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Search engine optimization - or SEO - involves building new websites, or changing existing websites, so that they rank higher in a search engine’s natural listings when users search keywords that relate to its content.

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Customers are using online reviews, social word of mouth, and other online content to form an opinion about your company. We encourage your customers to leave positive reviews while addressing the negative.

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Sunday
Oct062013

8 Search Marketing Factors that Impact Local Rankings

According to Local Search Association’s 2012 “Local Media Tracking Study,” 64 percent of US adults said that they used search engines to find local business information. When looking at Internet search engine based searches, 25 percent of respondents said that they use mobile phones (smartphones) to perform the searches, compared to laptops and tablets. Consumers are using a broader array of online and offline media when searching for local business information.

When are local businesses going to start rethinking their digital marketing strategy?

Sure, there are some local businesses looking for insights on how they can improve in local search marketing and SEO, but which ones are more important than others? Is it a more focused keyword strategy or a social strategy that aims to drive more positive online reviews - reputation management - for service related businesses? 

Prioritizing Local Search Marketing Efforts

The search marketing and analytics software company, Moz, conducted a survey to ask a group of industry professionals to identify the importance of 8 factors across the three primary types of local search results: local organic search, carousel search, and map search. They were also asked to consider these factors for both desktop and mobile searches. 

Participants were asked to assign a percentage of influence for each of the factors, totaling 100 percent. Lastly, they were told that their measurements would assess the greatest impact for local businesses planning their digital and mobile search efforts.

The factors include:

  • Place page signals
  • On-page signals
  • External location signals
  • Link signals
  • Review signals
  • Personalization
  • Social signals
  • Behavior and mobile signals

Place Page Signals - 19.6%

Your Google places local listing (Google+ Local) should be optimized to include accurate and optimized categories, most valuable keywords in business titles and descriptions, and a verified business address that is the exact location of your business. If you’re unfamiliar with optimizing your Google+ Local listing, we encourage you to watch our video on 5 steps to more online visibility.

Don’t have time for the video? Here are some of the most important points:

  • Use a consistent business name. Remember, search engine robots could get confused between a listing like XYZ LLC vs. XYZ.
  • Use a consistent address. This way, you’ll be able to verify your listing and establish trust across multiple networks.
  • Use categories that make sense and reflect on your most valued keywords.

Also, you can get your business listed locally by Noggin. Our professional staff knows how to get you the most online visibility using the keywords identified in our keyword research.

On-Page Signals - 18.8%

On-page SEO factors are the second most thing that affects local search rankings including website content, keyword density, user-friendliness, and overall site architecture, according to participants in the survey. When trying to optimize for on-page signals, focus on keyword usage across your website’s navigation, titles, and alt tags. Titles and navigational links help search engines learn about the content of your website - these are the best places to use the keywords identified in keyword research. 

Additionally, make sure that visitors can easily find your contact information. There’s nothing worse than going to an SMB website and not being able to find the address and phone number. How can you expect both visitors and search engine robots to place you in local listings without this information on your website?

Lastly, they mentioned that domain authority is something that plays a role in on-page signals, so it’s important to get links to your site

Confused about link building? Read our link building basics for SEOWant bigger link building ideas? Read about the impact of content creation on selling your products (and how it can get you authoritative, relevant links.) 

External Location Signals - 16%

You’ve heard of review and directory sites like Yelp, InsiderPages, and CitySearch, right? There are dozens of these websites that aggregate information from other sources. Essentially, they pass information to one another in effort to make the most consistent listings possible. 

As mentioned in the Place Pages Signal section of this post, it’s imperative to have the most consistent information as possible on all of these third-party sources. This includes company name, address, phone number, and anything else. We suggest keeping track of these listings and their statuses using a database in Excel or another program of your choice.


Sites like Yext and GetListed.org can help small business owners change their business information across dozens of directories by simply updating their profile on these sites. According to Yext, 6% of business listings change every month. You may have experienced this if you’ve opened or closed a location, moved your business, offered new specials, announced new product offerings, changed your hours and more. Sites like these can solve your problem with external location signals very quickly.

Link Signals - 14.4%

This is one of the classic signals that have determined SEO rankings in past years. In essence, links to your site are votes to your site, determining how much authority your site should have in local rankings. This signal carries a much higher percentage of weight in overall organic search results, but it’s still a powerful factor in driving higher rankings for your SMB website.

In years past, you could pay a firm in India a couple bucks and get thousands of links to your site, which use to be extremely helpful in driving rankings. Now, this is considered to be a “black-hat” SEO technique, or a way to get penalized or removed from Google’s index.

We wrote an article last year about how search engine optimization strategies like link building can give your customers a trusted way to view relevant information from sites with high authority. Are you a B2B brand? Perhaps you should check out why B2B brands have a link building problem.

Review Signals - 10.3%

We’ve already talked about a lot of ways you can improve your local search marketing efforts, and we briefly discussed the role of reputation management in your local search strategy.

Does your business have negative or positive reviews on sites like Zagat, Yelp, InsiderPages, and others? If you do have positive reviews, do they come from people who review often and are from your local area?

Survey participants noted that the quality and diversity of online reviews and rankings had a 10.3% influence in determining rankings. This means that you should be getting your customers to write reviews about you, boosting your credibility across the web.


A Harvard Business School study found that a one star increase in a Yelp score leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue. The study was focused on small, independent establishments who have little control - unless they hire a reputation management firm - over their online review profiles.

Personalization - 8.3%

Local companies often don’t have the brand recognition to instill loyalty in their customers. For instance, big brands like Apple’s iPhone have a large following and loyal customers. People buy iPhones because they’re loyal to the brand. Fred’s local deli doesn’t achieve the same attention, and instead, should focus local search efforts based on personalization and interests.

Marketing using the interest graph gives marketers the chance to demonstrate human-like qualities - the ability to dial in on what their customers really enjoy, like baking, hunting, rowing, crafting, and more. Personalization in local search is the same concept. A local business should focus on relevant offers, content, and service that is located closest to their customers.

Below is an example of Facebook's interest graph. I searched on my personal account for "my friends who like music (and interest) and that like Ted Drewes (a company.)"


The interest graph is a huge win for both local businesses and the consumer. The idea is to bring products and services to the people who are most interested in them, capitalizing on those interests to boost revenue.

Social Signals - 6.3%

It’s been said over the past several months that social signals - retweets, Google+ authority, Facebook likes - have had a great influence in rankings on both the overall and local SEO landscape. According to the survey, the more people who mention and have conversations about your brand on these channels can influence local rankings.

If you think about it, social media marketing is like a cocktail party. It’s a big room where people are referring others to doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, local restaurants, and more. It’s social proof on a massive scale. Word of mouth has been one of the most credible forms of marketing for small and mid-sized businesses over the past couple of years, and a consumer’s opinion is largely based of the opinions of others. That’s why it’s so important to encourage online mentions of your company on these social platforms.

Behavioral & Mobile Signals - 6.1%

There’s no doubt that mobile marketing will grow exponentially in the coming years, and participants in the survey already say that these factors determine performance in local search. For instance, a business that has more check-ins or has more users click-through to their website from mobile platforms could have a higher chance of outperforming competitors in local search.

Our article on 10 disciplines of digital marketing talks about how mobile apps can add to your mobile marketing strategy. According to comScore, 82% of mobile media time is spent with apps, making for a great chance to get in front of your customer when they use apps that interest them. 

How well versed are you in your local search marketing strategy? Are you leveraging the above factors to get noticed more in your local area? Drop us a comment below and  share your ideas!

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