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Breaking Down the 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors

Brandon Seymour

According to a recent BrightLocal survey, local search was named the most powerful lead generation channel for local businesses.  Although social channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can be great tools for building online communities, they drive about 80 percent less traffic than other channels, such as organic and local search.    

Each year Moz releases a detailed summary of the specific factors that help brands rank higher in local search results. But before we jump into the findings from this year’s survey, let’s briefly recap how local search has evolved over the past couple of years.

“Snack Pack” results – The introduction of Google’s ‘Snack Pack” results was perhaps the biggest local search shakeup since Google Pigeon rolled out  back in July of 2014. For years, Google would return a 7-pack for local search queries. The 7-pack included seven business listings and sometimes appeared alongside a map that indicated where each business was located. On August 6th, Google converted all 7-pack listings to 3-packs, which later became known as “Snack Packs.”

Google PigeonGoogle Pigeon tied local results more closely to traditional ranking factors, and also aimed to improve distance and location parameters. As with any update, there was a clear division between the winners and the losers. The industries that benefitted most included hospitality, food and higher education. While the biggest losers were those in the jobs, real estate, movies and insurance niches.

50 percent of mobile visits convert to in-store visits – Google recently backed two separate studies that looked at how consumers search for local businesses online. They found that 50 percent of mobile users that searched for a local business visited a store within 24 hours – and 34 percent of desktop/tablet users did the same.

88 percent of users trust online reviews – BrightLocal found that 88 percent of consumers trust online review sites, such as Yelp, Google+, Angie’s List and TripAdvisor. This is all the more reason to encourage positive reviews and maintain a clean online reputation.

78 percent of local mobile searches result in offline sales – A 2014 comScore study found that 78 percent of local mobile searches result in offline purchases.  

For this year’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, the respondents seemed to echo a lot of what I covered above, and it appears that on-page signals still reign supreme. But there were some outliers that were pretty interesting. Their responses were broken down into several categories. Here is a summary of the top five for each category:

Top 5 Localized Organic Ranking Factors:

  • Domain Authority of Website
  • Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  • City, State in GMB Landing Page Title
  • Click-Through Rate from Search Results
  • Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

Top 5 Pack/Carousel Results:

  • Physical Address in City of Search
  • Consistency of Structured Citations
  • Proper GMB Category Associations
  • Proximity of Address to the Point of Search
  • Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

Top 5 Negative Ranking Factors:

  • Incorrect business category
  • Listing detected at false business address
  • Mismatch NAP / Tracking Phone Numbers Across Data Ecosystem
  • Presence of malware on site
  • Reports of Violations on your GMB location

Top 5 Difference-Making Factors in Competitive Markets:

  • Consistency of Structured Citations
  • Domain Authority of Website
  • Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  • Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  • Proper GMB Category Associations

10 Factors Experts Are Focusing on More Since the Snack Pack Rollout:

  • Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  • Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  • Quantity of Native Google Reviews (with text)
  • Consistency of Structured Citations
  • Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

10 Factors Experts Are Focusing on Less Since the Snack Pack Rollout:

  • Proximity of Address to Centroid
  • Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)
  • Authority of +1s on Website
  • Number of Shares on Google+
  • Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains

To see the complete list of local search ranking factors, you can check out the complete list on Moz’s website. If you have any questions, or anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Brandon Seymour

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Brandon Seymour is the Director of Online Marketing at BioTrackTHC and the founder of Beymour Consulting, an online marketing agency specializing in SEO, content marketing and web development.
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Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Hi Brandon, nice overview. But kind of a big mistake.

I was scratching my head at the negative ranking factors, because those are all positive. But then realized you copied the top factors again and put them under negative factors.
Brandon Seymour

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Linda Buquet
Whoops, I just sent SEMrush the correction. Thanks for catching that :)

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