Do you know the 11 secret ingredients in KFC’s Original Recipe? Of course not – it’s a trade secret. The same can be said for the secret formula Google uses when deciding who to show in local search results.

Though Google does not outright tell businesses what they need to do to succeed in organic (free) search, there are many industry experts investing their time in solving the enigma that is Google local search.

2018 saw many changes in ranking factors – the specific elements Google looks to when deciding who to show in local search results. We will go into some of the most important, impactful ranking factors, why they are important, and what you need to do as a business to ensure you are in the game.
For a more detailed analysis of local ranking factors in 2018, see this report by MOZ.

Google My Business Content is Most Important

2018 saw the most explosive growth in the importance of Google My Business specific content. GMB signals now make up 25% of the ranking factors Google refers to when deciding what business to show in local search results.

This is another indication of how important a complete, accurate, and consistently updated Google My Business profile is for every small business. Content like Google Posts, Google Q&A, and image/video uploads are top the ranking elements – so ensure you are adding this type of content to your listing often. If you haven’t logged into your GMB account in a while, you may be surprised to see all the new content you can add to your listing. At the least, ensure all fields are filled in, and that your business information is accurate and up-to-date.

Review Signals have seen Continued Growth in Importance.

Review signals were 10.8% in 2015, so over the past 3 years, we’ve seen a 43% increase in the importance of review signals

For this reason alone, every small business should work on getting more Google reviews, and ensure they respond to every review in a timely manner.

Citations are Still Valuable and Very Important

A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Google looks to your citations to help determine if they can trust your business. To be trusted, a business should be present on the most important business directories – as the lack of being present can be a signal of lower prominence to Google. Every business must ensure their information is listed, accurate, complete, and duplicate-free on the top listing sites and directories.

Google will Increasingly Monetize​ Local Search.

Google isn’t investing their time and effort into local search out of the goodness of their hearts. They ultimately want to monetize the experience – which is evident in the growth of local (map) ads. Therefore the easiest, most impactful way to ensure Google shows your business, is to pay them in the form of running Ads.

Top 10
Local Pack Ranking Factors

  1. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search
  2. Physical Address in City of Search
  3. Proper GMB Category Associations
  4. Product/Service Keyword in GMB Business Title
  5. Location Keyword in GMB Business Title
  6. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  7. GMB Primary Category Matches Search Category
  8. Consistency of Citations on the Primary Data Sources
  9. Domain Authority of Website
  10. Completeness of GMB Listing

Top 10
Local Organic Ranking Factors

  1. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  2. Domain Authority of Website
  3. Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain
  4. Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
  5. Mobile-friendly/Responsive Website
  6. Geographic (City/Neighbourhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
  7. Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
  8. Click-Through Rate from Search Results
  9. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain
  10. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains

Remember – it’s not about out-running the bear. It’s about out-running the guy next to you. As long as you do just a little more than your competitors, you will be shown ahead of them in Google local search. Doing something is better than doing nothing – so ensure you start somewhere.

Our team is always here to help – if you’d like to learn more about how our platform handles all aspects of local search for small businesses see our plans & pricing page, or feel free to book a call with a shoptoit rep to learn how we can help your business succeed.

Further Resources:

Page One of a Google Search Result, How does it all work?  >>read

Why Having a Website is Still Important for All Small Businesses  >>read

How to Control your Google My Business Listing  >>read
The Importance of Accurate Business Listings  >>read

10 Powerful Ways to Quickly Improve Your SEO  >>read

Local Mobile Search Growing at Unexpected Rate  >>read
Local Search Marketing Return on Investment  >>read
Facebook vs. Google Advertising  >>read
Our Ideal Customer – is it you?  >>read