Local ranking factors that help your small business’ SEO

If you have a local business, selling products or services, you have to think about the local ranking of your website. Local optimization will help you surface for related search queries in your area. As Google shows local results first in a lot of cases, you need to make sure Google understands where you are located. In this article, we’ll go over all the things you can do to improve Google’s understanding of your location, which obviously improves your chances to rank locally.

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Ranking factors?

What are ranking factors? Well, ranking factors are elements that Google takes into account when determining the position of a URL in the search results. There are many ranking factors, most of them are characteristics of the URL and your website, but they can extend to your further online presence as well. An example of a ranking factor is page speed: a fast-loading page is likely to rank higher than a slow page when other characteristics are comparable.

Local ranking factors

In this post, we’ll focus on the factors that influence the ranking of your website’s pages in local searches. As you can read here, Google itself talks about local ranking factors in terms of:

  • Relevance: are you the relevant result for the user? Does your website match what the user is looking for?
  • Distance: how far away are you located? If you are relevant and near, chances are you’ll get a good ranking.
  • Prominence: this is about how well your business is known. More on that at the end of this article.

So you have to show you’re relevant, you’re close by and you’re well-known. Let’s see how you can work on these factors with some concrete actions!

Be relevant

Being relevant means you offer the service or products the searcher is looking for. While this might seem pretty straightforward, sometimes people can get too cryptic on their website. So make sure that if you fully mention what you’re business or profession is, what kind of products and services you offer, and make sure to do this in the wording your audience uses. To find out if you do, please conduct some keyword research and simply speak with your customers to find out which terms they use when looking for a service like yours.

For more inspiration to write relevant content for your local business site, check out this local content strategy guide.

Google My Business

For your local ranking in Google, you can’t do without a proper Google My Business listing. You need to enlist, add all your locations, verify these and share some photos. Google My Business allows for customer reviews as well, and you should really aim to get some of those for your listing. Positive reviews (simply ask satisfied customers to leave a review) help the way Google and it’s visitors regard your business. This is pretty much like on your local market. If people talk positively about your groceries, more people will be inclined to come to your grocery stand.

Getting reviews is one. You can keep the conversation going by responding to these reviews and, as Google puts it, be a friend, not a salesperson.

LocalBusiness structured data

If you have a local business and serve mostly local customers, of course, you’ll add your address to your website. To help Google and other search engines understand that that is your main address you can beste serve it in a certain format that is readable for machines. Use localBusiness schema for that. Our Local SEO plugin makes adding that LocalBusiness schema to your pages a breeze!

This is very much about what Google calls distance. If you are the closest result for the user, your business will surface sooner.

Make sure you have one main NAP!

Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP. That is the only way to make sure Google makes the right connection between the two. Add the main address on every page (you are a local business so your address is important enough to mention on every page). For all the other locations, set up a page and list all the addresses of your branches.

Facebook listing and reviews

What goes for Google My Business, goes for Facebook as well. Add your company as a page for a local business to Facebook here. People search a lot on Facebook as well, so you’d better make sure your listing on Facebook is in order. Facebook also allows for reviews, which could help your business too. Keep an eye on those reviews! If your reviews aren’t that great, make sure to fix that by providing better products or services, or at least show in your replies you take the feedback you get seriously.

City and state in title

The obvious one: for a local ranking, adding city and (in the US) state to your <title> helps. Please keep in mind that the effect of adding your city to your titles might be a lot less for your local ranking than adding your business details to Google My Business, but it won’t hurt for sure. For more local content tips, do check out this guide.

Local directories help your local ranking

In addition to your Google My Business listing, Google uses the local Yelps and other local directories to determine just how important and local you are. Where we usually recommend against putting your link on a page with a gazillion unrelated links, the common ground for a local listings page is, indeed, the location. And these links actually do help your local rankings.

So get your web team to work, find the most important local directory pages and get your details up there. I’m specifically writing details and not just link. Citations work in confirming the address to both Google and visitors. If a local, relevant website lists addresses, get yours up there as well. And while you are at it, get some positive reviews on sites like Yelp as well, obviously!

Following how directories help your local ranking, it also pays off to exchange a link with related local businesses. If you work together in the same supply chain or sell related products, feel free to exchange links. Don’t just exchange links with any business you know, as these, in most cases, will be low-quality links for your website (because they’re usually unrelated).

Social mentions from local tweeps

Again, there’s a local marketplace online as well. People talk about business, new developments, products on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. All these social mentions find their way to Google’s sensors as well. The search engine will pick up on positive or negative vibes and use these to help them rank your local business. If a lot of people talk about your business and/or link to your website, you must be relevant. Monitor these mentions and engage.

