Local search engine optimization (SEO) has always been an important and successful digital marketing tactic for many small businesses. It is therefore no surprise that many businesses continue to invest in local SEO, primarily to drive sales and brand awareness. But what many small businesses have in common is that they have limited SEO budgets, so it is very important to have the SEO dollars work double time. A good starting point to accomplish this is to provide businesses and their SEO agencies with local SEO data that allows them to prioritize their SEO work and focus on what returns the biggest bang for the buck.
A new study, conducted by Local SEO Guide, in partnership with Places Scout and the University of California Irvine’s Center for Statistical Consulting, analyzed more than 100 factors across 30,000 businesses to determine how Google My Business (GMB) business profile pages could rank better in Google’s local organic web search results, Google Maps and the Local Pack. They also looked at how businesses can prioritize their SEO work to maximize the return on investment.
The Local SEO Guide study reveals, that overall, links are by far the most dominant ranking factor for achieving high rankings for GMB business profile pages in the local organic web search, Google Maps and Local Pack search results. The Local SEO Guide study suggests that when it comes to investing in local SEO, businesses first focus on acquiring links and then on on-page website SEO, GMB business profile page optimization and off-site local signals, including citations and citation consistency.
The Local SEO Guide study concludes: ”When it comes to Local SEO in 2016, if you are not invested in links and your website, and instead focus predominantly on traditional local SEO areas like Google My Business and citations then you are going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”
Local Organic Search Results
In the last two years traditional SEO, including links, has become more important in achieving prominent local organic search rankings. The study found that the organic algorithm also plays an important role in ranking GMB business profile pages. It showed that if a GMB business profile page ranks well in the local organic web search results then it is likely to rank high in Google Maps and Local Pack as well.
Keywords on the GMB business profile page are still important signals for ranking in the local organic web search results, Google Maps and Local Pack, as well as keyword and city-optimized anchor text in incoming links, according to Local SEO Guide. It has long been an assumption that using city and state names in the page title, on page copy and in URL’s influence website and GMB business profile page rankings in those cities, but this assumption is no longer true.
Google My Business Business Profile Page
The Local SEO Guide research data showed that the organic algorithm and links play an important role in influencing GMB business profile page rankings. The data also confirms that having a product or service keyword in the GMB business name will help GMB business profile pages rank higher in Google Maps and Local Pack search results. In fact, Local SEO Guide claims that having the product and service keyword in the GMB business name could rank a GMB business profile page about 1.5 positions higher on Google Maps and Local Pack search results.
The use of keywords on the page are still an important signals for ranking GMB bujsiness profile pages, but as with websites, city and state names in the page titles have now very little impact on rankings.
The presence of reviews and photos on the GMB business profile page and having an Owner Verified profile correlated with positive GMB performance.
If a GMB business profile page ranks well in the local organic web search results it is also most likely to rank in the Local Pack. Citations still seem to matter, especially when it comes to getting listed in the Local Pack, but overall citations have lost much of their impact on the rankings. The Local SEO Guide study recommends not to ignore citations, but assign a lower priority to it.
The full study can be viewed here.