How to Improve Google Rankings for Your Local Buisness Website
If you’re a local business owner, or you’re an SEO consultant who manages the SEO strategy, for local businesses, I’m betting that local SEO and local search marketing are tactical weapons that you use daily when trying to improve Google rankings for your business.
You know your business needs to rank higher on Google, and you know that improving your Google ranking requires savvy local SEO expertise and will likely take some time to see desired results.
But exactly how does Google’s local search algorithm work?
Wouldn’t it be just a little bit easier if you understood Google’s new local SEO ranking factors? This way you’ll know exactly which ranking factors matter most to your business and what your local SEO expert needs to focus on when updating your website’s Google local optimization.
Local Search Optimization Tips for SEO Beginners
We’ve been fortunate enough to work with local businesses across Canada, and a handful of US companies, to improve their search presence on both desktop and mobile devices. These tactics proved successful and increased YoY e-commerce sales for one business by 56%!
Through this experience, we’ve identified 5 of the most important local ranking factors that every small businesses can exploit to increase Google rankings and get that competitive edge over their local competition.
If you’re a tech savvy business owner, with some local SEO experience, you can likely handle this step yourself. But would you give yourself stitches just because you can sew on a button? Come on man, probably not.
There are plenty of useful resources out there that will outline the 50+ local search ranking factors that Google uses in 2016.
Google discusses the local search ranking factors associated with your company’s Google My Business (GMB) page, and Moz has an amazing survey listing the 50+ local search ranking factors that all local businesses should read.
Google My Business Page for Local SEO
If you decide optimizing your website and GMB for local SEO is a little more than you expected, you should hire an overall expert SEO consultant or an experienced SEO company to implement strategies based on the important ranking factors listed below.
If you’re wondering why your GMB page is worth claiming and optimizing, it’s because when users perform a local search to find a product or service close by, Google serves up the local listings with the 3-pack and pins on a map.
That’s called the local “snack pack”. You might remember at one time that feature held 7 local businesses. With only 3 spots left, the most relevant, local, and optimized GMB pages will be listed in that prime location.
The most important reason you want your GMB page super optimized is because Google shows the top GMB page for local businesses in the full right column of the search results page. This area is known as the “knowledge graph”.
So let’s get to it! Local SEO experts, localseoguide.com, published insightful results from a local SEO survey they completed recently. They looked at over 100 local SEO ranking factors using 30,000 businesses to figure out just one thing: How can all local businesses rank better (higher!) in Google search results?
Here are 5 of the most important local SEO ranking factors, in our opinion. If you or your SEO company uses strategies to maximize these factors, you’ll be on the road to growth hacking your business and leaving your competitors in the dust.
5 of the Most Important Local Ranking Factors for Your Local Business
Below you’ll discover insights into Google’s local search algorithm to identify how backlinks affect Google’s “local pack” rankings, why using city names as geo-tags in meta titles may not be as effective as SEOs once thought, and why Toolbar PageRank is not a joke.
You can thank Google’s Pigeon Algorithm for confirming what many expert Local SEO companies have been saying since 2014: links are the most important competitive advantage any local business website can have to boost their local SEO and online presence.
If you still don’t believe this, we have found empirical evidence and data that proves just how important links are for your local SEO strategy.
When it comes to your businesses Google My Business listing and if/where it’s currently ranking data shows that Majestic’s AC Rank, Trust Flow, and Citation flow are all ranking in the Top 10 ranking factors for link metrics.
Also included in the Top 10 local ranking factors, and relating to link metrics, are photos (containing backlinks to your website), referring domains (that link to your website content), referring IP’s, and Google Reviews sitting at the top as the #1 local search ranking factor.
2. More Cowbell? More Content!
When analyzing these ranking factors, it becomes even more obvious that keywords and user engagement on your business website definitely still do matter.
We all know that Google’s search algorithms are super sophisticated. However, determining the user intent related to the search query is always going to be influenced by what the user typed in the search box, or spoke into the mic if using voice search.
