Google's 97 Local Ranking Factors: Which Of The 28 Make Or Break Factors Is Your Website Missing?
by David Krauter | Last updated Jun 17, 2015
We all know getting found (can) equate to a dramatic boost in calls, enquiries & sales.
But what’s all the buzz about local...
Why Local Search?
It’s because back in the good ole days getting found in the local search results was easy.
The ranking was easy... traffic came thick and fast... and before the Yellow Pages knew what happened, Google became the No.1 customer source for local business owners.
Below you can see results from a comparison survey all the way back from 2007/08... Already then search engines were on the brink of leaving the Yellow Pages for dead.
And look what happened next...
And the local trend continues...
- 43% of total Google queries are local (Chitika, 2012)
- Local Searches lead 50% of mobile users to visit stores (Google, 2014)
- Google Searches with ‘Near Me’ surged 34 times since 2011(Google, 2015)
Today finally Google’s made searches “location-aware” Back in the day for any maps or local results to be triggered a local identifier (eg. Lawyer Sydney) was needed, now just the term “Lawyer” triggers local results depending on the location you’re searching from. Additionally back in the good ole days, you didn’t even need a website. Your then-called "Google Places Page" was enough to get your business found... Whereas today... We’re seeing a VERY strong correlation between top rankings in the Google Local Pack via a Google My Business Page and a website's organic rankings for the same term. [rev_slider LocalRankingFactors]
So Here’s The Good & BAD News!
Getting found locally will only become more profitable for business owners. The bad news. It’s not easy anymore... In fact, it’s become somewhat of an art to get your website ranked due to increasing competition and continuing ranking factors introduced by Google. But wait...
Here’s More Good News 😉
[gap size="25px"] From our own research (Australian specific) and with help from the guys over at MOZ we’ve compiled a list of 97 factors that will affect your business's local visibility. Some of the factors are straightforward (duh kinda factors) Others are easily missed. Some are geeky and technical... And then there are those “secret factors” you just wouldn’t know about unless you had access to data from hundreds upon hundreds of ranking websites - which lucky for you... we do! So let’s get into it. Use this page as a resource to refer back to... a checklist to cross off or just as a general understanding of what it takes to rank locally in 2015 and beyond. You can also find out more about our done-for-you local SEO services here.
The BIG Ones | Organic
1) City, State in Landing Page Title
The number one factor that tells Google what a page is about and how relevant it is to a particular search is your Title Tag.
2) Domain Authority of Website
We’ve seen a dramatic shift in correlation between the ranking of a website and its associated Google business page. Domain Authority (the measure of a website's authority available through MOZ’s DA tool) in our view will continue to become the No.1 ranking factor across organic local rankings. 3) Page Authority Of Landing Page URL The authority of the actual page that’s listed on your Google My Business page has also been shown to have a dramatic effect on its ranking power. Keep building high authority links and increase your site quality to boost your target URL. 4) Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain. Links still matter and will continue to do so long into the future... Authority, Relevance and placement all matter. 5) Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL If you’re linking a specific URL to your Google Places page (for whatever reason - different locations, etc) ensure you have high authority, relevant links pointing to this page. And confirmation again... Backlinks aren't going anywhere...
6) Physical Address in City of Search
This is kinda a duh one... Google obviously wants to make sure you have a physical address in the city you service and want to rank for.
7) Optimise Image Around Search Term
Make sure your image is optimised around your search term.
Bonus Tip: use relevant keywords and LSI keywords to optimise other images on the page.
8) Optimise Metadata of your Image
Yet here are’s ways to optimise the metadata of your image. The search engines understand this language and it makes it much easier for them to understand the relevance of your page to your main term.
9) Product/Service Keyword in Website URL
It makes sense to put your product or service keyword in your URL for the page that you’re trying to rank for.
And Google thinks so too...
10) Click-Through rate from search results
This again will become more and more important as it shows Google that your site is of high quality and interesting. So getting clicks to your site will boost your rankings.
In a complete study, conducted by Advanced Web Rankings, it was found that the top results all get the highest Click-Through Rate. (access full study here)
11) City, State in Landing Page H1/H2 Tags.
Where possible you should get your target City & State into your H1 and H2 tags on the page you’re targeting to rank.
12) Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain
This has become important and will stay a key factor in ranking your website. You need to have a variety of sources linking to you... not just the same source over and over... makes sense right?
13) Geographic Keyword in Website URL
Just like it makes sense to put your product/service in your URL it makes sense to outline which areas you service.
14) Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain
Links, Links, Links... it’s what Google built its algorithm upon and it counts in local SEO just as much as it counts in general SEO.
15) Amount Of Content On Page
We’ve tested this across A LOT of pages.
And again and again, we’ve seen pages with 1000+ words outrank and rank for more keywords every time.
Not going to explain or argue why here. But you can read our theory and test results here: Content Creation Services
But to really make sure here's a study that backs up our data also. Thanks to the guys over at SERPIQ who conducted a full study to determine on average how many words are in the top 10 ranking pages. Here is the result:
16) Make Your Website Useful!
This ties in with factor number 15. You want to ensure your website actually answers the search query. We see too many spammy websites that just don’t provide the solution to what the searcher is actually looking for.
You’re the expert in your field... demonstrate it on your website by answering questions.
Bonus Hint: Have a FAQ section on your pages...
The BIG Ones | Local Pack
17) Physical Address in City of Search
Another duh one... if your business address is not in the city of search Google won’t rank you for it.
18) Proper Category Associations.
Make sure you select the most relevant categories in your business listing that reflect your service or product offerings.
Here's how Google themselves outlined it in their local guidelines:
19) Consistency of Structured Citations
This is one of those important ranking factors that can easily be stuffed up. Make sure your Name, Phone Number and Address are consistent across all citation sources.
20) Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
Yes, you need to have a presence on other local directory sites. It’s important these sites are also of high Quality/Authority.
21) HTML NAP Matching My Business Page NAP
Make sure all the information on your website actually matches what is displayed on your Google my Business page.
22) Product/Service Keyword in Business Title
This is one of those things that are given too much weight in our opinion. While it’s powerful to get your product or service keyword in your business title, we don’t recommend doing so if your business naturally doesn’t include them. You will get penalised if you do... if not sooner, then later.
It's all stated pretty straightforward in Google's Local Guidelines:
Your name should reflect your business's real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.
Any additional information, when relevant, can be included in other sections of your business information (e.g., "Address", "Categories"). Adding unnecessary information to your name (e.g., "Google Inc. - Mountain View Corporate Headquarters" instead of "Google") by including marketing taglines, store codes, special characters, hours or closed/open status, phone numbers, website URLs, service/product information, location/address or directions, or containment information (e.g. "Chase ATM in Duane Reade") is not permitted.
23) Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
We’re seeing more and more that Google is taking into account the location where the search actually happens... rather than basing the results on the proximity of the city centre.
24) Individually Owner-verified My Business Page
While it’s a ranking factor... it just makes sense for you to claim your business page. We’ve seen instances where the competition went ahead and claimed other business owners' pages and controlled their phone numbers - in other words stealing customers from them!
25) Proximity of Address to Centroid
This still seems to hold the weight (for the time being). So if you have a location close to the centre of the city - great if not... it’s not a game-changing factor, but every little factor helps right!
26) Quantity of Structured Citations (eg. Yellow Pages, Data Aggregators)
Getting a high number of citations has and looks like will continue to be an important ranking factor. So get in there and get them done... or let us take care of it all here: citation creation.
27) Quantity of Native Google Maps Reviews (w/text)
While it’s a ranking factor we see getting reviews as more of a marketing & conversion factor as well. Get them and continue to collect them as much as possible.
Here's an example of a review:
28) Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)
That’s right, citations on websites other than directory sites count too... but be careful... because their quality and authority also count.
The Ones Not To Forget About | Organic Factors
29) City, State in Most/All Website Title Tags
The more title tags have your city and state in them, the more relevant Google deems your site to these locations.
30) Location/Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL
Back in the ‘good all days’, this is all you needed. But with the drop of Penguin, it’s important you’re very careful about the number of keywords you have in your anchor text from other websites.
31) Location/Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
The same story as with links to the landing page URL - use with caution!
32) Quantity of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL from Locally-Relevant Domains
These are those little overlooked factors that are sometimes hard to get but could give your site the edge it needs to beat out your competitors.
Getting locally relevant links works very well!
33) Name Address Phone Number in hCard / Schema.org
We’ve seen great boosts just from implementing schema mark-up on our websites. This is the way of the future... keep a lookout for this topic in the future and the importance it will play to your website rankings.
Find out more about schema mark up here: www.schema.org
34) Quantity of Citations from Industry Relevant Domains
Relevance has been a big hit ever since the Penguin algorithm hit the scene and yes it counts for local too. A citation in an industry-specific directory could give you some serious ranking power.
