Since the year 2008, when David Mihm first published the results of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, SEO professionals have been anticipating the results published each year. If you’re an online marketer, then you’re bound to gain some pretty useful insights from this survey. Here are the top 5 most important local search ranking factors of 2013:
1. Proper Category Associations
Have you created your Google+ Local business page yet? If so, then you probably remember that you were made to choose categories twice. You may want to revisit the primary category you chose for your business, which is the most important category you’ll have to choose for your page. Be sure to choose a category that’s as specific to your business as possible. For example, if you sell pastries and there’s a “Cakes and Pastries” category available, it’s a lot better to choose that over the more general “Food” category. You should also choose the most relevant category on each platform you build a business profile in, bearing in mind that they may have different categories from what’s available on Google+.
2. Physical Address
There are two instances where your business is likely to appear on Google search results pages for local searches. The first is if the search was conducted from a device that’s based in the city where your business is physically located. The second is if the query contains the name of the city where your business is physically located. This particular factor will have the biggest effect on businesses that have no physical address and businesses that are located just outside the borders of a major city. The best thing you can do in this case is to create a landing page showcasing your business association with cities you are servicing. It would be even better if you can create a separate landing page for each city where you do business.
3. Consistency of Structured Citations
A structured citation is a listing of your business name, address, and phone number in a local directory like YP.com and Best of the Web. Your structured citations may be deemed inconsistent if they involve any of the following:
- Different business names on various platforms (e.g. Pastry Corner in YP.com, but Pastries Corner in Best of the Web)
- Wrong street address or an error in the physical address
- Wrong phone number, different phone numbers on different platforms, or a toll-free number
- Wrong website URL or different URLs on different platforms
You have to be very conscientious in making sure your structured citations contain accurate and consistent information. Both humans and search engines should be able to trust the data you provide.
4. Quality of Structured Citations
Other than ensuring consistency, you should also ensure that your structured citations are all of good quality, and that means getting your business listed only on top-quality directories. Find out which local business directories are deemed the most authoritative and then get your business listed there. Tools such as the Local Citation Finder and the one on GetListed.org can help you with this.
5. Matching HTML NAP and Place Page NAP
When you link your Google+ Local page to your website, Google will check the linked web page to see if the business name, address, and phone number match those on your Google+ Local page. If they do, then you’re safe. If there are discrepancies, however, Google may get confused and likely won’t give you a good ranking. Again, it is important to ensure consistency in the contact information you provide.
The above local search ranking factors refer to general search, but because social media has become essential to online marketing, it may also be a good idea to check out the top local ranking factors for what is perhaps the most popular social networking site: Facebook.
1. Social Connections
When you perform a local search on Facebook’s Graph Search, the results will include places your Facebook connections have visited and “Liked.” If you still haven’t set up a Facebook page for your business, then you need to do so RIGHT NOW. How can anyone “Like” your business if you don’t have a business page set up? If and when Graph Search truly takes off, you have to be sure you don’t get left behind.
You don’t really need to get the most Likes in your specific category, but you do need to get as many Likes as possible without resorting to shady tactics. Facebook’s goal is to identify businesses and places that people really patronize. This means you need to have followers you engage with regularly, not just people who Like your page and then never visit that page again. Rather than buying Likes, therefore, you need to focus on implementing a well-planned Facebook marketing campaign.
If you take the time to give Graph Search a try, you’ll be sure to notice that the more check-ins a business has over a certain period, the higher its correlation is to a strong ranking. Make sure you allow your target market to check-in to your location by choosing “Local Business” as a category for your business.
4. Proximity to Query Location
Yes, you’re right. This is just like the second factor in the previous list. Graph Search works just like Google where location is concerned. If someone searches for “pastries in Denver,” then you’re in luck if you happen to own a Denver-based pastry business. You need to make sure you have the right business on your Facebook page and that the city you’re based in is mentioned in the Page Information.
5. Star Ratings
Whenever a user checks into your business via Facebook, the site may choose to provide that user with a ratings module so he can rate your business. What’s great about this approach to start ratings is that Facebook is completely in control of who has access to the ratings module. This is therefore a very strong factor for your local Graph Search rankings, and this makes it all the more important for you to focus on giving visitors the best possible experience with your business.
With these two sets of the most important local search ranking factors of 2013, you should be off to a good start for 2014. You can take the time to learn about the other factors that may affect ranking as you go along. We wish you the best of luck!