Search Ranking Factors (Local) 2018: Now and In The Future

Change In S.E.O

Change has been at the forefront for local S.E.O. In fact, local S.E.O has run at a startling and almost constant pace in the way of change.

With an ever increasing emphasis on the importance of reviews and the explosion of new Google My Business features, it is moving at warp speed. It’s pretty difficult to keep up with it.

This article will give you key takeaways from Darren Shaw’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Then we can peek into the future according to the local S.E.O experts.

Video Transcription

Darren Shaw is from Whitespark. Today he will talk about the local search ranking factors. So this is a survey that David Mihm has run for the past 10 years or so. Las year, Darren took it over. And it is a survey of the top local search practitioners. There about about 40 of them.

All of them contribute their answers. The data is aggregated and determine what’s driving local search. So this is what the opinion of the local search practitioners are.

Here is is broken down for you.

Local search today

Here are the results of this years survey. We had Google My Business factors at about 25%. That was the largest piece of the pie. We have review factors at 15%. Links at 16%. On-page factos at 14%. Behavioral at 10%. Citations at 11%. Personalization and social at 6% and 3%.

So that is basically the makeup of the local search algorithm today. Based on the opinions of the people that participated in the survey.

Google My Business

Google My Business is the big story this year. Google My Business factors are way up. Compared to last year, a 32% increase in Google My Business signals.

Review signs are also up. So more emphasis on reviews this year from the practitioners. Citation signals are down again. And that makes sens. They continue to decline for a number of reasons.

They used to be the go to factor for local search. You just built out as many citations as you could. Now the local search algorithm is so much more complicated. And there is so much more to it. It is being diluted by all of the other factors.

Plus it used to be a real competitive difference maker. Not it is not. Because everyone is getting citations. They are considered table stakes now. By seeing a drop here, it does not mean you should stop doing them.

They are just not the competitive difference maker they used to be. You still need to get listed on all the important sites.

Key takeaways

All right, so let’s talk about the key takeaways.

1. Google My Business

The real story this year was Google My Business, Google My Business, Google My Business. Everyone in the comments was talking about the benefits they are seeing from investing in a lot of these new features that Google has been adding.

Google has been adding a ton of new features lately. Services, descriptions, Google Posts, Google Q&A. There is a ton of things going on in Google My Business. Because it now allows you to populate Google My Business with a ton of extra data. So this was a big one.

Take advantage of Google Posts

Everyone talked about Google Posts, how they are seeing Google Posts driving rankings. There are a couple of things there. One is the semantic content that you are providing Google in a Google post is definitely helping to lift your business entity and improve your rankings.

If you are not on Google Posts, get on it now!

Seed your Google Q&A

Google Q&A, a lot of businesses are not even aware this exists. There is a Q&A section now. Your customers are often asking questions. And they are not being answered by you. So it is valuable for you to get in there and make sure you are answering your questions. And also seed the Q&A with your own questions.

Therefore; add all of your own content. If you have a frequently asked questions section on your website, take that content and put it into Google Q&A. Now you are giving lots more content to Google.

Post photos and videos

Photos and videos continually post photos and videos. Maybe even encourage your customers to do that. All of that activity is helpful. A lot of people don’t know that you can now post videos to Google My Business. So get on that if you have any videos for your business.

Fill Out Every Field

There are so many new fields in Google My Business. If you haven’t edited your listing in a couple of years, there is a lot more you can do. You can populate and give Google more data about your business. All of that really leads to engagement.

All of these extra engagement signals that you are now feeding Google. As a result of bing a business owner that is engaged with your listing. You are adding stuff and from users, you are giving them more stuff to look at and click on.

Users can dwell on your listing for a longer time. All of this helps with your rankings.

2. Reviews

Get More Google Reviews

It is still factual that reviews continue to increase in important in local search. So getting more Google reviews help enormously. It used to be more competitive difference maker.

