Top 5 takeaways from Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors

Moz recently released its annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey covering a broad range of topics including Google My Business signals, local reviews, links, citations and much more. To develop the results, Moz surveyed top local SEO practitioners. The respondents offered their thoughts on what they considered to be the most influential factors determining Google’s local map pack and local organic results.

The Moz survey has long acted as a barometer for the future of local search and how changes to the Google My Business (GMB) platform affect brands’ local presence. The survey also acts as a helpful to-do list for local businesses and SEO practitioners. To help you understand what it takes to optimize your brand’s presence for local search results, we’ve gathered a collection of our top takeaways from the survey.

Before diving into the most important learnings from the survey, let’s look at the top local search ranking factors for Google’s local pack and organic results.

Top 5 Local Search Ranking Factors - Local Map Pack and Organic Results

Top 5 takeaways from Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors

No. 1: Links still weigh heavily in rankings

Link signals (inbound anchor text, linking domain authority/quantity, etc.) have long played a significant role in local search rankings. Google looks at incoming links as votes of confidence that your website has trustworthy, relevant and high-quality content. To help your brand dominate local search results, make sure your webpages have plenty of incoming links from other relevant, authoritative sites.

No. 2: The importance of online reviews continues to grow

In the past year, the local search industry has seen the importance and influence of reviews grow dramatically. And, this trend has played out in Moz’s survey for several years in a row. According to responses from the survey, the importance of review signals has increased more than 40 percent since 2015 and more than 17 percent over the last year.

Local Search Ranking Factors - The Importance of Online Reviews“In the search results I look at regularly, I continue to see reviews playing a larger and larger role. Much as citations became table stakes over the last couple of years, reviews now appear to be on their way to becoming table stakes as well,” said survey respondent David Mihm.

“In mid-to-large metro areas, even industries where ranking in the (local pack) used to be possible with a handful of reviews or no reviews, now feature businesses with dozens of reviews at a minimum — and many within the last few months, which speaks to the importance of a steady stream of feedback.”

See also: How Customer Ratings Impact Search Rankings

No. 3: Google My Business is growing

Google has been looking to quickly develop and generate revenue from local search, especially since it separated GMB from Google+. The new GMB developments can be seen in the features that have been added to the platform in the past year or so including Google Q&A, Services, Messaging, Google Posts and more.

To give you an idea of the up-and-coming features your brand should focus on, here are the top 5 factors the experts focused more on in the past year:

Top local search ranking factors the experts are focused on more in 2018

Related: The Latest Updates to Google My Business and Maps

No. 4: The importance of citations is on the decline (or so it would appear)

According to the survey’s year-over-year comparisons, citations – any online mention of your business’ name, address and phone number – have lost some value in the past year. We doubt, however, that this means local SEO practitioners think citations are becoming less important. Instead, it’s more likely that citations have become such a fundamental component of local search that SEO experts look at them as a given rather than as an area of focus. On top of that, there are more factors being tossed into the local search algorithm every year which naturally dilutes the pool.

No. 5: Local SEO is a holistic strategy

Each year, Moz’s survey reinforces a fundamental tenet of SEO that we here at Mindstream Media Group fully subscribe to which is that businesses need to leverage a holistic and consistent strategy across their online assets to succeed in local search. To support this conclusion, look no further than these top-ranking factors:

On-page signals (No. 4 for local pack rankings/No. 2 for organic rankings)

For your local business to succeed in local search, you must go beyond optimizing your GMB profile and focus on improving on-site signals like including NAP information on local pages, using local keywords in title tags and improving your overall domain authority. It’s also important that your on-page optimization strategy aligns with your local profile efforts and that all NAP information is an exact match across assets.

Related: How to Dominate Local SEO by Optimizing Your Location Pages

Citation signals (No. 5 for local pack rankings and organic rankings)

To that last point, consistency is crucial in local search. Google wants to make sure it’s returning the most accurate and up-to-date information to searchers. If Google finds conflicting information on your business’ profiles on other sites, it will see that as a major red flag. Google may take that inconsistency as a sign that it doesn’t have the best data for your location, and your rankings could take a hit as a result.

Looking forward in local search

Google has lots of plans in store for its local search results and the world of local SEO is constantly evolving. We’ll continue to monitor these updates and provide you with recommendations on how to improve your local search presence based on the latest industry best practices.

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