Local SEO: Search Ranking Factors 2017


For the past several years, Moz has been conducting annual surveys concerning SEO factors. Those surveyed are known to be experts in Local SEO field. They are asked to rank the SEO factors in several categories order of importance when it comes to ranking well in the Google’s local search results.

In 2017, the survey was conducted by Darren Shaw, founder at Whitespark in Endmonton, Canada. His specialties are advanced SEO, business practices, local SEO, technical SEO and tools. Darren has now been placed in charge of the data collection, analysis and publication of the survey.

 

Local Search Ranking Factors

 

[1] General SEO Factors
[2] Specific SEO Factors
[3] Foundational and Competitor Factors
[4] Influence of the Possum Update
[5] Negative Local SEO Factors

 
Understanding the results of this survey will help you know where to focus your SEO effort to make the most effective use of your time.

Keep in mind that this survey is based on the opinions and experiences of SEO experts in the field and not statements made by Google itself or other search engine companies.

These experts live and breath Local SEO every day and we are fortunate that they were willing to take the time to inform the rest of us of what is working for them.

It’s possible to break the categories down a bit further into separate sections, giving us seven distinct SEO groups to look at.
 

Distinct Groups of Local Search Ranking Factors

 

[1] General SEO Ranking Factors
[2] Specific SEO Factors
[3] Foundational Factors
[4] Competitor Factors
[5] More Important Factors since the Possum Update
[6] Less Important Factors since the Possum Update
[7] Negative Local SEO Factors

 
For each category, the contributors were asked a question. Then they were asked to indicate a percentage for the amount of influence each factor contributes to SEO ranking.
 

General Local SEO Ranking Factors

The question the participants were asked was, “In your opinion, to what extent do each of the following thematic clusters contribute to ranking across results types at Google?”

Results:

 
[1] 19.01% – Google My Business
[2] 17.31 % – Links
[3] 13.81 % – On-page SEO
[4] 13.31 % – Citations
[5] 13.13 % – Reviews
[6] 10.17% – Behavioral-Mobile
[7] 9.67 % – Personalization
[8] 3.53 % – Social Signals

 
General Local SEO Ranking Factors 2017
 

Google My Business

The first thing that this data tells us is that a Google My Business listing is a very important factor when it comes to ranking well in local search. If your business does not have a verified Google business page, now is the time to get it done.

Links

The second area that needs your attention is linking, both backlinks and inter-page linking. This factor has grown significantly in importance in the past two years, according to the participants in the 2017 survey.

It is the participant’s experience that Google is putting more weight on links. It sees links as a measure of the business’ authority and prominence. After your company is established in GMB, consider focus on local link building.

On-Page, Citations and Reviews

On-page SEO, citations and reviews were deemed to be about the same in importance. Sharing your efforts evenly among these three SEO factors may be a good strategy.

Personalization

Personalization received less that 10% importance. Personalization is Google either knowing or guessing (educated guessing) what the searcher is looking for. For example, if you have searched for various businesses in your own town and then you type in Asda, Google will use your search history to determine you want information about the Asda in your town.

As it relates to SEO, if many people are searching for the Asda in a particular town, Google and Bing will tend to show this specific Adsa store in preference to other stores that are not being searched for. This is known as search bias.

Social Signals

Social signals from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are not viewed to be as important as many SEO articles indicate. These respondents put this SEO factor at the bottom of the General/Thematic Categorys list.

Social signals can be related to personalization. If many people in the company’s online social circle are searching for this company, Google may include this company in the auto suggest list for anyone who is related to that social circle.

Please, Please do not mistake this for social likes being a ranking factor.
 

Local Pack and Local Finder SEO Factors

Local Pack SEO is very significant, especially for local businesses.

Local Packs/Finder are those Google search page displays that have maps with pins of the locations of businesses. With the Local 3-Pack feature, no more than three businesses are displayed at one time. With Local Finder, more than three businesses can be displayed.

Beneath or beside the map, which displays on the Google search page, is the NAP of the businesses, unless marked as a service area business (SAB) in which case only town and county are displayed. Other information may be included, such as the businesses hours, star rating, etc.

The variations of the Local Packs and Finder are:

 

  • Local 3-Pack
  • Local ABC Pack
  • Local Snack Pack
  • Local Sponsored Pack
  • Local Finder

 

Local Pack Types and SEO Factors
 

[1] Local 3-Pack
This is the most common pack display – 3 local businesses.

[2] Local ABC Pack
This is the regular local 3-pack with A, B, and C on the left of each business.

[3] Local Snack Pack
This a local 3-pack for dining, hospitality, and entertainment businesses. Results have a photo, no phone number, and no links to the website.

[4] Local Sponsored Pack
Currently being tested in San Diego and San Francisco called home service units.

[5] Local Finder
This display has a “More places” link at the bottom of a local pack, which allows for more than 3 business listings.

Survey Participants Indicated About Local Pack and Local Finder

The physical address of the city search has been the number one factor for local packs for the past two years. That is, your business is most likely to appear in the local pack finder if your business is in the same city as the person who is searching for your type of business.

