Local Search Engine Optimisation strategies that work in 2016
The results of the 2016 Quantitative Local SEO Ranking Factors Study were presented recently, helping marketers and business owners to better target their optimisation resources.
Local SEO Guide‘s Dan Leibson and Andrew Shotland partnered with competitive intelligence tool maker Places Scout and the University of California’s Center for Statistical Consulting, to objectively collate and analyse the factors that affect rankings in local searches.
Using independent, quantitative data from 30,000 businesses and 3,000 local searches, the Local SEO Guide study is considered robust and comprehensive. By identifying the significant factors in Google Local 3-Pack and Maps search, the study provides business owners with meaningful data guiding decisions around how to best focus their efforts on improving their local search performance.
A broad range of ranking factors including Google My Business listings, on-site website factors, off-site local factors and links, were drilled into to determine the characteristics of sites that ranked well. The results were divided into Ordinal (numeric based factors) and Categorical (Yes/No) variables.
The good news for business owners is that many of the Categorical factors identified are simply basic best practice for online marketing and easily changed. The strong rankings associated with Google My Business (GMB) factors for example, such as having an Owner Verified (OV) listing or including business hours and photos, indicate it's well worthwhile building a solid GMB business profile.
Reviews and Profile Views
The two GMB factors that topped the study's findings were the numbers of reviews and profile views that a site had. The sites with the most reviews ranked higher than any other businesses - a strong indication that having online customer reviews should be a key strategy for local companies. Sites with photos also ranked well, followed closely by having an owner verified profile and those displaying business hours. Having a mobile-friendly site was also proven to be extremely important.
Develop Your Links
Other recommendations to improve rankings in local search include having a secure site and using keywords in backlink anchor text. Using links well was found to be a particularly important ranking factor. The Local Search study analysed 'near me' queries and found that the anchor text profile of links is important as a way of achieving high rankings. Having more backlinks with locations identified in the anchor text correlated with good positions in Google's local pack rankings.
While there was also a strong positive correlation between highly ranked sites and those with keywords in their business names, it's an approach that needs some care as over-stuffing titles with keywords can have negative results. If you are starting a new business however, this might be something to keep in mind.
So for those businesses looking to get the greatest value in local search optimisation, the key findings revealed by the research show that links work, gathering reviews, developing a robust local profile and citation building are the areas to focus on in local search.
It's worth noting that your position in web results is also a factor. Since some of these local SEO ranking factors are based on the more traditional SEO best practices, your website’s ranking across organic search is going to directly affect how well you rank in local search results. Businesses should ensure they spend time on traditional SEO tactics for their website to ensure the visibility in a local search stays high.