Let me start by saying Happy New Year and wishing you all the best for it!
With the New Year comes more frequent posts from us here at LiberoNet, so you can keep up to date and in the loop with our work and we can offer you new tips on all things online. Anyway, let’s get on with our first blog of 2016.
Local search results are primarily for smaller businesses aiming to rank for more refined searches, for example, a small business will struggle to rank for “shoes” but “men’s red vans size 12 Manchester” is easier, as it is more refined and focal to a specific search. The factors for ranking here differ from your larger geographical rankings, as the businesses you’ll find here know they have a very slim chance of ranking against the giants of the business world, so they primarily optimize their business for seizing local opportunities.
The following categories are what some of the industries leaders determine to be the forefront factors for optimizing your business for a better chance at ranking locally.
On Page Signals
Still the most important factor for ranking is On Page Signals, basically referring to your keywords, your business’ name, address, phone number etc. In simple terms, primarily optimising your website for local search results by focusing on the specifics will increase your chances of being in the high end of local searches. You should aim to include a multitude of things so your chances are high, such as:
- Including your location in your URL, it gives Google a stronger local signal from your business.
- Your page title is important; including your city can help make your page more relevant in local rankings.
- Image titles are also important, giving your image a descriptive title can really boost your ranking, add your location too if you feel it to be necessary.
Links from other websites are also a big factor, for example, if your business is discussed on a leading businesses website or your website is linked on that website then Google recognises this websites authority and assumes you are useful to their searchers due to the usefulness of the larger brand, this therefore determines the authority your domain has amongst your own search results that you’re trying to rank for. It’s the same with the more links you have; the higher the amount of useful links the greater your chances are of ranking highly. As long as your website isn’t packed with unrelated spam links, that is.
But also, the anchor text used when linking to your site is very important. You should focus on your location rather than an anchor text that says “click here” it’s far too common and doesn’t offer any unique attraction for users or for Google’s crawlers. If authority sites link to a page on your site, chances are your ranking is going to rocket thanks to your anchor text. The anchor text should be natural in appearance, rather than seeming like you’ve attempted to put it in there purely for ranking purposes.
Google looks at the relevancy of your location listed on your GMB (Google My Business) page, so it’s pretty crucial to have this stocked up completely with the requirements your customers would want from your business. Make sure you claim your listing and fill out all your information such as your URL, opening hours etc. to optimize your chances of ranking.
Make sure your business is listed in the right category too, listing it in the wrong one can cause a lot of damage for your ranking and website as a whole, as Google can penalise you for using false information to boost rankings in a less competitive category. Reviews have become a massive part of Google valuing your business as Google sticks by it’s belief that the higher you are valued by their searchers the better you must be for them and thus the higher rating your customers give you correlates with the attention Google will pay to you, the focus tends to primarily be through Google + as that can show up directly on the GMB section meaning potential customers can see the reviews and the information all at once, bringing simplicity to their search which is what Google is all about.
External location signals
A citation is any mention of your business name, address and phone number (NAP) on other sites, even if there isn’t any link to your actual site. Still, citations are still valuable to search engines as they pay attention to your involvement with brands of authority e.g. Yellow Pages or Yelp.
A quote from Moz Local, “Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.”
Citations or mentions of your business are also important for local visibility. Google has 3 primary components that it focuses on:
- Your location.
- Customer reviews and citations: the more positive and important, the better your chances are at ranking.
- NAP consistency: pay close attention to your NAP as it all needs to be consistent in all the places it is shown in order to optimize it for ranking in the 3 pack. This includes your social media platforms, industry directories, local directories and your Google My Business page.
Behavioural/ Mobile signals
In an article I found some time ago, A mobile analytics company called Marchex conducted a study (which you can view here and download as a PDF) revealing that business generated when users tap on a click-to-call ad or search result on a mobile device totals in excess of $1 trillion. Also, click-to-calls from mobiles produce conversions, such as appointments, sales and conversions over 4 times more than desktop ads do. This tells us that click-to-calls have an incredible amount of potential as even though the click-through rate might be small, it can result in a lot of calls for the business. From the increased conversion rate via click to call, this is when the behavioural signals from the search engine begin to determine the usefulness of the website via the amount of interaction compared to the actual conversion rate. This can be determined in one way in particular, which is by mobile signals which occur by Google recording how many times their users have clicked on the number of the business on their website, which lets Google identify a correlation of the more clicks the number has, the more useful they determine the website to be.
Despite discussing reviews briefly already, there are a few more factors you should consider about them in order to optimize your websites rank, meaning they definitely require their own section. Reviews are growing in importance tremendously these days, with many users relying on what other people have said about you in order to make their own minds up. A recent statistic from search engine land said that 88% of users trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation, with 9 out of 10 people having read reviews to determine the quality of an online business. Reviews have become so integral to a customers purchasing process that Google have now started to factor them into their algorithms. The main contributing factors are:
- Quantity: Many SEO experts believe that reviews written on Google+ business pages have a better chance of factoring amongst the rankings than reviews from other websites. But there does seem to be a correlation between the number of reviews and the sites ranking, leading many to believe the quantity of your reviews can determine how highly you are placed on Google’s search pages. Therefore if you want to rank higher, you should encourage your new and former customers to write you a review about your business.
- Velocity: this is referring to how fast your reviews come in, if you get too many reviews in a short space of time, Google will begin to question their legitimacy and can penalise you for it. Genuine reviews are acquired steadily over a period of time.
- Diversity: If all your reviews are 5 stars, again, Google are going to question if they are genuine or not, leading to penalties again and possibly damaging your traffic. If your reviews are real, then they should come in a range of ratings and comments from your customers.
Chances are by now that you know Social Media can impact your sites efforts at ranking, Google takes into account the following factors:
- Number of Facebook fans
- Number of Facebook likes shares and comments
- Number of twitter followers
- Number of tweets mentioning your brand name or linking to your site
- Number of people that have you in their “social circles” (Google +)
- Whilst social signals aren’t the biggest ranking factor, their importance should not go unnoticed, the more your content is shared on social media, the more valuable it becomes.