Local Search Ranking Factors 2018: Local Today, Key Takeaways, and the Future

Local Search Ranking Factors 2018: Local Today, Key Takeaways, and the Future

Local Search Ranking Factors 2018: Local Today, Key Takeaways, and the Future 1920 1291 Whitespark

Posted by Whitespark

In the past year, local SEO has run at a startling and near-constant pace of change. From an explosion of new Google My Business features to an ever-increasing emphasis on the importance of reviews, it’s almost too much to keep up with. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome our friend Darren Shaw to explain what local is like today, dive into the key takeaways from his 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, and offer us a glimpse into the future according to the local SEO experts.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I’m Darren Shaw from Whitespark, and today I want to talk to you about the local search ranking factors. So this is a survey that David Mihm has run for the past like 10 years. Last year, I took it over, and it’s a survey of the top local search practitioners, about 40 of them. They all contribute their answers, and I aggregate the data and say what’s driving local search. So this is what the opinion of the local search practitioners is, and I’ll kind of break it down for you.

Local search today

So these are the results of this year’s survey. We had Google My Business factors at about 25%. That was the biggest piece of the pie. We have review factors at 15%, links at 16%, on-page factors at 14%, behavioral at 10%, citations at 11%, personalization and social at 6% and 3%. So that’s basically the makeup of the local search algorithm today, based on the opinions of the people that participated in the survey.

The big story this year is Google My Business. Google My Business factors are way up, compared to last year, a 32% increase in Google My Business signals. I’ll talk about that a little bit more over in the takeaways. Review signals are also up, so more emphasis on reviews this year from the practitioners. Citation signals are down again, and that makes sense. They continue to decline I think for a number of reasons. They used to be the go-to factor for local search. You just built out as many citations as you could. Now the local search algorithm is so much more complicated and there’s so much more to it that it’s being diluted by all of the other factors. Plus it used to be a real competitive difference-maker. Now it’s not, because everyone is pretty much getting citations. They’re considered table stakes now. By seeing a drop here, it doesn’t mean you should stop doing them. They’re just not the competitive difference-maker they used to be. You still need to get listed on all of the important sites.

Key takeaways

All right, so let’s talk about the key takeaways.

1. Google My Business

The real story this year was Google My Business, Google My Business, Google My Business. Everyone in the comments was talking about the benefits they’re seeing from investing in a lot of these new features that Google has been adding.

Google has been adding a ton of new features lately — services, descriptions, Google Posts, Google Q&A. There’s a ton of stuff going on in Google My Business now that allows you to populate Google My Business with a ton of extra data. So this was a big one.

✓ Take advantage of Google Posts

Everyone talked about Google Posts, how they’re seeing Google Posts driving rankings. There are a couple of things there. One is the semantic content that you’re providing Google in a Google post is definitely helping Google associate those keywords with your business. Engagement with Google Posts as well could be driving rankings up, and maybe just being an active business user continuing to post stuff and logging in to your account is also helping to lift your business entity and improve your rankings. So definitely, if you’re not on Google Posts, get on it now.

If you search for your category, you’ll see a ton of businesses are not doing it. So it’s also a great competitive difference-maker right now.

✓ Seed your Google Q&A

Google Q&A, a lot of businesses are not even aware this exists. There’s a Q&A section now. Your customers are often asking questions, and they’re being answered by not you. So it’s valuable for you to get in there and make sure you’re answering your questions and also seed the Q&A with your own questions. So add all of your own content. If you have a frequently asked questions section on your website, take that content and put it into Google Q&A. So now you’re giving lots more content to Google.

✓ Post photos and videos

Photos and videos, continually post photos and videos, maybe even encourage your customers to do that. All of that activity is helpful. A lot of people don’t know that you can now post videos to Google My Business. So get on that if you have any videos for your business.

