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Get in the Know: Local SEO Ranking Factors Impacting Local Search in 2023

Connor Wilkins
Connor Wilkins

CMO, Direction.com

Local SEO Ranking Factors
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If you want to get your business seen by locals, then you need to optimize your brand for local search. This can be a little bit tricky if you’re not familiar with Local SEO, but luckily we’ve got a guide to help you get started. 

Below we’ll cover the most significant local SEO ranking factors impacting local search in 2023 so you can craft a strategy that delivers on what users (and search engines) are looking for. 

The Evolution of Local SEO Ranking Factors [From 2013 to 2023]

Local search rankings have evolved significantly over the last 10 years. Back in 2013, it was all about citations and directory listings. Fast forward to 2023; now it’s more about:

  • On-page optimization (28%)
  • GBP (21%)
  • Links (19%)
  • Reviews (11%)
  • Behavioral signals (9%)
  • personalization (7%)
  • and yes…citations are still hanging around at 7%. 

You see, Google has become smarter. Now its algorithm focuses more on quality content relevant to the user’s location – hence ‘local’ pack results making their appearance high up in our dear friend Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

What are the Most Significant Local SEO Ranking Factors?

The first thing you should know before implementing a local SEO strategy, are the ranking factors that will impact you most.

On-Page Signals (28%)

On-page signals are the bright neon signs and inviting window displays that catch people’s eye and pull them inside.

In the digital realm, these factors include elements like meta descriptions, title tags, headers (H1s to H6s), URL structure, and keyword usage.

NAP Data

The cornerstone of on-page optimization is NAP data – Name, Address, Phone number. Having accurate information about your business is paramount in achieving higher rankings. This includes having consistent NAP information (name, address, phone number) throughout all the sites where you have a presence including directories and social media profiles. 

Consistency here is key; think of it as ensuring every one of your business cards has the exact same information. Google loves consistency; it helps establish trustworthiness in their eyes.

Role of NAP Data in On-Page Optimization

If you’ve ever played ‘telephone’, you know how quickly a message can get muddled when passed along through different sources. The same concept applies to your online presence if your NAP details vary across platforms – this inconsistency could lead to decreased rankings.

To avoid this pitfall, make sure all instances of your company’s name match exactly across web pages – down to even “Inc.” or “LLC”. Likewise with addresses: “Street” should not become “St.” elsewhere. Don’t let something so simple trip up Google’s understanding about who you are.

Google Business Profile (21%)

You’ve got your business up and running, but are you visible enough?

If you’re asking this question, it’s time to talk about Google Business Profile (GBP). In the world of local SEO ranking factors, GBP has been a game changer. Let me explain why.

GBP is a Powerhouse

A powerhouse might sound like an overstatement for something as seemingly simple as a profile listing. But believe me when I say it isn’t. Put plainly, you can’t ignore the significance of Local Pack/Finder rankings. Getting in those top 3 coveted spots is a game-changer – literally.

Google Maps Visibility

To understand the magic behind GBP signals contributing to local search ranking success, think of how real estate agents emphasize ‘location.’

Just like prime property locations attract more potential buyers, businesses listed prominently on Google attract more potential customers.

And where do these listings come from? You guessed it: Your very own GBP.

Why Does Google Love Your Business Profile?

Google loves anything that helps them give users more accurate, relevant information.

By providing comprehensive details on your GBP – like up-to-date opening hours, customer reviews, Q&As, and product and service offerings – you’re making it very easy for their users to find what they’re looking for.

Oh, and don’t forget that presenting this information front and center on your GBP also keeps users on Google longer (heck, maybe they don’t even have to leave Google to solve their query). Now that’s powerful.

Local Backlinks (19%)

As you strive to improve your local search ranking, it’s crucial not to overlook the power of link building. Picture this: each quality backlink is a vote of confidence from one website to another. The more votes you get, the higher your credibility in Google’s eyes.

This isn’t just hearsay; stats show that links account for 19% of local pack ranking factors. That’s almost a fifth. It goes without saying – ignoring link building could be like leaving money on the table.

