Since its inception in 2008, the Local Search Ranking Factors survey conducted by Local SEO Consultant David Mihm has proven to be the go-to resource for helping digital marketers and businesses in understanding the varied strategies for ranking better on the SERPs of Google and what drives local search results better than anything. Of course, a lot has changed since the inception, and this can be seen in the latest 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. For this year’s survey, Mihm handed the reigns to Darren Shaw, founder of Whitespark, an Edmonton, Alberta-based provider of SEO tools and services. Here’s what Shaw found.
Linking is Crucial
Taking a short glimpse of the survey, it isn’t hard to figure out how important “links” and “citations” are for businesses wanting to rank better locally and organically. Everything from attracting audience, grabbing the attention of search engine crawlers, and verifying brand reputation is dependent on your linking strategy. But there is a catch. Similar to how the requirement of unique content has increased over the years, linking, too, is now focused on quality rather than quantity.
Whether it is for your local pack/finder ranking or organic ranking, links play an important role in social signals, citation signals, on-page signals and My Business signals. This makes it crucial for businesses of all sizes to focus more on their link building strategy. Anyone who wants to rank better has to invest significant time and effort into obtaining quality backlinks from reputable websites. This means the days of “purchasing” links and fooling Google are long gone.
With the search engine giant constantly changing and updating its algorithms, businesses are required to focus on obtaining genuine links from authoritative sources, while focusing on internal-linking to make it easier for crawlers to index pages. At the same time, it is crucial for businesses to get citations for ranking better in competitive searches and in competitive markets, as now they are a strong differentiator between different businesses.
Keywords are Still Important
But while there is no doubt linking is playing a dominant role for this year’s leading local search ranking factors, webmasters have been missing out on a vital element. Your Google My Business performance can be influenced by a number of website signals. Among these signals, the two most important factors included Keyword Usage and Words per Page, the survey showed. Although these methods are factored as traditional organic ranking signals, these new findings show that, despite claims of Google moving to more sophisticated ranking metrics, keyword usage still plays a vital role.
The usage, relevancy and density of keywords and user engagement still matter in concerns to ranking better locally. In fact, some could suggest that your keyword and linking could actually go hand-in-hand to drive strong results with regard to increased exposure on the local SERPs. For instance, you could add relevant high-quality links to strong keyword phrases. Combining both of these dominating ranking factors can undoubtedly give your website the much-needed boost.
At the same time, it is imperative that you focus on other vital ranking elements, the survey shows. Among these include social signals (Twitter, Facebook, and Google engagement primarily), review signals (the need for more quality reviews and ratings) and link signals (linking domain quantity, domain authority and inbound anchor text). View the complete survey results here.