Category: SEO

Is Instagram the Next Big Local Business Discovery Engine?

Instagram has launched a new map search feature to help users discover local businesses more easily. The new feature allows users to scroll around a map, browse popular locations, and explore local businesses. The map promotes a more immersive experience, where users can upload and view stories tagged in each location. 

How the New Instagram Immersive Map Works

The map, provided by Apple, has been around for some time, with photos available to view at each location. However, with this new update, users can explore areas and businesses throughout the map, finding prominent locations through the scroll search. Users can filter locations by restaurants, cafes, sights, hotels, parks and gardens, bars, and more. 

A search in San Francisco filtered to show only cafes.

The new feature is now more of a discovery engine, where users can explore geographical areas by tapping on tagged locations on posts, stories, and videos. Once tapped, you’ll be shown a map of the area with a list of businesses within it to discover. 

The information you’ll see about each business location on this list includes:

  • business category
  • number of Instagram posts the business has
  • opening hours
  • an idea of how expensive the place is

Each location features three top images, which are collated from the second, third, and fourth most liked image tagged at the location. The most liked photo is used as the location’s profile photo, as well as the pin photo seen on the map. This suggests Instagram is adding authenticity to the experience, through real-time user-generated content, rather than relying on official logos or profile images used by each business. 

Instagram New Map Listings

A list of businesses displayed when searching in San Francisco. 

For users with public profiles, stories and posts tagged at the location will show up for others to see on the interactive map. This looks like another way the platform is pushing for content creators to become discoverable through local area searches. 

You’ll notice top posts consist of many selfies and portraits from influencers. An interesting take here is that Instagram is the ultimate influencer platform, and it’s now making the most of it with this new maps feature, showcasing influencers at popular locations for more users to see. 

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram has recently said:

“We want to do our best by creators, especially small creators, and we see recommendations as one of the best ways to reach a new audience and grow their following.” 

Clicking into each business location gives you the option to ‘see related guides’ which drives you to user-generated guides that feature the selected location. The benefit of this is that if users create a local guide that features you, your business is then more discoverable on the map. 

Locations also show a CTA button to ‘Contact’ or ‘Call’ the business if the business has this set up on their profile. This could mean an increase in clicks to call directly from Instagram, made by users looking to book with you from this in-map experience. 

Instagram Map Update Sights

The full view of a business seen when clicking into its location. 

You can also see a ‘View information’ CTA which shows the full business listing. The listing includes the website and phone number, a dropdown for daily opening hours, address, category, and price.

It’s now even more essential to ensure your Instagram listing is kept up to date, based on the discoverability of your business through the new map update. 

What makes a business feature higher on the location list? 

According to Search Engine Journal, the only way to appear on the map is to have a professional account filled in with your contact information. Localogy has also found that the only trigger on the map is location relevance, alongside social signals like tags that inform relevance. We do not know if there are any other factors or algorithms to feature higher on the location list.

What does this mean for Instagram and local businesses?

Instagram’s new immersive map puts user-generated content, authenticity, and creators at the forefront of the map search experience. 

This update coincides with a recent discussion point from Google’s Senior Vice President, Prabhakar Raghavan about how “40% of younger users were conducting local searches on TikTok and Instagram instead of Google”.

This data point suggests that users in this demographic are looking carefully at the authenticity of search results, with creators endorsing the location they tag in their content. It could also be that younger users trust user-generated content more than the Google algorithm. 

Greg Sterling at Near Media has suggested that this new map is a competitive local search feature, and “stands a chance of gaining meaningful user adoption based on it being built on existing user behavior. Users are very used to spending time on Instagram, so this new update won’t be anything completely new to them. 

What can local businesses do with this update?

With this update, it’s really important for businesses in a variety of industries, particularly hospitality and tourism, to keep their Instagram business profiles up to date.

If your business is ‘Instagrammable’ (i.e. your location, product, or service is curated to be visually appealing and aesthetically pleasing), then you could find many benefits with the map search. You could gravitate towards an influencer marketing and user-generated content strategy to encourage more people to share their experiences of your business on Instagram, and by doing so allow more people to discover it through map search.

By boosting brand awareness in this way, there’s an opportunity for the immersive Instagram map to become a benefit to your business visibility and growth.

