Local Search Ranking Factors Survey: The 2017 Results are in!
Every day consumers are relying on local search to help them discover new and trustworthy local businesses. Shoppers are turning to the internet because they know that no matter what they need, a simple search on Google will give them multiple trusted and relevant results to choose from and 95% of people quickly find the answer they need without ever having to scroll past the first page of Google!
This makes positions on the first page of Google extremely valuable, but with only about 10 positions on page 1, this valuable resource is unbelievably scarce. For mobile searches, this could be narrowed down to the top 3. The importance of Google and local SEO to a businesses success is undeniable. It’s importance has led to a whole industry revolved around deciphering Google’s ranking algorithms and helping brick and mortar businesses reach page one where they will enjoy increased visibility and store traffic.
What is the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey?
The Local Search Ranking Factors Survey is the most influential and thought moving survey in the local SEO industry. Conducted annually, it attempts to determine and score the most influential factors for how Google establishes its local rankings. The survey asks around 40 of the top local SEO industry experts to rank over 130 different factors on how influential they are in determining Google’s local rankings. These results are then aggregated together to create the Google Local Search Ranking Factors. Please keep in mind, this is a survey, so much of this is subjective data, but based on people that are actively working on local seo campaigns every day.
The 2017 Results
Above are the results for the 2017 local pack/finder. Sometimes the Google search results can seem like a bit of a black box, these results are some of the best resources to help businesses understand exactly how Google decides to rank your business. For business owners, understanding what factors influence your business and how important each factor is will be the first step towards improving your local rankings. Once you understand the foundation of how the search rankings are decided, you can then begin to make the right decision on how to build a Local SEO strategy.
The New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor: Proximity
Proximity is now the number one most important factor in the local search ranking factors, up from the number four position back in 2015. This means that local businesses are now competing in more of a hyper local market than ever before. How close your business is to the user searching at the time of their search holds a huge influence on how well you will rank. This was a big change this year and many businesses were likely affected. Many people are asking why such a big change occurred and the obvious answer is advertising. This forces more businesses to pay their way to the top of the page. We have already seen the big increase in real estate that Google have given to ads in Maps and the Finder results in the last year.
However, while proximity plays a more influential role than ever before, implementing a strong local SEO strategy can still have a big effect in helping you rank well in your market and driving more customers to you rather than your competitors.
Increases & Decreases
Since the last survey conducted in 2015 (no survey for 2016) there has been some influential changes in the local SEO ranking factors!
The most notable change here is the increasing importance in Review Signals, up 21.5% from 2015! This increase is reflecting just how influential reviews have become in the consumer’s decision making process.
Reviews are a form of social proof that both customers and Google use to determine the quality, trustworthiness and popularity of a business; 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as they would a personal recommendation. Google knows that one of the first steps a customer takes after searching for local businesses is read and compare their ratings and reviews to other nearby businesses which is causing the increase in the influence Review Signals have on the local search ranking factors.
The most interesting change to point out here is the decrease in importance for Citation Signals. Citations are anywhere on the web where your business name, phone number, address etc. is mentioned (also known as business listings). While the importance of citations signals have gone down, they are still extremely important. Combined with your GMB signals, they account for over 32% of how Google ranks your business.
This decrease is more of a reflection on the change in how people view citations rather than a reflection of how important they are to your rankings. Having accurate and consistent citations across the web is still one of the most important ranking factors in local SEO, however they are now seen as more of a foundational factor rather than a competitive difference maker.
In terms of citations, many believe that quality has now become much more important than quantity. That is, there is a big separation between the value in citations from key sources, say the top 20 sites, from the long tail of another 50 or so sites. It’s vital that you have consistency on those top 20 sites, whereas anything beyond that is more of a “nice to have”.
Foundational Factors vs Competitive Factors
One of the biggest changes to the Local SEO Ranking Factors Survey this year was the separation of Foundational Factors from Competitive Factors.
Foundational factors are those factors that a business must have in order to even be eligible to rank on Google, without them you will never have a chance. However, once you have these factors, that’s it, you can’t implement them more often or better than another business who has them in order to rank higher. Below is a list of the most important and influential Foundational Ranking Factors:
Competitive Difference Makers are where you have the opportunity to really set your business apart from your competitors. These are factors such as your quality and quantity of reviews, the number of links to your website, and the content you can continue to publish. Below is the list of the top Competitive Difference Makers you should focus on in order to outrank your competitors:
Ranking higher in the local search results is a clear way to increase your online visibility and in store traffic because it is the most natural way to show people that you are a trusted and reliable business. Building your business’ foundational factors and continuing to improve on the competitive difference makers is necessary for any business to rank well. However, without the right knowledge and tools, this can be a difficult and time consuming process. Schedule a Free Demo with Chatmeter to learn how you can easily build an effective Local SEO strategy that will improve your rankings and drive more customers into your stores!