to define them in your Google Business Profile and then replicate them in service area pages on your website. This will provide local searchers with relevant results when searching in other locations.
Detailed Business Information
You have the opportunity to impact your local rankings by filling out the paragraph about your business. You should make sure to only use relevant keywords so as not to get caught for miscategorizing your business listing.
Google Business Profile > Your Website
Moz recently conducted a monthly “local search ranking factor survey” on its website. It’s a study conducted by the Google Marketing Research Institute. Your site will be of much importance. The on page signals of your website is a major factor in determining the ranking of maps packs. If you want your GBP to rank #1 you need to have website pages to match your Google Business Profile.
For example, if your Google Business Profile features a service offering of Emergency Roadside Repair, create a page on your website with that exact service name and then make that service on your Google Business Profile. You will see a boost in rank for the keyword of emergency roadside repair.
Google loves seeing active profiles and often times when the only difference between competitors is one is regularly adding new photos, they will get ranked higher in the Google local search results.
We recommend adding 2-3 new photos per week. These photos should not be perfect or professional, but more organic and natural. They could be of your office, your new product, before and after on a service, pictures with your happy customers, pictures of your crew working hard, etc.
This section provides you with another opportunity to demonstrate your authority as a business as well as feature relevant keywords to display your profile with more local organic search results.
Services & Products
What better way to provide more local business profile matches for keywords than to build out all of your services and products in your profile? This provides more opportunities to appear in local search rankings when someone searches for your particular service or product.
One of the most important ranking factors for local businesses is mobile optimization.
Google has been increasingly emphasizing the importance of mobile search, and businesses that aren’t optimized for mobile will start to lose ground to their competitors.
Make sure your website is responsive and that it looks good on all devices.
You should also check that all of your contact information is easily accessible on mobile devices.
As Google tweaks its algorithms, it’s more important than ever for businesses to stay on top of the latest local SEO ranking factors. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your business listing appears as high as possible in local search results.
Confused about any of these concepts? Reach out to Bauertech today for a free strategy call!