How Local Search on Google has Evolved and What You can do to Improve Rankings

Google’s Local Search is always evolving and for many businesses it’s critical to maintain a presence here. But staying on top of this can be very difficult with Google changing the fundamental nature of how to stay on top. We’ve recently been taking a good look at what factors matter most on today’s Google My Business platform.

Gone are the days of Google Places where Google created a page that you could build links to and generally run a small SEO campaign on. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you have to come at things from the side rather than tackle them directly. Instead of Places Pages which you can link to your website, we now have Google My Business Pages which are practically an extension of your website, given how much the website contributes to the relevancy of the GMB Page. Boosting Local Search Rankings isn’t about directly SEO’ing your Places Page (or these days your GMB Page) it’s about going back over your SEO strategy and making sure you’re taking local search factors into account.

According to an annual survey run by Moz most experts agree that the two biggest factors impacting local search rankings are On-page Signals and Link Signals. Given these are arguably the biggest factors for your conventional SEO activities this highlights just how tied together these things now are. Of course signals from Google My Business (such as your physical location, the categories you fit into and the content on your GMB page) are still important but it’s very telling that these don’t even make the top three for impact on Local Search Rankings.

Whilst some SEO’s believe it’s unfortunate you can’t focus on Google Places rankings as directly as was once possible many of us are glad to see these two areas rolled into one. Most SEO campaigns for companies that rely on a lot of local business should already be taking the local angles into account and so the change from Google Places to Google My Business wouldn’t have required much of a shift. From here on it’s likely to remain closely linked so getting your Local Search strategy right is all about keeping on top of your SEO and paying attention to the smaller factors because every little bit helps.

The switch over to GMB is not a recent thing but we have people asking how they can improve their own Local Search Rankings all the time. With GMB being incorporated into a social media platform there are definitely a few things you can do yourself to help improve this (or stay on top). The My Business signals may not have made the top three but it’s easy to work on yourself with little to no technical knowledge. Make sure you’ve chosen the relevant categories for your business and are keeping active with posts and page interaction. Signals from Facebook and Twitter can have an impact too so it’s good to keep active across a variety of social media platforms.

Another factor with a decent chunk of weighting is Review Signals. This has grown in importance over time and is likely to continue to do so. When Google is boosting you up for a link it’s because another site is ‘endorsing’ yours and the same principle applies to reviews on GMB. If you’ve got a consistent flow of reviews coming through that’s a signal to Google that your business is very active and your customers are active online so your business is more likely to be relevant to people searching online. Encourage people to leave feedback as it helps with Google and potential customers too. If everyone else is leaving four and five star reviews that has to mean something. Don’t be too worried about the odd negative review as you can’t please everyone and nothing but five star reviews can look unnatural.

If you’re active on social media and have a solid SEO strategy in place that takes local factors into account, you’re covering the main factors to rank well locally. Watch this space though; we never know when Google may go and change it all on us.