Diving into Links and Local SEO Ranking Factors

Let me take you back ten years ago when everyone was trying their best to game Google’s algorithm with shady tactics such as keyword stuffing or using invisible text (I know, ridiculous).

Today things have changed dramatically and Google has gotten smarter. They now value authentic user experience over everything else.

To put it simply: If other reputable websites think highly enough about your content to point their users towards it (through hyperlinks), then so does Google. 

Making Sense Of On-Page Signals And Off-Page Signals

You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around before but let me clarify what they mean:

  • On-page signals: These are elements within your own site that influence rankings—think keywords usage, title tags optimization etcetera.
  • Off-page signals: These include all those aspects outside your website affecting its position in search results—and yes this includes inbound links.

The Role Of High-Quality Backlinks In Boosting Your Local Search Rankings

  1. A single high-quality backlink can carry more weight than dozens low-grade ones. Why? Because Google isn’t easily fooled—it can distinguish between a backlink from an authoritative site and one from Joe’s Blog Shack.
  2. Think of it this way – more links mean more people visiting your site. And these aren’t just any visitors, they’re folks who are probably keen on what you’re offering. It’s pretty straightforward – the more quality inbound links you have, the better shot you’ve got at catching the eye of potential customers.

Customer Reviews (11%)

If we think about review signals as keys unlocking doors to higher local SEO rankings, then positive reviews unlock grand double-doors while negative ones may only crack open a small window. It’s not just the quantity but also the quality and diversity of these ‘keys’ or reviews that matter.

You see, Google is smart – really smart. It doesn’t simply count your total number of reviews and call it a day. Instead, Google digs deeper into what customers say about your business – their words provide context which contributes heavily towards review signals.

Leveraging Customer Reviews

To harness the power of customer feedback effectively requires careful management and response strategies—especially when dealing with less than glowing comments (and trust me—we all get them.). Addressing criticism head-on demonstrates transparency—a trait both potential customers and Google appreciate alike.

Remember our little key analogy? Well consider responses to negative comments as polishing those rusty keys till they shine again. This proactive approach helps improve customer satisfaction levels AND bolsters overall reputation score—a win-win situation indeed.

The Double-Edged Sword: Responding To Negative Feedback

There’s no sugar-coating it, negative reviews sting. But they also provide an opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one. A thoughtful response can not only fix the issue at hand but show other potential customers that you care about their experience.

Behavioral Signals (9%)

Behavioral signals in local SEO refer to the user behavior and interactions with a website or online business listing.

These signals include factors such as click-through rate (CTR), time spent on site, bounce rate, and engagement metrics like reviews, comments, and shares.

Why Are These A Local SEO Ranking Factor?

These behavioral signals are factored into local SEO ranking factors because they provide search engines like Google with insights into the quality and relevance of a website or business listing. 

  • Positive behavioral signals indicate that users find the content valuable and engaging, leading search engines to consider the website or listing as more trustworthy and deserving of a higher ranking in local search results.
  • Negative behavioral signals, such as a high bounce rate or low time spent on site, may suggest that the website or listing is not meeting user expectations, resulting in lower rankings.

How To Use This To Your Advantage

Provide relevant and high-quality content: Create informative and engaging content that meets the needs of your target audience. This will encourage users to stay on your site longer and interact with your content.

Optimize meta descriptions and titles: Write compelling meta descriptions and titles that accurately describe your content and entice users to click through to your website.

Encourage reviews and ratings: Positive reviews and ratings can improve your business’s credibility and attract more customers. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews and respond to them promptly.

Improve website speed and user experience: A slow-loading website or a poor user experience can lead to increased bounce rates. Optimize your website for speed and usability to keep visitors engaged.

Enhance mobile responsiveness: With the increasing use of mobile devices, it’s crucial to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. A seamless mobile experience can positively impact behavioral signals.

Citations (7%)

Citations in local SEO are references to a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on external websites, directories, or online platforms. They serve as an important ranking factor for local SEO.

When search engines like Google see consistent and accurate citations for a business across various sources, it helps establish the credibility and legitimacy of that business.

