In November, Moz – an industry leader in SEO, inbound marketing, link building, and content marketing – published its 2018 survey and report of Local Search Ranking Factors. In it they provide expert-level analysis of the latest trends shaping digital marketing. The 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors report covers local pack (or finder ranking) factors, and gives an overview of the biggest ranking shifts and how the current ranking makeup will shape your to-do list for the year.

Let’s review the top four ranking factors – Google My Business, Links, Reviews, and Citations – and follow-up with a brief overview of smaller (but still valuable) pieces of the ranking puzzle.

GMB: 25.12% of Total Ranking Factor

Google My Business (GMB) now commands a quarter of ranking influence for local search factors. From 2017 to 2018, there was a jump from 19 percent to 25 percent. This can be attributed to Google adding features to GMB at an accelerated rate. The most important signals continue to be proximity to searcher, categories, and keywords in business title. However, Google is looking to expand its footprint by helping businesses provide the answers to searchers’ queries directly on the SERP and developing ways for businesses to share more content with Google users. These new features include: Google Posts, Google Q&A, Website builder, Services, Messaging, Videos, and Videos in Google posts.

If you are not prioritizing all of the functions and features that GMB offers, you are missing out a great opportunity to stand out from your local competitors.

  1. First, publish content to Google Posts one to four times per week. You can use content prepared for your social networks, just be sure to edit the language slightly and, if need be, shorten or lengthen content. You should also always include a specific call to action to drive conversions.
  2. Google Q&A is the tool to provide accurate, branded answers to your most commonly asked questions. Don’t be afraid to seed this feature with a few questions and answers to set the professional tone of this feature. However, don’t be exhaustive as you still want to drive your traffic to your website where you can fully represent your brand.
  3. Treat GMB as a visually empowered social network by regularly uploading photos and videos. Marketers and searchers alike are treating GMB listings as a website’s new homepage. This is your chance to make the same first impression you’d give if a searcher went straight to your location or website.
  4. And of course, make sure your profile is 100% complete and accurate. This includes all of the above, plus responses to reviews.

Links: 16.5% of Total Ranking Factor

At 16.5 percent, links take the second greatest piece of overall ranking factors. The primary signals include inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, and linking domain quantity. While it’s not necessarily a high-profile ranking factor, GMB, citations, reviews, and content, links really can make a difference. Moz recommends focusing on topically and locally relevant links to improve visibility in local packs and traditional results. Links are also effective at improving targeted traffic and even at raising conversion rates.

Reviews: 15.44% of Total Ranking Factor

Review significance continues to increase. Its ranking factor increased from 13 percent in 2017 to 15.5 percent last year. Since 2015, the ranking growth has jumped 43 percent! The targeted signals for reviews are review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, and recent review sentiment. The important thing about reviews is that they not only control part of your ranking factor, they can also increase conversion rates. That is why it is essential to respond to every review, subtly encourage happy customers to share their experiences (but not incentivize or solicit reviews), and work on having a diverse set of reviews across multiple platforms and review sites. But the best way to get a good review? Simply provide exceptional customer experience and

Citations: 10.82% of Total Ranking Factor (Decrease from 13%)

Moz is quick to point out that, while Citations continue to have a smaller and smaller piece of the pie, its overall value and importance hasn’t changed. The change in Citation ranking factor from 2015 to 2018 was almost 37 percent – from 17 percent in 2015 to 13 percent in 2017 and then down again to 10.8 percent in 2018. Why are Citations still so valuable, even though their ranking factor is declining? Google looks to Citations to help understand how prominent your business is. If you are not listed on important industry business directories, you are missing out on not only the ranking factor Citations provide, but also the additional signals they send to Google.

To tackle your Citations to-do list manually, start with the top 10-15 most important sites in your industry. Then, add listings on the next 30-50 sites. Alternatively, automated services push reviews to hundreds of sites ongoing which helps limit your citation from being written over by incorrect information.

Additional Local Search Ranking Factors

The following four factors represent smaller, but still important, factors to your overall local rank.

On-Page: 13.82% of Total Ranking Factor

There was no change from 2017 to 2018 in the significance of on-page ranking. Its primary signals include the following aspects: presence of NAP (name, address, phone number), keywords in website page titles, and domain authority.

Behavioral: 9.56% of Total Ranking Factor

Behavioral factors also had no change in ranking significance. To capture this 10 percent of local search ranking, focus on your click-through-rate, mobile clicks to call, and check-ins. Moz predicts that Google will increase its focus on behavioral signals as it continues to add new features to GMB. These signals include brand name searches, driving directions requests, listing and website engagement, and foot traffic.

Personalization: 5.88% of Total Ranking Factor (Decrease from 10%)

Personalization factors decreased more than four percent from 2017 to 2018. These signals include a searcher’s country, locality, personal search history, and social connections.

Social: 2.82% of Total Ranking Factor

There was no change from 2017 to 2018 in social signals’ ranking factor, and it controls the smallest percentage of all factors. These signals include Google, Facebook, and Twitter engagement, plus any other social networks that are relevant to your business.

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