Google Business Ranking: 10 Local SEO Ranking Signals That Can Help
Back in 2014, the Pigeon update was released by Google. Since then, local SEO has become far more general than before. In fact, it has become similar to that of non-local SEO in that traditional ranking signals (content and links) are crucial to the local ranking of a website. Roughly one year ago, things got trickier when Possum was released. It was at this time that various SERPs returned a response to small variations in searches.
It can be difficult to determine the most important factors when it comes to ranking well in Google. It can take a significant amount of time and effort to try to do this type of research on your own, especially if you aren’t familiar with it. So, we’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a list of the top 10 local SEO ranking signals that can assist you in getting your business website ranked in Google.
Google My Business
It comes at not surprise that several of the factors that we researched were in relation to Google My Business and have a significant impact on your business’s local rankings.
1. Verified Owner
Do you have a Google My Business page? If not, it’s time to get one. There is no reason not have one. After all, it’s free to create an account. However, the overall process can get a bit tricky. While we could create an entire post on this, here are a few things that you will want to ensure you do correctly when setting up your GMB page:
- Create a unique and long business description.
- Select the correct business categories. Make sure you are specific when doing so, as this will give you a high probability of ranking and also attracting the right audience. If you need help selecting the right category, you may try this Google Places for Business Category Tool, which will allow you to enter the basic category and it will return similar categories from the current list of categories on GMB.
- Ensure that all business-related data are accurate and current. Double- and even triple-check this information, such as your name, phone number, address, hours of operation, etc.
- Include at least business photos. These can be interior and/or exterior images.
2. Google Reviews
When it comes to your ranking, the quantity of Google reviews that your business has is going to have a huge impact. In fact, it may be the most crucial ranking signal on this list when it comes to the algorithm that Google utilizes for local search.
In order for the search engine giant to begin displaying reviews on your company page, you will need a minimum of five reviews. Once you get those, you will want to continue increasing the quantity of Google reviews that you have so that your local search rankings improve.
Here is how you can attract more reviews:
- Take the time to read and fully comprehend the guidelines for Google reviews.
- Ask for your customers to leave reviews on Google. You can do this many different ways. You could print QR codes on your business cards or receipts. You could hand out brochures. You could simply ask your customers personally, such as after they make a purchase. If you have access to the e-mail addresses of your customers, then you could follow up with them with a subtle request. If you have happen to have a significant amount of followers on social media, then you could encourage your followers to leave reviews when you make a post.
- Make it easy for your regulars to leave reviews. While you could simply ask your customers to leave a review and hope they would look it up online to leave the review, you may not want to leave things to chance. Alternatively, you could simply provide them a URL directly to your GMB page so they aren’t required to do all that research and work, or you could provide them with a URL directly to the review form – that’s super quick and painless.
- Set up a landing page for your reviews. If you receive a significant amount of traffic to your website, then it makes sense to create a page where consumers can leave their reviews. Then, you will want to add direct links to directories that you are currently listed on, including Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.
- Take the time to reply to any negative reviews, and do so as quickly as possible. This is not just important for SEO, but it is important for the business as a whole as well. First, you need to dissect the problem that your customer is having and resolve it, if possible, so that other customers don’t have the same issue and leave a negative review as well. Next, you want to show everyone (the unhappy customer that left the bad review as well as anyone who may come across the negative review) that you truly care about all of your customers. You do this by quickly responding to the negative review in a reasonable manner and, when truly necessary, offering an apology. Last, always know that there is (usually) hope when a negative review is left by an unhappy customer.
- Be great! Yes, it might sound ridiculous, but it is one of the most effective ways to get positive reviews from your customers and know that you’re truly worthy of them. Keep in mind that a lot of your customers will only be obliged to leave you a review when they have had an incredible or an awful experience with your business. So, in a sense, it is up to you what type of review your customers leave for your business.
