In this post I’m going to outline the organic ranking factors for local SEO – these are the actual ranking results (SERPs or Search Engine Results Pages) you see when you perform a search. These are not the factors to get you listed in the Snack Pack or Local Stack listing, and I’ll cover these off in my next post.
For now, we’re dealing with straight forward, local SEO ranking factors, and I’m only handling the top 5 (there are plenty more).
Local SEO Factor #1 – Domain Authority
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz, and is a popular measure of how well a website is likely to rank in the SERPs. Factors taken into account include the number and quality of linking root domains and various backlink measures, as well as quantified measures of trust and predictive ranking capability.
DA is measured on a scale of 1 to 100, and it uses over 40 weighted metrics on website health to come out with a number. This is a logarithmic scale, so it is easier to go from 10 to 20 than it is to go from 70 to 80, i.e. the higher you go, the harder it is to advance again. DA values are updated once a month on average, and while I don’t personally put a lot of weight into this metric on its own, it is very useful when comparing against other competing websites.
If this sounds like gobbledygook, don’t worry as even experienced SEOs have their mind boggled over what is going on with this. The bottom line is it’s important to gain some measure of what Domain Authority is for Local SEO in a competitive environment, and understand what the level of effort is going to be to get your business ranked.
Local SEO Factor #2 – Quality of Backlinks
I keep hearing about how backlinking is dead, or even worse, bad for SEO rankings. I’d like to dispel that myth completely: if you have online competing websites, then backlinks are a major part of what will cause one site to rank over others. You need backlinks, but it is not a case of sheer volume of links, but rather the quality of them that are inbound to your website.
Earlier this year, there was a Q&A talking heads session with Google’s Andrey Lipattsev who flat-out confirmed backlinks are one of the top 3 ranking factors for SEO (not just Local SEO). For the tech heads reading this, here is a link where you can find Ammon Johns, Bill Slawski, Rand Fishkin, and Andrey Lipattsev discussing this: click here for Search Engine Watch article.
Quality backlinks will come from relevant websites, from sources which are local to your area of service and operation, and from websites which themselves have a good level of DA.
The problem for many business owners is how to generate these links, and sadly, many providers claiming to understand and offer local search optimization services don’t know how to do it either. Backlinking is a disciplined and labor-intensive exercise, and you really need to know what you’re doing to generate results, but ultimately you need them to compete in search engine rankings.
Local SEO Factor #3 – Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a Google-owned property which requires you to go through a physical verification process (you register and a postcard with a verification code is sent to you at that address). This demonstrates you are a legit business, and that the address you provide is real and you’re there, and with that address you boost your local credentials for Google.
Make sure you claim your GMB listing and go through the verification process, but be ultra-careful that you use the exact spelling of your business name as you do for everything else, and ensure that you use a local telephone number instead of a toll-free one (the area code is a further check on your location).
Local SEO Factor #4 – Click Through Rate (CTR) from Search Engine Visitors
No matter where you are currently ranking in the search engine results, the rate at which users click through to your website compared to others listed is a measure of how relevant your site is. Google published an article on their blog about this, and then very quickly took it down because it was giving too much of the Google algorithm away, but fortunately Barry Schwarz over at Rusty Brick managed to capture a copy of it.
You want to optimize this not just to grab the optimization benefit, but because this means real people looking for your products and services are going to be visiting your website in greater numbers.
Ensure you have well-written meta descriptions, which provide a succinct explanation about the web page being listed, and are usually displayed by Google in the search results. You have 160 characters to do this, and you need to include Calls to Action (CTAs) to entice the user to click on your listing rather than the competition.
Local SEO Factor #5 – Topical Keyword Relevance of Website Content
If you want to rank for “Frederick Family Dentist”, then it makes good sense to include the keyword phrase on your web page, and talk about what this means – assuming you are in fact, a family dentist based in Frederick MD!
If you are selling banking services, it would make no sense to talk about dentistry on a ranking web page – you would be talking about banking services!
There is also more to ranking than simply focusing on a keyword or phrase. Google in particular, is very good at identifying synonyms and semantics. Taking our Frederick dentist example, we could also ensure terms associated with a dental practice are included on the website too: “sedation dentistry”, “oral surgery”, “dental hygiene”, “children’s dental services”, and so on.
Again for the tech heads who like to get into this, here is a great piece from Search Metrics on topical relevance.
My top 5 local SEO factors are:
- Domain Authority (DA) – how well your website is likely to rank
- Quality of Backlinks – quality over quantity, make them local too
- Claim Google My Business listing and verify it with Google
- Optimize Click Through Rate for Search Visitors – optimize meta description
- Topical Relevance of Keywords – if you’re a lawyer, talk about law, if you’re a baker, talk about bread and cakes
About Karl Hindle
Karl is a British import and has been practicing SEO and digital marketing for over 15 years.
He is the founder of Wellspring Search, serving clients in the Central Maryland area, across the US and overseas.
In addition, he is a Google AdWords and Google Analytics certified individual.
Tel: (240) 415-6191
The Top 5 Local SEO Factors
e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: (240) 415-6191