✓ Fill out every field

There are so many new fields in Google My Business. If you haven’t edited your listing in a couple of years, there’s a lot more stuff in there that you can now populate and give Google more data about your business. All of that really leads to engagement. All of these extra engagement signals that you’re now feeding Google, from being a business owner that’s engaged with your listing and adding stuff and from users, you’re giving them more stuff to look at, click on, and dwell on your listing for a longer time, all that helps with your rankings.

2. Reviews

✓ Get more Google reviews

Reviews continue to increase in importance in local search, so, obviously, getting more Google reviews. It used to be a bit more of a competitive difference-maker. It’s becoming more and more table stakes, because everybody seems to be having lots of reviews. So you definitely want to make sure that you are competing with your competition on review count and lots of high-quality reviews.

✓ Keywords in reviews

Getting keywords in reviews, so rather than just asking for a review, it’s useful to ask your customers to mention what service they had provided or whatever so you can get those keywords in your reviews.

✓ Respond to reviews (users get notified now!)

Responding to reviews. Google recently started notifying users that if the owner has responded to you, you’ll get an email. So all of that is really great, and those responses, it’s another signal to Google that you’re an engaged business.

✓ Diversify beyond Google My Business for reviews

Diversify. Don’t just focus on Google My Business. Look at other sites in your industry that are prominent review sites. You can find them if you just look for your own business name plus reviews, if you search that in Google, you’re going to see the sites that Google is saying are important for your particular business.

You can also find out like what are the sites that your competitors are getting reviews on. Then if you just do a search like keyword plus city, like “lawyers + Denver,” you might find sites that are important for your industry as well that you should be listed on. So check out a couple of your keywords and make sure you’re getting reviews on more sites than just Google.

3. Links

Then links, of course, links continue to drive local search. A lot of people in the comments talked about how a handful of local links have been really valuable. This is a great competitive difference-maker, because a lot of businesses don’t have any links other than citations. So when you get a few of these, it can really have an impact.

✓ From local industry sites and sponsorships

They really talk about focusing on local-specific sites and industry-specific sites. So you can get a lot of those from sponsorships. They’re kind of the go-to tactic. If you do a search for in title sponsors plus city name, you’re going to find a lot of sites that are listing their sponsors, and those are opportunities for you, in your city, that you could sponsor that event as well or that organization and get a link.

The future!

All right. So I also asked in the survey: Where do you see Google going in the future? We got a lot of great responses, and I tried to summarize that into three main themes here for you.

1. Keeping users on Google

This is a really big one. Google does not want to send its users to your website to get the answer. Google wants to have the answer right on Google so that they don’t have to click. It’s this zero-click search result. So you see Rand Fishkin talking about this. This has been happening in local for a long time, and it’s really amplified with all of these new features Google has been adding. They want to have all of your data so that they don’t have to send users to find it somewhere else. Then that means in the future less traffic to your website.

So Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm also talk about Google as your new homepage, and this concept is like branded search.

  • What does your branded search look like?
  • So what sites are you getting reviews on?
  • What does your knowledge panel look like?

Make that all look really good, because Google doesn’t want to send people to your new website.

2. More emphasis on behavioral signals

David Mihm is a strong voice in this. He talks about how Google is trying to diversify how they rank businesses based on what’s happening in the real world. They’re looking for real-world signals that actual humans care about this business and they’re engaging with this business.

So there’s a number of things that they can do to track that — so branded search, how many people are searching for your brand name, how many people are clicking to call your business, driving directions. This stuff is all kind of hard to manipulate, whereas you can add more links, you can get more reviews. But this stuff, this is a great signal for Google to rely on.

Engagement with your listing, engagement with your website, and actual humans in your business. If you’ve seen on the knowledge panel sometimes for brick-and-mortar business, it will be like busy times. They know when people are actually at your business. They have counts of how many people are going into your business. So that’s a great signal for them to use to understand the prominence of your business. Is this a busy business compared to all the other ones in the city?

3. Google will monetize everything

Then, of course, a trend to monetize as much as they can. Google is a publicly traded company. They want to make as much money as possible. They’re on a constant growth path. So there are a few things that we see coming down the pipeline.