It may not seem very important, but Google thinks that images on your GMB page are very important. In fact, the more you upload, the better. So, make sure that you take some pictures yourself or hire a professional photographer to take them and then upload them to your page. If you aren’t sure what types of photos to add to your page, here are a few ideas:
- Your Business Location – interior and exterior. Some specific areas that you can take pictures of include the building, the retail area, the parking lot, etc. Customers are always interested in seeing what it is that the business looks like that they are considering visiting.
- You – Getting personal is the best thing that you can do, and a photo of yourself on-site is the best way to go about it.
- Key Staff – Who doesn’t love a group photo? See if you can get the team together for a professional shot to put on your page, or simply take pictures of key staff members as they are working.
- Your Customers – Do you have any favorite or loyal customers that frequent your business? If so, see if they would be willing to pose for a photo? Or you could take a picture of them as they are in the act, such as perusing products, making a purchase, etc. It can also be random customers. Just make sure that you have their permission before taking their photograph.
- Your Products/Services – This is probably one of the best types of photos to have on your Google My Business page. For example, if you run a bakery, take a photo of some cupcakes or croissants. If you own a car detailing service, take a picture of a vehicle getting detailed.
Once the Pigeon update was released, Google began looking at traditional ranking signals in its algorithm. On- and off-site factors that will assist you ranking organically not play a huge role in local ranking as well, and one of those factors is links. One study has shown that backlinks are the most important ranking signal after Google reviews.
With that being said, here are the particular factors that you need to know regarding backlinks.
4. Amount of Linking Domains
The specific quantity of domains, C-blocks and IPs that are linking to a website all associate with local SEO rankings. Therefore, link building is necessary for local SEO. To get started, you may want to consider downloading the SEO PowerSuite program and using its backlink tool, which is called SEO SpyGlass. The Summary module on this app will inform you of the quantity of domains, C-blocks and IPs that are linking to you, and then the Domain Comparison module will allow you to add as many as 10 competitors so that you can weigh up your link profile to theirs.
Inside the Domain Comparison component, you can move to Link Intersection, then Potential linking Domains, which will allow you to view the domains that are linking to your competition but not you. These are great link opportunities, and you will want to look for websites that are linking to several of your rivals since there will be a higher chance of them being willing to link to your site as well.
When you want to look for other opportunities for link building, you can use the Link Assistant tool within SEO PowerSuite. This app will allow you to locate link prospects by using 10 different methods. Then, once found, you can contact them directly from the tool itself with a built-in e-mail client.
5. Quality of Links
The quality of your backlinks strongly associate with local rankings. The page quality of a backlink can be measured easily with the InLink Rank tool from SEO PowerSuite. The calculation itself is based off the PageRank original formula. It will demonstrate the potential value of each page and domain of the backlink. To view the InLink Rank of your backlinks, you will need to open the SEO SpyGlass, go to the Backlinks, and then click on the InLink Rank tab. Next, select the backlinks and click Update InLink Rank to receive your calculation. It’s all pretty simple with this tool.
6. Optimization of Anchor Text
Another factor that proved to be strongly associated with local rankings in Google search results was the quantity of backlinks that consisted of city names in the anchor text as well as the proportion of them in the website’s link profile. Another thing that plays a part, though not as important of one, is target keywords being present in the anchor text.
While there is no specific percentage of anchor text with city/state names, a good rule of thumb is to simply analyze your competition. To do this, we go back to SEO SpyGlass. Create a new project for one of your competitors (do one for every one of your competitors), then view the Summary for link statistics. Pay close attention to top anchors for their backlinks, anchor text assortment, and anchor cloud. These things will help paint the bigger picture on the anchors that you should be using in your own campaign as well as how many.
Similar to links, since the Pigeon update, non-local, traditional on-page optimization has become very significant for local SEO. When it comes to local ranking, here are the factors that you will want to focus the most on due to their strong association.
7. Word Count
When it comes to on-page ranking signals, word count topped them all. Studies show that the longer the content is, the better it will rank organically. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that word county trumps on-page ranking factors. However, at the same time, it is a bit surprising that it is so important to Google.
