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Navigating the Evolution of Local Search

Chris Marentis
Navigating the Evolution of Local Search

As SEO professionals, we have a responsibility to remain abreast with all current trends, reports and changes within our industry. It is only by doing this that we can honestly and ethically serve our clients.

With the 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors recently published by David Mihm, our current duty entails taking to heart the recommendations found within the report — and helping our clients put those to work for them.

A Consistent Theme

No matter how you slice and dice the results of the latest survey, there are consistent themes that come through. Whether looking at factors affecting organic search as compared to carousel results, what has become more or less important since the introduction of Pigeon or what ranking factors are identified to have a negative impact on local search results, the SEO world is calling for — and rewarding — four things:

  • Quality
  • Locality
  • Relevancy
  • Transparency

For example, 13 out of the top 25 factors affecting placements in either organic or carousel results are shared. Nine out of 10 post-Pigeon factors that have grown in importance are on both of those lists as well. Similarly, we see that having non-compliant categories is a negative ranking factor and having proper category associations is highly important in carousel placement.

Quality — It Starts at Home

The Moz report makes it clear that on-page SEO ranking factors have only strengthened in their overall importance to local SEO. Domain authority, page authority, page loading time and pogo sticking are among the top players here but, as SEOs, we need to identify the tactical elements that affect each of them.

Strong page titles, H1s, H2s and URLs are some of the low-hanging fruit in this area. Great content — in multiple forms — is a must. NAP, social buttons and the right inbound and outbound links all contribute to the heavy-hitters for on-page SEO.

Locality — Of Course

Well, this is local SEO we are talking about so it only makes sense that a good focus on the local presence should matter, especially in the presence of Pigeon. Pigeon is all about local search and while many people were heralding it as the great equalizer in local search for small business, it must be remembered that a local business is not necessarily a small business. Your neighborhood Home Depot is a local business but is far from small.

Fortunately, we can help our local clients small and large do the right thing here. Simple steps like making sure a city and/or state is in landing page titles, H1 and H2 tags and title tags can help. Location keywords should be included throughout copy but without creating content that is cumbersome to read.

Relevancy — Building a Web

Within the greater World Wide Web, each local business should seek to build its own web. This is done through securing the right links — both inbound and outbound — to help lift both page and domain authority. Citations should be properly structured and consistent.

These are just some of the tools that businesses can utilize to show the world — and Google in particular — that they are relevant players in their respective categories or industries.

Transparency — Accuracy Matters

A dry cleaner in Carlsbad does not really serve “all of San Diego County” any more than a bakery in Roswell serves “Atlanta-area residents.” Carlsbad and Roswell are suburbs of their respective large cities but they are far enough out of the main city limits that their marketing should focus on their true locale and customer base. Stretching the truth about a business location will hurt in local SEO.

Similarly, the dry cleaner that appears in a “personal services” business category or the bakery that puts itself in a “home services” category hoping to get in front of more people will actually get in front of less.

We must guide our clients appropriately about the importance of honesty, essentially. Yes, businesses need to stretch to find new customers but they must do so in ways that are completely true. Pogo sticking is just one negative side effect of incorrect category mapping or location truth-stretching — and pogo sticking will hurt search placement.

The Takeaway

In some ways, there are no big surprises with the latest local search ranking factor survey results. The facts gleaned from the survey only serve to support what we have been hearing for some time now. Focus your clients on the above four strategies, reminding them along the way that SEO is a long-term proposition.

Image credit: Wikipedia & Canva

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Chris Marentis is the Founder and CEO of Surefire Social, a provider of local digital marketing services and technology. With a coaching-centric approach, Surefire Social raises businesses’ local search presence through hyper-local search, display, social and mobile strategies.
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