How Citations Are Treated As A Ranking Factor

  • Validation of business information: Citations provide validation and consistency of a business’s NAP information. Search engines rely on this data to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness when determining local search rankings.
  • Local relevance: Citations from authoritative and relevant local sources can indicate to search engines that a business is connected to a specific area or region. This can positively impact local search rankings for businesses targeting specific geographic locations.
  • Trust and authority indicators: Citations from reputable and trusted sources act as signals of credibility and authority. Search engines consider these signals when determining the quality and relevance of a business, which can influence local search rankings.</strong”>
  • Consistency across citations: Consistency in the formatting and accuracy of NAP information across different citations is crucial. Inconsistencies, such as variations in spelling or contact details, can negatively impact local search rankings.
  • Quantity and quality of citations: The number of citations a business has and the quality of the sources play a role in local SEO rankings. Having citations from well-established directories, industry-specific websites, and local listings can enhance a business’s visibility in local search results.

How to Get Started with Local SEO in 6 Steps

Now, let’s get into how you can optimize your brand presence for each of these important ranking factors.

Step 1: Ensure Your Local Citations are Accurate

The first that business owners should take to start optimizing for local SEO is to ensure their NAP is consistent across all of their local citations.

This can either be a daunting task with a lot of manual work or a fast process powered by automation — the choice is yours.

If you’d like to streamline NAP consistency, the best approach is to use a local SEO platform, like Direction Local.

Direction Local is a third-party data management platform that submits business information to a network of 100+ website directories, maps apps, voice search tools, reviews platforms, and more.

All you have to do is create an account and add your location data to our system, which takes about 10-20 minutes. From there, our auto-sync feature will submit your information to all the sites in our network, which does a few things:

  • Corrects any NAP inconsistencies, ensuring your business information is properly displayed online
  • Removes any duplicate listings you might have; for instance, an outdated Yelp profile
  • Cleanses your data for a fresh start
  • Creates local listings on sites that you might not already be listed on; for instance, Judy’s Book and Better Business Bureau.
Once your business data is synced with our network, data cleansing APIs will constantly run in the background to ensure that your data is always updated and accurate.

Additionally, if you’re using Direction Local and need to make a small update to your listings, like changing your hours of operation, you can do that right from our platform — the data will be submitted in bulk, correcting all of your listings without the need to manually login and update each one individually.

With that being said, if you do not want to use a local SEO software to update your NAP, you can login to all of your local listings manually to make changes. The best way to find outdated listings is to search with your business name and “+ [old phone number],” “+ [old address],” or “+ [business name variation].”

Manual NAP Audit

Though this approach is effective at finding listings that need to be updated, there is room for error, which is why we recommend using a local SEO software.

Step 2: Update Titles, Metas, and Headers on Your Website

The next step to optimize your business for a local audience is to update titles, metas and headers on your website.

This process can include changing or adding page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, and other on-page elements to ensure that they are keyword-rich and accurately reflect the content of the page.

When updating titles, metas and headers it’s important to make sure that the keywords you use are relevant to your target audience and location.

By using geo-specific keywords you can help signal to search engines which areas your business services and provide more accurate results for local searches.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure that all of these elements are unique for each page so as not to confuse search engine crawlers.

In addition to incorporating local search terms into titles and meta tags, businesses should also consider optimizing their website with schema markup information related to their industry such as reviews, address information, opening hours etc. This helps search engines properly index businesses in relation to their geographical area as well as providing more detailed information about them within the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

When it comes down to actually making changes on a website, it’s important that businesses don’t just swap out existing text but instead take care in crafting page titles and meta descriptions that accurately reflect the content of each page while still keeping targeted local SEO terms in mind.

This will help ensure that search engine crawlers understand what each page is about without hurting its ranking potential by over-optimizing the pages with irrelevant keywords or phrases.

Finally, one last detail businesses should consider when updating titles, metas and headers is linking between pages within their site using targeted anchor text.

As long as they keep their anchor texts relevant while avoiding keyword stuffing potential risks they can help improve overall rankings by linking from one webpage to another with localized keywords related to their industry or geographic area.

