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Local businesses trump big businesses when it comes to delivering on-site updates

Local businesses trump big businesses when it comes to delivering on-site updates

At BrightLocal, we often focus our research on external SEO factors, exploring the effects of and opinions towards citations, reviews, Google My Business and links. Without these, it’s very difficult to rank.

However, in this post I want to take a closer look at on-page SEO. I want to understand the impact on-site optimization has on rankings for local businesses and the speed at which such changes can be delivered and capitalized upon.

We recently polled 546 BrightLocal users (primarily freelance SEOs and agency-based SEOs) to look at three key areas:

  • What impact on-page SEO has on search rankings in 2016
  • How long SEOs have to wait for technical changes to be made
  • What types of on-page content are most effective for ranking

This poll was created with input from James Bavington, director of StrategiQ. Full geographic data for poll respondents can be found below.

What impact does on-page SEO have on search ranking in 2016?

Key findings:

  • 80 percent of local SEOs say on-page SEO has a “high” or “very high” impact on search rankings.
  • 13 percent say on-page SEO has “some impact.”
  • One percent say on-page SEO has “no impact.”


The findings are clear — 93 percent of local SEOs think on-page SEO is effective to some extent.

In the Local SEO Industry survey, on-site SEO was rated as the most in-demand service from customers and one of the top two services offered by SEOs.

It’s very conclusive, and it falls in line with the 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors, where on-page Signals made up 20.3 percent of overall ranking factors — the highest proportion among all other factors, including Links (20.0 percent), GMB signals (14.7 percent) and Citations (13.6 percent).

How long do you have to wait for technical on-page changes?


Key findings:

  • 33 percent wait just one working day for technical changes to be implemented.
  • 46 percent wait one week for technical changes to be implemented.
  • 13 percent wait around two weeks for technical changes to be implemented.


Seventy-nine percent of local SEOs will generally wait less than a week for any requested technical changes to be implemented (Many noted that they complete technical changes themselves). That’s very quick turnaround, which is important for such a key ranking factor; when changes can significantly impact the rankings of a site, it’s critical that they happen as quickly as possible.

Only eight percent said they have to wait longer than one month for any planned requested technical changes.

Contrasting industry data

This data contrasts with a recent survey at Moz in which they asked the same question to their SEO audience.

Forty-two percent said they had been waiting longer than a year for technical changes to be completed. On top of this, 58 percent of respondents said they didn’t anticipate seeing that change live for at least another six months. Wow, that’s a long time!

But why are the findings of the surveys so different?

It comes down to different audiences and the scale of the businesses and websites they work on.

BrightLocal users are typically local agencies and freelancers who work with local businesses, local franchises and smaller multi-location businesses. While local business clients typically have lower budgets than large enterprises, they tend to be more nimble, with smaller and less complex sites and business practices to work with.

They also have far fewer stakeholders, which creates fewer obstacles for implementing technical changes.

The Moz survey was focused on SEOs who manage big sites (in-house and agency side). Respondents identified themselves as SEOs at big companies, with a “couple of dozen people responsible for billions of pageviews/month.”

According to the Moz survey, the most common reasons given for the inability to get top priority changes made were:

  • marketing team priorities fall behind those of other teams (53 percent);
  • the change they want is “not possible” with current platform (37 percent); and
  • every change has to pass through a long dev backlog (32 percent).

When looking at these obstacles, many of them are less of an issue when working with smaller clients. Working with local businesses, you rarely have to “fight” other departments for priorities, and their websites don’t have the technical complexity and burden of bigger sites.

Another advantage is that when working with local business clients, you often enjoy direct contact with business owners or key decision makers — which is not always the case when working with larger businesses. This ultimately means that important technical work can be approved quickly, completed quickly, and the benefits realized quicker.

What on-page content is most effective for ranking?


NB: Respondents were asked to select two responses

Key findings:

  • Title & Meta Data rated the most effective on-page content for ranking (68 percent).
  • Compelling Copy rated the second most effective on-page content for ranking (42 percent).
  • Service/Product Detail rated the third most effective on-page content for ranking (20 percent).


Optimization of Title & Meta Data is the most effective on-page content for improving rankings (68 percent). Title elements not only define a page for search engines, but they also provide a valuable preview of a page to users in SERPs.

Compelling content is rated the next most effective type on-page content (42 percent). However, it’s clear you can’t have one without the other: Content makes the page, title tags define it.

Service or Product detail changes are the type of content that can really help you define what a business does. A lot of local businesses will struggle to come up with content ideas, but describing what they offer and sell should be the easy part.

Thankfully, some of the most effective types of on-page content are also the simplest to execute. Title and meta data may require keyword research, but not necessarily technical expertise. The same can be said for Compelling copy.

Videos and Professional Photography were rated as less effective on search rankings but also require more technical expertise.

Poll demographics

The geographic breakdown of poll respondents was as follows: 61 percent United States, 16 percent United Kingdom, six percent Canada, five percent Australia and 12 percent Rest of World.