How to rank on Google: local SEO ranking factors you should know

Google's local search results ranking is based on different signals, no surprise it can be hard
to identify where to stream your efforts. To be sure your local business ranks well for specific search terms, you should keep in mind a number of different local SEO ranking factors.
Today, we see more and more local businesses understand the importance of local SEO.
Trying to achieve search success companies face tough competition. So to be a serious rival
in the search world you need to understand basic principles and factors that influence your local search ranking.

In this article, we will ground on Local Search Ranking Factors' survey from Whitespark
and dive into the most important factors for ranking in the Local Pack, overview how they have changed over a couple of years and come up with what companies should do next and focus on.

The Whitespark's survey asks nearly 50 local SEO experts for their opinions on the most important actions and factors for local business rankings.

To understand what we are talking about, let's get down to what is a Local Pack/Finder
and how it differs from localized organic results.

So, what is a Local Pack/Finder and the Localized organic results?

First of all, it should be noted that the algorithms Google uses to show these types of search results are different. The user's path starts with The Local Pack that includes top-3 results (Google Business Profiles) near the top of the organic search results. If you click on "More places", the Local Pack takes you to The Local Finder, which expands on the Local Pack and shows multiple listings, accompanied by a map. While The Localized Organic Results are the 'blue links' to websites just under the Local Pack we used to see when googling.
google local seo
The Local Pack, The Local Finder and The Localized Organic Results on Google
The place your business is shown in the Local Pack/Finder is influenced by the local SEO ranking factors we've mentioned above. What are they?

The Top Local SEO Ranking Factors

google local seo
Local SEO ranking factors* according to the Whitespark survey
*If you plan to use this picture, please ensure that you provide a link to the primary source:
These numbers reflect what experts consider to be the most important local search ranking factors.

To go further, let's look at how the influence of local SEO ranking factors changed over the last few years.

Local Pack/Finder Ranking Factors Over Time

google local seo
Source: Whitespark, 2023
On the graphic you can see that since 2015, Google Business Profile (earlier Google My Business) has increased in importance for the Local Pack more than twice and then fell a bit. Other factors such as citations, links, behavioral signals, and personalization were not so influential during this time.

Well, let's dive into the the main local search ranking factors that you should definitely know about and that will help you push your business forwards smartly optimizing your company's listings for local search.

Google Business Profile Signals

Within Google Business Profile (GBP), individual ranking factors include the primary category,
the use of additional relevant categories and the use of keywords in your business name.

Since 2018, the impact of GBP for Local Pack/Finder rankings has been growing. Only this year we notice decline these signals' influence.
Nevertheless, GBP is still the most influential factor. It directly aligns with how Google continues to develop its local marketing tool. To improve the user experience, Google constantly adds new features. That is why GBP is becoming a more valuable and significant tool to local businesses from year to year.

To optimize successfully, you should do many actions related to Google Business Profile. This is:
  • Completing and verifying the GBP profile
  • Adding keywords in GBP business title
  • Ensuring proper placement of map pin
All these manipulations are good for Google rankings, but honestly, since you've done it you don't have much control to influence these issues. For example, as soon as you've set the relevant category or entered the business name (with or without keywords) into the listing, there's nothing you can do anymore.

So your main task at this stage is to make your Google Business Profile as complete as possible.
Google states that customers are 70% more likely to visit and 50% more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with a complete Business Profile. So do not hesitate to fill out all of the relevant information, add high-quality photos and share new posts in your Google listing.

On-page Signals

Starting from this signal we'll also add it's influence on localized organic results, since the following factors are more related to optimization for organic results.
On-page factors include NAP data, domain authority, and keywords in titles.

These signals are very important as for traditional so as for local SEO. Only over the last 2 years its importance has grown by 3%. But mostly it is influential for the localized organic results.
The quality and volume of the content on a site, domain authority and topical keyword relevance across your website impact local rankings a lot.

While striving for being the first in the Local Pack, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to optimize your local business website for the search engines. All these increase your chances of being found in both localized and general organic searches.

On-page optimization is always a good idea to master. If you want to be a serious player and competitor in the local search results, make sure to use the name of your location (city, town, state, etc.) in different places across your website. Also, use location-specific keywords in the metadata for titles and descriptions.

To assure Google in your local authority, create dedicated landing pages on your website specially for local content and don't forget to mention your location in your blog posts.

If your business has several or more locations, try to create separate pages for each of them on your website. Add relevant NAP information, schedule and any other important data to each page. In this case, it will be easy for customers to find what they need and to find you. Moreover, each of your locations will be ranked well.

Review Signals

Review signal factors include first- and third-party reviews, their quantity, diversity and velocity.

Over the last years, reviews importance grown up to 17% in 2021 and fell only by 1% in 2023. This shows that reviews is still a valuable factor among consumers.
All actions connected with work with reviews are very important: keywords in native Google reviews, the quantity of native Google reviews and quantity of native Google reviews (with text).
A high rating on Google is formed due to customer reviews and drives high conversions in GBP increasing sales.

At this stage, it is very important to develop processes and build a system of reviews management. Monitoring, generating, and replying to reviews can bring your business a lot of profit and strong customer loyalty. Here, pay attention not only to Google but also to third-party review sites — they can also impact your rankings and conversions.
google reviews
If your company has more than 10 locations and customers are constantly sharing their feedback, it would be a great solution to save your time and efforts and turn to a Review management tool — BrandWizard software that allows you to collect your customers' reviews from popular digital services and provide the ability to reply from a single interface. This can automate and structure your work with reputation management.