We recommend the very creative and super strategic use of long tail keywords, and long tail related terms both in your on page copy as well as in the backend metadata of your GMB page, your main website, and especially on your landing pages and location pages.
I’d also suggest more relevant and optimized words = more higher local search rankings. Write at least 500 words on your promotional landing pages and on your location pages.
3. Off Site Factors Affecting On Site SEO
It’s been said that “Citations Are The Commodity of Local SEO”. So why is the tactic important enough to include in this article? Well, I guess we live in a grey world.
On one side, local SEO is typically a very competitive space which will contain very competitive search phrases. So since citations are essentially viewed as a commodity these days, they can be a poor competitive differentiator between local businesses.
The recommendations that I’ve read conflict one another so I’m sticking to this information from LocalSeoGuide.com:
“We have done studies that show citation consistency can be a key factor to getting you into a local pack – so don’t ignore them – but the “strength” or volume of citations just doesn’t seem to matter as much. Get your Citations cleaned up and move on as fast as you can to higher value work.”
4. Are You Ignoring Your Google My Business Account?
While Google+ is officially a thing of the past, your Google My Business (GMB) profile page can be critical to your local SEO strategy.
In fact, for some businesses, I’d go as far as to say the strength of the optimization of your GMB page can make or break your local business.
Take a look at the chart further down this page. You’ll see that all signals given to Google by your company’s GMB page ended up in the top 10 local ranking factors.
Reviews, as always, will be an important ranking factor. But don’t ignore uploading high resolution and relevant images of your business on your GMB page.
I’ve audited many GMB pages. After uploading relevant photos and optimizing the copy on the page, completely (100%) filling out the profile caused one company’s page to show up in the coveted knowledge graph on the right side column of local search results.
One interesting point I found in this study was that “causation” does not equate with correlation even though the Page Views factor ranks so high (#2!).
“Despite Profile Views being a big winner in the data, we think it underscore that correlation is not causation. After all, if you are ranking well, it’s likely more people will view your profile. Next year’s version of the study should be able to better demonstrate the myriad ways in which reviews may or may not influence GMB rankings.”
5. Toolbar PageRank
Google’s toolbar PageRank is a super feature that I’ve used for many years. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a useful free tool provided by Google.
Many SEO’s use a tool or a browser that shows you PageRank data from Google which is helpful for competitive SEO as well as for keyword research.
In March of this year, Google officially killed of PageRank. In this article, they confirmed that they are removing the toolbar PageRank data. Wait, what?
Google actually said: “As the Internet and our understanding of the Internet have grown in complexity, the Toolbar PageRank score has become less useful to users as a single isolated metric. Retiring the PageRank display from Toolbar helps avoid confusing users and webmasters about the significance of the metric.”
But now, take a look where PageRank shows up in the list of Local SEO ranking factors. I’ll save you time scrolling down and counting. You can view that chart in 30 seconds.
PageRank is in the Top 15 of Google’s Local SEO Ranking factors according to this study. #WTF right?
It’s very interesting and intriguing how for years Google has told the SEO community to ignore toolbar PageRank, but data shows/proves that PageRank is one of the Top 15 factors the search engine takes into consideration when ranking businesses in local SEO.
Local SEO isn’t really that complicated. However, it is a must for any local business, especially in a highly competitive local market.
Many of these recommendations can be done by any digital savvy business owner. However, you may want to consult with a professional SEO company that has some experience with executing local SEO tactics.
It’s worth noting that these local ranking factors are absolutely not ranking factors approved by Google.
Google also hasn’t confirmed any of these factors as actual ranking signals.
This article and the data included should be looked at as a guide that shows the factors that many “high ranking GMB pages tend to have.” This article is intended to provide you or your SEO consultant with insightful “clues” on where to look to improve your local rankings.
If you need help with your business’s Google My Business profile or your website’s overall SEO optimization, we can help!
We’ve been doing SEO and optimizing websites, social profiles, and email newsletters since 2004.
Here is a table that shows the position each of the factors localseoguide.com measured in terms of each factor’s positive correlation with Google Local Pack rankings. For more info go here.