Local SEO and traditional organic algorithms
The topline conclusion was that local and organic SEO algorithms remain interconnected, meaning that traditional SEO tactics are also effective when running a local strategy.
The report notes that the organic algorithm is more mature and more technologically advanced than the local algorithm. This means that while Google is working to encompass more specific local variables into the local algorithm, traditional tactics such as building links, keyword rich content and relevant anchor text are all worth deploying when you’re trying to up your local search visibility.
Reviews as the most important local ranking factor
LocalSEO Guide’s research discovered a strong correlation between reviews and Google My Business results. The reports says, “At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results.”
Within the field of reviews, variables such as the number of reviews mentioning keyword and city, average monthly reviews, the number of negative reviews and number of reviews with city and state both mentioned also played a role in determining pack position.
Engagement with the review process also plays a key role with additional factors such as number of reviews not responded to, number of picture reviews and number of negative reports not acknowledged were all shown to correlate with ranking position.
Low quality and low authority links
Low quality and low authority links do not prevent local ranking according to the study. The report attributes this to the fact that most businesses ranked in the local pack have low authority themselves, meaning they’re likely to only have links from sites with similar low authority and trust flow.
It’s important to note that even with low quality links, the businesses ranking strongly in local listings do still have keywords in anchor text, including town and state – this again shows that taking a traditional SEO approach to local link building is still advisable, even if the links being built are of a lower quality.
On site optimization
Following best practice SEO on your own site, and having a strong overall SEO presence, heavily correlates with a better local pack performance. Actions such as maintaining a good keyword density on the page you want to rank locally for, having a decent amount of text on the page, using images and keeping within title and meta tag character counts all play a part in stronger local rankings.
You can read the full 2017 Local SEO ranking factors report by LocalSEO Guide here.