Learn what will help your Local Business stand out in search.
A year ago most of the SEO world was trying to optimize Local SEO based on a study that had no objective data and only city the opinions of SEOs.
Luckily, two colleagues Shotland and Leibson looked at over 100 factors across 30,000 businesses, resulting in over 1.5 million data points during the past year. They partnered with Places Scout, a local SEO tool company, to pull the data, then had “actual Ph.D.s” interpret that data.
First, Proximity matters
The results of this new study backed up the findings of this year’s Local Search Ranking Factor study from Moz, released a few weeks ago. It’s not surprising that both indicate that proximity is a huge factor in determining local search results. Leibson suggested it’s more complex than simple proximity, though. They believe that there’s a priority tier of local results determined by relevance and prominence, and THEN proximity is used to determine the order of those results.
Leibson showed several examples of searches for nearby businesses where the three results in the map pack appeared to be ranked in order of closest proximity, but then he showed a wider map view that showed other options that were closer to the point of search. These were presumably not in the top tier of relevance and prominence.
This is one more example of Google really trying to do extra work for you to show you what they think is the best option. Obviously, straight distance to the closest business you are interested in would be easiest.
What are the strongest factors for Google map ranking?
According to the research, Google My Business authority has a strong correlation with pack rankings. Businesses with more reviews, those with photos uploaded to Google My Business, and those with the searched keyword in the actual business name will rank higher.
- More reviews
- Photos uploaded
- Keyword in the business name
The highest on-site factors were the number of words on the GMB landing page (the page that the GMB listing links to) and the number of images on the Google My Business landing page.
Link metrics and mechanics were also an important factor correlated with higher rankings. Better results were also seen when the city name was included in the anchor text of links and including the searched keyword in the anchor text.
- Include the city name in the anchor text of links
- Include keyword in the anchor text
To Search or Link? Do location pages cannibalize dynamic locator searches pages?
This question has been around awhile. Should businesses with multiple locations use a dynamic locator search page or individual location pages? Based on this research, there’s no cannibalization.
In fact, Local Businesses actually ranked better if they included both. They shoed that businesses with locator pages and locations pages ranked for more terms than businesses with locator pages only.
Is it possible to optimize for ‘near me’ searches?
If you are watching any keyword level data you will notice (even if you aren’t a local business) the increase of “near me” searches. Leibson explained that it’s possible to optimize for those searches with clever internal linking and optimized anchor text. He suggested that locator pages should include text like “Find more nearby stores” or “Find a retirement community near me.”
Their research also showed that there was a strong correlation between high rankings and businesses that had a higher number of native Google reviews and a higher number of links with the city in the anchor text.
- Add language like “Find Nearby Stores” or “Find a _____ near me” to locator pages
- Gather native Google Reviews
- Add city name in anchor text
Implicit and explicit searches are separate beasts
Leibson and Shotland presented some interesting data that indicates that Google treats implicit and explicit local searches differently. With implicit searches (without the geo term included), the keyword in the business name was very low in importance, while proximity was a huge factor.
For explicit searches (with the city term included), the keyword in the business name was an incredibly important factor, while proximity became one of the least important factors.
Anatomy of a good location page
After studying so many hundreds of thousands of results, the guys thought it was important to finish up by sharing a few examples of well-done location pages. They shared the following sites as the best examples of location pages (the links go directly to a page for an individual location):
The webmaster and SEO community, all show strong signs that there was a Google algorithm ranking update on March 8th.
Update from 3/15/2017
Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Land posted a great article after doing some in-depth analysis on this latest “Fred” SEO update with some thoughts on who it seems to be hitting.
His research shows that it’s primarily hitting low-value content sites that are focusing on affiliate links or ads.
In his own words
The vast majority of URLs shared with me all show the same type of website. A content site, often in a blog format, but not always, that has content on various topics — which looks to be written for ranking purposes and then has ads and/or affiliate links sprinkled throughout the article. Many of these sites are not industry expert sites, but rather they seem to have content on vast array of topics that are not adding all that much value above what other sites in the industry have already written.
Since yesterday morning, the SEO industry has been tracking an unconfirmed Google ranking update that seems to be aimed at the link quality aspects of the overall search algorithm.
Many are calling this the “Fred” Update, a name the internet community is adopting. That came from Google’s Gary Illyes, who has jokingly suggested that all updates be named “Fred.”
We’ve seen more chatter and reports of changes from within the “black hat” SEO community, which generally means that this is a spam algorithm update around potentially questionable links.
There was also a large content quality Google update on February 7 that was never confirmed. As you expect, Google is very unlikely to confirm algorithm updates these days — but that won’t stop us from reporting large shifts in the search results that convey an algorithm update has happened.
Many of the automated tracking tools currently show significant volatility and fluctuations, which is an indicator of an update. Plus, with all the industry chatter, and with webmasters both complaining about ranking declines and rejoicing about ranking increases, it’s likely that there was a Google update.
We are waiting to hear from Google if they have any comment.