Local SEO is a fairly new strategy, however, it is more competitive than ever. Local search is an integral part of marketing any type of business in 2020, which is why it’s important to be familiar with the local SEO ranking factors that will make your marketing campaign successful.
Although search engines like Google are constantly updating their algorithms and the exact formula for local SEO remains unknown, we’ve identified 8 local SEO ranking factors that are crucial in 2020 if you want your business to show up higher in local search results and earn more motivated traffic.
Why are Local SEO Ranking Factors Important in 2020?
According to HubSpot, more than 46% of Google searches are looking for local information. And, 92% of searchers will click on and choose businesses that appear on the first page of local search results. The higher your business ranks for local search terms, the more local customers will find and contact your business.
Think about the services and business you search for on a regular basis. When looking for a restaurant, urgent care center, or carpenter, you have probably pulled out your phone or laptop to conduct an online search. More importantly, the results you found when conducting that search were likely local search results. You probably saw a map, several listings with a brief business introduction, followed by more organic search results.
Whether you knew it or not, the search results you scrolled through and clicked on showed up on your search results because Google considered your location and your search intent to show you the best results possible. When your potential customers search for a business or service, they experience the same thing. And, if they don’t find your business in the local search results, they’re going to contact someone else – which is exactly why understanding local SEO ranking factors is important.
Whether you’re a healthcare provider, a retail company, or a handyman, Having a strong local SEO strategy is key to attracting more customers, growing your business, and staying ahead of the competition next door.
1. Google My Business (GMB)
Google My Business (GMB) is perhaps one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO in 2020. GMB is a free listing tool where local businesses can create and manage their listings. Making sure that your GMB listing is properly set up and filled out completely is a vital part of getting both search engines and prospective customers to find your business online. After all, GMB listings are one of the first things users see when they search for a local business or service.
Whether someone is searching for a roofing contractor near them or a medical provider, Google will automatically populate the search engine results with their Google My Business local 3-pack. For example, when searching for a primary care physician near me, Google features the first three GMB listings on the first page right before the organic search results.
If you can manage to earn a position in the local 3-pack for industry-related search terms, you will see your website earn more traffic, generate more phone calls, and grow your customer base.
The issue with the Map Pack is that results vary significantly based on where a person is searching from. Someone who is two miles away from you may see entirely different results than you do for the same exact search term. So, when tracking your Map Pack rankings, it’s important to not only focus on the single physical location of your listing but the rest of the local area, as well.
When filling out your GMB profile, you will enter information about your business such as its location, phone number, service area, industry, and more. This information is then used by search algorithms to analyze your listing and determine how your listing appears for users in your area. While setting up, claiming, and verifying your GMB listing is important for helping you show up in Google’s map listings, it will also work together with the rest of your local SEO strategy for further online visibility.
2. NAP Citations
If you’ve already claimed and set up your GMB profile, you have already obtained one NAP citation. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number – the identifiers that help search engines evaluate and rank your business in local searches. NAP citations are today’s version of the Yellow Pages. It simply means filling out your business profile on all applicable online directories. Citations have three specific roles:
- Pushing out consistent information about your business onto various places on the web
- Acquiring local backlinks from authoritative websites
- Providing NAP consistency to legitimize your business
Across all of your citations, consistency is key. Your business name, phone number, and address should appear exactly the same across all of your online listings. Google and other search engines will notice these listings, collect your information, reaffirm the accuracy and legitimacy of your business, and help you rank better for local search queries. There is also evidence that relevant and quality local citations can help boost your Google Map Pack rankings.
If you’re just getting started with local SEO, you should use a citation tool, such as WhiteSpark, to gather a report for you of all of your existing NAPs. Once you have this report, it is good practice to go through your existing citations to ensure they are 100% accurate. If any of your NAP citations aren’t accurate or consistent, you will want to make the necessary steps to correct them.
