I wrote earlier in the week about some of the basics and biggest local ranking factors from the recent annual Whitespark study. I always recommend taking a deep dive into their study because they do a great job with it, but I also like to try to provide easily digestible headlines for the small business owner, so I’m here to give you the biggest growing factors that you contol in 2023 from the study. Meaning that they are trending to be more important to your local rankings than in the past. We will focus on a couple of the items that are growing, but keep in mind that the leading ranking factors mentioned in my other post linked to above, still appear to carry the greatest weight. Because a factor is growing, doesn’t mean it is the top factor. You should pay attention to all of the key aspects that you can control. Below are some of the growing areas that you can control. Take a look at the growth chart below from Whitespark. We will be focusing on those that are growing, but keep in mind they still aren’t #1.
In the case of the main topic we will cover, it has grown in percentage for four consecutive years, so clearly is being prioritized more by Google. It makes sense. Perhaps Google is just getting better at measuring this aspect. By on-page signals we are speaking of the landing page on your website that you send visitors to from the search results. I wrote a year ago (back when it was still GMB) about how scammy these services are that say you only need to do Google Business and not worry about your website. The ineffectiveness of these services will continue to trend the wrong way as Google trends toward understanding more about the business by what is offered up in terms of content on the page of the website that it is linked to in your profile. Google can also see the rest of the site too but make sure you have a good representation of your local target and what you offer on the landing page.
Which Page Do You Link To?
There is much discussion on whether the landing page should be your home page or a specific location page. The homepage generally already should mention your target market, include your address, and have a general overview of your offerings. This should be the easy answer for single-location businesses, but as the location count goes up, it becomes difficult to represent everything with your homepage and it becomes more efficient to have local landing pages for each location. Again, Whitespark does a deep dive on this with studies. Generally, you can go by a business with up to 3 or 4 locations and should typically use the homepage for their landing page. This is assuming that all of your locations are mentioned and represented on your homepage. Once you have more locations than that, you need to consider official location landing pages for each location to address offerings, location, etc. Another factor in ranking is the link authority of the landing page. The homepage is typically the strongest page on a site from a link authority standpoint, which is why the above rules come into play. As you use location pages, you need to begin building links to these pages to for authority. Your chamber memberships and other local profiles should then link directly to the location pages when you have to begin using these as landing pages. Try to include listings of the offerings you have at each location for your customers. You control the information here and it is becoming more and more important, so pay close attention and make it helpful for your customers and users.
These are more based on what users have done with your Google Business Profile. Overall, this is a smaller piece of the pie, but again, it is one you have more control over. Make sure you utilize all of the features of Google Business that you can. Get more reviews and respond to them, Use the posts. Add pictures. Fill out all of your information. If you can add direct booking, do it. The more ways Google can “see” users interacting with your profile, the more they want to show it to others. So make sure you give users all of the information and opportunity to interact that you can. Keep an eye on your Q&A. Many business owners don’t pay attention. It doesn’t even hurt to put some questions and answers in there yourself that you are regularly asked about your business so users can find and click into it easily.
Control What You Can Control
Again, as you can see from the bar graphs in the image, these factors are not the most highly weighted, but you have control over them and they are becoming more important. The other growing factor, personalization, is more what the algorithm does for the individual user. If they generally go to your business, you may show up for them more often, etc. Don’t forget that the information in your Google Business Profile is still of paramount importance, and as mentioned above, adding more there will help with the behavioral signals as well. But don’t forget your landing pages. Many aren’t aware of how important they are, especially for more nuanced searches. Often businesses wonder why they don’t rank for a certain phrase and then when we look at the website, it isn’t even mentioned. Google is looking for good, relevant answers to searches. You will sometimes even see “website mentions xxxx” on a local search. Google is looking at those pages. Make sure you give them what searchers are looking for.