Local SEO Guidance from Google

Optimizing to acquire users on a local level is not completely different from doing so for the global desktop experience but there are some key differences.

Google recently provided some updated guidance on how it determines a company's local ranking and if you're optimizing for a specific geographic area, it is information that should not be missed.

Google essentially just updated its help page for Google My Business, a resource that provides insights into how local enterprises can improve their local rankings. While ensuring company information (physical address, phone number, category, hours of operation) is complete and accurate will provide a strong signal to the search engine, there are many other factors, including:

Relevance: Above all else, Google needs to know that your local listing matches what a consumer is looking for. To optimize relevance, ensure your business information is detailed and accurate.

Proximity: Businesses that are closer in terms of the searcher's location will rank higher in local results than those further away. If users do not specify a location, Google will attempt to calculate distance based on what is known about their location.

Relevance and proximity are important signals to send, but the search engine introduced another signal that puts local SEO more in line with global SEO.

Prominence: In much the same way that "authority" matters in the purely digital realm, how well-known a business or location is, or its prominence, can also provide a strong signal to the search engine. Some places are more prominent in the offline world than others and Google's search results attempt to reflect this in local ranking. Specific locations (famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people) are likely to be prominent in local search results Google indicated, but prominence is also based on information they already have about a business from across the Web (like links, articles and directories).

Google review count and score are also factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business's local ranking. Google also indicated that position in Web results is a factor too, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

Relevance, proximity and prominence provide Google with signals that will be used to rank a business for a specific local query, but there are still others that must be addressed - and they play a bigger role in the success of an enterprise than just achieving a top ranking for a local query.

Google also confirmed that customer reviews and ratings are indeed factors in local search ranking. It has long been suggested that review signals are important, and while it is unknown the degree to which customer reviews/ratings influence ranking, today's local enterprises are doing everything they can to use this factor to their advantage. Learn more about the role that customer reviews have on local rankings, and how review quantity, velocity and diversity matter to the success of enterprises today in the upcoming May 2016 edition of Website Magazine print publication (subscribe by visiting the link above).