What are the three factors that influence local search results?

The local 3-pack of results that appears for most local search terms. Example) A local 3-pack with A, B and C to the left of each result. No opinion stars, ratings or counts appear for this type. This pack type is returned for branded terms such as Starbucks and, inexplicably, for store and gas station terms.

Example) This type of 3-pack appears for restaurant, hospitality and entertainment terms. The results have a photo, no phone number and no link to the website. Example) In this section, I asked experts to rank 34 negative factors in order from most harmful to most benign. Targeting specific, long tail keywords that have a large number of related keywords associated with them is a great tactic to ensure you appear in the SERPs.

If the keyword is long tail and specific enough, ranking is usually not too difficult (however, usually these keywords have a low search volume), but if you can find ones that have a good amount of related keywords - you can actually rank for most of those related keywords and get traffic from them as well, which usually more than makes up for the low search volume. I remember focusing on one keyword that had a monthly search volume of 30, but because there were over 200 related keywords, I was able to rank for all of them. After the first month of publishing, that single page now generates over 2,000 organic users per month. Old school SEO is no longer effective, you can no longer rely on your website alone to do all the work for you.

In the accommodation sector, direct bookings were easier to obtain in the past than they are today. With competition from OTAs and Google's persistence to sell those OTA rooms for a fee, a proven, individualised strategy is now imperative for survival. Your website, blogs and social media, while critical elements in the past, no longer produce the same return on investment. In the past, our clients could appear on page 1 organically and in the 3-pack by simply following Google's basic guidelines.

These tactics are no longer effective in light of Google's quest to dominate the travel industry. When a reputable site links to your site, that's good. When dozens or hundreds of sites link to you, you're doing something very right. Simply put, the more reputable links you have pointing to your site, the better you will rank in search results.

Of course, link building is more complex than that, but backlinks are like little badges of honour for search engine algorithms. Proper link building takes time, but it also helps cultivate an invaluable online reputation. Almost as important as your link building efforts, site speed and performance play a crucial role in SEO and search rankings. Anything from compressing images, leveraging browser caching or reducing redirects can affect site performance and page speed.

Your site is slow but you don't know why? Google's PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom are excellent tools to help diagnose the problem. Meta information is the content on the back end of your website that only web crawlers like Google and Bing see. Although some of the information (such as meta keywords) no longer affects search engine optimisation, meta descriptions are still an effective way of telling search engines what a particular page is about. In addition, meta information can help crawlers index new content faster and more efficiently.

Duplicate pages and duplicate content cause problems when it comes to being indexed by search engines. Search relevance is split between those pages and, as a result, search rankings are affected. Using canonical tags to redirect duplicate pages works wonders, and today most content management services like WordPress offer plug-ins and easy-to-use tools to discover, adjust and remove your duplicate content. Surprisingly, many businesses completely forget about using local seo citations and opportunities.

Believe it or not, something as simple as adding and verifying your business with Google can jump you to the top of the local search results. Make the most of the local SEO citations you can. David Mihm of Moz, a marketing analytics company, produces the valuable "Local Search Ranking Factors Survey" each year to help demystify local SEO rankings through the opinions of 35 local marketing experts. Participants evaluate the influence of key ranking factors and prioritise those they believe contribute to local SEO rankings.

I just know that, for most businesses, it's the area of local SEO where I would invest the most time and effort to get it right and, if done well, it should also have a much more significant knock-on effect of helping to build a better business, as the guys at GatherUp have been talking about for years. When planning your local SEO strategy, always keep in mind that different factors will require very different time investments, so it's not as simple as reading these results and saying: "OK, I'm going to spend X amount of time on X". In addition to the Google local search results package, the local results pages also produce organic results just below the Google package. Rather than focusing solely on the overall value of a link building strategy, we are looking at ways to get a local brand engaged with the local community that also earns links, social shares and gets the brand in front of potential customers.

Local SEO takes time, knowledge and ongoing effort to do well; it should never be a case of 'set it and forget it'. Because Google considers many of these citation sites to be quality, trusted websites, they provide useful link sources for local businesses, either to get started or to put them on a level playing field with their local competitors. As you can see, appearing at the top of local search results, especially in Google's Local Pack, can greatly increase your chances of gaining increased visibility, especially on mobile devices. By focusing on the big picture, if an entity has a great site, great local content, an amazing customer experience, an engaged social presence, with a focus on pre- and post-sales experience, a business can find local success.

Regardless of where you rank on the search engine results page, using something like Google Webmaster Tools or Yoast SEO to get your SEO in order is an excellent first step. Google's local search algorithm determines local search rankings related to Google My Business (GMB) listings. If you have a local business, focus on those strategies and tactics that will help you rank well in the local pack. In the table above, you can see what Whitespark's expert survey respondents said were the most important ranking factors for the local pack and localised organic results.

As mentions have become a commodity at this point and are therefore in play, we have benefited greatly from focusing on large-scale local link building by supporting events, publications and associations that are pillars of the local community. While this may not yet have the most direct impact on local business and traditional local search, I am sure it will. In the final phase of the survey, experts were asked to rank the 30 most negative factors for local SEO rankings.

Claudette Lorenzo
Claudette Lorenzo

General social media junkie. Devoted pop culture scholar. Wannabe bacon enthusiast. Subtly charming tea fanatic. Freelance foodaholic. Lifelong twitter enthusiast.