Local SEO Ranking Factors to Help Your Business Rank on Google
by Mike Khorev
We all know how local SEO is a whole different game, compared to general SEO strategies. However, the basic principles behind the two remain similar. Unsurprisingly, the biggest question behind the two strategies is also similar: what are the factors, or signals that will determine the SEO ranking?
So, this guide will attempt to answer that question, specific to local SEO strategy. As with general SEO, there are hundreds of factors that will affect your local SEO ranking. However, the principle remains the same: it’s not about doing every single thing right, but making the right priorities.
Below, we will discuss several factors you should prioritize on, and how to optimize each of them.
Let us begin with the first one.
Google My Business Factor
Not surprisingly, several factors related to Google My Business are crucial for local SEO rankings. According to MOZ’s report discussed above, these signals account for 19% of your local SEO success.
There are many important factors related to Google My Business, from proximity to keyword inclusion in your business name. Yet, here are the top three most important ones:
1. Be a Verified Account
Although this is seemingly an obvious step, creating a verified Google My Business account can be tricky, causing many business owners to neglect this step.
Yet, if you are a brick and mortar business, you definitely need to invest a little time to figure out the process and get verified. Here are several things you will need to focus on:
- Write the right description for your business. Not only the description must be unique and thorough, the length must also be proper.
- Upload at least 5 unique photos
- Make sure all the details are correct and up-to-date
- Choose the right categories. Be as specific as you can. This tool by Mike Blumenthal can help.
2. Proper Photos
The number of photos on your business page matters a lot to your local SEO ranking. Invest a little bit of your time to take proper pictures, or hire a photographer if necessary.
What kinds of pictures should you focus on? Here are a few ideas:
- The location itself, including the retail area, parking lot, the building of your business (if any), etc.
- Your products or services. If you are a restaurant, you should know the importance of beautiful food pictures
- Key staffs, and depending on your approach, you as the owner
- Your customers
Off all other factors, the number of your Google reviews matters the most to your local SEO and Google Maps rankings. Let me repeat: reviews are the most important ranking factor for local SEO.
You will need at least five reviews before Google start showing them on your Google My Business page, and you should focus on growing the numbers (as well as tackling bad reviews).
How to attract more reviews? Here are a few ideas:
- Before anything else, read Google’s guidelines for reviews thoroughly
- Ask your customers for reviews, and offer incentives when necessary. For example, you can offer discounts to your restaurant customers
- Make it easier to land a review, such as generating a direct link to your Google My Business page.
- Reply to negative reviews, as fast as you can
- Focus on delivering the best customer experience. This might seems like a cliche, but it is still the best way to gain positive reviews
One common misconception is that for local SEO and Google Maps rankings, backlinks aren’t important. However, after the Pigeon algorithm update, links and other traditional SEO factors are now also important.
So, what should you focus on out of all the backlink factors? Here are the most prominent ones:
1. Number of Linking Domains
As with traditional SEO, the quantity of your link is the most important factor regarding backlinks. So yes, you will also need to do link building for your local SEO.
2. Link Quality
Again, as with traditional SEO, not only the quantity that matters, but also the quality of your links. Try to get as many relevant links as you can, and remember that Google won’t account repeated links to their Maps ranking. This guide will help you to assess and build high-quality backlinks.
Notable Local On-Page Factors
Although both traditional and local SEO isn’t solely about keywords anymore, they still matter. Keywords occurrences in your content, as well as HTML tags, will also help you rank in local SEO.
A common myth in local SEO is that you will also need to focus on the name of the city and state as keywords. However, studies suggested that using the name of the city and state in title tags, URLs, and body of the pages won’t make any significant contribution to your Google Maps ranking.
Instead, focus on natural keyword occurrences that will also appeal to human readers.
The length of your content will also matter, the longer the content, the better for your ranking. In fact, it is one of the most important on-page factors for local SEO.
However, that doesn’t mean you can simply stuff more words on your pages. Your content will also need to appeal to human readers. As a general rule of thumb, do a little research on how high-ranking competitors fare with their content length. Aim to have a similar length, and you should be good to go.
Tools like SEO Powersuite will help with comparing keywords and the respective content analysis.
Notable Local Off-Page Factors
Consistency in citations, especially in Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) plays a significant role in your local SEO ranking. Focus on getting citations from reputable directories, both from your local side and niche side.
Total Number of Reviews
Google loves not only Google reviews, but also looks at other sites and directories. Refer to the tips we have discussed above on how to attract more reviews and respond to bad ones.
As with general SEO, the most important thing with local SEO strategy is consistency and tracking your progress. The principles behind traditional SEO and local SEO remains the same in a lot of ways, you just need to focus on different things.
Ther are many tools that can help you track your progress, BrightLocal, Whitespark, and SEO Powersuite being some of the good examples.
In a very competitive brick and mortar business, doing your local SEO strategy right can be the major differentiator from your competition.
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