Local Ranking Factors: How and When to Follow the Data for Best Results | Webinar

Local Ranking Factors: How and When to Follow the Data for Best Results | Webinar

Something we hear a lot from the experts is not to get too hung up on ranking factors. It can be easy to get caught up with research pieces, news, and blogs that regularly discuss their importance. You might find yourself following blindly, but we know this doesn’t need to be the case.

That’s why we want to discuss why, while they’re important to consider, they’re not something to follow to the letter. In this month’s webinar, we were joined by experts Greg Gifford and Krystal Taing to dispel any myths about observing local ranking factors, and found out when and how you should test your own methods. During the session we discussed:

  • Which local ranking factors are important to consider
  • How to test your tactics and make up your own mind
  • Why it’s useful to analyze the data for your local SEO activity

Watch the recording

Key takeaways

How much should you take industry research into consideration when it comes to local ranking factors? (10:12)

I always pay attention to any research that comes out. You want to pay attention to the methodology of the research. One thing I always say is to test this stuff for yourself. Look at the research, test it and see if it really matters for your clients. Whilst it’s probably going to be helpful for them, don’t blindly trust everything. 

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

I would say have a really strong understanding of your business model or your client’s if you are going to apply this or recommend it to them. See if there are adjustments you need to make along the way. Maybe there’s an industry where you need to change the way you roll it out, especially if it’s not based on a service-area business. If it’s from a trusted source that’s rolling out regular, consistent studies about local search ranking, then read into it and allow it to influence the way you work and support your clients. 

Krystal Taing, Uberall

What SEO activities have driven the best results for your client’s over the past 12 months? (11:42)

Honestly, the basics. The stuff that matters is the stuff that most people aren’t doing. Most people are looking for shortcuts and everybody tends to ignore the local SEO 101 stuff. Make sure you handle the basics, optimize things the right way, optimize the right keywords, cover the area you’re in. You’ll be surprised at how many potential clients come to us who have been paying for SEO and nothing has been done. It’s about content links and Google Business Profile.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

I think what I’ll work on with clients is really understanding the way searchers are viewing them on Google. A great example is what a map pack for a restaurant or a food industry query looks like and how that’s driven almost purely by reviews and images, and making sure they’re focusing on that element. The types of keywords that users are adding to reviews or the rich images that customers are adding. Making sure they’re using that in their strategy. There’s a lot that they can push out, but understanding how user-generated content impacts them just as much and how they can participate in that.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

What impact do images have and how as a business can you do things to influence the images that get shared, or manage your profile from a user-generated perspective? (14:30)

Someone usually asks if geotagging photos have an impact and I think plenty of things have been done which say if the user has been nearby and uploads an image, there could maybe be an influence, but it’s not something that businesses need to invest time in. When you think about rich, relevant images that represent your business and that Google can read and use their AI to develop keyword intent and customer feedback on, that’s what’s going to really have an impact. So they’re going to associate things that may not be in your name, category, or content, based on the images left on your business profile, and allow you to rank for those images alongside having a really great visual that users will see on desktop and mobile.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

Don’t always look at photos on your Google Business Profile to rank, it’s a conversion factor too. People are going to do research before they buy, and we know people are checking you out versus your competitors. So if you’ve got awesome photos both from your business and from your customers in your profile it makes you stand out better. Who cares if it helps you rank, it’s going to make you convert better.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

Have the basics of local SEO changed at all in the last year or two? (20:10)

There are updates around responsive websites, and updates in terminology, but when we’re talking about covering the basics, it’s the same. Have great content that is about the business, about the local area, that’s optimized the right way. Have inbound links from local businesses. Have a really well-optimized profile on Google Business Profile. None of that’s really changed in the last ten years.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

The basics are going to carry you. If you aren’t doing those, there’s always going to be someone who outranks you. First and foremost you’ve got to have a really good strategy around your GBP management. There’s nothing that’s available to a business in Google that you should not be doing or should not be on your action plan. Update your categories, understand how to name your business. Activate messages, leverage posts, reviews, photos. That’s your pre-advertisement to the world. Leverage every piece of real estate within Google. Make sure you’re not interrupting the consumer journey with the wrong address or hours, and check what is going to disrupt their journey, and make sure that’s alleviated.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

The really important bit is to go beyond your Google Business Profile. That’s one of the big mistakes I see people making. They really concentrate on GBP, they don’t realize your website is a massive part of local search because the local algorithm still serves localized results outside of the map pack.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

If you just focus on Google Business Profile, how far does that get you? (25:30)

The most important thing to remember when you’re talking about local SEO is there is no correct answer for everyone. Every business and every market is unique. In a crowded market like London, Chicago, LA, Dallas, if you’re a dry cleaner then you will have a whole lot of competition. But if you’re an underwater basket weaving supply store, you’re probably the only one in town, with massive reach. You might not even need a website, just a GBP because you know you’re going to always show up for queries that matter for you. But for most people, you’ll want a GBP because that’s what populates all that information in your local panel when you show up on a name search, but it’s also what allows you to show up on a map search. If you just do a website and not a GBP it’s going to be difficult to show up in map searches.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

