The Top Ways to Influence Local SEO Rankings in 2013

Have you seen the results of Moz’s most recent report on local search ranking factors yet? This study offers insight into the ranking factors that most affect the successes and failures of local search. Both the surprising and unsurprising aspects of the results can help local SEOs to prepare for the months ahead.

What’s Most Important?

Unsurprisingly, most of the main contributors to local search haven’t changed much over the last few years. While many traditional SEO factors like inbound links and on-page optimization are having less and less impact on local, components like your Place page are becoming more and more important. Moz’s survey considered 8 different elements that affect local rankings.

The top four ranking signals are as follows:

  1. Place page signals. A thriving page on Google Places is currently the one most important ranking factor in local. In order to benefit from your Places listing, make sure that you have identified the proper categories, included relevant keywords in your title tags, and included an accurate address. Your address is crucial, because the proximity of an address to a searcher has become one of the most critical elements in local rankings.
  2. External location signals. In the field of local search, we all know that your NAP (name, address, phone number) is key. Your NAP needs to be available and above all consistent on a myriad of 3rd party local business directories like Yelp and Zagat.
  3. On-page signals. Again, your NAP must be clearly presented, but the authority of your domain and the relevancy of keywords on your own website are also important here.
  4. Link signals. No surprises here – Google wants to see a reasonable quantity of high-quality links from external pages. Absolutely do not resort to any kind of link scheme!

What Has a Negative Effect?

Moz’s report details a number of negative factors, but none of them are too unexpected for an experienced local SEO. False or inconsistent addresses, unnecessary keyword stuffing in your business’s name, unavailable NAP, reports of violations, and incorrect categories will all hurt your local rankings. The most egregious issues are related to call-tracking numbers and keyword stuffing.

Other Significant Insights

As in every aspect of search, Google is placing more and more emphasis on authority. For local, this means claiming as many listings as possible on local directories and then intentionally developing relationships with authority sites and reviewers. Connections with authority local sites like the local news bloggers demonstrate investment in the community.

In the local SEO industry, we are all aware of the significance of reviews, but this study shows that they have less direct impact than you might expect. However, Google likes to see that you are managing your reviews, whether that means encouraging more positive feedback or dealing proactively with negative comments. Reviews from authority reviewers are still essential, as this study ranks them as the third best competitive difference-maker.

You may have noticed that I still haven’t discussed social yet! Moz found that social still has a relatively low level of importance, surprisingly enough. However, you can still expect to see social becoming a more and more influential part of local search.

What were the most important takeaways from this study for you?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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