Jenny Bernarde

Jenny looks after the BrightLocal community, through managing our social media channels, connecting with our community, and producing our online webinars.

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Happy Fourth of July – Google Doodle

Wishing you all a happy Happy Fourth of July, as you can see, this site is all dressed up for the day (on desktop) and Google has their special animated Doodle. I’d embed the Bing theme but I was once threatened with a lawsuit for doing that (not by Microsoft but one of those image legal companies).

I have a ton to post but I’ll hold it all for tomorrow and let you all rest.

Have a wonderful July 4th and speak to you all tomorrow, July 5th.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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Dani Owens on How to Build Local Links

Local SEOs have a love-hate relationship with link building.

We love links, but building them is time-consuming, manual, repetitive and ultimately has a relatively low success rate compared to other SEO tactics.

Fortunately, Dani Owens is here to help. Dani has a wealth of experience building local links for a wide variety of clients and niches. In this episode, she reveals:

  • The differences between link building for local SEO versus traditional SEO
  • Her simple three-step process to ensure campaign success
  • The biggest local link building no-nos
  • Low-effort link building tactics that any business can implement
  • Creative link building tactics that your competitors won’t be able to replicate

Watch the interview:



Subscribe today:

If you like what you hear and want instant access to the latest episodes, be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts:


Tell us what you think:

Got a great local link building tactic that you don’t mind sharing with the world? Let us know and tell us what you thought of the episode in the comments below.

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Lior Krolewicz On PPC Software & Issues With Google Ads Automation

In part one with Lior Krolewicz is the founder and CEO of Yael Consulting, a marketing consulting company, we spoke about the IDF and how paid search has changed. In part two we spoke about his company, how he focuses on customers over his own business growth. He would like to grow but he first needs software to help facilitate that. He has a ton of data and he wants to build software to bring a lot of that data to light and not all the tools out there do that properly. So it is about using the data to find the problem and you can do that with math, if you know how Google Ads works. He has a passion for this software bit and it is amazing to see that.

We then spoke a bit about automation with Google Ads and how often you set up conversions incorrectly, the conversions aren’t there for the AI to work properly. But when you dig into the campaign, you often see a lot of waste with automation. So then he may decide to pull it all out and then decide to handle to manually. There are a lot of folks who set it and forget it and that is a huge mistake. Lior explained budgets are important but if you can base budgets based on ROI, then it gets fun.

He deals with a lot of clients who were burned previously and he loves helping those businesses get back on track and then scale their growth over time. Lior did admit, automation can work, and he even says you should try it. He loves beating the AI and if he does not, the data he gets from it, is valuable. But more often than not, he can out perform the AI for the client. We then spoke a bit about ROI and costs and acquisitions and other metrics.

We also briefly spoke about the mass disapproval issue that happened a few months ago with Google Ads. He is concerned about those ads losing the history of the ads but he is not as concerned about it as he would have been in the old days. He then shared some bad examples of Microsoft Advertising doing weird things with keyword matching.

Learn more about Lior Krolewicz on LinkedIn, @yaelconsulting or at

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

Forum discussion at YouTube.

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5 Google Business Profile Elements You Might Not Know About But Really Should

You’ve added your name, address and phone number to Google Business Profile. You selected a category, you scribbled a quick description and you uploaded a few photos. Job done, right?

Well… no, not really. Not if you’re looking to rank higher, and convert better!

In this talk (originally for Brighton SEO in April 2022), I walk you through the rapidly changing landscape of GBP, and outline the features you need to be using in order to capture your potential clients attention, generate more leads, and ‘feed the Google machine’.

Want More of Claire’s Wisdom? Check Out These Podcasts!

Claire Carlile is BrightLocal’s Local Search Expert. Her work at Claire Carlile Marketing, where she helps small businesses do better at digital marketing, allows her to provide real-world skills and expertise to what BrightLocal does.

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David Melamed About The Earlier Days Of Search Marketing & The Immense Sharing In The Industry

David Melamed, who I’ve known for about 15 years or so, has been in the space for about that long or even longer. David Melamed is now a search marketing consultant for many companies. You can learn more about him on his website at David and I worked on some projects together early on and we were discussing some new projects, since he was in town and I convinced him to do a vlog with me. The batteries on one of the cameras died, so we ended talking at some point, otherwise we probably would have gone on for hours and hours.

