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Local businesses can usually find a place in Google SERPs by registering or claiming their business on Google Places For Business and Google+ Local.

But what will set your business apart from the competition?

Getting your website to appear in the first few pages of Google SERPs is determined by how well you optimize these seven categories of local search ranking factors. Keep reading to find out more!

Google Local Search Ranking Factors

A recent Study based on data from ComScore, Neustar Localeze and agency 15 Miles found that 78% of local searches carried out on mobile phones resulted in in-store purchases. This makes mastering your local SEO more important than ever!

Google Places:

Your local business may already be in Google SERPs, but if you want Google to show accurate business information you will need a Google Places account. Also, if your local business is a brand new startup that needs exposure on Google, this is the right place to start.

The following are factors that will help you rank highly on Google Local Search via Google Places:

  • Using up-to-date contact information, physical address information, operation hours and photos on your Google Places account.

  • Maintaining consistency in NAP (Name, Address and Phone) between your Places page, website and Google+ Local.

  • Choosing an accurate business category – this affects your local SERPs ranking based on the competition for each category.

  • Using a product or service-based keyword in the business title.

  • Using a location-based keyword in the business title.

  • The proximity of the business to the center of the specified search location.

Google+ Local Business:

Ever since Google Places partially merged into Google+ Local Business, many features, such as reviews and ratings, have now been shifted to Google+ Local. So, if you have customers with gmail accounts you can ask for reviews on your Google+ Local page and these will be displayed on your Google Places listing in Google SERPs. Additionally, Google+ Local also provides local business information to Google Maps.

The following are some factors that will help you rank highly on Google Local Search via Google+ Local:

  • High number of reviews. (This number includes the reviews received on your Google Places account before the partial merge between Google Places and Google+ Local happened.)

  • Number of Google +1’s.

  • High Google+ ratings (powered by Zagat).

  • Owner-verified page.

  • Product or service-based keywords in the Google+ page title and page description.

  • Location-based keyword in the Google+ page title and page description.

  • Using a broad category keyword in the category section of Google+ Local (e.g. European Restaurants). (NOTE: You can add your own categories when creating the page by following these steps: Create a Google+ Page > Local Business or Place > Locate > Category.)

  • Using a local area code.

  • The length of time your brand has been on Google+ Local.

  • Having a complete profile.

  • Having videos with high-quality content associated with your Google+ Local page. The rate at which your circles increase.

  • Using location-based keywords on other custom attributes of your Google+ Local page.

  • Reviews from top reviewers in your niche.

  • High number of shared Google+ posts.

Google Maps:

Google Maps has recently had a makeover that has brought optimized Google+ pages back into the limelight. What you see in the image below is the option to find business results within a Google Maps search via ‘Top reviewers’ and ‘Your circles‘.

Clicking the option ‘Top reviewers’ gives you places that have been reviewed by experts on Google+, while the option ‘Your circles’ shows places that are recommended by people in your circles.

Google Maps search options

Having an optimized Google+ page also makes a huge difference in your local business’ visibility on Google maps. Map markers for local businesses that are optimized for local SEO may cover those with a lower local SEO rank. A user will only find these hidden businesses that are not as optimized for local SEO by zooming in. You can see this in the following example of maps a and b where b is zoomed in.

Google Maps Local Businesses

Google Maps Local Businesses zoomed in

The following are some factors that will help you rank highly on Google Local Search via Google Maps:

Getting expert reviews in your niche on your Google+ Local page.
Completing your Google+ Local profile.
Gaining a high Zagat rating score via Google+ Local.
Using photos of the place of business section.
Using accurate NAP details for directions.
Home Page/Custom Landing Page:

The search ranking of your local business also depends a lot on your custom landing page or home page, whichever your Google Places and Google+ Local are linked to. The on-page SEO elements and linking profile of this landing page or home page partially decides how well you rank in local Google SERPs.