35) Quantity of Citations from Locally-Relevant Domains
We’ve seen in our testing that Google does look at where your links are coming from, and we’ve seen extra boosts and long-term results by having citations from locally relevant domains.
36) Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains
Same as with citations, if other websites in your local area are linking to you obviously this means you’re relevant to this area... if not a business deemed by other websites in your area important enough to link to - ya think Google finds this important? Ya bet they do...
37) Load time of Landing Page URL
Increasing your load speed gives your visitors a better site experience. Google has its own page load time tool... so yes of course they’re looking at this factor. Get your site loading fast!
Test your site here: Google Page Speed Test
38) Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
This is another one of those Brand Recognition factors we see Google moving closer and closer to. So make sure you have some links pointing to your website with just your business or brand name in them.
39) Location Keywords in Business Title or Title modifier
This is one of those factors that we’ve seen given an unfair advantage. At the end of the day, we can’t all have our city name in our business name.
For those lucky people who do - enjoy the ranking boosts while this factor is still in play.
For those that don’t, don’t worry too much about it. It’s a boost but not a make-or-break kind of factor.
Here's Google's take:
40) City, State in Most/All H1/H2 Tags
Again this ranking factor can help, but if you’re targeting many cities and locations you can’t have the state name in ALL your H1s and H2s. So get them into the pages that are relevant to your specific city pages (you should have more than one anyway if you’re siloing your website as we do with our Secret Sauce SEO Service).
Having said this, of course, a site which is only about one city is going to be more relevant - so it’s a bit of an advantage if you can theme your site just around one city.
41) Quantity of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - links matter. It’s still the number one factor Google looks at to see how authoritative your website is.
So of course they are going to look at how many links are pointing to your city-specific landing page.
42) Velocity of New Inbound Links to Landing Page URL
This is a factor we pay VERY close attention to in our local ranking system.
It’s not natural to start a business and get millions of links in the first week of business.
Everything has a cycle and so does the velocity of links naturally acquired by a website. So keep this in mind.
43) Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL
We’ve discussed this in ranking factor 38 and it matters also for your geo-specific landing page.
44) Velocity of New Inbound Links to Domain
This factor is the same as discussed in factor No.41.
If things don’t look natural... you’re probably going to get penalised.
You’ve been warned!
45) Authority of Shares on Google+
This is an interesting one. With the increase of social share spam and spammy accounts, we’ve seen an impact via shares from REAL and aged Google+ accounts.
46) Volume of Testimonials in hReview / Schema.org
We’re moving towards the semantic web... so the more we can demonstrate reviews in the language Google is moving towards the more it’s going to help your rankings.
47) Locally Optimised & Associated Youtube Videos
Video is great and Google absolutely loves videos.
They proved this when they bought YouTube back in 2006.
Make sure your GEO optimise your Youtube video - Title, Description, Tags, Location etc.
And of course, make sure you get a link to your site in the description 😉
The Ones Not To Forget About | Local Pack Factors
48) Proximity of Address to Centroid of Other Businesses in Industry
This again is one of those things that matter, all other factors being equal.
So in short... no need to get an address closer to the city centre, but if you’re close - well done and enjoy the benefits while they still count.
49) Local Area Code on My Business page
This again is a relevancy factor. We’ve seen small differences between 1300, 1800, and say a (07) for the Brisbane area code. Again, it’s not a life-changer, however for no extra costs, it makes sense to simply use your local number in directories instead of your national 1300 or 1800 number.
50) Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews
Yes, Google does track reviews from third-party sites like True Local, Yellow Pages and Trip Advisor.
So it’s important you don’t just get reviews on your My Business Page, but also 3rd party sites.
51) Quantity of Citations from Locally-Relevant Domains
Relevancy is key to ranking... so the more locally relevant links you can get the better. It just proves again that you’re business is relevant to the location you’re trying to rank in... and other websites are confirming this.
52) Age of My Business Page
TRUST! It’s the new currency if you want to rank. An aged Business Page shows Google that you’re not just some kind of spammy business.
The older your page obviously more trust can be given to this listing as you’ve actually stayed in business and aren’t just trying to scam the system.
53) Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains
Want an edge over your competitors? Spend some time getting citations on industry-relevant domains... we’ve seen great results from this and integrated this strategy in every one of our campaigns.
54) Overall Velocity of Reviews (native + Third-Party)
This again is a natural ranking factor. If overnight you all of a sudden received hundreds upon hundreds of reviews... it just wouldn’t look natural.
