Local Search Ranking Factors 2017

Gavin Hirst - Thursday 13th April 2017


Local Search Ranking Factors 2017 – what we can take away

The hotly anticipated Local Search Ranking Factors Survey results broke this week and they certainly threw up some interesting new revelations when it comes to the things you should be focussing on with your local SEO activity. This year the survey results and findings report were carried out by local SEO expert Darren Shaw, taking over the reins from David Mihm who has gone off to focus on a rather interesting sounding tool/service that will automatically generate newsletters by pulling in your Facebook content along with leading industry content sources – sounds pretty cool but enough of that – on to the main course!

The Top 8 local ranking factors for 2017

Below is a list of the top 8 local ranking factors for 2017 and how their importance compares with 2015. There are some interesting shifts – mainly the shift of importance from citations to links. There is also a significant increase in the relevance of review signals, behavioural signals and personalisation.

Thematic Factor 2015 2017 Change
GMB Signals 21.63% 19.01% -12.11%
Link Signals 14.83% 17.31% +16.73%
On-Page Signals 14.23% 13.81% -2.95%
Citation Signals 17.14% 13.31% -22.36%
Review Signals 10.80% 13.13% +21.53%
Behavioural Signals 8.60% 10.17% +18.22%
Personalisation 8.21% 9.76% +18.81%
Social Signals 4.58% 3.53% -22.89%

 

As we can see from the above table, things have shifted around a little bit over the last two years and it’s interesting to see a greater emphasis now being placed on linking signals and a drop off in citation signals. This is not to say that citations are not still important, especially the consistency of those citations but the need to go out chasing hundreds of citations is probably not going to be the best use of your time when it comes to local SEO.

Proximity of address to the point of search

As we know, the Possum update in September 2016 saw some pretty big shifts in the local snack pack rankings. One of the key things to come out of this was that the proximity of your business address to the searcher’s location was playing an increasingly important part in the results that were being delivered. This year’s survey results now highlight this as the #1 ranking factor when it comes to proximity factors. Previously, a company’s proximity to centroid was seen as important, however this has now waned with Google placing more emphasis on where the searcher is located rather than how close a business is to the centroid.

Link signals

We all know how important links are for SEO in general, however it is now becoming increasingly evident that they are also starting to play a huge factor in local SEO rankings. When we look at how link signals have changed over the past two years, we can see some sizeable shifts for 2017 and this gives further support (if you needed it!) to the argument that this is an area you should be focussing on for all areas of your SEO activity:

 

Local Pack/Finder Link Factors 2015 2017 Change
Quality/Authority of inbound links to domain #12 #4 +8
Domain authority of website #6 #6
Diversity of inbound links to domain #27 #16 +11
Quality/Authority of inbound links to GMB landing page URL #15 #11 +4
Quality of inbound links to domain #34 #17 +17
Quantity of inbound links to domain from locally relevant domains #31 #20 +11
Page authority of GMB Landing Page URL #24 #22 +2
Quantity of inbound links to domain from industry-relevant domains #41 #28 +13
Product/Service keywords in anchor test of inbound links to domain #33 +17
Location keywords in anchor text of inbound links to domain #45 #38 +7
Diversity of inbound links to GMB landing page URL #39 +11
Quantity of inbound links to GMB landing page URL from locally relevant domains #48 +2

 

Google still relies heavily on linking signals no matter what you hear and read. Anyone who is investing the time to build quality links from a variety of relevant sources both to the main domain and specifically to the GMB landing page URLs will reap the rewards when it comes to ranking in the local space.

Citations are no longer as important

Conversely to the shift in the importance of links, the relevance of citations is no longer as important as it once was (note: this doesn’t mean you should stop working on them but maybe move your time around accordingly). There was in fact an increase in the number of citation related factors in the top 50 (up from 7 to 10 from 2015), however it has become clear that SEOs should focus more of their time on building relevant links than citations.

The survey included a couple of new elements this year when it comes to citations which could be a good one to look at if you’re not already:

  • Enhancement/Completeness of citations
  • Presence of business of expert-curated ‘best of’ and similar lists
  • Prominence on key industry-relevant domains
  • Proper category associations on aggregator and top tier citation sources

Google My Business Factors

As we know, GMB has always been super important for local ranking. Making sure you have the proper category associations in GMB is one of the most important ranking factors along with the inclusion of the product/service keyword in the GMB Business Title. There were a couple of notable elements that jumped out at us this year from the survey when it comes to GMB factors:

  • Location keyword in GMB business title – up 5 places from #17 to #12
  • Association of photos with GMB listing – up 14 places to #36

The second of these items really stood out for us. The chatter would suggest that adding relevant pictures of your business, staff etc can indicate a more engaged business owner. What is not clear is whether there is more weight on images uploaded by a business or a steady flow of images submitted by the general public. If you can, encourage people to submit photos of your business where relevant – we think this shows that people are more engaged with the business and provide a clear signal to Google which will impact on your rankings.

Possum Update Filters

One question that remains unanswered in this year’s survey is ‘what do you do if your results are being filtered?’ Why is one business showing and not another? Is there anything you can do to get your results appearing above another in the filter? Currently these all remain unanswered questions although there was a helpful checklist of things to focus on post-Possum update compared to before so make sure you check out the full article on the Moz Blog where you can really delve into the full set of results.

That’s it for another year. Some big changes ahead for sure but some things remain the same. Links should always be a big focus whether it’s local SEO or otherwise and focussing on personalisation is becoming increasingly important. If you need any further advice or guidance, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to meet up for a coffee and a chat to see how we can get your business moving in the local SEO space.

One response to “Local Search Ranking Factors 2017 – what we can take away”

  1. Contrary to popular belief in the industry, Google+ is not dead based on the research from Mike Blumenthal . Mike explained the value of plus ones and shared semantic content in Google+. While search engines have said that social media isn’t a ranking factor, there is a correlation between shared content and rankings. Voice search was a hot topic throughout the entire conference, as we know that mobile search is growing exponentially while desktop search has remained stagnant. But when we know that total users are growing, desktop maintaining its share is still considered growth. Rand Fishkin warned us not to forget about desktop. While mobile is on the rise, desktop isn’t dead, and ignoring desktop users would be a big mistake.

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