Local Search Ranking Factors

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From attending a webinar hosted by Moz and conducted by Darren Shaw from Whitespark, I discovered quit a lot of great information regarding local search ranking factors to do with Google’s local pack. In this post, I will be sharing the information that I learned.

Important Signals for Ranking Local Packs

Google MyBusiness factors were up by over 30% from 2017 to 2018, reviews were up over 17% from 2017 to 2018, and on-page signals were up only very slightly from 2017 to 2018. However, it would be safe to assume this trend will only continue forward throughout 2019.

With the weight of importance being put so strongly on Google MyBusiness, reviews, and on-page factors by those searching for local businesses, I can only emphasis here as to the importance of these options being focused on this year.

What?

Are you say that you do not have a Google MyBusiness account setup? Well then, there’s the FIRST step you need to take in order to help improve your site’s rank in local search results.

Links, citations, social signals, and other issues that were important in years past, have decreased in importance. This proves the need for those with websites for local businesses to remain diligent in what is trending when it comes to SEO factors.

A major change in Google’s local search happened on Thursday, August 6th [2018] – a new way of listing local businesses in search results was rolled out, changing the previous “local 7-pack”, where seven local businesses were featured, to a trimmed “local 3-pack” view.

Source: link-assistant.com

In order to get a sense of the importance a screen print of Google's local pack for Oshawa awardsof the different factors that drive local pack ranking… according to a survey conducted by Darren Shaw, those who were surveyed rated the following local pack factors as the most important aspect… in the order of importance they are as follows:

  1. proximity of address to the point of the search,
  2. the physical address in the city of the search,
  3. having your proper Google MyBusiness category associations set,
  4. having product/service keywords in your Google MyBusiness title,
  5. the location keyword in your Google MyBusiness title

These are all significant ranking factors. Never stuff keywords ANYWHERE… but especially not your Google MyBusiness account.

Other local pack important ranking factors in the order of importance are as follows:

  • Types and quality of inbound links
  • Consistency of citations
  • Domain authority of website
  • Completeness of your Google MyBusiness account
  • Quality of inbound links to your Google MyBusiness landing page URL
  • Quality of Google reviews
  • Click-through rates from search results
  • Product/Service keywords in reviews for your business
  • Quality/Authority of structured citations
  • Proximity of address to position of searcher or centroid
  • Product/Service keywords in your Google MyBusiness landing page title
  • Height of ratings of your business by Google users (1 to 5)
  • Page authority of your Google MyBusiness landing page URL

Proximity: This issue is most noticeable when using a mobile device to do the searching for local businesses. The closer you are to a type of business that you are looking for, the higher in the local pack that business will appear in your search results… providing your geolocator (GPS) app is set to ON for your mobile device.

Though, this type of search might not be as useful to you when looking for, let’s say, the best real estate lawyer in the area.  Simply because, the law office that is closest to you is the solicitor that will be offered to you in your local pack search results. The same would be for pest control businesses, banks, etc.

However, you can use this knowledge to make sure your business ranks, providing you have completed your Google MyBusiness account properly.

Proximity to centroid is a factor when performing a local search from outside of the area or city.

Local Organic: This type of search results can also help your local pack ranking as your local pack ranking can help your website rank in the local organic search results listed below the local pack results.

The local organic results factors for 2018 are as follows:

  • Link (quality and number) – 27.94%
  • On-page SEO – 26.03%
  • Behavioural issues (example: bounce rates) – 11.50%
  • Google MyBusiness – 8.85%
  • Citation consistency – 8.41%
  • Personalization – 7.32%
  • Reviews (quality and number) – 6.47%
  • Social media activity – 3.47%

Citations: Prominence on key industry-relevant domains is only one citation factor. You could literally list your website on all of the relevant specific business listings and directories. This is an easy strategy that as a local business owner, you could focus on to really boost your local organic ranking as well.

Focusing on Google’s Local Pack

For local pack results the following factors (according to a survey conducted by Darren Shaw) are considered foundational, and these are listed in the order of importance:

  • Proper Google MyBusiness categories associations set
  • Consistency of citations
  • Physical address in the city of the search
  • Proximity of address to the point of the search
  • Completeness of your Google MyBusiness listing
  • Verified Google MyBusiness listing
  • HTML NAP matching Google MyBusiness listing NAP
  • Quality/Authority of structured citations
  • Mobile-friendly/Responsive website

For local pack results the following factors (according to a survey conducted by Darren Shaw) are considered competitive difference makers (ways to out rank your competition).

