The Local Search Ranking Factors for Dummies

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The Local Search Ranking Factors for Dummies

Local SEO is changing. That’s why experts are constantly pinpointing the factors that affect local SEO. To make things easier, Moz started a survey wherein they ask a group of experts on what they think affects local search ranking factors. We are talking about the organic local search results, and the local stack/snack pack results.

Before we get to the details, we first need to understand how local SEO in cities like St. Petersburg works. Google loves its users, and it wants to make sure that they get what they want every time they do a search. That’s why Google provides not only the best match but also the nearest one when you do a search.

For example, if you typed in “surf lessons in St. Petersburg” on Google this will give you a bunch of links to businesses that best match the keywords you placed that are nearest to you. The idea is to provide you with a list of the best and nearest surf schools in St. Petersburg. Think about it, providing you a business that is on another state may not really help you out when you are looking for geo-specific results right away.

While this may seem like a cool idea for the general public, this is great news for businesses. You can easily reach your target as long as you appear on top of the list. But the question is, how can you become number one?

Moz and the Local SEO Gods

That is the very question the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors try to answer. Moz surveys local SEO experts try to give business owners a good idea on what they should and should not do to appear at the top of the list in local search results.

The Snack Pack

Let’s start with the factors that affect your visibility/inclusion in the local stack / snack pack. The snack pack is prime property that every local business should aim to own in search engine results. The local stack or snack pack is usually the first thing that comes up whenever a user makes a localized search. A local stack contains the name of the business, reviews, address, phone number, and availability. It is also worth noting that this local pack also comes with a snapshot of Google Maps showing the locations of each business relative to the location of the searcher.

local search ranking factors

Imagine how easy it will be for people to give you a call when your business is first on that list. Now, let’s see what factors will help you own some snack pack property. According to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors 2015 report, the top 10 local stack/snack pack factors are the following:

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. Consistency of Structured Citations
  3. Proper GMB Category Associations
  4. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search
  5. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  6. Domain Authority of Website
  7. Product / Service Keyword in GMB Business Title
  8. City, State in GMB Landing Page Title
  9. HTML NAP Matching GMB Location NAP
  10. Click-Through Rate from Search Results

Here’s a quick view of the Local Pack Ranking Factors.

Local Pack / Finder Ranking Factors

Notice that unlike the factors affecting organic search results, the local stack is heavily influenced by geo-targeted design and content. One thing that stands out is the proper GMB (or Google My Business) category associations. This is one of the main reasons why some businesses don’t appear on the snack packs no matter how much they optimize their websites. If you use the wrong category on GMB, your effort will be put to waste.

Local Organic Search Results

Let’s now take a look at the organic factors that can boost you to the top. Organic local listings, or natural listings, take up the bulk of the search engine results page and have the best long-term residual ROI. To get an organic listing in the top spot requires a slightly different set of tactics.

organic listing result

According to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors 2015 report, the top 10 Localized Organic Factors are the following in exact order:

  1. Domain authority
  2. Quality of inbound links
  3. City, state in GMB landing page title
  4. Click-through rate from search results
  5. Topical Keyword relevance of domain content
  6. Diversity of inbound links
  7. Physical address in city of search
  8. Geographic keyword relevance in Domain Content
  9. Quality of structured citations
  10. City or state of website title tags

See below the Localized Organic Ranking Factors.

Localized Organic Ranking Factors

What we need to look at here is that although the localized organic search results are affected by basic SEO factors such as the domain authority and link number/quality, we also see that putting the city/state or general address can make you appear higher in local organic searches. You might want to talk to your web designer to update your website as needed and to your content manager to ensure that they geo-target your articles with mentions of the city or state on your content.

The Negative Ranking Factors

Now that we have seen the factors that will help you make the list, let’s try to find out what is detrimental to local SEO. The Moz Local Search Ranking Factors 2015 reports considered these 10 items as the top 10 negative ranking factors:

  1. Incorrect business category
  2. Listing detected at false business address
  3. Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Numbers Across Data Ecosystem
  4. Presence of malware on site
  5. Reports of Violations of your GMB location
  6. Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Number on GMB Landing Page
  7. Mis-match Address on GMB Landing Page
  8. Presence of Multiple GMB locations with Same Phone Number
  9. Absence of Crawlable NAP on Website
  10. Address includes suite number similar to UPS Mail Store or other false addresses

It is worth noting that one of the main reasons businesses fail in local SEO is because of very small (but sometimes overlooked) errors such as an incorrect business category, a miss-match in the NAP (name, address, phone number) or absence of the NAP in your own website. Having a partner to take care of your local internet marketing needs can help you ensure that your listings are correct and that your website is up-to-date.

Learn the Basics, Then Hire a Pro

Local SEO might be a bit of a puzzle for the ordinary business owner, but checking out the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors is a good way to know what needs to be done to dominate in the game. A local internet marketing partner like Foxxr in St. Petersburg (we like to toot our horn) can help you in creating a solid local SEO strategy. One that can land you spots in the local stack and the top spot in local organic search results.

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Brian Childers

Brian Childers is the Founder & CEO of Foxxr Digital Marketing, based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Childers leads a team of digital marketing experts with specialties in; Web Design, Local & National SEO, Paid Search Management, Link Building, Content Marketing, and Social Media to help clients attract an insane amount leads and revenue. Follow Brian on Twitter