We spoke about how David entered the search marketing space, first leveraging Metacrawler, one of the early search engines from 1995. We spoke about some of the early SEO conferences, SES and where we met. I checked my emails after we spoke and I think we first emailed back in 2008 or so but we probably met in 2007 at the conference.

David said search was his first love and his dream was to do marketing, specifically Super Bowl commercials. He grew up without a TV (sounds horrible to me) but he says that kind of fueled his desire to do marketing. Between that and his dad being a programmer, he really dived right into search marketing.

He sees every marketing problem through the lens of search, the intent level is a layer on the world he said.

We then spoke about some of his work history in search marketing space. This includes how he interviewed for his first SEO job and he was rejected. But he begged them to reinterview him, he learned SEO in a couple weeks through Aaron Wall’s SEO Book, so he credits Aaron Wall for his success in this space. David explained that it is hard to know who to trust in search marketing and he said he often feels like he personally does not know enough himself.

We spoke also about how the SEM industry is one of the most sharing industry, he believes because we all wanted links, so we shared as much as possible just to get links. He said he loved the old Stuntdubl blog from Todd Malicoat – but it is not updated as much.

And this continues to be important, write great stuff that people want to link to and Google will rank it well.

You can learn more about David Melamed on his website at

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

Forum discussion at YouTube.

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Getting Google My Business Support

We’ve all been there… a dreaded ‘your listing is suspended’ email, rejected Google posts, ‘not approved’ products, verification issues, or a weird glitch in the business profile—a ghost in the machine.

Who you gonna call? Not Google My Business support, as they retired phone help in 2021.

But don’t fret—there are a plethora of other places (both official and unofficial) to turn to for Google My Business (GMB) help.

Whose job is it to solve issues?

A business listing that disappears from Google Maps… fake listings that push your one down in results… a run of negative reviews that you suspect aren’t real—any of these things can result in lost enquiries, bookings, and revenue. 

And while it’s understandable for these things to cause frustration (and even anger), we need to keep in mind that Google My Business is currently a free product.

As such, Google Business support staff are thin on the ground, and Google Product Experts that support GMB via the Google Business Profile Help Community do so for free.

So if you’re experiencing an issue, the first step is to be proactive in finding a solution for yourself. Start with guidance available from the Google Business support team and the GBP community.

After that, it’s time to turn detective—below we’ll run through a range of alternative Google My Business support channels, outline what they’re best for solving, and look at how to get the best out of each of them.

And remember! Karma reigns supreme—be straightforward, polite, and help others if you can. And always say thank you 🙂

Google My Business Help Center

Support from the actual GMB support team is limited and has been so for a number of years.

In the gelp center you can browse information and guidelines around Google My Business organized by topic areas:

Gbp Support 2

I’d suggest becoming familiar with these pages and checking back if and when you have an issue. The GMB landscape is far from static and Google will change their documentation as needed.

It’s particularly important to understand if you’re doing something that contravenes Google’s Terms of Service, for example:

You should always check Google’s official guidelines first—please don’t waste others’ time by asking questions you could have answered yourself.

Google Business Profile Community

You can make a search describing your issue, and Google will return results for both help center documentation and community forum posts.

Gbp Support 3

Items marked with (1) are help articles, and items marked with (2) are community forum posts. Look out for ‘recommended answers’ as these have often been supplied by Google Product Experts or active and experienced community members.

If you can’t find an answer to your question, then Google suggests adding a new community forum post:

Gbp Support 4

However, before you do this, I recommend first checking out the below potential avenues for solutions.

Also, don’t be tempted to tack your own issues onto an existing post. If you need to post (once you’ve exhausted the resources below) then you should create your own post with your own unique information.

Browse Local SEO Peeps on Twitter

You’re probably already following a bunch of Local SEO people on Twitter—if not then be sure to check out BrightLocal’s list of local SEO experts. If there’s a GMB bug going around, you’ll probably hear about it there.

Gbp Support 5

You could ask a Google business profile expert for help on Twitter, but honestly, I’d go to the GMB community first. I don’t envy Joy Hawkins (or indeed any of the helpful local SEO community) for the number of tweets she gets asking for help, so do the nice thing and ask for help in the right place!