There are going to be industries that are the opposite of that. Especially anyone in a service-area industry where they can’t rely on a physical address, so those are industries where the website is a bit more critical, and the website is more table stakes than a GBP.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

Unless you’re looking for something cheap or throw away, you’re not just going to go to Google to the first site you find and buy from that site. There’s going to be some sort of research. SEO isn’t just about ‘am I showing up?’ and ‘do I have the answer that that potential customer is looking for?’ and ‘am I memorable?’ You have to do the website alongside GBP because you may have a stellar GBP that ranks really well and shows up in the map pack. If the customer wants to do more research and clicks through to your website, you need to have good information on the site. You may be the best solution for that problem in the area, but if you have a janky-looking website that person’s not going to call you.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

Remember there’s another step in the journey. Yes GBP might help you rank and get discovered, but understand the next step. The customer wants to understand more information about you. If you’re a restaurant and the customer wants to make a reservation. If Google has the wrong reservation link, I’m going to expect the business to solve that on the website with a chat option, or offer something else to engage with the business. It’s the responsibility of the business to make that easy. There are limitations to what Google offers and a business needs to understand that and build that out on the website as well.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

What are the biggest myths that SEOs waste time and energy on? (43:17)

I would say one of the things that still comes up so frequently that I get flabbergasted by is how much time people spend putting in specific service areas inside their GBP thinking they’re going to rank inside those cities and it still has zero impact on their ranking. Maybe eventually in a future decade, Google might have a service-area algorithm, but adding those services in Google just draws an outline on the map. I see people spend a lot of time optimizing that or picking out the perfect city, but it’s really not going to impact that much.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

People ask if they should build links to their GBP to help it rank better. No, that doesn’t work so don’t do that. The other one I see is the comma list of separated cities, “we also service in” and they list out a list of 5, 10, 20 cities. It doesn’t work that way. I also see people stuff keywords in their responses to their reviews. Keywords in your responses don’t matter, and you see responses that don’t read to be genuine responses because of the keyword stuffing. Geotagging doesn’t work. People concentrate too much on GBP and not on their website.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

What’s your take on the value of posts today? (49:23)

If you’ve got a relevant promotion or product launching and you’re using some specific keywords, it’s not going to improve your long-term ranking for that, but it does have the ability to give you some temporary visibility in the map pack. It’s like a free ad you can have on your listing.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

But if you’re going to do that, keep in mind what Krystal said. It’s still an ad, but as you’re writing the ad, keep it creative. You shouldn’t do a post if you just want the justification. A lot of people will want to approach posts like social media and share the same social fluff on Twitter or Instagram, but you have to remember that those Google posts are showing up to people who don’t know who you are yet, and haven’t been to your website yet. Posting a blog post about something random isn’t going to make someone click on you. You need to approach posts like they are free ads that show up in search results. They’ve got to be compelling and give people a reason to click.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

How much do Google algorithm updates change the way you think? (55:20)

If you have a holistic SEO strategy that the basics are foundational to, then you shouldn’t have to pivot much during algorithm updates. Sometimes there are updates that hit industries much harder than others, but for the most part, if you’re doing things correctly with your basics in tow, and paying attention to things that are really important, then an algorithm update shouldn’t scare, or even excite you. You shouldn’t allow your business to get to a place where you’re reliant on the algorithm. You should be able to maintain consistent enough traffic if you’re doing the correct things.

Krystal Taing, Uberall

If you had something that was majorly affected by an update, that means you probably weren’t doing things right in the first place. Even with the Vicinity update that came out. If you were really relying on keyword stuffing in the business name which got nerfed in the update, then that means you were taking a shortcut and not following the basics in the first place.

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

Our Expert Panel

Greg Gifford
Greg Gifford

Greg is the Vice President of Search at SearchLab, a boutique marketing agency specializing in Local SEO and PPC, and has over 17 years of experience in online marketing. One of the world’s top local SEO experts, you’ll have seen him speak at numerous global SEO conferences, or on-screen for his weekly video series, Local Search Tuesdays. We’ve also recently released A Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO course on BrightLocal Academy with Greg, which you won’t want to miss! 

Krystal Taing
Krystal Taing

Krystal is a Solutions Engineer for Strategic Partnerships at Uberall. A local SEO expert with over a decade’s worth of experience, Krystal is a respected authority on performing local searches and a resource for marketers and businesses. She’s also a GBP Gold Product Expert and a faculty member at LocalU

Myles Anderson
Host: Myles Anderson

Myles is Founder and CEO of BrightLocal. He has worked in the local search industry since 2009 and has been a major contributor to the Local Search Ranking Factors Study. Myles has also written a regular column for Search Engine Land and has spoken at SEO conferences such as Brighton SEO and Inboundcon (Toronto).

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Jenny Bernarde
About the author
Jenny looks after the BrightLocal community, through managing our social media channels, connecting with our community, and producing our online webinars.

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