Showing up at the top of search queries is the holy grail of all SEO efforts. Achieving this for local searches in particular may be the most valuable goal of all, since many potential clients will choose to work with an accounting firm in their region rather than one halfway across the country.
Andrew Shotland and Dan Leibson have conducted an in-depth analysis to determine the factors that correlate with high search rankings for local results. As the study authors freely admit, they’re not Google so their results, while valuable, don’t include every element that search engines may assess. The results of their comprehensive study of 100 search factors give valuable insight into how businesses can earn a higher local page rank, nonetheless.
The researchers compiled their results into a couple of helpful charts that make it clear what’s important and what’s not. Organic rank clearly dominates the list of categorical variables (listed in order of frequency the variable met the category condition), which should come as no surprise. If your firm has done what it takes to show up higher in organic search results, you’re highly likely to earn a top spot in local search as well.
Including the keyword in the business name appears as a strong second, and having a mobile-friendly website takes third. The relative importance of mobile access may startle some but it should not. Google has been clear about its intent to penalize sites that lack mobile-friendly design, and this evidence simply illustrates how significant that can be in practice.
The next tier of factors that increase local search rank includes:
- Google Reviews
- Photos, business hours and physical address
- Meta keywords
- Keywords in title
High among this group are two factors relating to backlinks: those with a keyword in the anchor text and those with the relevant city in anchor text. It does come as a bit of a surprise that these types of backlinks make such a strong showing.
The real shock, though, stems from learning what has virtually no effect. At the bottom of the list of categorical variables that impact local search rank we find:
- The presence or absence of Flash
- Keywords that appear in header tags
- Using the city and state, or any location data for that matter, in the title
- Using the city and state in the page’s URL
So that’s it in a nutshell for this research. More will follow, no doubt, but in the meantime you’ve got a good idea of where to focus your local SEO efforts. And if you’d like to learn more about the methodology used in this study you can find it right here.