Make a habit of collecting reviews and putting systems into place to get your customers/clients to leave reviews on a regular basis.
55) Primary category matches a broader category of the search category (e.g. primary category = restaurant & search=pizza)
It’s all about relevance and building a complete listing. That’s why siloing your website correctly via our Secret Sauce SEO system is so important as you’re targeting a themed cluster rather than just one keyword.
56) Product/Service Keywords in Reviews
We apply this strategy where possible.
We’ve seen nice results and stronger rankings from naturally integrating keywords into client reviews.
57) Quantity of Reviews by Authority Reviewers (e.g. Yelp Elite, Multiple Maps Reviewers, etc)
This again is a trust factor. Getting reviews by real people and authority users that are known to leave reviews, rather than spammy accounts, can give your business the push it needs.
58) High Numerical Ratings of Business by Google Users (eg. 4-5)
Kind of a no-brainer right? If you’ve got higher ratings you’re going to give Google’s users what they want/need and do a good job...
Why promote someone that does a bad job?
It just wouldn’t make sense for Google to do so.
Hence the war on spam.
59) Association of Photos with My Business Page
This is one of those SECRET NINJA tricks. If you want to learn how to associate your photos with your My Business Page for higher rankings Click Here!
60) Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present
This is a trust factor again. You want to make sure your reviews are listed on legitimate sites.
61) Matching Google Account Domain to Landing Page Domain
This is not a must... but if you want to get EVERY LITTLE BIT right, and get an extra little boost - make sure your domain name matches that of your place's page account login.
62) Numerical Percentage of My Business Page Completeness
This one is simple and we haven’t seen it as a deal-breaker, but it’s easy to complete so why not make sure you’re getting the most out of your listing. Make sure you complete your page 100% and get every benefit possible out of your page. Google's take and case study.
63) Clicks to Call Business
So the proof is in... Google now checks how many people actually click to call your business. Interesting right... right in line with their updates on click-through rate and time on site which was targeted in the Panda updates.
64) Product / Service Keyword in My Business Page Description.
Don’t overdo this... don’t spam your keyword all through the description. But if possible, naturally weave your keywords into the description of your page.
65) Velocity of Native Google Maps Reviews
This one is exactly the same as the discussion in number 54. The power is in making everything look as natural as possible.
66) Quantity of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)
These are easy to get. Again don’t overdo it, but these citations will give you a nice push.
67) Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present.
Another factor to determine if you’re a legitimate business or just trying to game the search engines. So make sure it’s a wide range of different sites you use for your citation building.
68) Driving Directions to Business Clicks
This one is simple... but don’t overdo it. Create some driving directions and get people to actually use them!
The Factors That Can Kill Your Local Rankings!
69) Listing detected at the false business location
This is a BIG NO NO! If you scam Google you’re going to get found out. Make sure if you move location you update it across your profiles -yes this includes your citations...
70) Incorrect Business Category
Pretty common sense right? Make sure you list your business in the most relevant category.
71) Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Numbers Across Data Ecosystem
When we’re talking data ecosystem we’re talking across the big authority directory sites like True Local, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. You’ve got to make sure your NAP is consistent across all of them.
72) Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Number on My Business Landing Page
Make sure the details on your website landing page for your My Business page are congruent. Not getting this simple step right will guarantee the failure of your campaign.
73) Mis-match Address on My Business Landing Page Same as discussed in factors 71 & 72 - you’ve got to make sure everything matches across all websites.
74) Presence of malware on site
You want to make sure you’ve got solid hosting and that your website is clean. If you’ve got malware on your website it’s not a safe environment for Google to send visitors to. So ensure you stay on top of any attacks on your website.
75) Keyword stuffing in the business name
As outlined in factor 22, Google still gives an unfair advantage to businesses with the keyword in the actual business name. So much so that if you try and game the system, you’re going to get penalised.
76) Reports of Violations on your My Business page
Google Local is ALL about trust. We highly recommend staying away from any shady techniques or strategies that may work now but not tomorrow. You will get caught - it’s just a matter of time and at this time you will have wasted all your time and resources. Do it right the first time. Yes, it will take a little longer, but it will be long-term.
77) Presence of Multiple My Business Pages with the Same Phone Number
This happens a lot... when business owners move addresses or accidentally create new Business Pages. Make sure there is only 1 authority listing and if there are any others take the steps to clean these up (deactivate them, claim them and delete them, etc)
78) Absence of Crawlable NAP on Location Landing Page
If Google can’t read your Name, Address & Phone number on your location landing page it’s not going to be able to match it against its own ecosystem. And guess what... You won’t rank!
