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Links & User Behavior See Jump in Importance for Local Search

Links & User Behavior See Jump in Importance for Local Search
Key 'Takeaways' From 2015 Local Ranking Factors Study
  • Moz has published their 2015 Local Ranking Factors study
  • Behavioral / mobile factors have seen an increase in 2015
  • Link factors now even more important for local ranking
  • Citations less important overall, but quality & authority even more critical
  • Snack Pack changes show experts paying MORE attention to links, citations

Today Moz has released their much anticipated 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors study. The annual survey has been conducted once again by Local SEO expert, and Moz Director of Local Search, David Mihm.

In the study, which has been running since 2008, David invites the top Local SEOs from around the world to give their views on what it takes to rank in local search.

Because of the vast knowledge & experience of the participants, the results are as accurate a gauge of the state of local search as we can hope to get. So what do the 2015 results look like??

Moz has published the full Ranking Factors study here, but we’ll summarise some of the main talking points below.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2015

online ranking factors

As we can expect from a yearly update, there are no drastic changes, but the most significant movements year on year are represented below:

More important

  • Behavioral/Mobile Signals – 9.5% (+2.6)
  • Link Signals – 20% (+1.7)
  • Personalization – 8.5% (+0.1)

Less important

  • External Loc. Signals – 13.6% (-1.9)
  • Review Signals – 8.4% (-1.4)
  • Social Signals – 5% (-0.8)
  • On-page Signals – 20.3% (-0.7)

Stays the same

  • My Business Signals – 14.7% (=)

Are there trends developing?

Local search ranking factors

3 year trend analysis

Thanks to Moz, we can view the past studies all the way back to 2008. Above we’ve looked at how the results have developed since 2013.

We can see that over the past 3 years, onpage factors have remained important as an overall ranking factor, whilst links have certainly grown in importance, as local & organic have become more entwined.

There is a slight decrease in the importance of citations, but looking at the top 50 factors, it is clear that whilst quantity of citations may be less important, it is the quality & accuracy of citations which continues to gain prominence.

Behavioral / mobile factors, whilst not hugely important yet, are continually growing year on year.

Most important localized organic factors

Whilst you can find the top 50 ranking factors in the full study, below we’ve summarized the top 10 most important factors based on their impact on localized organic rankings.

On-page factors

The domain authority of a website is the most important localized organic factor in 2015, whilst having the city & state in your GMB landing page title is number 3 on the list. The topical & geographical keyword relevance of domain content also feature in the top 10, whilst the importance of having the city / state in title tags & GMB landing page title is also crucial.

Link factors

Link signals are now more important for local search ranking vs 2014. The top 10 localized organic factors show that the quality & authority of inbound links to a domain are key, whilst the diversity of those links is also crucial.

GMB location factors

The obvious benefit of having a physical address in the city of the searcher is a major advantage in localized organic rankings.

External location factors (ie. citations, local listings)

External location signals are seen as slightly less important year on year, but the overall quality & authority of citations remains one of the top 10 localized organic factors.

Behavioral / mobile factors

The most important behavioral factor in 2015 is the click-through rate from search results.

Most important pack / carousel factors

Again, you can find the top 50 ranking factors in the full study, but below we’ve summarized the top 10 most important factors that have an impact on local pack / carousel rankings.

GMB location factors

For local pack ranking, having a physical address in the city of search is the number one ranking factor, and a closer proximity of address to that point of search adds further benefit. Choosing the proper category associations for a business is vital – as is the product / service keyword in the GMB business title.

External location factors (ie. citations, local listings)

For local pack ranking, the consistency of structured citations is considered the 2nd most important factor. Likewise, the quality & authority of those citations takes on added importance.

On-page factors

Similarly to localized organic factors, the domain authority of a site is crucial for local pack ranking. Having the city & state in the GMB landing page title is also important, as is ensuring that the HTML NAP matches your GMB location NAP.

Behavioral / mobile factors
Once again, the click-through rate from search results has a big impact on local pack / carousel results.

What has changed since the Snack Pack?

The local pack changed in August 2015, so what are the top local SEOs focusing more on since then?

External location factors (ie. citations, local listings)

Since the introduction of the snack pack / local stack, experts are paying more attention to the quality & authority of structured citations. In addition to this, the consistency of those citations is equally important.

Link factors

Once again we see that link factors are important for local SEO in 2015. The quality & authority of inbound links is more important since the recent changes, whilst the quantity of inbound links has also drawn more attention – particularly those from locally-relevant domains. Another factor which has grown in prominence since the snack pack is the quality / authority of links to a GMB landing page URL.

Review factors

Review factors only make up 8.4% of the overall local search ranking factors, but since the introduction of the snack pack, the quantity of native Google reviews (w/text) have perhaps taken on a little more importance.

On-page factors

Experts are now paying even more attention to domain authority since the changes, whilst the topical (product/service) keyword relevance of domain content has also increased in perceptions.

GMB location factors

Always an important factor anyway, the proximity of address to the point of search (searcher-business distance) has seemingly grown in importance since the recent local changes.

Wow. Lots of great info to take on board, and no doubt there will be tons of analysis on this latest survey from Moz.

Go ahead and take a look at the full results on Moz.com as we cannot cover everything here. It goes without saying that we are extremely grateful for David Mihm & Moz for putting this survey together with the assistance of so many valued industry experts.

Roll on another great year in local!

Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.