2016 Local SEO Ranking Factors Distilled

Understanding the most important local SEO ranking factors can be a consuming, ongoing endeavor. Google’s algorithm is ever-changing, and certain search engine ranking factors can change over time.

With a month away from 2017, it’s a good time to reflect on the local SEO ranking factors that have shaped best practices of 2016. So I’ve distilled data and insights from some of the industry’s leading sources, such as Moz, Search Engine Land, and Local SEO Guide. But because some of this data is rich with metrics and SEO lingo, it may be over the head for some layman marketers.

local seo ranking factor 2016

Graphic by Local SEO Guide

Here I discuss (in no particular order) some of the most influential local SEO ranking factors in a quickly-consumable blog post. Let’s get into it.

1. Google My Business (GMB)

Having a Google My Business profile is essential. Yet, having a 100% populated and SEO-friendly GMB is another. Initially, you should focus on claiming and verifying your the GMB page.

Google Maps Marketing My Business

Populate your company’s Google My Business page to 100%, including a tagline, description, and several high quality images. Also be sure to select the most relevant primary category that reflects your business.  Your GMB page is the next most important SEO web property next to your website. Get more tips and strategies on optimizing your GMB page, click here.

2. Website

When it comes to optimizing your website, an obvious local ranking factor, crank out this local SEO action items:

  • Populate your site with quality and unique content (using keywords and phrase where it makes sense, especially in the Page Title and Meta Description.)
  • Include links to your GMB page and other primary social profiles
  • Mention your business’s name, address, and phone number (or “citation”) as it’s mentioned on your GMB page and other listings. Include this in the website’s header, footer, or some other site-wide placement, if possible.
  • Embed the Google Maps snippet on your contact page, or even your homepage if you want to go the extra mile.
  • Look into creating a KML file for your website.
  • Build a HTML sitemap and generate/upload a XML sitemap to your website
  • Create a “Reviews” page where you can direct happy customers to leave a review on your GMB page, Yelp page, and other major listings

3. Backlinks

Backlinks deriving from other sites must not be overlooked. In fact, a majority of your time should be spent looking for opportunities building links as well as earning links naturally (by way of great content marketing, social influence, publicity, press etc.)

Domain authority is a metric that defines the sheer strength and SEO potential of a website. This metric is determined by backlinks. Think of links like votes. But instead of trying to get the most votes, focus on getting higher quality votes from trusted sources.

For example, if you were doing SEO for Subaru, getting links from Car & Drive would be a nice win. Find opportunities (whether via outreach, networking, or connecting with colleagues and complementary business) to generate more links to your site.

4. Off-Site Local Signals

Google Maps SEO Marketing LocalThe next important part step to local SEO is generating more citations and fixing any that are inaccurate. Google can crawl and compare citation information on your website, GMB page, and other listings throughout the web. Any discrepancies in citation information can hinder credibility and SEO potential.

A good place to for a quick evaluation of your site’s citation profile is the Yext Powerlistings Scan. This free scan will show you how your business’s citation data appears on major listings like Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Bing, WhitePages, MapQuest, and about 50 other directories.

In essence, this cumbersome process involves removing any duplicate listings and correcting any listings with outdated or inaccurate data. The idea is to polish-up the entire citation profile representing your business and ensure that it’s 100% accurate and consistent across all listings.

Local SEO Investment Chart by Local SEO Guide

local seo investment chart

Concluding the 2016 Local SEO Ranking Factors study conducted by Local SEO Guide is this handy investment chart. According Andrew Shotland at Local SEO Guide, continuing to acquire quality links is dominant area of focus.

While there are several more local SEO ranking factors involved in the grand scheme of things, most savvy search marketers will agree that these are tops. If you stay focused on the latter four factors (with the latter two being an ongoing effort), you’ll have a significant competitive edge.