It is becoming more and more table stakes. Because everyone seems to be having lots of reviews. Therefore; you definitely want to make sure that you are competing with your competition on review count. And that means lots of high quality reviews.

Keywords In Reviews

Getting keywords in reviews. So rather than just asking for a review, it is useful to ask your customers to mention what service they provided. So you can get those keywords in your reviews.

Respond to Reviews

Users get notified when you respond to reviews. So make sure you respond to reviews. Google recently started notifying users that the owner has responded to them. So users get an email when the owner responds to their review.

It is another signal to Google that you are an engaged business!

Diversity Beyond Google My Business For Reviews

Diversity! Do not just focus on Google My Business. Check out other sites in your industry that are prominent review sites. You can find them if you look for your own business name and reviews.

If you search in Google, you are going to see the sites that Google is saying are important for your particular business.

You can also find out what the sites are that your competitors are being reviewed. So if you just do a search like keyword and the city, for instance, “lawyers + Denver”, you may find sites that are important for your industry as well that you should be listed on.

So check out a couple of your keywords and make sure you are getting reviews on more sites than just Google.

3. Links

Then links, of course. Links continue to drive local search. Many people in the comments talked about how a handful of local links have been really valuable. This is a great competitive difference maker. Because many businesses do not have any links other than citations.

As a result, when you get a few of these, it can really make a big difference.

From Local Industry Sites and Sponsorships

They talk a lot about focusing on local specific sites and industry specific sites. So you can get a lot of those from sponsorships. They are kind of the go-to tactic.

If you do a search for in title sponsors plus city name, you are going to find a lot of sites that are listing their sponsors. And those are opportunities for you in your city. These could sponsor that event as well or that organization and get a link.

The future!

Where do you see Google going in the future? is a question asked in the survey. There were some terrific responses. We tried to summarize that into three main themes.

1. Keeping Users On Google

This is a biggie! Google does not want to send its users to your website to get the answer. Google wants to have the answer right on Google so they don’t have to click.

It is this zero-click search result. So you see Rand Fishkin talking about his. This has been happening in local for a long time. It is really amplified with all of these new features Google has been adding.

They want to have all of your data so they don’t have to send users to find it somewhere else. Then that means in the future less traffic to your website.

Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm talk about Google as your new homepage, and this concept is like branded search.

What does your branded search look like?
So what sites are you getting review on?
What does your knowledge panel look like?

Make sure they all look really good. Google doesn’t want to send people to people to your new website.

2. More Emphasis on behavioral signals

David Mihm is a strong voice in this. He talks about how Google is trying to diversity how they rank businesses based on what is happening in the real world.

They are looking for real world signals that actual humans care about this business and they are engaging with this business.

So there is a number of things that they can do to track that. So branded search, how many people are searching for your brand name, how many people are clicking to call your business driving directions.

This stuff is all kind of hard to manipulate. You can add more links, you can get more reviews. But this stuff is a great signal for Google to rely on.

Engagement with your listing. Engagement with your website and actual people in your business. I fyou have seen on the knowledge panel, sometimes for brick and mortar business, it will be like busy times.

They know when people are actually at your business. So that is a great signal for them to use to understand the prominence of your business. It this a busy business compared to all the other ones in the city?

3. Google will monetize everything

Then, of course, a trend to monetize as much as they can. Google is a publicly traded company. They want to make as much money as possible. They are on a constant growth path. So there are a few things that we see coming down the pipeline.

Local service ads are expanding across the country and globally and in different industries. So this is like a paid program. You have to apply to get into it.

And then Google takes a cut of leads. So if you are a member of this, then Google will send leads to you. But you have to be verified to be in there. And you have to pay to be in there.

Then taking a cut from bookings, you can now book directly on Google for many different businesses. If you think about Google Flights and Google Hotels, Google is looking for a way to monetize all of this local search opportunity.

That is why they are investing heavily in local search. So they can make money from it. So seeing more of these kinds of features rolling out in the future is definitely coming.

Transactions from other things. So if you did book something, Google will take a cut for it.

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