Local service ads are expanding across the country and globally and in different industries. So this is like a paid program. You have to apply to get into it, and then Google takes a cut of leads. So if you are a member of this, then Google will send leads to you. But you have to be verified to be in there, and you have to pay to be in there.

Then taking a cut from bookings, you can now book directly on Google for a lot of different businesses. If you think about Google Flights and Google Hotels, Google is looking for a way to monetize all of this local search opportunity. That’s why they’re investing heavily in local search so they can make money from it. So seeing more of these kinds of features rolling out in the future is definitely coming. Transactions from other things. So if I did book something, then Google will take a cut for it.

So that’s the future. That’s sort of the news of the local search ranking factors this year. I hope it’s been helpful. If you have any questions, just leave some comments and I’ll make sure to respond to them all. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


If you missed our recent webinar on the Local Search Ranking Factors survey with Darren Shaw and Dr. Pete, don’t worry! You can still catch the recording here:

Check out the webinar

You’ll be in for a jam-packed hour of deeper insights and takeaways from the survey, as well as some great audience-contributed Q&A.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

* Checkbox GDPR is required

*

I agree

Will you like to book a consultation today?

We promise you’ll be glad to have us as the only premium website developer you’ve ever had!

Will you like to book a consultation today?

We promise you’ll be glad to have us as the only premium website developer you’ve ever had!

Bear Design - WordPress Development

Bear Design provides website development and design, creating content uploaded websites and improving web page placements and web traffic. Bear Design websites are unique, easy to use and responsive. Site owners can easily edit the content, or can trust the Bear Design & Communications to keep them up to date and supply quality content regularly.


GET IN TOUCH
160 City Road, EC1V 2NX London, United Kingdom
Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

WE ARE IN LONDON

Bear Design - WordPress Development

Bear Design provides website development and design, creating content uploaded websites and improving web page placements and web traffic. Bear Design websites are unique, easy to use and responsive. Site owners can easily edit the content, or can trust the Bear Design & Communications to keep them up to date and supply quality content regularly.


WE ARE IN LONDON

GET IN TOUCH
160 City Road, EC1V 2NX London, United Kingdom
Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Bear Design - WordPress Development

Bear Design provides website development and design, creating content uploaded websites and improving web page placements and web traffic. Bear Design websites are unique, easy to use and responsive. Site owners can easily edit the content, or can trust the Bear Design & Communications to keep them up to date and supply quality content regularly.


GET IN TOUCH
160 City Road, EC1V 2NX London, United Kingdom
Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

WE ARE IN LONDON

© Made with by Bear Design

© Made with by Bear Design

    We are Bear Design

    WE DESIGN

    YOUR WORLD

    Bear Design & Communications Ltd.

    Address : 160 City Road, EC1V 2NX London, United Kingdom
    Phone : +36 702 448 100
    Email : [email protected]

    Opening hours :
    Monday – Thursday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
    Friday: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