Check the Local SEO Content Archives

I’ve written in the past about the hubs of excellent content that are being produced around problems and issues in GMB and how you can tackle these. For example:

Once you’re familiar with primary sources of great information, you can search within those sites using an advanced search operator: OR “GMB” OR “GBP” suspension

This asks Google to give me results from the BrightLocal or Sterling Sky websites, for pages containing either “GMB” or “GBP” keywords, plus content related to suspensions.

You can use my custom local SEO search engine to search within my own carefully-curated list of trusted sites, or create your own search operator as needed.

Google Business Profile YouTube Channel

Google Business Support does have a reasonably active channel with some useful videos. I recommend taking a look to see if there’s a solution to your problem, for example:

Google Business Profile Social Channels

In the olden days you could tweet or Facebook message Google My Business support and expect a reply. Sadly social support is now very limited, and you’re unlikely to get a reply from the social teams.

Google Business Profile Forms

Google has a number of task-specific forms that you can complete without having to contact support:

Google Business Profile ‘Contact Us’

Your next step – if you can’t find a solution via any of the sources above is to contact the Google Business Profile team to ask for their direct support:

Alternatively, you can log into your GBP dashboard and select “Support” from the left-hand side menu.

You’ll be asked to select the business you need help with and to describe the issue. Google will then give you a list of articles and community posts that it thinks might be helpful.

Click “Next step” to continue with the process. Google will present you with one or more contact options, that—for me—currently only includes ‘email’:

Gbp Support 9

You’ll then need to fill in a form with the following details:

  • Issue type (select from drop down):

Gbp Support 10

  • Your relationship to the business
  • Your email address
  • Your phone number
  • Business name
  • Business address
  • Maps link for the business
  • Business website
  • Describe the issue
  • Add related case IDs (it might be that you’ve already been in touch with the same issue)

Be sure to keep a copy of your requests, as there’s no way to access this information after you submit the form to Google.

Once you’ve submitted the form you’ll usually be given a case ID—make a note of this somewhere so that you have a record. You’ll also receive an email from Google to confirm their receipt of your support inquiry.

Read to the bottom of this email… don’t just file it away thinking they’ll get back in touch with you:

Gbp Support 11

That’s right, you’re going to need to actively contact them again! If you’ve already written up your notes into a Google document then you can use this to shape your email reply and (hopefully) get the help you need.

Ask the Google My Business Help Community

If you haven’t found a useful answer or potential solution, then now is the time for you to make your own community forum post. Note that if you go to the community without following the ‘support’ steps above, they will send you there first.

Don’t be tempted to tack your own issues onto an existing post. If you need to post be sure to create your own post with your own unique information.

You’ll need to be logged in for this, and in order to get the best help possible I’d suggest using the following points to compose your post:

Gbp Support 6

  • Always make sure that you adhere to the Google Help Communities Content Policy.
  • Make the subject line (1) brief and descriptive of your issue.
  • (2) Explain your issue in full with clear details—but be concise! Show that you have read and understood Google’s guidelines, if applicable.
  • If you need to include screenshots or links then it’s best to include this in a Google doc (named appropriately) that is viewable by anyone with the link. Just write a brief message outlining the issue in field 2 and then include the link to the gdoc.
  • Include full details of your business name, your address if relevant, and your CID number (a unique identification number for that business on Google Maps) of the business listing. If your concern is about reviews, then include the account names of the persons leaving the reviews in question.
  • For (3) choose the most relevant category for your post:

Gbp Support 7

Run through the final steps (make sure there isn’t already an answer on the forum, specify which platform the problem is occurring on) and then you can go ahead and post.

See this example of a forum post that was quickly and expertly answered by a Gold Product Expert. You’ll be able to see all of the questions you’ve previously asked in your profile’s ‘Post history’ area:

Gbp Support 8

Wrapping Up

There are a lot of options for getting help with your Google My Business listing… some via official Google help channels and some outside of them.

And it’s up to you to fully investigate a solution before you contact official support—in this way you’ll help protect limited resources so that they can deal with bugs and help everyone enjoy a better future experience.

Go forth and prosper!

Claire Carlile
Claire Carlile is BrightLocal’s Local Search Expert. Her work at Claire Carlile Marketing, where she helps small businesses do better at digital marketing, allows her to provide real-world skills and expertise to what BrightLocal does.