You can also use citation tools to reverse engineer your competitor’s NAPs. The same tools that you use for your personal citation audits can be used to collect the NAP citations for your competitor, so you can target those same citations and begin to outrank the competition.
3. Reviews and Reputation Management
In 2020, people trust online reviews nearly as much as they trust word-of-mouth recommendations. Plus, most consumers will read reviews before they make a purchase. Having positive online reviews helps demonstrate to potential customers that your business is reliable, trustworthy, and dedicated to customer satisfaction. Not only do positive reviews make your business look attractive to online searchers, but it will also contribute to improved local rankings.
Local SEO ranking factors include the number, frequency, quality, and diversity of reviews that a business has. When businesses constantly have four-star and five-star reviews coming in from real people, Google sees it as a sign that customers are happy with the services provided by the business. And, since Google is constantly looking for ways to place the best services in front of the right audience, businesses who have positive online reviews will be ranked higher in the local search rankings.
There are several places where you might focus on earning positive reviews, such as Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’sList, and more. Just as important as getting reviews is managing your reviews. On GMB, for example, businesses have the option to respond directly to the reviews they receive.
Responding to reviews is good practice because it shows customers that you care about the quality of services you provide and that you’re actively seeking to accommodate clients and improve your business model.
4. On-Page SEO Signals
There are many different on-page SEO signals that search engines consider when analyzing websites for local search rankings. One of the first and most important on-page signals is the use of relevant keywords. Search engines scan pages and collect the keywords on those pages to figure out where websites belong in the rankings. If your website doesn’t have any local keywords and identifiers on your website, search engines will have a more difficult time deciphering your location.
Important details, including your NAP, are another aspect of on-page SEO. The NAP on your online citations should exactly match the NAP on your website pages. Another way to send a local SEO ranking signal is to embed a Google map onto your About Us or Contact Us page. This is a great way to emphasize to Google exactly where you are located.
An additional local on-page SEO ranking factor is site speed and responsiveness. Responsive websites that load quickly and are mobile-friendly tend to rank higher on the SERPs and provide a better user experience. While a whopping 30% of Google searches that come from mobile devices are relating to location, 88% of local searches on mobile devices end in a call or visit to the business within 24 hours. As a result, small businesses cannot skimp on the mobile-friendliness of their website.
5. Location-Based Content
For years, content is said to be king when it comes to SEO, and local SEO in 2020 is no different. Creating and publishing high quality, relevant content that is specific to your local community can help boost your local rankings. After all, people love connecting with community-based brands that are relatable and involved in the area. In addition, location-based content gives you the opportunity to use local keywords and identifiers that will help improve your local search rankings.
Making sure to use your location-focused keyword throughout your content can help a lot with your local organic rankings. You should use your local keyword in your title tag or meta description, but most importantly at the very top of your page in your headline. This tells users that you serve a specific area and adds that location-focused keyword to your H1 heading, indicating to search engines that your content is focusing on a specific area.
Today, content is more than just blogs. While you should dedicate time to writing and posting SEO friendly blogs, local content can also come in the form of news articles, videos, interviews, infographics, or event announcements. Using location-based terms along with your industry-related keywords will help you rank for search terms related to your industry in your location. As a result, location-based content can significantly improve your online visibility and local traffic.
6. Link Building Strategy
Backlinks are another important ranking factor for local SEO. Businesses that obtain backlinks from relevant, authoritative, and local websites will see positive impacts on their local search marketing strategy. Even though link-building is challenging and one of the most time-consuming aspects of SEO, it is a vital part of SEO because the quality of your backlink profile signals to Google that your website is trustworthy and relevant. And, remember, when it comes to link building, quality is always better than quantity.
Backlinks are links that come from other websites and point towards pages on yours. Sometimes, your website will acquire backlinks naturally or through your citation building. However, there are many additional ways to build local links. Depending on the industry your business is in, some places to look for link building opportunities include local news outlets, industry-related publications, directories, local community organization websites, local blogs, or local event pages. You may even look for local schools, universities, healthcare providers, and other organizations that provide resources to people in need of your services.