    Are you sure?
    You must approve our cookie policy to use our site. I you refuse it you will redirect to the Google.
    Refuse
    Approve Cookies
    Cookie Policy
    Cookie Policy
    This Bear Design Cookie Policy (“Policy”) outlines the general policy, practices, and types of cookies that Bear Design And Communications Ltd.. (“Bear Design”, “we”, “us” or “our”) may use to improve our services and your experience when visiting our websites.Cookies are small pieces of text used to store information on web browsers. They’re used by many websites to store and receive identifiers and other information on devices, such as a handheld phone or computer. Our site and services use cookies and other similar technologies (collectively in this Policy, “cookies”), in order to provide a better service to you and to generally improve our sites and services. For example, we may use cookies to help direct you to the appropriate part of our websites, by indicating that you are a repeat visitor. We may also use information to present you with services that are matched to your preferences.Some portions of our websites are functional without cookies, and you may generally choose whether to accept cookies. Most web browsers are set to accept cookies by default, however, you may be able to delete cookies yourself through your browser’s cookie manager. To do so, please follow the instructions provided by your web browser. Please note that disabling cookies will reset your session, disable auto-login, and may adversely the availability and functionality of our websites and the services we can provide to you.As part of our services, we may also place cookies on the computers of visitors to websites protected by Bear Design. We do this in order to identify malicious visitors, reduce the chance of blocking legitimate users, and to provide customized services.Our websites use first party cookies (i.e., cookies set directly by Bear Design) as well as third party cookies, as detailed in the table below.
    Type of CookieWhy we use these cookiesWho serves them and where can you find out more information?
    Analytics and research of usersThese are used to understand, improve, and research users visiting //beardesign.me and their needs for our product offerings. For example, we may use cookies to understand what pages a user browses before submitting a sales request form. We do not share information about this analysis with any third parties.Selected third parties listed and defined as follows:
    • Google Analytics – Web traffic tracking – //www.google.com/policies/privacy/
    • Bing – Conversion tracking from Bing ads – https://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/policies/microsoft-bing-adsprivacy-policy
    • Doubleclick – Google advertising platform that analyzes browsing activity across website to establish user profile – //www.google.com/policies/technologies/ads/
    • Twitter – Analyzes browsing activity across website to establish user profile – https://support.twitter.com/articles/20170514
    • Facebook – Analyzes browsing activity across website to establish user profile – https://www.facebook.com/policies/cookies/
    A user can delete these cookies through browser settings.
    Improving Website experienceThese provide functionality to help us deliver a better user experience for our website. For example, cookies help facilitate chats with our sales representatives, allow you to search the website, and deliver the user quickly to their intended website location.1st party and selected third parties as defined below:
    • __cfduid 3rd party cookie – This cookie is strictly necessary for Cloudflare’s security features
    • __hssc Cookie for keeping track of sessions. This is used to determine if we should increment the session number and timestamps in the __hstc cookie. It contains: the domain, viewCount (increments each pageView in a session), session start timestamp. (Expires: 30 min)
    • __hssrc Whenever HubSpot changes the session cookie, this cookie is also set. We set it simply to the value “1”, and use it to determine if the user has restarted their browser. If this cookie does not exist when we manage cookies, we assume it is a new session. (Expires: None. Session cookie)
    • __hstc The main cookie for tracking visitors. It contains: the domain, utk (see below), initial timestamp (first visit), last timestamp (last visit), current timestamp (this visit), and session number (increments for each subsequent session) (Expires: 2 years)
    • hsfirstvisit This cookie used to keep track of a user’s first visit. (Expires: 10 years)
    • hubspotutk This cookie is used for to keep track of a visitor’s identity. This cookie is passed to HubSpot on form submission and used when deduplicating contacts. (Expires: 10 years)
    • wordpress_ WordPress cookie for a logged in user.
    • wordpress_logged_in_ WordPress cookie for a logged in user.
    • wp-settings- WordPress also sets a few wp-settings-[UID] cookies. The number on the end is your individual user ID from the users database table. This is used to customize your view of admin interface, and possibly also the main site interface.
    • wp-settings-time- WordPress also sets a few wp-settings-{time}-[UID] cookies. The number on the end is your individual user ID from the users database table. This is used to customize your view of admin interface, and possibly also the main site interface.
    • __cfduid 3rd party cookie – This cookie is strictly necessary for Cloudflare’s security features
    A user can delete these cookies through browser settings.
    LAST UPDATE: 24.01.2018, LONDON
    Approve
    Refuse