79) Absence of Crawl-able NAP on Website Same as discussed in factor 78 - your address needs to be crawl-able - written in HTML text, for Google to know it matches your My Business Page.
80) Association of Google My Business account with other suppressed listings
We’ve seen this impact ranking... so what we suggest is if you have suppressed or compromised listings... start over. Create a new account and make sure you gain trust from scratch.
81) Presence of Multiple My Business Pages with Same/Similar Business Title and Address
Another sign of trying to game the system... You’ve been warned. If you want to game the system - good luck, but it’ll only be a matter of time before you’re found out and your listings get suspended, suppressed and the traffic stops.
82) Incorrectly Placing your Map Marker
Believe it or not... a small mistake like this could affect your rankings. Make sure your Map Marker is in the right spot - your actual address.
83) Address includes suite number similar to P.O. Box address.
P.O. Boxes are not allowed, and while Google understands that some businesses do operate out of suites if it looks spammy you will get penalised.
84) Listing 1800 number as the only phone number on my business page.
This is an easy fix. Simply list your local number alongside your 1800 number.
85) Keyword/City stuffed My Business page description.
We discussed this in factor 64. While you want to get your keyword into the description any sign of trying to unnaturally mention your keyword and you will get penalised.
86) Keyword-Stuffing in Title Tag of My Business Landing Page
The same rules apply here. Make sure you are natural about writing your title tag description.
87) Choosing to Hide My Business Page Address
Even if you don’t offer your services at your address, we would recommend displaying your Address on your My Business Page.
88) Including Location keyword in Categories
This is a simple one... stick with the Google suggested categories and you won’t get into trouble.
89) Presence of Multiple Categories in Same Input Field
Don’t try to spam the system... is this hitting home yet?
90) Choosing Service Area on My Business (as opposed to in-location visits)
We don’t know why it’s an option if it hurts rankings, but the data doesn’t lie. So we recommend selecting “in-location visits”
91) Non-Compliant Categories (those that do not fit “My Business Is A ____)
Similar to ranking factor 88 - we recommend sticking with the Google suggested categories to stay well clear of any penalties.
92) Presence of Multiple Crawlable NAP on My Business Landing page
Stick to one landing page per location. Don’t try to rank 3 listings using the same page. If you’ve got a location in a different suburb there’s sure to be different team members and other points of difference about this location. Mention this on your location page and voila... you’ve got a unique landing page for each location.
93) Low Numerical Ratings of Places by Google Users (eg. 1-2)
If you provide good services, this shouldn’t be an issue... if you do have low ratings we highly recommend attending to these manually and figuring out what is going wrong and causing any of these bad reviews.
94) Low Numerical Ratings of Place by Third-Party Users (e.g. 1-2)
Same as discussed in factor 93. We highly recommend addressing this in person and quickly.
95) 50+ MyMaps referring to your location.
Are you trying to spam the system or what? Do it and feel the hard penalty card raised against your business.
96) Negative Sentiment in Places Reviews
Again this probably leads back to the kind of service you provide. Be sure you provide good service and you shouldn’t need to worry about this negative ranking factor.
97) Mis-Matched or Private WHOIS Information Matt Cutts publicly stated at Pubcon 2006 that:
… When I checked the whois on them, they all had “whois privacy protection service” on them. That’s relatively unusual. … Having whois privacy turned on isn’t automatically bad, but once you get several of these factors all together, you’re often talking about a very different type of webmaster than the fellow who just has a single site or so.
Yep. Google knows all (or just about...) which pretty much sums up the most important factors. You need to make sure all your information across the internet matches up, you need to be relevant to your keyword and you need to be an authority. ------------------------------- WHEW! What a list hey? Well there you have it... 97 local ranking factors that you need to pay attention to if you want to rank your business on a local level. Now wasn’t that fun? But you’re probably wondering... “where to from here” Well if you have the time, skill and patience to ensure your website and places page meet all the above factors - go ahead and use this list as a go-to resource to ensure you’re cashing on the Local Google Cash Cow. If not, you can take advantage of our done for you local SEO services here. Or if you are just starting and want to see some of the ninja strategies we apply in our above mentioned services, then click here to access
a free video that teaches you a ninja local image optimisation strategy.
But we’d also love to hear your thoughts, comments and any other factors or ideas you may know of to make this list even more complete.
So comment away...
Dare ya 😉