Local Search Engine Optimisation

Local search engine optimization (SEO) is similar to (national) SEO:[1] in that it is also a process affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results--often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users; these visitors can then be converted into customers.[2] Local SEO[3] however differs in that it is focused on optimizing a business' online presence so that its web pages will be displayed by search egines when users enter local searches for its products or services.

The birth of local seo

The origin of local SEO can be traced back[4] to 2003-2005 when search engines tried to provide surfers with local results in their vicinity, be these opening times of a store, listings in maps, etc..

Local search results

Local searches trigger search engines to display two main sets of result:[3] local organic results and the local pack. The latter tends to display businesses that have signed up with google and taken ownership of their google my business (GMB) listing, whereas the former includes any results from the web with local relevance. These often include directories such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook etc.[3]

Information displayed in the GMB listing and hence in the local pack can come from different sources[5]

  • the owner of the business. This information can include opening/closing times, description of products or services etc..
  • information taken from the business' website
  • users' information such as reviews or uploaded photos
  • information from other sources such as social profiles etc..

Depending on the searches, Google can show relevant local results in Google Maps or Search. This is true for both mobile and desktop devices.[6]

Ranking factors

Major search engines have algorithms that determine which local businesses rank in local search. Primary factors that impact a local business's chance of appearing in local search are proper categorization in business directories, a business's Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) being crawlable on the website, and citations (mentions of the small business on other relevant websites like a chamber of commerce website).[7]

In 2016, a study[8] using statistical analysis assessed how and why businesses ranked in the local packs and identified positive correlations between local rankings and 100+ ranking factors. Although the study can't replicate google's algorithm, it did deliver several interesting findings:

  • backlinks showed the most important correlation (and also Google's Toolbar PageRank, suggesting that older links are an advantage since the Toolbar has not been updated in a long time)
  • Sites with more content (hence more keywords) tended to fare better (as expected)
  • Reviews on GMB also were found to also strongly correlate with high rankings.
  • Other GMB factors like presence of photos and having a verified GMB page with opening hours, showed a positive correlation (with ranking) albeit not as important as reviews.
  • Quality of citations such as low number of duplicates, consistency and also a fair number of citations, mattered for a business to show in local packs. However, for businesses within the pack, citations did not influence their ranking: "citations appear to be foundational but not a competitive advantage."
  • The authors were instead surprised that geotargeting elements (city & state) in the title of the Google My Business landing page did not have any impact on Google My Business rankings. Hence they suggest to use them only if it makes sense for usability reasons.
  • The presence of a keyword in the business name was found to be one of the most important factors (explaining the high incidence of spam in the Local Pack)

Local ranking according to Google

Prominence, relevance and distance are the three main criteria Google claims to use in its algorithms to show results that best match a user's query.[9]

  • Prominence reflects how well known is a place in the offline world. An important museum or store, for example, will be given more prominence. Google also uses information obtained on the web to assess prominence such as review counts, links, articles.
  • Relevance refers to Google's algorithms attempt to surface the listings that best matches the user's query.
  • Distance refers to Google's attempt to return those listings that are the closest the location terms used in a user's query. If no location term is used then "Google will calculate distance based on what's known about their location".

Local ranking : 2017 survey from 40 local experts

According to a group of local SEO experts who took part in a survey,[10] links and reviews are more important than ever to rank locally.

Near Me Queries

As a result of both Google as well as Apple offering "near me" as an option to users, some authors[11] report on how Google Trends shows very significant increases in "near me" queries. The same authors also report that the factors correlating the most with local pack ranking for "near me" queries include the presence of the "searched city and state in backlinks' anchor text" as well as the use of the " 'near me' in internal link anchor text"

Possum Update

An important update, to the google local algo, happened on the 1st of september 2016[12]. Impact on local results lead to:

  • businesses based outside city physical limits showed an important increase in ranking in the local pack
  • a more restrictive filter is in place. Before the update Google filtered listings linking to the same web site and using the same phone number. After the update, listings get filtered if they have same address and same categories though they belong to different businesses. So, if several dentists share the same addresses, google will only show one of them in turns.

See also


  1. ^ DeMers, Jayson (August 15, 2012). "The Definitive Guide to Local SEO". Search Engine Journal. Retrieved 2017. 
  2. ^ Ortiz-Cordova, A. and Jansen, B. J. (2012) Classifying Web Search Queries in Order to Identify High Revenue Generating Customers. Journal of the American Society for Information Sciences and Technology. 63(7), 1426 - 1441.
  3. ^ a b c "SEO 101: Getting Started in Local SEO (From Scratch) | SEJ". Search Engine Journal. 2015-03-30. Retrieved . 
  4. ^ "The Evolution Of SEO Trends Over 25 Years". Search Engine Land. 2015-06-24. Retrieved . 
  5. ^ "Improve your local ranking on Google - Google My Business Help". support.google.com. Retrieved . 
  6. ^ "How Google uses business information". support.google.com. Retrieved 2017. 
  7. ^ "Citation Inconsistency Is No.1 Issue Affecting Local Ranking". Search Engine Land. 2014-12-22. Retrieved . 
  8. ^ "Results from the Local SEO Ranking Factors Study presented at SMX East". Search Engine Land. 2016-10-07. Retrieved . 
  9. ^ "Improve your local ranking on Google - Google My Business Help". support.google.com. Retrieved . 
  10. ^ "Just released: 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey results". Search Engine Land. 2017-04-11. Retrieved . 
  11. ^ "'Things to do near me' SEO". Search Engine Land. 2017-02-13. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ "Everything you need to know about Google's 'Possum' algorithm update". Search Engine Land. 2016-09-21. Retrieved . 

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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