The folks over at Local SEO Guide published their updated Local Ranking Factors report for 2017. Over 100,000 local businesses were looked at, as well as 200 distinct possible ranking factors, in order to see how local ranking factors have changed over the last year as well as gauge the importance of local SEO factors vs traditional SEO when it comes to ranking locally.
Reviews are Important When it Comes to Local
Last week, we published an article for improving your local online presence and one of the main areas we address was reviews. One of the major areas the report deemed important was the number of reviews a local business had.
“Reviews are obviously a driving factor of ranking in Google My Business pack results. The prominence of reviews isn’t particularly shocking, as it’s a way for Google to crowdsource ranking factors, it’s hard to spam, and the most problematic type of abuse is illegal.”
They went on to address the importance of having important keywords in the reviews.
“At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results.”
Due to the importance of the number and quality of reviews, some less scrupulous businesses will attempt to game the system by writing their own reviews, or paying an outside source to write reviews for them. Catching these deceptive practices can be a cat and mouse game, but if Google sees patterns that are unnatural, they can penalize that business, suppressing their results in the SERP and local pack, leading to less visibility and less traffic.
Backlink Profile Quality is Less Important
Another interesting finding from the report is that many local businesses did not have particularly strong backlink profiles, but ranked well. The study found that many sites had low trust/citation scores and were linked to from other low trust/citation sites. Since this is a common pattern amongst local business websites, this factor appears to be less important than say the number of reviews. They made mention of a possible rewarding of sites with optimized anchor text backlinks.
“While it’s only correlation, Google still seems to be rewarding some level of optimized anchor text, around both keyword and city. At the very least, they are more lenient when it comes to slapping local websites with Penguin. All of this is more evidence of the organic algo’s substantial involvement in ordering local packs.”
Traditional SEO is Still King
The final takeaway I wanted to address (there are many more in the report) was the importance of traditional SEO practices. Having a website that has strong traditional SEO fundamentals and a focus on local keywords, in the meta tags, content, and links, will have the highest probability for improvement in your local SEO campaign. In fact, of all the SEO factors the report looked at, traditional SEO was number one by a long shot.
Take a look at the report yourself and if you need help optimizing your website for local optimization, contact us today for a free consultation.