Local SEO Ranking Factors

Before we begin, we’d like you to open Google on your phone and search for ‘best pizza restaurant.’ Now, take a few moments to really look at the results. They likely aren’t the best pizza restaurants in the world or part of a nationwide chain. Instead, they are more likely to be independent restaurants located within close proximity to where you are currently sitting. That is the power of local SEO in action and can transform your digital strategy, helping you to drive even more impressive results from your investment.

What this article covers:

  • Why is local SEO important?

    Local search engine optimisation (SEO) focuses on improving the visibility of local businesses in local search engine results pages (SERPs). The results that rank well within local search results often answer a question with a ‘near me’ intention. So, the searcher is actively looking for something in a specific area, and the search engine has determined that the search has an implied geographical constraint.

    By integrating local SEO strategies into your approach digital marketing strategy, your business can significantly increase your online visibility and ensure that you are connecting with the right people, in the right places, at the right times.

    Why is local SEO important for small businesses?

    Almost 50% of all Google searches are local. The algorithm is now so in-tune to local needs that it delivers information and content from local businesses even when a user performs a standard search. This is important for small businesses in particular because, between 2017 and 2019, the search giant registered a dramatic 90% increase in queries that contained the term ‘near me.’ So, to ensure it was meeting the needs of its users, Google actively started to curate results for geographically specific searches based on three core elements:

    1. Relevance
    2. Proximity
    3. Prominence

    So, this means that if your business is located near to where a user is conducting a search query, and you offer products and/or services that meet their needs, then you are markedly more likely to be discovered by your ideal audience online. Importantly, however, you also need to have optimised local business listings to ensure your business is hyper-visible in the most important SERPs.

    What are the benefits of local SEO?

    Local SEO isn’t solely focused on securing increased visibility in SERPs, so let’s take a closer look at some of the other benefits that investing in this crucial optimisation strategy can deliver for your small business.

    Managing your business information in online directories takes both time and effort. However, various tools are available that will help you set up and manage your local business listings. This makes local SEO a highly cost-effective tactic for promoting your business online.

    Connect with local customers: Did you know that almost three-quarters of consumers [1] who conduct a search for a local business actually go on to visit physical business premises within five miles of their location? This means that if you are visible on Google Maps or in local SERPs, you are increasing the likelihood that you will effectively capture new leads and potentially even convert them into paying customers shortly after that.

    Connect with ready-to-purchase consumers: 80% [2] of all local searches undertaken using a mobile device convert, which is a statistic that simply cannot be ignored. Your local SEO strategy will place your business directly in front of a consumer at precisely the moment they are looking for a service and/or product, which increases the chances that they will contact you for more information or go on to make a purchase immediately.

    Drive qualified search traffic: Search engines aim to provide users with relevant local results based upon both intent and proximity. So, investing in your local digital marketing strategy will place your business in front of more searchers who are likely to contact your business. This, in itself, has a variety of benefits, not least helping to ensure your conversion funnel doesn’t have to work as hard to convince visitors that your business can deliver precisely what they are looking for.

    How does local SEO work?

    As with all aspects of SEO, local SEO is comprised of a series of strategies and tactics that, when implemented together, will boost your online visibility to your ideal customers. Although the organic Google algorithm is used when curating the majority of search results, Google utilises a slightly different algorithm when determining local results, which considers additional factors to meet the unique needs of local searchers. These additional factors include:

    Relevance: Google wants to ensure it is doing everything it can to satisfy the needs of its users. After all, if it consistently delivered irrelevant results, it wouldn’t be in business for long. So, to ensure that search engines understand that you are a local business, you should check that you are targeting keywords that your local audience is actively searching for. You can do a range of things here, including ensuring your target keywords are naturally incorporated into your content and meta-data, securing links from local authoritative websites, and utilising schema markup correctly.

    Prominence: You need to stand out for the right reasons, particularly when placed next to your biggest competition. To do this effectively, you need to tell Google that you are a trustworthy business that consistently delivers accurate and valuable information. Google looks at data from across the web, so if it can’t find you online, you are much less likely to secure a favourable ranking position that will help you to connect with your target audience. The good news is that you can build online prominence in several key ways, including building local citations, building a strong profile of reviews, and maintaining accurate listings in online business directories.

    Proximity: When a searcher is conducting a local search, their proximity to relevant businesses will play a significant role. For example, there wouldn’t be much point in Google recommending a business to a searcher in the next county. So, this is precisely why many view proximity as the most important factor to local SEO. There are three distinct ways in which a searcher can conduct a local search:

    1. Non-geo-modified: which doesn’t include a geographical location name, i.e. best pizza restaurants
    2. Geo-modified: which include the town, city or specific area the searcher wants the results to be located in, i.e. best pizza restaurants in London
    3. Near me: which are searches that specifically include the phrase ‘near me’, i.e. pizza restaurants near me

    Despite being the most important factor, the fact is that you don’t really have any control over it. After all, you can’t pick your business up and move it to the next town on a whim. So, it is important to ensure that Google understands where your business is actually located to include your business in all relevant nearby search results. There are various ways that you can do this, including securing local links, creating local content, and driving additional localised reviews.

