Just a few decades ago, any new business would immediately seek out a prime yellow pages listing in the printed directory. Today, local search visibility on the web is the new and essential source of advertising your business. In fact, different studies show 58 to 80 percent of all new customers now find local businesses by searches from their mobile devices, especially smartphones.
This reality makes local search visibility a critical factor for small businesses. Whether you’re starting and growing your own business or operating a national franchise, you simply can’t ignore this essential aspect of modern business and customer expectations. The good news is that you can greatly improve your local search ranking with some simple and consistent steps.
In this post, we'll present the most important local search ranking factors from 2014, identified by marketing researcher, Moz, in their survey on local search.
Local Search Visibility: Ranking Factors
Today’s consumer is trained to look for and respond to certain business signals. They are rapidly scanning an overwhelming amount of information, media and marketing messages every day. To get their attention, you must send the right signals at the right time in the right way. Here are the results of Moz's study, discussed in more detail below:
Source: Moz survey
Factors Controlled by the Business Owner
Overall, Moz's study concluded that the majority of ranking factors (59.6%) are largely controlled by you, the business owner. Some of these you can exert direct control over, and others you control by meeting client and customer expectations and satisfaction. That, in turn, can result in the kind of reviews and feedback that will motivate other prospects to trust and select your business.
When it comes to the factors over which you have primary control, they include the following:
- My Business Signals. Choosing the right business categories, including a keyword in your business name or title, clearly identifying your location and related physical factors.
- External Local Signals. Ensuring business information is consistent across all directory listings; includes name, address and phone number (NAP) and visibility of website and local search directories, such as City Search, Yelp, Yellow Pages; also consider the local chamber of commerce as well as other local business directories and lists.
- On-page signals. This includes the presence of all your business information, NAP, proper use of keywords and domain authority and SEO-sensitive metadata; these should be considered necessary elements of all content.
- Personalization. This is your opportunity to show the unique qualities of your business to prospects online.
While you invest a lot of time and money on creating these overt signals, it is increasingly important to monitor and ensure those customers you attract find what they are expecting. While you directly control the quality of the product or service you deliver, you can only indirectly influence the way in which your customers provide their feedback. So, when a satisfied customer provides the right social and review signals (which, as you'll see below, are largely out of your control), you will benefit greatly from the favorable buzz this creates.
Factors Outside Your Control
Other factors, that are out of your control, can also affect your your online visibility. Any business should be aware of these factors in order to manage and respond to their effects.
- Link Signals. Links are increasingly a way for search engines to determine relevance, and this includes the levels of inbound anchor text, as well as the quantity and authority of domain link.
- Review Signals. Visibility can be affected by the number of reviews your business receives as well as the regularity, sources and quality of reviews.
- Social Signals. Your social media activity, as well as how often and where your content or information is shared, can significantly affect visibility. These signals can include Google+ authority, Facebook activity, shares and likes, Twitter followers and signals from other social platforms.
- Behavioral / Mobile Signals. These signals show the activity taken by users with your website and content, including click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, mobile check-ins and offers.
Following our Staples example, below we show the Twitter page for Staples U.S. You can see Staples maintains an active Twitter presence and has a large following as well.
Delivering on Customer Expectations
You can and should play a large role in increasing your local search visibility with attention to these ranking details. By doing so, you may catch early insights into trends and dynamics that go beyond your own local search visibility and local market. If you are part of a national franchise, or in a particular market niche, online signals can give you insight into such things as environmental concerns or other changing macro-market factors.
Even if you don’t take time to review these signals, you can be sure both your competitors and prospective customers do. If you pick up on any particular strengths or weaknesses in your customer feedback, for example, it is essential to take action to either reinforce the positives or eliminate the negatives. With these ranking factors in mind, you can take steps to gain control over your online visibility and create the most positive image possible for your business.
To learn more about business factors that should be considered in your overall business model, access our helpful resource below, "How Chickens Can Transform Your Business."
Image credit: visibility