BrandWizard has also a number of solutions to make your work with reviews even more efficient.
But if you don't have only positive reviews and five-star ratings don't be upset. In 2021, Google told that a mix of positive and negative reviews actually makes a business appear more trustworthy. And that is true! We all make mistakes and that's okay. The thing is how to deal with them and how you communicate as a business.

Link Signals

Link factors are about inbound anchor text, linking domain authority and quantity.

Normally, link signals are used to be quite valuable for improving organic search rankings. But this is also true for local results.
The thing is the authority of the links to the landing page mentioned on the GBP listing is also considered important. Quality backlinks can be hard work to do, but they are worth it cause it improves the authority of a site.
Important! It's crucial to check the quality of the sites from which you get the links, cause bad backlinks can bring serious harm to your website. So use special tools such as MozBar Chrome extension to check sites for which you get those links.

Behavioral Signals

The behavioral ranking factors imply click-through rate, dwell time and clicks to call.

Behavioral signals have been in decline for almost three years, getting down to 7% in 2021 and growing by only 1% in 2023.
Nevertheless, behavioral signals are a kind of trustworthy channel for Google because it is very hard to manipulate here than other factors. All the actions are done by a person who searches and according to user behaviour, so it is difficult to influence it.

So the best thing you can do is to offer a customer the best possible digital experience,
and this is complex work to do. The key moment is to make your business listing informative
and sufficient to conquer your potential customer's choice.

When you manage to attract your customers — those who're interested in your business
they will help you to turn behavioral signals towards your company.

Citation Signals

Citation ranking factors include IYP (Internet Yellow Pages)/aggregator NAP consistency, location data, and citation volume. Citations have seriously decreased in importance over the years having 7% by the end of 2021 and being stable in 2023.

But this ranking factor is still significant for companies to be visible and build customers' trust.
It's all about credibility, so the user should see consistent and relevant information about your business across all the digital services.
Citations can be structured and unstructured.

Structured citations are the most common type. These are listings made by a company on directories, digital and location-based services. Such citations give a quick and easy way to earn backlinks. The websites where structured citations can be found are usually trustworthy and Google admits them as authoritative. This can help a business to begin building the authority of its website, as well as to give an established website a boost.
review management
The example of the query "Coffee in Brooklyn" and local search results with trustworthy websites
on the first places

Unstructured citations appear on any website or app that isn't specifically structured for the publication of local business listings. For example, mentions in a news article, a blog post, or on a social media platform act as a reference to your business, just like a structured citation.

Personalization Signals

Personalization ranking factors are about search history, search location, and device.

Personalization lets you see results from websites known to you or you have visited often. The location and language a customer uses while searching is also important.

Speaking about Local Pack/Finder ranking importance, personalization went down to 4% in 2021 and growing by 2% in 2023.
Personalization can have some impact on general search results, but it doesn't influence local search results actually. The only thing you can do is to translate your content to all languages used in your country to increase the chance to target the right audience.

So, what are the main local SEO takeaways for businesses?

Every year, Whitespark provides valuable insights into the focus and priorities of top local SEO practitioners. These insights can help brands develop a strong local SEO strategy by identifying key areas to prioritize. This year's survey yielded some important takeaways.
High-quality local content is more important than ever
As on-page and behavioral signals gained more significance, the importance of Link signals and Google Business Profile signals slightly declined. In today's search results, the quality of content has a significant impact on the local customer experience. Therefore, to remain competitive, businesses must maintain a very high bar for the quality of their content. It is crucial to have an established process and tools that allow local stakeholders to create rich content without sacrificing brand controls. To improve your local marketing efforts, take a look at these content tips.
Google reviews play a vital role in both ranking and conversion
They are not just social proof but also a crucial factor in local search ranking. For enterprise brands, it is essential to have the appropriate technology to track new reviews across various platforms, prioritize and handle negative reviews, inform local stakeholders about the reviews that require follow-up, and gather valuable insights for the brand.
Experiments and new technologies should add up but not interfere your local marketing efforts
Although the increase in on-page signals indicates the significance of a well-rounded strategy that involves multiple channels, it is still essential to maintain a balanced approach. Moreover, the renewed focus on managing review spam and the introduction of predefined services for GBP are areas to keep an eye on in the upcoming year. These developments are exciting and have the potential to impact local search results significantly.

To sum up

Optimization of your business listings to rank high is a complex task for any business owner or marketing specialist. This process requires thorough research, attention and alignment to your local marketing strategy.

You already know that different factors influence search rankings. This means you need to track their level of impact and stream your efforts to those that might bring you the results you wish for your business's online presence and reputation.

To be aware of the recent state of local search ranking factors, follow the industry experts, read our overviews and fundamental industry surveys. This will help you to tailor your marketing plans and focus on the main things in your strategy.
Subscribe to our newsletter
I acknowledge that by clicking this button I consent to BrandWizard using the data provided by me to communicate with me, which may include sending me commercial information concerning BrandWizard. More information about the principles on which we process personal data can be found in our privacy policy
We promise to send you only the most important and relevant emails to empower your digital performance