David Mihm does a great job every year putting together a survey to figure out the local search ranking factors. Overall, the numbers don’t typically change drastically, though at times the articles that come out of it make it seem that way, but it is great work and it is good to stay on top of things. You can read David’s results and post about it here, but I will try to hit some of the important headlines here, and if you want to dig in deeper you can go there.
Distance from Centroid
We often hear that this is the most important factor in local search, and it makes sense. It is a strange phrase, but it just means that Google is going to give more weight to businesses that are closer to the searcher or to where the searcher is targeting. There has to be some of this factored in no matter what, to make it relevant. You wouldn’t want a pizza place in Alaska to show up when you are searching for pizza in New Jersey. This always has to be a part of how Google figures out what to show up, and probably is the first step, before bringing in the other factors.
This is still very important, but the way it is calculated is evolving. As Google figures out where searchers are they can move away a bit from “centroid” being the center of the town they are searching and factor in where the searcher is. That being said, there have been recent articles that have suggested that Google has location incorrect nearly half the time, so this is still something they are figuring out. Mike Blumenthal recently did an interesting test on local search while moving around. All of that being said, this is still important and Google is putting new factors in to how they determine this distance, which makes it harder to track, as it literally can change results just by driving down the street, but, makes it better for the final user.
As has always been the case, you can’t really change where your business physically sits in most cases, so you need to make up for it in other factors, but it is interesting to see how they are advancing in this area.
Keyword Specific Landing Pages
In recent years one of the areas we had some control over was what page to link our local listing to. This has also become more nuanced. At one time it was thought your NAP should be in the title of the page, which pushed people more to use their location page and that is often the better choice. It now has become more nuanced by keyword. It is generally believed that you want to link to the organic page that shows up highest for the core keyword you are trying to get local presence for. I know, many of you want to show up for many keywords, but you have only one local page, so if this page differs by keyword, you have to prioritize and decide which core business or service item is most important to you and then accept a possible decrease from this factor elsewhere.
In general, search for you most important keyword and find what page from your site pops up highest in google results organically. Then link your Google My Business page directly to that page. It may be your home page.
User experience, as with organic search, is increasing in importance. Click through rate is a factor, so if your listing draws in more clicks, it can move you up. How do you make this better? An attractive page with positive reviews that may make someone choose you over the listing ahead of you. Also, time on site and other site related user experience factors are believe to be an increasing part. If a searcher goes to your page and then immediately bounces back, that will hurt you in local and organic, but if they stay, or in Google’s eyes, seem to have found what they are searching for (the goal), that will help you.
More of the Same
The most important factors continue to be NAP consistency, quality NAP citations, organic domain strength through links, etc. It doesn’t appear that these items will go away any time soon. The days where your organic site strength wasn’t overly important to your local listing are gone, so they are all important now. Some of the general services can still get you to the basic level, but it is becoming more important to differentiate yourself with unique and powerful citations and links to improve your positioning. As always, links matter and they may matter even more.
Please go through David’s post and look at the details if you’d like. He is a brilliant guy and one of the main sources I use to help my clients, along with Mike, who I also linked to above. Keep an eye on this stuff and tweak your local accordingly. Of course, if you need help staying on top of this stuff, please give us a call at 732 462 6019.