Step 3: Publish Localized Content

Publishing localized content on a website is an effective strategy for businesses to better position themselves to rank in local search results. To do so, they must first perform keyword research to determine the exact terms potential customers are using in their searches. This will help ensure that any localized content produced is optimized for those keywords.

Once the relevant keywords have been identified, the business can then proceed with producing localized content that incorporates them.

This could include creating pages specifically tailored to a particular locale, such as a city or region, and including geo-specific language like “near me” or “in [city]”.

The content should be written with local details such as descriptions of landmarks and attractions. Businesses should also make sure to include information about their core services, products, and special offers that pertain to the location.

Here’s an example of local ranking results we produced for Concealed Coalition by producing hyper local state content regarding gun laws, reciprocity, and concealed carry licensing.

All in all, we created 50 unique state pages that are all interlinked — this led to massive local rankings across their entire domain with the majority of website traffic coming from their target market in the U.S.

Hyperlocal topics such as relevant events and news stories can be included as well to provide further context for readers.

By optimizing the content for local search results and creating hyperlocal content that is tailored to each locale, businesses can greatly improve their chances of ranking higher in local search engine results pages (SERPs).

Additionally, this type of localized content allows businesses to get more creative in how they engage with potential customers by adding a more personalized touch; which may help give them an edge over competitors who do not use localized content strategies.

By providing relevant information about their services and offers, businesses can increase trust among customers while also helping elevate their brand’s presence in regional markets.

Finally, businesses must stay on top of any updates or changes in SERPs algorithms since this might require tweaking some elements of the website’s optimization or localized copywriting approach.

Monitoring performance regularly will allow adjustments or optimizations if needed – ensuring that businesses remain competitively positioned within SERPs and reach even more potential customers through an effective localization process.

Step 4: Acquire Local Backlinks

Acquiring local backlinks is an essential part of gaining visibility in local search engine results.

Local backlinks are links from other websites to your website located in the same geographical area as your business, and they play a crucial role in establishing trustworthiness and improving online visibility.

Link building, or the process of acquiring links from other websites to your own, is one of the most effective ways of improving a website’s ranking in local search engine results.

Local backlinks from reputable local businesses, organizations, and publications will help establish domain authority and credibility with local customers, helping build trust with potential customers that would be more likely to visit your site instead of a competitor’s.

When engaging in link building, it’s important to focus on acquiring quality links from relevant sources that have some sort of connection to your business or industry.

It’s also important to focus on getting links from authoritative sites within the same geographic location as your business. Having quality, relevant backlinks will help improve not only rankings but also organic traffic for a website.

When it comes to acquiring high-quality local backlinks there are several different approaches businesses can take.

The first approach is by leveraging existing relationships companies may have with other businesses or organizations in their city or region such as chambers of commerce or industry associations. Establishing partnerships with these types of organizations can provide great opportunities for mutual benefit; for example, if you are a restaurant you could partner with a local food delivery service or media outlet for link exchange opportunities.

Another strategy that can be used when looking for local backlinks is creating content geared towards a specific target market using keywords related to their geographic location (Example: ‘best restaurants in [city]’).

Quality content related to topics relevant to your business and industry is always beneficial when it comes to SEO; however, adding geographical information into the mix can make it even more valuable as it helps establish relevance specifically within that region which may result in both increased rankings and organic traffic due to higher relevance within those searches.

Finally, businesses should consider reaching out directly to websites they want their link featured on by offering them something they want – this could be anything from providing

  • exclusive discounts
  • early access to products/services/events, etc.
  • offering discounts/freebies/giveaways exclusively through their website, etc.
  • sponsoring events/programs hosted by other organizations, etc.
  • providing free content such as articles/reviews, etc.
  • organizing workshops, etc.

All these methods can help increase exposure within the same geographical area as well as add additional credibility for search engine crawlers which may lead to higher rankings for those keywords related to those areas specifically.

Step 5: Use Local Schema Markup

Implementing local schema markup on a website can be an effective way to improve a business’s visibility in local search results.

This is more advanced local SEO, so is important to understand what local schema markup is, and how it works, before attempting to implement it on a website.