  • Quality/Authority on inbound links to domain
  • Quality of native Google reviews
  • Domain authority of website
  • Quality/Authority of inbound links to your Google MyBusiness landing page URL
  • Product/Service keywords in your reviews
  • High numerical ratings of your business by Google users
  • Quality of inbound links to domain from locally-relevant domains
  • Click-through rate from search results
  • Positive sentiment in reviews
  • Volume of quality content on entire website

Apparently, some factors that many businesses have been focusing on over the past year are as follows:

  • Quality of inbound links to domain
  • Quantity of Google Posts – consistently and topically posted
  • Quantity of native Google reviews
  • Topical product/service keywords relevant to the business
  • Associations of videos with Google MyBusiness location
  • Associations of images with Google MyBusiness listing
  • Volume of content on Google MyBusiness landing page
  • Quantity of inbound links to landing page URL from industry-relevant domains
  • Reference to location specific entities of Google MyBusiness landing page
  • Quantity of inbound links to domain from locally-relevant domains

Apparently, many local businesses are now starting to use Google Posts and they are finding this to be helpful as another ranking factor. Looks like Google may be replacing Google+ with Google Posts.

screen print of the Posts on Google web page

If you already have a verified Google MyBusiness account, all you need to do is sign into it and click on “Posts” from the left sidebar, as shown in the screen print below.

screen print of Parr's Publishing Google MyBusiness Posts popup window

When the popup window appeared (shown in the screen print above), closed it… and, VOILA! There is where you will need to begin.

Simply click on the line below where it states “Write your post”, as shown in the screen print below.

screen print of Parr's Publishing "Write your post" page

Then, once you have clicked there to start, you will get a NEW popup window, like the one shown in the screen print below:

screen print of popup window that appears when clicking on the line under "Write your post"

Now you are ready to begin. You can add a photo or a video too, if you would prefer.

As far as I know there is no limitation. So, you can write, share your videos and your photos… the more the merrier, providing they are all relevant to your business.

SIDE NOTE: I did try finding my “knowledge panel” (as Google calls it from the Post domain shown above) from my business Google listing and could find no option offered to “Click this knowledge panel”, as Google clearly states as being available in Google business listings now.

screen print of Google's local pack for Parr's Publishing without the knowledge panel displayed

Being anxious to give this new option a try, I posted my first Google post… and what I discovered, you NEED to know before you try publishing your first post on your Google MyBusiness account.

First off, there are no recommended dimensions for the image you can use for your post so you may find yourself adjusting your image until it displays as you want it to. Do make sure that the image you use works to grab the attention of viewers of your local pack.

Secondly, don’t make the mistake I did; I thought the 1,500 shown at the very bottom in the “Create Post” form (shown in screen print above) was for the word count of my post, and so I worked away at creating a post with about 700 works only to discover that the 1,500 is for character count and NOT word count.

In the first Google post I created, my word count was all of 261 words and only slightly less than the 1,500 characters allowed.

Google Posts are more of a snippet than a post, so you won’t need to worry about offering posts with a lot of content, but rather with quality snippets of information.

Do NOT worry about inserting links, but DO plan on using the option to add a button to your Google post. My Order online button will take you to my Contact web page where you can state what it is you want to have done for you.

Now my post appears as seen on the screen print below, which I noticed is still not titled as “Knowledge Panel”:

screen print of Google's local pack for Parr's Publishing with a new post displayed

Some of the factors for local pack results that were focused on less over the past year are as follows:

  • Consistency of citations on anything beyond the top 20 recognized sites
  • Proximity of address to centroid
  • Quantity of engagement metrics on Google+ (example: comments, shares, etc.)
  • Authority/Quality of engagement metrics on Google+
  • Enhancement/Completeness of citations
  • Quantity of engagement metrics on Facebook (likes, comments, shares)
  • Quality of third-party reviews
  • Location keywords in anchor text of inbound links to domain

Factors that Can Hurt Your Business Local Pack

  • Listing detected at a false business address (if reported)
  • Address is a PO Box, UPS Mail Store, or other false address
  • Incorrect business category chosen in your Google MyBusiness
  • Your website hacked or there is presence of malware on your website
  • Google MyBusiness listings with same address and telephone number marked as “Permanently Closed”
  • Reports of violations of your Google MyBusiness listing
  • Association of your Google MyBusiness account with other suppressed listings
  • Presence of businesses in the same category, at the same address
  • Mismatch address on your Google MyBusiness landing page
  • Presence of multiple Google MyBusiness listings in the same category with the same or similar business title and address

How to Influence Behavioural Factors

Using star ratings that appear in Google search results could gain you more clicks in local organic searches. You can get them for your business with aggregate rating Schema. A plugin you can use to get stars for your business is Universal Star Rating by Chasil.

You could suggest that people search for your business on Google in order to get a coupon, a discount or an add-on that you are offering via Google Posts on your local pack. You could also create a contest on your business Facebook fan page to drive traffic to either your website or your Google local pack.

Additional information

Interesting thoughts on where local search results may take us over the next decade, can be found here: https://tidings.com/vault/local-ranking-2020.html

Here is more information on increasing your Google ranking overnight: https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/transparency-report-24/#increase-rankings-overnight

 

Sources:
https://whitespark.ca/blog/how-to-use-aggregate-review-schema-to-get-stars-in-the-serps/

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Header Image: by ID 132190849 © Piotr Swat | Dreamstime.com

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