    Cookie Policy
    This Bear Design Cookie Policy (“Policy”) outlines the general policy, practices, and types of cookies that Bear Design And Communications Ltd.. (“Bear Design”, “we”, “us” or “our”) may use to improve our services and your experience when visiting our websites.Cookies are small pieces of text used to store information on web browsers. They’re used by many websites to store and receive identifiers and other information on devices, such as a handheld phone or computer. Our site and services use cookies and other similar technologies (collectively in this Policy, “cookies”), in order to provide a better service to you and to generally improve our sites and services. For example, we may use cookies to help direct you to the appropriate part of our websites, by indicating that you are a repeat visitor. We may also use information to present you with services that are matched to your preferences.Some portions of our websites are functional without cookies, and you may generally choose whether to accept cookies. Most web browsers are set to accept cookies by default, however, you may be able to delete cookies yourself through your browser’s cookie manager. To do so, please follow the instructions provided by your web browser. Please note that disabling cookies will reset your session, disable auto-login, and may adversely the availability and functionality of our websites and the services we can provide to you.As part of our services, we may also place cookies on the computers of visitors to websites protected by Bear Design. We do this in order to identify malicious visitors, reduce the chance of blocking legitimate users, and to provide customized services.Our websites use first party cookies (i.e., cookies set directly by Bear Design) as well as third party cookies, as detailed in the table below.
    Type of CookieWhy we use these cookiesWho serves them and where can you find out more information?
    Analytics and research of usersThese are used to understand, improve, and research users visiting //beardesign.me and their needs for our product offerings. For example, we may use cookies to understand what pages a user browses before submitting a sales request form. We do not share information about this analysis with any third parties.Selected third parties listed and defined as follows:
    • Google Analytics – Web traffic tracking – //www.google.com/policies/privacy/
    • Bing – Conversion tracking from Bing ads – https://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/policies/microsoft-bing-adsprivacy-policy
    • Doubleclick – Google advertising platform that analyzes browsing activity across website to establish user profile – //www.google.com/policies/technologies/ads/
    • Twitter – Analyzes browsing activity across website to establish user profile – https://support.twitter.com/articles/20170514
    • Facebook – Analyzes browsing activity across website to establish user profile – https://www.facebook.com/policies/cookies/
    A user can delete these cookies through browser settings.
    Improving Website experienceThese provide functionality to help us deliver a better user experience for our website. For example, cookies help facilitate chats with our sales representatives, allow you to search the website, and deliver the user quickly to their intended website location.1st party and selected third parties as defined below:
    • __cfduid 3rd party cookie – This cookie is strictly necessary for Cloudflare’s security features
    • __hssc Cookie for keeping track of sessions. This is used to determine if we should increment the session number and timestamps in the __hstc cookie. It contains: the domain, viewCount (increments each pageView in a session), session start timestamp. (Expires: 30 min)
    • __hssrc Whenever HubSpot changes the session cookie, this cookie is also set. We set it simply to the value “1”, and use it to determine if the user has restarted their browser. If this cookie does not exist when we manage cookies, we assume it is a new session. (Expires: None. Session cookie)
    • __hstc The main cookie for tracking visitors. It contains: the domain, utk (see below), initial timestamp (first visit), last timestamp (last visit), current timestamp (this visit), and session number (increments for each subsequent session) (Expires: 2 years)
    • hsfirstvisit This cookie used to keep track of a user’s first visit. (Expires: 10 years)
    • hubspotutk This cookie is used for to keep track of a visitor’s identity. This cookie is passed to HubSpot on form submission and used when deduplicating contacts. (Expires: 10 years)
    • wordpress_ WordPress cookie for a logged in user.
    • wordpress_logged_in_ WordPress cookie for a logged in user.
    • wp-settings- WordPress also sets a few wp-settings-[UID] cookies. The number on the end is your individual user ID from the users database table. This is used to customize your view of admin interface, and possibly also the main site interface.
    • wp-settings-time- WordPress also sets a few wp-settings-{time}-[UID] cookies. The number on the end is your individual user ID from the users database table. This is used to customize your view of admin interface, and possibly also the main site interface.
    • __cfduid 3rd party cookie – This cookie is strictly necessary for Cloudflare’s security features
    A user can delete these cookies through browser settings.
    LAST UPDATE: 24.01.2018, LONDON
    Approve
    Refuse
    Welcome
    We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Before you continue browsing you must approve or refuse our cookie policy.
    Approve
    Refuse
    Cookie Policy