The way that Google determines your local ranking can be a difficult process for company owners to understand. How does Google determine my local ranking? Well, the short answer is that there are many factors that can potentially affect your ranking. Not only are the actual nuts and bolts of the process rapidly shifting, as well as the fact that there is a lot of misinformation online that can make it difficult to pin down a strategy. Well, we are here to set the record straight. In this article, we’ll give you a fact-based rundown of all off the different aspects of your optimization that can affect your local ranking both positively and negatively. When optimizing your website to rank for local keywords, focus on these optimization practices for best results:

Keyword Relevance

The relevance of the keyword to your business is the most important factor that Google takes into account when ranking your website. If you run a Chinese Restaurant, you can’t expect Google to rank your website highly for landscaping related keywords. In order to make sure that your website ranks highly for the keywords that you want, you should make it abundantly clear what you do, who you serve, and what keywords you would like to rank for.

Distance from the Searcher’s Location or Target City Center

When users are searching for local businesses, Google wants to ensure that they are able to connect those users with relevant businesses that are actually within the area that they would like to use. If the keyword includes a city name, Google will reference the address of your business against the city center. If they do not include a target city in their keyword, Google will use the user’s location as their basis for measuring the proximity of their business to the user’s desired location. What this means is that you will have a much easier time ranking for local keywords for the cities that your business operates in. In industries that are less saturated, you may be able to rank for surrounding cities as well, but will always have trouble ranking for local keywords that include cities well outside of your area of operation.

Prominence

How well-known is your business? Google takes the prominence of your business into account when deciding the appropriate place to rank to rank your business on local searches. There are numerous factors that are taken into account when determining whether or not your business is prominent enough to float toward the top of the listings. Even companies without a great online presence, but are popular in the offline world, tend toward the top of the local rankings. For instance, even public landmarks without websites are able to rank highly for related keywords. Google measures the prominence of a business from links, articles and directories across the web. The total number of reviews within Google and the total score of those reviews are factored. Businesses with a high number of positive reviews (compared to negative) will have a much easier time improving their local rankings. Overall, the typical SEO practices can effect how Google views the prominence of your business. You want to give the search engine every opportunity to see that your business is well-regarded.

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews play a seriously critical role in the way that your business is reviewed by Google. While they may weigh reviews that are left in their own platform more heavily, they take reviews from all of the large platforms into account. According to Moz, reviews are responsible for roughly 8.4% of local business rankings, making it a fairly prominent factor in where your business ranks for local terms.

Traditional SEO Factors

Along with these local-specific factors, Google also takes traditional search engine optimization into account when ranking your website. Having relevant content that attracts backlinks and solid on-site SEO can go a long way toward improving your rankings in local searches. Some of the prominent traditional SEO factors that affect local SEO keywords include:

Incoming links. Having other prominent websites linking to your business website shows Google that your business is well-known and worth sharing. The more high-quality links you can garner from high-profile publications, the better your chances of ranking highly are.
Social signals. Google gives rankings considerations to companies that maintain an active presence on social media. This shows Google that those companies are actively engaging with their customers. When other social media accounts are interacting with your profile, this proves some level of legitimacy in Google’s eyes.
On-page SEO. Google favors websites that follow the best practices of on-page ranking factors. On-page SEO was created to provide consistent ways in which users interact with websites.
Behavioral metrics. Google uses their vast amounts of data to determine how well users are interacting with your website. Click through rates, mobile clicks to call, check-ins and other metrics can all affect where Google ranks your website.

While there are many factors that Google uses to determine local rankings, the age-old SEO principles still play a prominent role. There are different factors that affect where your website ranks in local search results. Like always, ensuring that you follow search engine optimization best practices plays perhaps the largest role. If you would like to learn more about how Mankato Web Design can help your company to rank more highly in search engines, please contact us today to schedule your initial risk free consultation with our local search optimization experts