Below we recap the top 10 local SEO ranking factors that have been identified by David Mihm, a local SEO analyst and now-employee of the Moz crew. Every year David produces Local Ranking Factors and it is important for local business owners, marketing directors and SEOs to know what is working in today’s search engines.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 local SEO ranking factors and dive into what makes your local business rank in your neck of the woods.
City, State in Landing Page Title
Above all else, the city and state of your business’ physical location should be in the title tag of the pages you are trying to rank locally. For example, click-throughs of the top three dentists in my hometown, West Palm Beach, reveal that all of them have “Dentist West Palm Beach” in the homepage title tags. This makes sense as they want to rank for a fairly generic search [dentist LOCATION] but this principle would also apply to their internal pages. Ex. “Veneers Dentist West Palm Beach” as a title tag for the veneers page of a local dentist’s site.
Domain Authority of Website
Domain authority is a metric that has been defined by Moz (they published the study remember?) to evaluate how strong an entire domain is. It is based on several metrics including link counts, linking root domains, MozRank and MozTrust (also Moz-centric ranking factors). The idea is that Google takes a lot of factors in to determine ranking and Moz’s domain authority is a reflection of this. Rather than focusing your efforts on all of Moz’s ranking factors you can just take a look at the other eight (Page Authority below is also a Moz metric) factors on this page as most of them are included in their analysis.
Page Authority of Landing Page URL
Page authority is a metric that analyzes how well an individual webpage (URL) will rank in the search engines. On one hand it is important to understand that having an authoritative domain is a good thing as is having individual pages that rank. For a local dentist for example, the above veneers example would be a page that you would want to rank for queries related to veneers in your location and is a reason why page authority would be helpful in that goal.
Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
Lots of inbound links (links from site A to your site B) go straight to the domain (ex. Site.com) rather than internal site pages (ex. Site.com/veneers). If people are going to be linking to your site then you want those links to come from high quality, authoritative sites. In short, get awesome links to your domain. Lots of em.
Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL
See above except sub out your homepage (domain) for internal page (ex. Site.com/veneers). In short, get awesome links to the internal pages of your website you want to rank too. Lots of em.
Physical Address in City of Search
This means you actually have an address in the city you are trying to rank in. If you don’t it is not likely that you’ll rank as well. Think about it. Google wants people who are looking for West Palm Beach dentists to find dentists in West Palm Beach. Sorry Lake Worth dentists, stay in your own territory!
Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
Citations have been one of the most important ranking factors in local search for years. The quality and number of citations will play a role in how well your site ranks in the local map pack. Use Moz’s local business listing checker to claim citations that will help you rank better. Citations are sites like Google Places for Business (now Google+), Yelp, FourSquare, Bing Locals, Best of the Web and many, many more. There are many local business listings services out there as well as paid business listings suggestions. Check out this write-up from BrightLocal offering a candid comparison of the main local citation service players. (Bonus: look for my awesome comment).
Product / Service Keyword in Website URL
This one is a bit confusing to a lot of marketing directors or business owners. The thing is, many people have preexisting domains that don’t include the product or service keyword in their domain (ex. My website http://www.thedigitalelevator.com/ says nothing about SEO, web design or inbound marketing but nonetheless is a badass name). However, this does not mean that you can’t create a URL (ex. http://www.thedigitalelevator.com/inbound-marketing-services/) that includes your keywords.
Click-Through Rate from Search Results
I have seen situations before where a website that ranked worse than competitors actually got more clicks. How can this be? Well, in the Google search engine results pages (SERPs) you have the ability to manually adjust the way your results appear. You can adjust the title tags, meta descriptions and URLs to influence click-through (within your website). Not sure where to start? Just type in the terms you want to rank for and see what your competitors are doing. Can you craft a more compelling title tag and meta description that encourages a click more so than your competitors?
City, State in Landing Page H1/H2 Tags
In addition to using the location in the title tags, you should also use them on the landing page. So, our veneers dentist has “Veneers Dentist West Palm Beach” as their title tag. They should also try to use those same terms on the landing page as an H1 and perhaps some other variations in the other tags (ex. “Best Veneers Dentist in West Palm Beach”) or something perhaps a little less cheesy.
The average person (non-SEO) would likely not understand half of the above which is why the average SEO gets to charge $100/hour. Here is what to know about local SEO for the layperson who doesn’t want to pay that much but still wants some traction:
Start with solid on-page optimization– take some time to learn about title tags, meta descriptions, and keyword usage. Implement these into every page of the site with your newly tagged city, state and product/service rolled in.
Build citations– build a sh*tload of citations. Start with the ones provided in the link above in #7 and consider using one of the citation services mentioned above. These citation metrics are analyzed by Google every six weeks and there is no telling when that six weeks begins or ends. Point is after you build all these citations it might take some time to be reflected in your rankings.
Build links– build links to your domain and links to the internal pages you want to rank. Building links is hard. Building good links is even harder. Check out this post on one website that generated tons of links and traffic using The Skyscraper Technique. This same site has lots of other great advice on building links.