Now, since word count is so important, should you start adding words onto your pages so that they’re longer? In terms of SEO, things aren’t that simple. From one niche to the next, the optimal content length can vary. Ultimately, to determine the right length of content for your particular niche, you should do some research to locate pages that are currently ranking well in Google for the keywords that you are planning to target.
The good news is that you don’t have to do something like this manually. Within the WebSite Auditor app in SEO PowerSuite is the Content Analysis component, which can handle the hard work for you. It will not only analyze your web page, but it will also take a close look at the pages that are ranking with the top 10 spots for the specified keyword. It can also determine the ideal word count range for your content based on the competition.
8. Occurrences of Keywords
The ranking algorithms of Google are consistently getting more refined, as Google tries to find a way to get around looking specifically at keywords to determine what a web page is about. Despite that, though, studies are showing that the usage of keywords continues to be an important factor when it comes to local SEO. Placing keywords strategically within your content as well as HTML tags will help you get your spot in the local 3-pack.
While it is a good start to place keywords within your content, this alone isn’t going to cut it in today’s day and age. You must also look at other factors, such as comprehensiveness and content quality. With that being said, how can you ensure you are creating content that is comprehensive and high quality? You can always use the WebSite Auditor, which had a TF-IDF dashboard that will provide you with a list of various concepts that can be included on your web page to enhance relevance.
When writing your content, should you include the city/state that your business is in? Believe it or not, they may not play as huge of a role as you think they do. For the longest time, it has been believed that placing city/state names in URLs, title tags and content copy could assist with local rankings. Now, research has shown there is not a direct connection with this particular technique and local SEO ranks in Google.
We just discussed on-page ranking signals, so now it’s time to talk about certain things you can do off of your own site that Google can locate about your business on other websites, such as social media, relevant online directories, as well as review websites.
9. Quantity of Total Reviews
As you are well aware, Google is fascinated with reviews, but they are interested in more than their own reviews. While it is true that Google reviews are going to be more important, it is significant to get reviews on other websites for your business. This includes on platforms, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. This can help get your placement in the local 3-pack and in Google Maps. You can use the same tips listed above to attract reviews from customers.
Believe it or not, the quantity of citations doesn’t have much association with local SEO rankings. It sort of makes sense, especially with niches with a significant amount of competition where citations would simply act as a business attribute separating the competition from one another. However, one key point that needs to be made is that consistency of citations is a factor that will help you find your way into the local 3-pack. Therefore, if you have been keeping an eye on your NAP, then that hard work and effort will pay off in the end.
So, make sure that you are getting citations in niche and local directories, ensure that they are correct and up-to-date, and then move on to some of the other listed factors here that are most important.
Start Tracking Your Progress!
Now that you are officially equipped with the information you need to make the changes and improve your rankings in the local search results, you will want to open the Rank Tractor in SEO PowerSuite and begin tracking your progress. This particular app allows you to track your rankings in the Map and the 3-pack. You can also indicate custom locations that you would like to monitor rankings from, such as a specific street address.
To begin, all you need to do is create a new project. The app will immediately begin tracking Universal results by default, which will include the local 3-pack. If you want to track the Map, you will need to add the Google Maps to the preferred Search Engines by going to Preferences and then Preferred Search Engines. Then, in the Rank Track dashboard module, right click in the header to add Google Maps Rank to the column.
If you would like to monitor rankings for a certain location, you will need to go to Preferences and Preferred SEs again and then click on the + button, which is located next to Google. A pop-up window will appear (Advanced Settings) at which time you will need to enter your targeted information, such as the street address, city, zip code, etc. and click Apply.
If it has not been made apparent already, conventional SEO signals are most important when it comes to success with local SEO. If you aren’t currently invested in on-page SEO and link building, and focusing on citations in your campaign, you are failing to get a leg up on your competition. If you need help putting together a solid local SEO campaign, don’t hesitate to contact us at WebDetail so that we can help get your business where it belongs in local search results.