For example, if someone is in Northampton looking for a Mexican restaurant, your Northampton-based Mexican restaurant is more likely to appear in with the map than a restaurant located in Wellingborough, even if the Wellingborough restaurant is bigger and longer established.

Furthermore, the nearness of the searcher makes a difference. If there are ten Mexican restaurants in Northampton, only three will be listed with the local pack, the three that are closest to the person who is seeking for the information will usually appear – assuming the Google Business Listing is verified and accurately maintained.

Since this is a restaurant, it may appear in the Google Local Snack Pack. (More on that below.)

Among those surveyed, this particular SEO factor shot to the top position for local pack/finder. This doesn’t mean that Google is getting this right all the time or that those surveyed felt that this was a good thing. If you’re looking for the biggest and best, then that business may not appear in the very visible local pack/finder because it is not near you at the moment you are searching or near your home address.

However, proximity is not the only factor. The map may widen in area to include business with high relevancy or ones with a great number of visits to their listing. In this case, there may be many pins in the map and more NAP’s listed with it.

There are many other factors that come into play when Google chooses which business to display in the local pack/finder. If you are in Kettering, Northamptonshire and search for a Mexican restaurant in Corby, Northamptonshire, Google may display relevant businesses near the center of Northamptonshire. This is known as “Proximity of Address to Centroid.” Although this SEO factor was given a low percentage in the survey, it is an example of one of the other factors Google uses when choosing which business to include in the local pack/finder.

Because of this, it’s imperative that all your NAP details in business citations be consistent. You need to build trust with Google – that you have a real business that doesn’t have a vague location or various phone numbers.
 

Top Ten Survey Winners in the Local Pack/Finder Category

 

Local Pack and Local Finder SEO Ranking Factors 2017
 

So now it’s valuable to know which local SEO factors the survey participants believe are the most important when it comes to increasing your chances of appearing in either a Local 3-Pack or the Local Finder:

[1] Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
This issue was discussed above.

[2] Physical Address in City of Search
If a business has more than one location, then listing them consistently would increase the chances that they would appear in the local pack/finder.

[3] Proper Google My Business Category Associations
Notice how high in importance this SEO factor is. It’s important to get your Google My Business data entered correctly.

[4] Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
Again we see that linking is a major factor in getting online visibility. Take the time to analyze the incoming links your website has and to get more high-quality links from relevant businesses, newspapers and directories.

[5] Consistency of Citations on the Primary Data Sources
Whether local or not, consistency of your name, address, phone number and any other data relating to your business should be consistent across the web. If it is not, consider taking the time to make the corrections or updates.

[6] Domain Authority of Website
Think twice about changing domain names for a business. One of the SEO factors for domain authority is age of the domain.

[7] Product/Service Keyword in GMB Business Title
Again we see that those surveyed believe that the data associated with Google My Business is extremely important for ranking well.

[8] Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

[9] Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Citation Sources
Tier 1 citations sources are the leading citation sources within the country.

[10] Click-Through Rate from Search Results
Review how your listing appears in the Google search results and local pack/finder. Can it be made more compelling to viewers so that they click on the link?

If you want to review the remaining 11 through 50 SEO survey factors for Local Pack/Finder feature of the Google search results, see the original survey linked at end of article.
 

Negative Local SEO Factors

Let’s look at the top ten Negative Local SEO factors mentioned in the survey. It’s often more important to know what not to do than to know what to do.

These all relate to Google My Business Listing:
 
[1] Listing Detected at False Business Address
[2] Incorrect Business Category (in GMB)
[3] Reports of Violations on Your GMB Listing
[4] Site Hacked/Presence of Malware
[5] Mismatch NAP/Tracking Phone Numbers
[6] Address is a PO Box, UPS Mail Store, or Other False Address
[7] Presence of Multiple GMB Listings in the Same Category with Same/Similar Business Title and Address
[8] GMB Listings with Same Address/Phone Marked as “Permanently Closed”
[9] Presence of Businesses in the Same Category at the Same Address
[10] Mismatch NAP/Tracking Phone Number on GMB Landing Page
 

There are 35 Negative Factors listed in all. It may be worthwhile to read through them and know what to avoid.
 

Top Competitive Local SEO Factors

It’s interesting to note that the survey participants put a great deal on emphasis on inbound links, reviews and citations when it comes to jousting your competitors for a better search results position.

Look through this list when deciding your Local SEO strategy for maintaining and increasing a SERP position that is occupied by one of your competitors:
 

[1] Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain (home page)
[2] Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains
[3] Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
[4] Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally Relevant Domains
[5] Quantity of Native Google Reviews
[6] Click-Through Rate from Search Results
[7] Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts, Gov Sites, Industry Associations)
[8] Domain Authority of Website
[9] Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL from Locally Relevant Domains
[10] Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain
 

As you can see by reviewing the survey results, there are over 100 factors – some with very subtle differences – that can be considered. This annual 2017 survey lets us know what the local SEO experts believe are the most important SEO factors for gaining visibility.

It may not be possible to deal with every local SEO issue but focusing on the top few will help you use your time in the most efficient way.
 

Original Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Survey
 

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