The following are some factors relating to your home page/custom landing page that will help you rank highly on Google Local Search:

  • Having a quick page load time.

  • Using an older domain.

  • Having a high popularity rank of the domain.

  • Having high-authority inbound links pointing to the home page or custom landing page.

  • A good number of high-authority inbound links pointing to the home page/custom landing page.

  • A good number of inbound links pointing to your page from locally relevant pages, such as local forums, local review sites, local business listing sites, etc.

  • Having a number of online citations found on local websites and with a good percentage of user interactions on these citations.

  • Maintaining consistent NAP between the website and Google Places/Google+ Local.

  • Using location-based keywords in the title tag, meta description, heading tags, alt attribute and body text.

  • Including NAP details in Schema.org.

  • Having Google authorship on your website that is connected to influential Google+ profiles.

  • Having a blog with niche content and location-based keywords.

  • Embedding a Google Map on your website. Go to Google My Maps and click on the link option as shown in the screenshot below:

Embed Google Maps of your local business

  • Having location-based anchor text in the inbound links pointing to your home page/custom landing page.

  • Getting a high click-through rate from Google search.

  • Maintaining a good bounce rate on the home page/custom landing page.

  • Using a location-based keyword in the URL.

  • Getting a high number of +1’s on the website.

  • Encouraging social shares on the website.

  • Forming new links at a consistent rate.

Third-Party Review Sites:

There are many authority review sites on the web that can help determine the local search ranking of your site other than those reviews obtained on your Google Places and Google+ Local Page.

The following are some factors that will help you rank highly on Google local search via third-party review sites:

  • Getting a good number of reviews on the review sites.

  • Obtaining the reviews at a consistent rate.

  • Having high customer ratings on third-party review sites.

  • Completing your profiles on third-party review sites.

  • Maintaining consistency in the reviews.

  • Having high-authority users reviewing your service or product.

  • Using product or service-based keywords in the reviews.

  • Choosing review sites with high domain-popularity.

  • Choosing review sites with high-authority inbound links pointing to them.

  • Choosing third-party review sites that have high Google search rankings.

  • Having a high number of positive reviews.

Social Media:

For a local business, social media platforms play a significant role in deciding its local search ranking. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, YouTube and many others give a wide array of opportunities for positive brand exposure to your local audiences.

The following are the factors that will help you rank highly on Google local search via social media:

  • Gaining Google+, Twitter, Facebook and other social media site mentions of your brand.

  • Having a large number of likes on your Facebook page.

  • Encouraging content shares on Facebook.

  • Having inbound links pointing to your site from discussions on local community forums.

  • Encouraging check-ins from mobile social networking apps, such as Facebook and FourSquare.

  • Associating your brand page with social media profiles of top local experts and bloggers.

  • Having product or service-related keywords in your brand-page title or description.

  • Using location-based keywords in your brand-page title or description.

  • Having a high user engagement rate on your social media profiles.

Mobile:

Local check-ins and finding local business on smartphones have become commonplace, so the user-activity on your mobile site also helps determine the Google local search ranking of your desktop site.

The following are some factors that will help you rank highly on Google local search via mobile:

  • A quick mobile page load time.

  • Encouraging the use of a click-to-call business option on the mobile site.

  • Having a good click-through rate from mobile search.

  • Maintaining a good bounce rate on your mobile website.

  • Including driving directions.

  • Providing a great user-experience on your mobile site.

This extensive list of local search ranking factors will help your local business rank highly in Google local. Improving some of these ranking factors may take a good amount of time and effort but they are worth doing. You must remember that improving your Google local ranking is a process that must be constantly worked on; it’s not just a one time thing. There are bound to be fluctuations in your local search ranking based on competition from other sites or from any negative ranking factors, but with consistent monitoring and improvement it’s definitely possible to get your site ranking highly!

Let us know in the comments below if any of the above factors have brought about significant changes to your Google local search ranking results!