What Influences Local SEO?
When we think about Local SEO, we can divide it into 2 parts:
1. What influences the map / 3 pack rankings, and other map results
2. What influences organic listing rankings
So what influences these rankings? Let’s take a look at the data!
Local SEO Pack / Map Rankings Factors
Check out this local SEO case study by Moz:
You can see the #1 factor is My Business Signals – Which means you’ll need to properly optimize your Google My Business listing. (We’ll cover that in a bit more depth below).
Going down the list you can see that links are very important, as well as onPage signals from your website, citation signals, and reviews.
Some call this a “blended algorithm” – previously, map results were less influenced by your website’s ranking signals, but now the two are intertwined. If you’re not ranking in maps, it may be because you need stronger signals to your website.
Let’s talk about that:
Organic Listing / Website Ranking Factors:
This is about the section below the maps in the organic results. Referring to the same Moz Study, here’s the top ranking factors:
You can see here the #1 ranking factor is link signals. Links still remain a vital part of ranking organically.
As we go down the list, we see OnPage signals (optimizing your website with appropriate keywords and content), behavioral signals, personalization, and NAP citation signals.
We’ll consider all these factors in this guide!
Google My Business Optimization
Your Google My Business listing is ground zero for how your business data is displayed on Google in the maps and knowledge graph.
Quick Note: In that past, Google has changed how this works and the naming scheme. At one point it was called Google Local, it was also once a part of the Google Plus+ ecosystem, but now it has all been de-coupled and separated into just Google My Business.
In the 2017 Moz study about local SEO ranking factors that we previously cited, Google My Business signals comes up the number 1 most important factor for ranking in maps results.
If you don’t already have one, then you need to claim your Google My Business page and optimize it!
First, Head to this link and click Start Now.
An important reminder: for a more professional touch, use your business domain email as your login (read: not @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or any other general email client).
You should be taken to a form to put in your business information. Enter the same NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) info that you displayed on your website and pay attention to the category section at the bottom.
Listing the correct category, which lets customers (and Google’s bots) know exactly what your business does, is important for displaying your business in the right search results. Google allows you to use multiple categories, so use as many as are relevant to your business. Be as specific as possible.
Next, to make any further edits to your account, you need to verify it.
There are a few ways for you to do so:
Via postcard: Google snail mails the verification code to your listed address.
Via phone: Google sends the verification code to your phone through an automated message.
Via email: An instant verification option, which is available if you use the same login details in your Google Search Console for your My Business account.
Some options may not be available, and the most popular way is to receive a postcard in the mail. Your eligibility to verify using any of the options depend on what type of business you have.
Google provides more detailed instructions for every process on their support page here.
Make sure you fill out every section possible, including uploading photos and filing out all the categories.
Want to take your Google My Business optimization to the next level? Check out our Ultimate Guide To Google My Business here!
After you have verified and completed all the information for you Google My Business profile, you’ll want to move on to getting awesome Local NAP Citations!
How To Get Local NAP Citations
After your Google My Business page is set up and optimized, you’ll want to get NAP citations.
What does NAP mean?
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number. More recently a few terms have been thrown around like NAPU (Name, Address, Phone Number URL) or NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website).
You’ll want to get NAP citations on relevant directories around the web for a few reasons:
According to the latest studies by Moz, Citation signals account for 13% of the ranking factors!
Many people ALSO use these directories to search for businesses (not just on Google!)
Many of these directories rank for localized terms
You can also get a relevant link to your site by creating a listing!
As you can see, having correct NAP citation is important for lots of reasons!
Warning: Citation Inconsistency Can Cause Ranking Issues
Sometimes business can run into a pickle if somethings has changed like your address or phone number. It’s time to do an audit to make sure all your citations are consistent.
Why is that important?
A citation is any online reference to your NAP. It does not need to link to you, but Google evaluates them as a local signal to determine an entity’s online authority.
Having inaccurate and inconsistent NAP can negatively affect your local SEO.
According to Search Engine Land columnist Myles Anderson, citation inconsistency is actually the no. 1 issue affecting local SEO ranking.
If you have too many variations of your NAP scattered around the web, especially if some or many of those are outdated, this makes it hard for customers and thus, Google, to trust your information. If Google thinks your data is untrustworthy, this could downgrade your local search ranking.
So, how do you check for citation consistency?
How to Audit and Optimize your business’s NAP Consistency:
The most complete way to do a citation audit is to do it manually and uncover all listings and variations of your NAP.
But if you just want to do a quick check, you can use Moz Local.
Enter your business name in the input bar to the left, and your zip code to the right, then click Check my Business Listing.
Moz local pulls up all corresponding listings related to your website from the main local indexing platforms (high authority resource listings that will have the most impact) and displays any inconsistencies it finds.
Once you see these inconsistencies, record them in a spreadsheet and make a note to contact the website owners to correct the NAP info with the one that’s consistent with what you have.
The results from Moz local are limited to the top indexing platforms that Moz has tagged, so it is possible that you may still have citations from other less authoritative or structured sources.
These other citations may have less of an impact, and it will take you time to do a proper audit for every last one, but if you’re so inclined, we created a citation audit and cleanup services that can do a more comprehensive, in-depth job for you.
Another alternative is to use our citation audit service – it’s relatively inexpensive and we’re pros at it.
After you have audited your citations, you can move on to building citations.
How To Build NAP Citations
All businesses are different, and you’ll want to create custom citations based on your industry and area. 2 good places to start with creating directory citations are these lists:
With these lists, you can find the TOP directories that you should be listed in based on your situation.