David Mihm used to put together an amazing survey of the search industry to determine the most important ranking factors and also trends over time in the factors we focus on. He moved on to other things in recent years. Great guy. Darren Shaw, another great in local search, has taken over and provided a new survey this year. I just wanted to quickly touch on the most important trends and factors here, as your headlines from the report. You can dig deeper into the official results if you want here.
It is important to remember, and Darren points out, that there are certain foundational factors that every business should have. Though these aren’t looked at as things that will separate you from competitors, they are imperative to just be in the conversation. These foundational factors are things like picking the correct Google business category, filling out your business page with your information, etc.
There are also factors that you don’t have as much control over. Some of these have changed in recent years too and businesses find themselves losing traffic because Google is getting better at location. The top factor in fact, is the proximity the searcher is to the business. In the early days of local search, Google would base searches on your distance from what they deemed to be the center of town. Now with the evolution and advancement of mobile and GPS tracking, the factor has now been based on the actual searcher and where they are. You can’t necessarily move your business closer to the searcher, so it isn’t a factor you can do a lot about, but it is very important to understand, especially if you have been losing placement.
- NAP’s: At one time many local marketers were focused on getting NAP’s. Name, address, and phone citations around the internet. Though these are still important, they have become more foundational and the type of thing everyone just has to have. They are the base coat. Data is showing that though they are important, they show diminishing returns once you reach a certain level of placement.
- Link Signals: Links, which are a fundamental factor in regular organic SEO, are getting more and more important to local search. The website attached to that local business listing is now fueling the strength. If you are a local business, it is important to have local links mixed in with those other powerful links. Links that signal to Google that you are a part of that local community in your state, county, or town. Those links from the chambers of commerce and local charities help here, and they are more important than ever.
- Review Signals: Reviews have become more and more important over time. The major providers like Google are getting better at managing them and understanding them. There are a lot of fake reviews out there, and that is partially part of the slow growth in importance, but as they get more of a grasp on how to algorithmically handle these through red flags, they will become even more important. I feel that they will even leak back over into regular organic search in the coming years.
If you have 3 things to do to get your local presence up, after establishing your correct information on your Google business page, I would say make sure you have the basic NAP’s covered though a legitimate service (I do not recommend Yext. Come to us for help). Then make sure you have some local links from your chamber, your little league, etc. to go along with your industry and other business links. Lastly, build in a review process to your business. Make sure you are always asking for reviews and they will naturally build over time.