The 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors report is out, and it’s a must-read for anyone in the local SEO arena. As you may know, the survey polls roughly 40 leading local SEO practitioners on what they believe to be the variables most responsible for driving rankings in Google local search results.
David Mihm began the survey independently a number of years ago and now manages it in his role as director of local search strategy with Moz. The survey is very extensive, and I can’t summarize all of it here.
The “snack pack” was top-of-mind for all the participants, but tactical responses varied widely. Below is the high-level summary of the ranking variables and the consensus view of their relative influence.
The top consideration, according to the group, was “On-Page Signals,” followed by a relatively even distribution of other factors: Link Signals, My Business Signals, External Signals, Behavioral (i.e., clicks, calls, opens) and so on. The big takeaway seems to be an emphasis on quality and the incorporation of an expanding range of signals.
Several local SEOs were arguing to stay the course, get the basics right. Indeed, the most valuable part of the study is probably the individual practitioners’ color commentary on the findings. Below are just a few excerpts:
Darren Shaw, Whitespark
With the new local packs having only three spots, the local organic results have become much more important. We’re putting more effort into content, links and unstructured citations for our clients these days. Media mentions appear to be particularly powerful. Even a single mention in a local paper seems to provide a significant boost to both local pack and local organic rankings.
Joy Hawkins, Imprezzio Marketing
I wish using a P.O. Box was a massive negative ranking factor, but I still see many businesses showing up who are using fake locations. My hope is that Google or the MapMaker RLs will crack down on this in the near future. I still see keyword stuffing in the business name help more than hurt, unfortunately.
Caleb Donegan, Balihoo
The snack pack is only in its infancy, and it seems like items are changing daily. There does seem to be a confirmed emphasis on GMB (Google My Business) and category associations, proximity of searcher, number of reviews and seeing some correlation with high ratings of reviews and rankings.
Linda Buquet, Local Search Forum
I don’t think what it takes to rank has really changed much — best practices still apply. The algo did not change IMO, mainly just the display and the fact there are fewer spots. From what I’ve seen, in most cases whoever ranked in the top three in the old 7-pack is still in the same order at the top of the new 3-pack.
Even more than in the “national” search space, Google local results and ranking variables seem fluid and subject to regular and ongoing change. Some of that is being driven by mobile and some by quality considerations. But take a look at the survey results for yourself.