Local search engine optimization is increasingly being influenced by traditional ranking factors such as on-site signals and links, according to Greg Gifford of Search Engine Land.
Combining the results of David Mihm’s most recent Local Search Ranking Factors survey with what SEO experts know about the Google “Pigeon” algorithm (which governs local search results) in a Nov. 10 article, Gifford says that best practices for 2015 local SEO can be summed up in two guidelines: “1. Be Awesome,” and “2. Earn Awesome Links.”
For most users, this news should be a relief (though some might feel the pressure of increasing the quality of their web design and content), since it confirms that SEO techniques are fast merging with traditional marketing techniques instead of consisting of technological trickery.
“[Y]ou can’t fool the nerds at Google,” Gifford writes. “Everything you do, both on and off your site, should be working toward the end goal of making your user experience awesome … not trying to fool Google into placing you higher on search results pages.”
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Gifford advises that businesses do some competitive analysis before tackling website improvements. “Take a long, hard look at your site and look at your competitors’ sites. What can you do to be better? You know that your potential customers will be looking at multiple sites, so make your site the best in your vertical,” he suggests.
Additionally, he writes, businesses should avoid pitfalls like an overall lack of content or “keyword stuffing” (listing out keywords with high search volumes instead of integrating a few good keywords into high-quality copy): “Get rid of the junk and populate your site with relevant, informative content instead.”
Though Gifford provides fewer tips on how to build quality inbound links, it’s widely thought in the SEO industry that content creation, placed both on and offsite, is a driver of high-authority external links.
There are, of course, numerous other factors that affect local search rankings, if not as strongly.
Mihm’s own analysis of his survey results, which he’s collected for seven years in hopes of determining changing ranking factors, concludes that behavioral signals — such as the number of clickthroughs from search results, bounce rates and frequency of users getting driving directions — have become more important since the rollout of Pigeon over the summer.
A business’s physical proximity to the searcher also seems to have had a much stronger effect in 2014 than in past years, demonstrating that Google is getting better at detecting searchers’ locations, even when they’re using desktops.
“It is important to use an SEO company that understand the ever changing science behind search engine optimization,” says Matt Harding of Durrani Design. “With search engines constantly updating, it can be a real struggle for business owners to maintain best practices themselves.”