Local schema markup is essentially structured data that can be added to HTML pages or other web page elements.

This metadata provides additional information about the page and its content, which helps search engines better understand the context of the page.

Example of Schema

When implemented properly, this additional information can help the page rank more prominently for relevant searches.

The process for implementing local schema markup begins with identifying and gathering all of the necessary data that will be used in creating the markup structure.

This includes basic details such as store location, contact information, hours of operation, and so on.

In addition to these basic details, it is important to include any unique features of the business that could potentially draw more attention from potential customers searching online; for example, if offering delivery services or having multiple locations might be useful details to include in local schema markup.

Once all of the relevant information has been collected and inputted into a plan for structuring the markup language code, then comes the actual implementation process.

To ensure that everything works properly when implemented on a website’s source code, proper testing should occur before full deployment across all required pages to avoid any errors or issues with performance once live on the website itself.

Finally, after testing is complete and all necessary adjustments have been made (if any) then the full implementation should occur across all applicable web pages where it was identified that applying local schema markup would be beneficial for SEO purposes.

Once done correctly and deployed fully across applicable pages within a website’s architecture – regular maintenance should occur to keep this structured data up-to-date with any changes occurring at a business such as changes in address/contact information or additions of new services offered by the business.

In conclusion — implementing local schema markup on a website can be an effective tool used by businesses trying to improve their visibility locally within search engine query results while making their websites easier for crawlers/bots from popular search engines like Google & Bing – allowing these bots/crawlers to better understand each web page’s specific context faster & easier than ever before thanks to the integration of structured data via application of local schema markups!

Step 6: Manage Customer Reviews

Customer reviews have a significant impact on local rankings for businesses.

By acquiring and responding to customer reviews, businesses can improve their visibility on search engine results in pages and reach more potential customers, ultimately increasing the number of leads and sales.

When it comes to acquiring customer reviews, there are several strategies that businesses can implement.

For example, they can ask customers directly for their feedback through email surveys or in-person follow-ups after a purchase or service is completed.

They can also leverage online platforms such as Yelp and Google Reviews, which allow customers to provide direct feedback about their experiences with a business.

Once businesses have acquired customer reviews, it is then important for them to respond to them promptly.

Responding promptly gives customers the impression that you care about their feedback and that you take the time to listen to them.

Additionally, responding directly allows you to address any issues they may have experienced while using your product or service. Doing so shows potential customers that you are dedicated to providing quality service and working towards improving customer satisfaction levels.

Search engines algorithmically analyze review data collected from different sources such as Yelp and Google Reviews when ranking local business pages in organic search engine results pages (SERPs). As such, having more positive reviews correlated with your business than negative ones will most likely result in higher search engine rankings from these review sources and overall increased visibility of your business page in SERPs.

In conclusion, acquiring and responding to customer reviews is essential for businesses looking to improve their local rankings in organic SERPs due to its direct correlation with search engine algorithms’ analysis of review data from various sources such as Yelp and Google Reviews.

Acquiring customer reviews should be done by asking customers directly via email surveys or in-person follow-ups after a sale or service is completed as well as by leveraging online platforms like Yelp and Google Reviews which allow customers the ability to provide direct feedback about their experiences with a business without any additional effort required by the business itself.

Finally, responding quickly and appropriately once these reviews are acquired demonstrates dedication towards improving customer satisfaction levels which further impacts local rankings positively due to its association with better SERP visibility through algorithmic analysis of review data by search engines.

Key Takeaways

While there are many factors that contribute to a strong local SEO ranking, the above list covers some of the most important considerations.

Be sure to keep your business information accurate and consistent across the web, optimize titles, headers, and meta descriptions on your website, create content related to the geographic area of your business, build high-quality backlinks from reputable sites within your industry, utilize local schema markup, acquire positive reviews and respond to all reviews.

Doing these things will help you rank higher in search engine results pages for searches related to your business, which produce increased traffic and online conversions.

If this still sounds like a foreign language to you, contact our team for a free local SEO consultation — one of our experts will run a local SEO audit for your business and provide direction on how you can start impacting local SERPs.

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