When asking for link placements, the anchor text used to link to your website matters. The anchor text should contain the local keywords you want to rank for or variations of those keywords. If you are a drug rehab in Florida, you can benefit from getting backlinks that use anchor text variations such as “Florida drug rehab,” “drug and alcohol rehab in Florida,” or “the best rehab in Florida.” Using your target keywords in your anchor text will help indicate to search engines what your page is about and what it should rank for.
An important factor that determines your placement in local search results is the quality of your local backlinks. For example, websites that have several low-quality backlinks from spammy websites aren’t likely to see results from their link building. Instead, your strategy should focus on pinning down links that are relevant to your business and that are on other authoritative and trustworthy websites.
7. User Behavior Signals
Google’s algorithm uses many different user behavior signals to determine the order of local search rankings. Behavior signals refer to specific actions that online users take when interacting with your website or your business listings. The most important user behavior signals in terms of local SEO ranking factors are:
- Click to Call Mobile – This involves using a button that allows users to directly call a business. Websites that use click-to-call technology see their average ROI increase by 143% in three years after implementing it. Click to call will also help increase the mobile use of your website, which will improve your click-through rates and overall SEO.
- Social Medica Check-ins – Consumers can use social media platforms like Facebook to “check-in” when they are at a local business. On Facebook, for example, you can see how many people have checked into a business by looking at their “about” information panel
- Click-Through Rates (CTR) – CTR is a metric that measures how many times people are clicking on a website in the search results. For example, if your website ranks #4 for a specific keyword that receives 100 searches every month but only receives 5 clicks, your organic CTR is 5%. Websites with a higher CTR not only have more traffic, but they also earn higher rankings. CTR is a strong search engine ranking signal that will help determine where your website ranks in local searches.
Search engines will analyze these user behavior signals to help them determine where to rank local businesses in the search results. In order to track your user behavior signals and adjust your marketing strategies accordingly, you will need a comprehensive local SEO strategy. By monitoring these signals and doing things like incentivizing customers to check in on social media or changing up your title tags and meta descriptions, you will see your website rank higher in the local search results and attract more motivated customers in your area.
8. Schema Markups
While schema markups aren’t absolutely necessary, you’re better off having them than not. Schema.org, regularly shortened to Schema, refers to semantic vocabulary consisting of tags that you can add to your HTML code in order to improve the way search engines read, evaluate, and rank your content. Adding Schema markup can also change and enhance the way your page is displayed on the SERPs.
One common practice that can help your local SEO is by using review markups. A review markup can turn a regular search result into an eye-catching one that features review-star rankings. Results such as these are called Rich Snippets and can be attractive to users who are looking for a local business or service.
Other information that can be added via Schema markup is publication dates and price range.
Additionally, structured data can be used to mark up many different pieces of information about your content, such as the author’s name, title, location, product, organization, event, and more. Although there is no evidence that using structured data will improve your search rankings, using extensive Rich Snippets created with Schema can land you a better CTR – which you already know is important for earning more traffic and improving your local rankings.
Let Stodzy Handle Your Local SEO For You
With the vast majority of online searches being related to local businesses and services, you can’t afford to skimp on your local SEO strategy in 2020. That being said, these 8 local SEO ranking factors are only scratching the surface of everything that goes into local SEO. If you truly want to see long-term results and an improved ROI, you need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and an SEO team that can implement that strategy for you.
Today, local SEO is the most powerful and effective way to reach more customers in your area. At Stodzy Internet Marketing, we’ve spent the last 10 years watching Google evolve into placing a heavy focus on location to keep up with the increase in location-based searches. In the process, we’ve mastered the art of local SEO and have a proven track record of bringing our clients a significant number of qualified leads.
If you’re ready to see your rankings improve and start reaching the local market in your area, contact Stodzy today. We’ll set you up with a free site-audit and obligation-free consultation to show you how we can help your business grow your online footprint.