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Take your local SEO to the next level!

Sep 20, 2017
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If your business serves your local community, having a local SEO strategy is essential to your success online. We have seen a number of changes to local search over the past year and having the right listing information isn’t enough to get the job done. So, what does it take today to stand out in local search? Let’s take a look.

Businesses today have more options than ever when it comes to ranking locally. Based on an article from Moz, local companies, have about seven ways to show up in the local SERPs. Here is how Darren Shaw, the author of the Moz article categorized the different local SERP options. I like his breakdown.

GMB Listing

Google My Business Listing. Your primary listing at Google that is editable in the GMB dashboard and publicly accessible at 3 locations:

  1. Google Search (knowledge panel) (example)
  2. Google Maps (example)
  3. Google+ (example)

GMB Landing Page

The page that a GMB links to the listing. Usually the homepage or a location page. (example)

Local Pack

The regular local 3-pack that appears for most local search terms. (example)

Local ABC Pack

A local 3-pack with A, B, and C to the left of each result. No review stars, ratings, or counts appear for this type. This pack type is returned for branded terms such as "Starbucks" and, inexplicably, for storage and gas station terms. (example)

Local Snack Pack

This style of local 3-pack appears for dining, hospitality, and entertainment terms. Results have a photo, no phone number, and no links to the website. (example)

Local Sponsored Pack

This is a special pack type that is currently appearing in San Diego for plumbers and locksmiths. It appears in addition to the regular local pack. (example 1)

Another version of the sponsored pack type appearing for home services businesses in the San Francisco area looks like this: (example 2)

Local Finder

The complete list of local results that appear when the "More places" link at the bottom of a local pack is clicked. (example)

While your Google My Business listing is still your primary listing, as you can see there are many additional ways to gain exposure in the search results. So the real question is, how can you improve your position and visibility?

Top 10 Foundational Factors

Foundational factors are essential. These are the most basic elements and are the bare minimum required details if you want your location even to show up. While these won’t “move the needle” per se, without these factors, you won’t rank at all.

  1. Proper GMB Category Associations
  2. Consistency of Citations on The Primary Data Sources
  3. Physical Address in City of Search
  4. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
  5. Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Citation Sources
  6. Verified GMB Listing
  7. HTML NAP Matching GMB Listing NAP
  8. Domain Authority of Website
  9. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  10. GMB Primary Category Matches a Broader Category of the Search Category (e.g., primary category=restaurant & search=pizza)

As you can see, these are your typical local factors. You need to claim, verify and make sure that your locations are all in sync. Having consistency across your listings as well as your site are foundational aspects of local search.

Top 10 Local Pack Finder Factors

These are the factors that impact your site ranking in the general SERPs. These are both local and broader SEO factors that work together. Here are the top 10 results from the study mentioned above.

  1. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
  2. Physical Address in City of Search
  3. Proper GMB Category Associations
  4. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  5. Consistency of Citations on the Primary Data Sources
  6. Domain Authority of Website
  7. Product/Service Keyword in GMB Business Title
  8. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  9. Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Citation Sources
  10. Click-Through Rate from Search Results

When it comes to ranking locally, the proximity of the searcher plays a significant role in determining what the SERPs are going to be. Number two is the physical address of the location in the city of search. While the Possum update did expand the ability of location outside city centers to rank, it appears that Google still emphasizes the location in proximity to the city.

Inbound links matter greatly as well. The quality and authority of inbound links greatly impacts Local SEO. You need more than just citations and links. You need quality links pointing to your site as well.

Top 10 Local Organic Factors

Local organic refers to your site ranking for terms that are location based but do not contain a local pack. In other words, the results will look more like a typical SERP with locally oriented results.

  1. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  2. Domain Authority of Website
  3. Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain
  4. Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
  5. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain
  6. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally Relevant Domains
  7. Click-Through Rate from Search Results
  8. Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
  9. Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
  10. Mobile-Friendly/Responsive Website

As you can see, the factors for local organic look very similar to what you would see in a typical SEO strategy. Link quality and authority, domain authority, and the diversity of links play large roles. Additionally, you can also see that local factors like product and service keywords paired with geographic terms have an impact.

Top 10 Competitive Difference-Makers

So many of the factors above are essential, but the 10 listed below are a few ways that you can gain an edge on the competition. Having a solid foundation is key, but if you want to drive business, you need to focus on the following areas:

  1. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  2. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains
  3. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
  4. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally Relevant Domains
  5. Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)
  6. Click-Through Rate from Search Results
  7. Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts, Gov Sites, Industry Associations)
  8. Domain Authority of Website
  9. Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL from Locally Relevant Domains
  10. Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain

Well, links remain the core of quality SEO. Other than real reviews, (#5) the rest of the top 10 all have to do with links. Following link building best practices, you need to focus on quality and diversity.

When it comes to maximizing the visibility of your business in local search, it’s pretty clear that the key is links. You first need to build a solid foundation by claiming your listings and optimizing them. After that, you need to focus on building contextually appropriate and diverse links to your site.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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