Master Inbound

What You Need to Know About the 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors
What You Need to Know About the 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors

Yesterday, Moz released their annual report on local search ranking factors. The data collected paints a telling picture of where businesses should be prioritizing their local SEO efforts, and explores ways we can gain an edge over our competition. 

If you're interested in seeing the full report (and the 100+ ranking factors that go along with it), check out the post here

For our purposes, I'd like to disect the higher level findings of the report and give you some actionable tips for how you can improve your local SEO.

That brings us to a great starting point - what is local SEO? If you're not familiar with the concept, here's a whiteboard video by Rand Fishkin explaining the basics: 

Armed with an understanding of what goes into local SEO, let's take a look at the factors determined to be most important for ranking in 2013:

  • Place Page Signals (19.6%)
  • External Local Signals (16%)
  • On-Page Signals (18.8%)
  • Link Signals (14.4%)
  • Review Signals (10.3%)
  • Social Signals (6.3%)
  • Behavioral and Mobile Signals (6.1%)
  • Personalization (8.3%)

Let's go a little deeper into what each of these categories encompasses, and what you can do to optimize the local "signals" your site is sending Google:

Place Page Signals

What They Are: Your businesses local Google+ page category in relation to the search query, keywords in your business title, proximity to the search location (or intended location)

How You Can Optimize: It's no coincidence that the simplest of all local signals also account for the largest percentage of ranking importance. These indicate to both Google and users that your local business is relevant and close to them.

Most importantly, set up a Google local page if you haven't already. If you have one, take a look at your page and assess whether you're strategically including keywords and local address information consistently and easily to find throughout. 

External Location Signals

What They Are: Information Google pulls from other location information sources (ie., local business microdata markup on site, mentions of your site on other webpages with or without links)

How You Can Optimize: One of the biggest challenges for business owners dabbling in SEO is to secure authority with Google by earning third party mentions. A consistent theme throughout Moz's report was the importance of equally emphasizing building links and building citations. If you're not familiar, here's the difference.

On-Page Signals

What They Are: Microdata markup on your website, keywords in the titles of pages on your website, domain authority of your website

How You Can Optimize: Again, go back to the basics. Take a look at the structure of your site's pages and track whether you're adequately communicating your location and key services to Google.

Google measures domain authority is tied to your site (, not your pages ( To learn more about improving your DA, see this article.

Link Signals

What They Are: Inbound links from other sites, anchor text of said links, domain authority of sites linking to you, quantity of linking domains

How You Can Optimize: When it comes to inbound links, quality always trumps quantity (at least since Google rolled out Panda and Penguin updates). You aren't judged on how many inbound links nearly as much as the type of site linking to you, and the relevancy of the anchor text directing users to the link.

It's worth noting that Google does track how many links one particular domain gives to another. So if you own two websites and consistenly link back and forth between the two, it's not going to do nearly as much good for your rank as earning links from other reputable sources.

Review Signals

What They Are: Feedback provided by customers on social sites (Yelp, Google Places, Zagat, etc)

How You Can Optimize: The quest for positive online reviews is probably not a foreign concept to you, as a business owner or marketer for a local company.

Continue to encourage customers to share their positive experiences online, and it might even be helpful to try out rewards for reviews. But don't go overboard and enter the realm of sketchy practices - encourage users to share their genuine experiences, and graciously accept the feedback you recieve. 

Social Signals

What They Are: Engagement and reach metrics on popular social networks (Google+ circles you're in, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, etc)

How You Can Optimize: This section is another testament to the importance of social media participation, even if you don't consider your business to be social. For example, a local tire shop's owner may not think the company has much to say on Facebook. But as we know, engagement on social media is about more than just earning likes - it can have a positive impact on your local search ranking, which we can all admit is invaluable.

Behavioral and Mobile Signals

What They Are: Your site's performance among mobile searchers. This encompasses the clickthrough rate on your page via smartphone, offering users the capability to click to call, check-ins via mobile device, providing directions on your site, and more.

How You Can Optimize: The mobile first mantra isn't going anywhere, so we might as well embrace it. From 2010 to 2012, mobile internet traffic grew by 162.73%. Take steps to optimize your website for mobile, and to position your business as engaged in the mobile space through social media.

Personalization Signals

Whay They Are: Distinct presentations of your business based on the searcher and their location, different search results geared around a user's history and social participation

How You Can Optimize: Geographical personalization is huge for securing user interaction and search ranking improvements. For example, if a user searches for the term "Gas Station" while located in Milwaukee, they won't anticipate seeing results for Texas Conocos. If applicable, include addresses for all your business locations on your site, to ensure Google knows you have a presence in multiple places.

Social is another huge aspect of personalized search. Did you know that when you're signed into your Google account, your search results will show up different based on the +1s your Google+ circles have given to local businesses? Leverage this opportunity by building up your local social presence and optimizing your site for different locations (if relevant).

Which local ranking factor has the most room for improvement on your site? What will you tackle first? Let me know in the comments below!

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Shannon Good
Shannon Good

Shannon is a passionate Inbound Marketing Specialist at Savvy Panda, a web design and marketing firm focused on crafting unique strategies to build businesses through earned and owned attention.

After graduating from Colorado State University with a Bachelor's in Communication Studies, Shannon developed a passion for digital media while working in online advertising. Since then, she has happily transitioned into the Inbound realm where she enjoys utilizing social media communication, content creation, and community building to achieve excellence. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and 


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