Some say links, from other websites, directories, and social media, are the key factor for local rankings. As always, we believe it’s the sum of all efforts that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not just optimizing one aspect. Take your time and make sure your Google My Business profile is right, schema.org details are on your site and you have the right links to your site and the right people talking about you on, for instance, Twitter. And please don’t forget to do proper keyword research and simply make sure the right content is on your website.

Optimize your content for better local rankings

Google won’t rank your site for a keyword if that keyword isn’t on your website. It’s as simple as that. If your business is in city X, you probably have a reason why you are located there. Write about that reason. And note that these may vary:

  • You are born there or just love the locals and local habits
  • There is a river which is needed for transport
  • Your local network makes sure you can deliver just-in-time or provide extra services
  • The city has a regional function and your business thrives by that
  • There are 6 other businesses like yours, you’re obviously the best, and you all serve a certain percentage of people, so your business fits perfectly in that area.

These are just random reasons to help you write about your business in relation to your location. They differ (a lot) per company. Make sure your location/city/area is clearly mentioned on your website and not just in your footer at your address details!

Read more: Tips for your local content strategy »

One more thing: what about prominence?

Prominence means that when Google can serve a result first from a well-known brand or business, they actually will. And despite all your efforts to improve your local ranking, this might get in the way of that number one position. It just means you have to step up your game, keep on doing the great work you do, work on your branding and trust that eventually, Google will notice this as well. And as a result, Google might allow you to rank on that number one position for that local keyword!

Keep reading: The ultimate guide to small business SEO »

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18 Responses to Local ranking factors that help your small business’ SEO

  1. Hammad Afzal
    Hammad Afzal  • 5 days ago

    I believe in optimizing your GMB and posting there regularly and earning reviews can go a long way in solidifying your local SEO searches. Other things are also necessary but their weightage is not comparable to GMB.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 4 days ago

      Google My Business is definitely something you shouldn’t forget. Thanks, Hammad!

  2. Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)
    Tunde Sanusi (Tuham)  • 6 days ago

    Why is there no share buttons on your blog, Yoast?

    I wanted to share this article

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 days ago

      Hi Tunde. The share buttons simply weren’t working for us. If you want to share our articles — please do! — you can simply copy the URL and paste wherever you like. Thanks!

  3. Aman
    Aman  • 6 days ago

    Thank you, Michiel
    I have been mostly focusing on reviews and citations, but now I will focus on these important points to rank better in a local businesses.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 days ago

      Cool, good luck Aman!

  4. Michelle
    Michelle  • 1 week ago

    Hi! I’m trying to understand if local rankings are important for a virtual (as in not physical) store or just for local bricks and mortar stores. Obviously I want to get as much google traffic as possible for my business.

    My business is an online fashion store in South Africa. We have no physical store and only ship local fashion to South Africans. Currently our “head office” is in Johannesburg but we don’t have an actual building, we all work remotely.

    So is local ranking applicable to me?
    I can’t get a My Google Listing, but other directories is possible.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 7 days ago

      Hi Michelle, that’s a very good question! In your case, I would recommend focusing on eCommerce SEO instead of local SEO. There are a few similarities, but eCommerce SEO will be the better choice in this case :) You can find our articles on eCommerce SEO here: https://yoast.com/tag/ecommerce-seo/

      Good luck with your SEO!

  5. Lockedown
    Lockedown  • 1 week ago

    Great foundation for local SEO. Some other things I would add to this list: Have a Yelp business profile and get reviews, consider getting a Google 360 map view if you have a brick and mortar location, have signage on the exterior of your location.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 1 week ago

      Hi there! Thanks for those great additions to the list!

  6. Young Bill
    Young Bill  • 1 week ago

    Impressive article!!! I’m going to try this out on my website in Sweden.
    I’d also love to ask, Do these tips also apply to a website with language other than English?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 1 week ago

      Thank you for those kind words :) and these tips definitely also apply when your site is in another language than English. Good luck with your site!

  7. Aman Kumar
    Aman Kumar  • 1 week ago

    Sir, I have a new blog or you can say real life events blog. I write on social issues. But I have some difficulties in selecting the exact keywords for my article. Please, write about how to chose the exact low competition keywords for news blog. Thank you Sir!

  8. Subh
    Subh  • 1 week ago

    By prominence, what you mean to say, more google reviews or more branded search on google?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 1 week ago

      Hi Subh, good question! What we mean by prominence is the activity around your listing, which can be different things. The number of reviews, events, local content, but also how many quality links you have to your site. Search engines use these to determine how well-known and relevant your company is. Hope this answers your question!

  9. Jan H.
    Jan H.  • 1 week ago

    Thanks a lot for this article! Almost every SEO company put all their effort and focus on ranking better, but here we can see that it is important to get better local rankings! Very good tips!

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 1 week ago

      You’re welcome, Jan! Hope our tips help you with your local rankings :)