Dissecting Local Search Ranking Factors

October 8, 2015

By October 8, 2015insights
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Local search has become a vital traffic resource for countless small businesses. It is one of the reasons so many retailers have shifted advertiser budgets from Yellow book and other outdated traffic sources to improving their local search rankings.

With the recent release of Moz.Com’s 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors, I thought it might be good to dissect the information they presented for some quick and easy tips for small business owners.

Local Search Ranking Factors Highlights

Linking is still important– 20% of your local search rankings come from external links to your website. Just like you need website links for organic traffic, it has also proven to be effective for local search as well.

That is because inbound links to a website still demonstrate the authority of the website or in this case the local business page.

The death of Google+- Google’s social network has been on the wane over the past year. After seeing a brief increase in traffic last year, the site has struggled.

Ever since Google+ founder Vic Gundotra left last year, the death of Google+ loomed larger and larger. Removing Google+ page links from Maps is another sign that the social network is not faring well.

It should not be a focal point for your local search optimization.

The death of centroid– Speaking of the death of, a few years ago, Google was not able to determine your location when searching.

Therefore, they would use the city center as a measure of locations in your nearby vicinity. It was completely biased and not helpful if you were nowhere near the center of the city.

Google improved their technology to the point where they can determine your location no matter if you are on a desktop or mobile device.

After the Google Pigeon update, Google started to devalue this outdated ranking factor in favor of using distance as a ranking factor. It is a much better way of tracking local results.

That would also explain why the physical address in the city (citations) is now one of the most important ranking factors.

Citations- Which brings up the topic. What are citations and how do they help you?

The results on citations are mixed. While they are not as valuable as they were a few years ago, citations helped to define two of the top five ranking features for Google Local results.

Citations are the listing of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) on third party websites. For example, Yellow Pages listing your retail store on YP.Com is an example of a citation

Essentially, having a consistent structure to your citations from quality websites can still positively impact your local search results. However, as this becomes more common Google might switch over to other metrics like reviews.

Reviews– According to the Moz study, reviews only account for 8% of the algorithm for local search. Yet in their own words, Moz states how reviews are replacing citations.

My problem with this assessment is that reviews are the hardest element to receive for your profile, yet count for very little when you receive it. That doesn’t make sense!

Plus, with the direction Google is taking going from a seven-pack to a three-pack, it only makes sense that the importance of reviews should increase over the next few years.

If that is not enough to sway, then consider the fact that 87% of all consumers look at reviews to determine whether they are interested in a product. Even negative reviews can increase conversions by 67%.

Google would not be blind to those numbers. If they are now, they will not be for long. Plan on using reviews as a solid part of your local search strategy.

Minimize mistakes- The final highlight from Local Search Rankings report is not about what you can do, but what you should avoid. Every business makes mistakes. However, minimizing those mistakes on Google local can help your business tremendously.

That is because mistaken information on Google can potentially lower your search score, and result in lower traffic and conversions.

Three mistakes to avoid:

#1incorrect business category- First, too many companies do no not label their business categories correctly. For example, let’s say you own a restaurant. What type of restaurant do you own?

Are you a sandwich shop or a café? The difference could be substantial in how much traffic you receive and how you rank next to your competitors.  

#2 Listing detected at false business address- Another problem is that sometimes a false business address could be entered that creates problems with the official location of the business. Sometimes it could be from third party sources, and other times it could human error.

Either way, the false business address can negatively affect your local search rankings.

#3 Mismatch NAP- Right next to false addresses is mistakes in the NAP. Sometimes it could just be a small error in the name, address, or phone that negates the value of the local search.

Final Thoughts

Local search is proving to be a dynamic method for retail stores to drive traffic to their location. By combining mobile technology along with improved Google search expertise, it can provide a continual stream of traffic to your website.

If you want to capitalize on Google local search, feel free to contact Shout. We literally help businesses like yourself get placed on the map for local search.

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