2016 Local Search Ranking Factors

Written by: Jason Bayless | January 05, 2016

The local search market has become a more important part of SEO in 2016, with some important changes altering the way marketers should approach local search. Because SEO is such a large part of driving traffic to a webpage, a solid awareness of how the field is changing is critical to decide how to act as a marketer or business owner. In this post, we will explain some of the most important ranking factors that have become big influencers in the 2016 environment.

First of all, consider the importance of having a consistent NAP (name, address, and phone). Having an NAP that is inconsistent across listings on directories as well as the business’s webpages is a major problem, because when Google finds those inconsistencies, it punishes the page with a lower ranking. The more consistently the business is described across several directories, the more trust Google puts in that business. It takes time and effort to establish consistent NAP through several relevant local directories, but it gives the business a much better shot at getting into the local stack.

Another big factor is mobile users and mobile search. In organic SEO, one of the biggest changes of the year was when Google implemented mobile responsiveness as a standard in its rankings. Sites that were not mobile responsive, meaning not friendly enough to mobile devices, get downgraded on mobile searches in favor of sites that meet the standard. For local search, there are even more changes. Local listings now have a “tap to call” option, letting searchers simply tap on a result to call the business. This makes it even more important to rank high, because it is becoming easier and easier for customers to engage with the first results they see.

A major part of good 2016 local search performance is just plan good general SEO work. For example, getting links is a big part of organic SEO, and that applies just as much to local work. Getting links from local directories with high local importance and relevance is a huge boost to a site in that local area, so hunting for important directories and building relationships in the local area is quite lucrative. It has become very rewarding to get local links, and that also applies to building a presence in new areas. The best way to get a foothold in a new city or other local market is to start getting a lot of links and listings in that area. The general effect is to emphasize the role of local connections for local searches. This is especially big for businesses that rely heavily on local customers because they do not ship online to other areas.

If you are a business owner, manager, or marketing and you want to stay on top of local search, then you need to think about these factors as you build your strategy. It’s not that hard to rise to the top of local search engine results pages for good local keywords as long as you follow the right practices. Conversely, the strength of these new local forces means that if you aren’t paying attention to them, it’s easy for local businesses with little to no SEO of any kind to capture the top spots. So do everything you can to focus on local search once you feel confident that your basic organic SEO is good enough to stand on its own.