Local SEO Ranking Factors 2016

Written by: Jason Bayless | October 13, 2016
Every business relies heavily on the traffic and business that can be brought from search engines, with Google being the obvious gorilla on the market. Local businesses are even more dependent on this traffic being many consumers will go to search engines first to find local companies and locations.

With that said, the landscape for ranking well with local SEO has been changing. A recent study conducted in part by the University of California Irvine’s Center for Statistical Consulting has revealed what the biggest categorical factors for achieving high placement in the Google results pages.

Links – Still An Effective SEO Currency

In years gone by, links were the only currency needed to achieve a quality rank in the search engines. This was abused and many artificial linking strategies and schemes were devised and executed. Thankfully, the search engines have adapted over the years, and are looking at not only the quantity of links, but also the quality.

For local search results, where being placed well in the local listings section of search results is imperative, links are still very valuable. You must still link wisely, stay away from link strategies with private link networks, link farms, and reciprocal linking. Also, be weary of the out dated practice of content spinning and distribution to gain links.

Rather, work on getting high quality links that will provide a positive influence on your site. This includes links form .gov and .edu sites, organizations like the Better Business Bureau, as well as local business organizations. Also, look for hubs where your target market is spending time and find link opportunities there as well. Remember, a link is more than an SEO signal; it can also be a primary driver of traffic and business.

Website Signals

Everyone knows that in order to rank well, you have to have a quality website, with the various signals from your site accounting for nearly one quarter of the influence in search engines. Things you want to look at and ensure are well optimized include:

  • Amount of content on a page: be careful to have enough content but make sure it is also high quality.
  • Keyword density on a page: make sure you do not over optimize for your keywords.
  • Use of title and headers.
  • Title tag length.
  • Number of images and image tags.

Google My Business Signals

This one is especially true for local search in Google, and is obvious they would include their own product in their algorithm. Here is what you want to be careful of with your profile:

  • Be sure your profile is owner verified. This is a simple process, and in most cases takes only a few minutes with a phone call.
  • Link your website to your verified profile.
  • Include pictures in your profile. This can include your staff, your location, and your products.
  • Include your primary targeted keyword in your profile business name.
  • Get reviews of Google.

PageRank Is Still Around

This is a long contested factor in SEO. A few years ago, Google announced that PageRank was no longer a signal in their search algorithm. However, many tests, including the one from University of California, have found a strong correlation between PageRank and local visibility.

The challenge with PageRank is that it is an algorithm unto itself. That said you will see that as you work to improve the other factors, you will see a positive increase to your PageRank as well.

Be Care Of Geo Over Optimization

A dated SEO practice is creating individual pages with geo-specific keywords to increase visibility in the local search. We are seeing that the benefit for this is no longer worth the cost to creating unique content for each geo served, so proceed with caution.