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Local SEO Ranking Dec 15, 2021

Local Search Ranking Factors for 2021: What’s New and What to Watch Out For

It is more important than ever to rank higher than your competition because Google is prioritizing hyperlocal research. The local ranking should be a crucial part of your marketing strategy and plan if you want to perform better than your competition.

Local SEO has a great impact on how your local audience will find you. So, if you belong to the professional services industry, consider the local SEO ranking factors to get on top of the list or at least on the first page.

Take advantage of these ranking factors to avoid being buried in the search engines.

Google’s Ranking Factors: What Are They?

Google uses local search algorithms to rank businesses in the local organic results. While SEO agencies do not have special access to how these algorithms work, the ranking factors are based on the same principles and hypotheses that Google has used to rank businesses.

These factors give specific signals to Google and it is what SEO agencies base their optimization on.

Local Search Ranking Factor Groups

In a survey conducted by Whitespark, it was found out which of the local organic factor groups in Google search ranking weighed for Google within the local search algorithm. The result of the survey is:

  1. On-page (Presence of NAP, Keywords in Titles, Domain Authority, etc.): 34%
  2. Links (Inbound Anchor Text, Linking Domain Authority, Linking Domain Quantity, etc.): 31%
  3. Behavioral (Click-Through Rate, Mobile Clicks to Call, Dwell Time, etc.): 11%
  4. Citations (Location Data, Internet Yellow Pages/Aggregator Name Address and Phone Number or NAP Consistency, Citation Volume, etc.): 7%
  5. Personalization (Search History, Search Location, device, etc.): 6%
  6. GMB or Google My Business (Proximity, Categories, Keyword in Business Title, etc.): 6%
  7. Reviews (First and Third Party Reviews, Review Quantity, Review Velocity, Review Diversity, etc.): 5%

For the 2021 Local Pack or Finder Ranking Factors, these are the results of the survey per group with the same factors as listed above:

  1. GMB: 36%
  2. Reviews: 17%
  3. On-Page: 16%
  4. Links: 13%
  5. Behavioral: 7%
  6. Citations: 7%
  7. Personalization: 4%

From the results of the survey, here are the factors that have stood out even though there were changes over time from 2013 – 2021:

  • Customer reviews have shown a steady increase in their importance over time.
  • There was a steady decrease in the perceived importance of citations.
  • There has been a significant increase in the perceived importance of GMB (Google My Business) signals.

We will look into the factors that belong to these local search ranking groups and see how your business can use these factors to rank better.

Local SEO Ranking Factors

The factors we will be focusing on are those that have been noticed by local search practitioners to have an outsized impact on local SEO rankings. The group of factors that has had a significant impact on local rankings is the GMB factors. The top local ranking factors under GMB and other factor groups include:

Primary Category

This is a very important field that you set for your GMB listing that describes what your business is both to people and search engines. The Local Marketing Institute said that the right GMB category carries more weight in the local search algorithm.

Hence, if you want to rank higher, you should be more strategic with your category choices. Keep in mind that the primary category is the only category that carries additional weight. Every other category is equal in value.

So, if you want to have a leg up on the competition for your most competitive search term, choose the right primary category choice that most closely matches with the primary search you want to rank for.

Additional Categories

True, other categories are equal in value but it doesn’t mean you can ignore how you should optimize this in GMB. Every additional category uses additional keywords that you can rank for as long as you use relevant keywords. Relevancy is important because it is what sends signals to Google so that you will rank better.

Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to the Domain

Inbound Links Anchor Text

It is better to have an inbound link from another website that is keyword-specific to your industry rather than just using “website” or “click here”. Use natural and healthy anchor texts in variety because using the same anchors might indicate that you are using an unnatural link-building campaign.

Proximity of Address to the Searcher

If you want to rank for local searches, searches need to know that you are locally located. Searchers would often use the phrase “near me” when searching for products or services.

Hence, it will be helpful to have location keywords in your content that tell Google that your products and/or services are located near the searcher.

Keywords in the GMB Landing Page Title

GMB Landing Page Keywords

You have total control of where your GMB listing links to. Some businesses generally link to their home page and other businesses have multiple GMB listings where each one is linked to its relevant contact page.

This allows businesses to link to specific content for a specific location.

Quality and Authority of Inbound Links to the Domain

One Of the important local SEO ranking factors for localized organic search is the domain authority of the websites that link to yours. The higher the domain authority, the better. The quality of inbound links has a great impact on your ranking.

Volume of Quality Content on the Entire Website

It has always been said that content is king. But, not just any type of content. All content within your website should be well-formatted, keyword-rich, and value-adding.

These types of content will result to:

  • Improved search-term relevance
  • Increased conversion signals
  • Increased authority

Domain Authority

Some factors have been discussed about how you can increase the domain authority of your website. Domain authority is important to ranking in local SEO search.

You can increase your domain authority by improving on these specific local SEO search factors:

  • Quality and relevant content
  • Better localized backlinks
  • Playing for the local map pack results above the localized organic results

Inbound Links from Locally-Relevant Domains

Local links, even those with lower domain authority will be more relevant if you want to build local relevance. If you have high quality links from local businesses, you are sending a strong signal to Google that you are locally valued by both your customers and the local business community.

You can have links from the local news and “what’s happening” sites in the locality. Other sources of local links that are good are businesses related to your products and/or services.

On-Page Signals

There are on-page signals that Google takes into consideration when you are going to rank locally. Included in the on-page factors are:

  • Use of relevant keywords
  • Presence of vita; details like name, address, and phone number (NAP)
  • Mobile-friendliness (30% of all Google mobile searches relate to location)

Searchers are always looking for products and services nearby so you can make it easier for them to find you by optimizing these on-page signals for improving your ranking local search.

Online Reviews

Positive online reviews that customers leave on your page will prove your business to be trustworthy, reliable, and legitimate. This will create a great impact on the decision-making process of other customers who are searching for your products and/or services. It is the kind of information that is readily available for your users.

Online Reviews

Businesses that receive frequent positive reviews and ratings online help increase ranking. Local SEO ranking signals consider these values for online reviews:

  • Total number
  • Frequency
  • Diversity
  • Quality

You can encourage your customers to leave positive reviews and ratings on the major search engines where you can be searched.

Behavioral Signals

Google’s algorithm uses behavioral signals to determine ranking for local search results. These are actions that your audience performs that indicate how they interact and engage with local business listings and websites. The most common user signals monitored by Google are:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR) – how many times users are clicking through to your website from search results
  • Mobile Clicks to Calls – A button on websites that takes users directly to calling the business phone number
  • Social Media Check-ins – When users use social media platforms to “check in” when they are at your physical store or location.

All these behavioral signals are analyzed by search engines to determine whether your business is relevant and receiving the most valuable attention from people searching your products and/or services.

Monitor these signals and closely track them so that you will know better how to make adjustments to improve user experience on your site for local searchers. This will also help improve your local search ranking.

Local SEO Ranking That Increases Quality and Quantity of Leads

Local SEO is no walk in the park for businesses. Yet, it can bring great returns. Local SEO campaigns can deliver a significant increase in your ROI and generate quality leads. When you optimize the local search ranking factors 2021, placing Google My Business at center stage, along with reviews, links, and your website, you can rank higher in local search for 2021.


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