Getting a local business to rank well in search results has never been more difficult.
This is due to two reasons:
A massive increase in the number of mobile devices (meaning more people are turning to their phones to find businesses near them)
An increasing number of businesses recognizing the benefits of local SEO.
There is also Google’s Local Pack, which pushes down the first website search result below the fold.
For the uninitiated, the Local Pack is the top section of the search results in Google that highlights three local businesses related to a search.
This section has been cut down from seven businesses and may also contain ads, as evidenced in this screenshot:
This is incredibly useful for mobile users.
They can quickly find a business near them and see hours, phone number, reviews, and more – all without ever clicking through to a website.
For businesses, it means local SEO has never been more critical.
To get found, you need more than good content.
You need local SEO and, ideally, you want to be included in Google’s Local Pack.
So, what are the best strategies to improve local SEO as a whole and increase your chances of being included in Google’s Local Pack?
As with most SEO questions, the answer isn’t cut and dry.
While I can’t give you the easy answer (hint: there isn’t one), I can outline many of the factors you should be looking at if you want to rank well as a local business.
What Are the Top Local SEO Ranking Signals?
Below, I have broken the most critical local SEO ranking signals into two sections:
The Basics: This covers the most foundational ranking signals. If you want any chance at all of ranking well for local SEO, these are the factors you need to address.
The Nitty Gritty Local SEO Ranking Signals: This details the more in-depth ranking signals. These are the signals to address if you are looking to move to the very top and knock a competitor out of the coveted Local Pack.
All signals included in the list are backed by statements from Google or by research. When possible, I have included links to those studies or statements.
Keep in mind, many of these signals deserve their own post, which isn’t possible here. In those cases, I have included additional reading suggestions so you can learn more.
The Basic Local SEO Ranking Signals
Want to make sure all your bases are covered on doing a full local SEO audit? Start here.
1. Google My Business
If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business page, do it now. It only takes a few minutes and is free.
Here is where to claim your Google My Business. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to start improving your Local SEO.
2. Google My Business Categories
Within your Google My Business account, make sure you have chosen the correct categories.
For best results, use as few categories as possible and make sure they are as accurate as possible.
For example, don’t use “takeout restaurant” if you are a pizza restaurant where most customers dine in.
3. Photos on Google My Business Page
Take photos of your location, your products, your staff, even your customers (with permission, of course).
Photos help lend credibility to your business and serve as a local ranking signal.
4. Bing Places for Business
Google is the most talked-about search engine, but Bing still claims a decent market share (somewhere around 33 percent, depending on who you ask.)
Links from local news sites, community blogs, and so forth prove that your site is trusted by your neighbors.
23. Inbound Using Local + Keyword in Anchor Text
A wide range of inbound links from well-optimized sites is great, but the holy grail is an inbound link from a high authority site using both your city or neighborhood and main key term.
24. Proximity to the Searcher
While you can’t optimize for physical location, it is a strong ranking signal, which is why claiming your Google my business and having consistent NAP is important.
25. Domain Authority of Your Website
According to Moz Local Search Ranking Factor, domain authority (not to be confused with the Moz metric of the same name) ranks sixth in the top 50 Local Pack Finder Factors.
Increasing your domain authority isn’t a quick or easy process, but it can pay off handsomely.
What do all these local SEO features mean for your local SEO strategies?
Here are two major takeaways:
The single most important thing you can do to increase your local SEO ranking is to claim and optimize your Google My Business account. Several ranking signals are related to not just having a GMB listing, but optimizing it by choosing the correct categories, adding pictures, getting reviews, responding to reviews, and so forth.
The second most important thing you can do for local SEO is to focus on a holistic SEO strategy for your website. Build a solid link profile, create useful content with both local and key terms, and make sure your meta descriptions are optimized.
Local SEO is a competitive field, but for most businesses, there are still plenty of areas where they can improve.
The list above will help you increase your local SEO ranking, increase your chances of being included in Google’s Local Pack, and, most importantly, help your customers find you.
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