    How Google determines local ranking

    As outlined previously within this article, there is a combination of ranking factors that contribute to local SERPs, but with so many signals to consider, it can be challenging to identify where to focus your efforts to drive the best results.

    In recent years, local SEO has become much more competitive as many local businesses have realised that optimising for local search is a critical component of a strong digital strategy. Although it is now more challenging to secure a high ranking position in local SERPs, these are some of the most important things to consider when devising your approach to local SEO.

    The most important ranking factors include:

    – On-page optimisation
    – Links/Citations
    – Google My Business
    – Customer Reviews

    These factors vary considerably in scope, so it is important to be aware that when your business is planning a local SEO strategy, each of the points outlined above will require a vastly different investment of time and resources. Building a strong backlink profile, for example, is an ongoing task that can be extremely time-intensive. However, reviews can be outsourced or even automated by utilising specialist reviews software, which can free up some of your valuable time to focus on other aspects of your business.

    Why should I use Google My Business?

    Since 2017, the importance of Google My Business has increased so significantly that it is now one of the most powerful local ranking factors. By creating a Google My Business account, you will have the ability to claim your Business Profile and unlock additional features that will help you to increase your search visibility to your ideal clients.

    There are myriad benefits to using Google My Business, including:

    Engaging with your audience: Your Google My Business page can be as interactive as you want it to be, and the more effort you invest into communicating with your audience, the greater value you will leverage from this powerful tool. In addition to enabling direct messages, you can also answer questions, reply to reviews, and create alerts that tell you when your business has been mentioned somewhere online.

    Promote your business and build trust: In addition to enhancing your search visibility, your Google My Business listing can contain various information that your audience will find valuable, including your business hours, location and product range. As your profile can be easily updated, you can be assured that you can communicate the latest developments with your audience to ensure their experience with your business is positive at every stage. This will help you to build and maintain trust with your target audience. Additionally, frequently updating your profile with valuable information will tell Google that you are an active business with something unique and valuable to offer to users of the search engine.

    Valuable insights: Insights into your audience are always valuable. Your Google My Business dashboard will show you everything from the specific search queries users entered to find your profile to how your images are performing against other business profiles operating within the same sector.

    Enhance local SEO: Google has an algorithm for ranking business profiles, and through your Google My Business dashboard, you can incorporate important keywords into relevant sections of your profile. These optimisation strategies will help your business profile rank above your competitors in local search results, further increasing your chances of making meaningful connections with your audience.

    What are citations for Local SEO?

    Citations are a critical factor to a comprehensive local SEO strategy, and when utilised correctly, citations can drive significant results and be easily managed to sustain those positive outcomes.

    In short, citations are online references to a business and typically contain the name of the business and core pieces of contact information, including a phone number and address. In an SEO context, citations usually refer to a collection of individual listings across various directories.

    Different types of citations: There are many different citation types, and there is no definitive answer as to whether any are more valuable than others. All optimisation experts agree that citations are a vital component of an effective approach to increasing your prominence online to your local target audience.

    It can be difficult to know where to start with this component of local SEO, and while there are hundreds of sites that you could choose to list your business within online, not all of them will be relevant. The good news here is that citation categories can be used to help you to identify the best options for your business, prioritising relevancy and domain authority.

    The importance of utilising citations: When your business is listed within trusted directories online, this tells search engines that your business exists and that you are taking steps to communicate accurate information to your ideal audience. It is worth noting here that the quality of the directories in which you choose to list your business can influence how search engines perceive your digital presence. So, choose wisely!

    As many consumers are loyal to particular citations for specific things, you can earn valuable referral traffic from this strategy. So, for example, lots of foodies will visit Yelp to learn about new restaurants in their local area before they even think about completing a Google search.

    Optimising citations: Creating citations is one thing, but you also need to ensure that they are carefully optimised to drive the best possible results. There are many factors to consider here, including ensuring that your business name and contact information are presented consistently across all business directories. Incorporating relevant keywords can also boost your rankings and give search engines some additional information about what your business is offering. You will also want to invest time building a strong review profile and ensuring that any imagery you include has an optimised file name and informative alt text.

    Why Does Local SEO Matter?

    Although there are many individual components of local SEO to understand, investing time, building, implementing, and refining a local SEO strategy will help you drive highly qualified organic traffic to your most important digital asset. Gaining a greater prominence online through Local SEO will positively impact the leads, conversions, and sales you generate online, helping your business grow and thrive even in the most competitive marketplaces.

    If you are interested in shaping a local SEO strategy for your small business SEO or SEO in general and would like some additional support and guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact the Search Creative team at your earliest convenience. We have seen first-hand how local SEO can help businesses across myriad industries and sectors to make meaningful connections with their audiences at the most opportune times 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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