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Riley Hope On Women In SEO & Automotive Search

In part one Riley Hope and I spoke about her SEO career, how she did her thesis on ethics in SEO and we spoke about the automotive SEO space. In part two we talk about women in SEO and more on the automotive space and search results.

Women In SEO:

We spoke about how Melissa Fach, who has been in the SEO community for a long time, is now in the auto SEO space. But I reminisced about the old days of the SEO space, with SEO leaders who were female, like Jill Whalen, Christine Churchill, Heather Lloyd Martin, and many others.

More On Riley:

We then moved into more about Riley’s history, talking about being a Floridian versus a New Yorker. We spoke about how her husband is in the US Air Force, working on top secret and classified stuff that we can’t talk about. She is a military wife and she describes what it is like to live like that, huge credit to her and her family. But yes, they need to have perfect eye sight to be in the Air Force but not to do SEO.

Automotive Search Results:

We then jump back into automotive SEO and search and I bring up the controversy over the new features Google Search launched around auto retail search, by the way, Google said they license this data.

She does enjoy doing SEO in the automotive space because she doesn’t have to deal with everything for the client. She can focus on the SEO and doesn’t haver to worry about hosting, DNS, development and so forth. But she does miss working with small businesses, it was a bit more rewarding because there is more of a direct impact on what they do.

You can learn more about Riley Hope at or follow Riley on Twitter @reillyhope13.

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

Forum discussion at YouTube.

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Local SEO Ranking Factors: What Affects Local Rankings?

Key Findings

  • The most important grouped factors for ranking in the Local Pack/Finder are: 1) Google Business Profile, 2) Reviews, 3) On-page optimization

  • To rank in localized organic results, the most important areas to focus on are 1) On-page optimization, 2) Links 3) Behavioral signals

  • Google Business Profile has increased in importance since 2018—rising from 25% of Local Pack/Finder ranking importance to 36%

  • Links have decreased in importance as a Local Pack/Finder ranking factor since last year, with on-page SEO now seen as more important

  • The top individual Local Pack/Finder ranking factors are: 1) Primary GBP category, 2) Keywords in GMB titles, 3) Proximity of searcher to business address

  • The top individual localized organic ranking factors are: 1) Quality of inbound links, 2) Volume of quality content, 3) Internal linking across entire website

Google’s algorithm to rank local search results relies on a wide variety of different signals, so it can be difficult to know where you should dedicate your efforts. To ensure a local business ranks well for relevant search terms, it’s important to pay attention to a number of different local SEO ranking factors.

As more and more local businesses grasp the importance of SEO, ranking well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) will naturally become harder. As striving towards search success becomes more competitive, understanding how to dominate the SERPs becomes all the more valuable.

In this article, we’ll explore the most important factors for ranking—in both the Local Pack and the localized organic results—based on the data from this 2021’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey from Whitespark. We’ll also highlight how these results have changed over time, and discuss which tasks you should focus your energy on in the year ahead.

Where does this data come from? The Local Search Ranking Factors survey has been conducted near-annually since David Mihm kicked it off in 2008, with Darren Shaw of Whitespark taking over in 2017. The survey polls around 50 local SEO experts for their opinions on the most important actions and factors for local business rankings.

The Top Local SEO Ranking Factors in 2021

Local Pack Local Organic
1. Google Business Profile (36%) 1. On-page (34%)
2. Reviews (17%) 2. Links (31%)
3. On-page (16%) 3. Behavioral (11%)
4. Links (13%) 4. Citations (7%)
5. =Behavioral (7%) 5. =Personalization (6%)
5. =Citations (7%) 5. =GBP (6%)
7. Personalization (4%) 7. Reviews (5%)

This table shows what the expert survey respondents believed were the most important local search engine ranking factors throughout 2021. As you can see, they’re separated into Local Pack and localized organic.

What’s the difference between the Local Pack and localized organic results?

These two sets of results are treated differently in this survey because the underlying algorithms Google uses to surface them are different. The Local Pack is made up of Google Business Profiles, while the localized organic results are the traditional ‘blue links’ that lead to websites.

We’ll go into the individual factors in more detail shortly, but first let’s look at how the Local Ranking Factors survey has documented ranking trends over time. This should help to give you a snapshot of what impacted local search rankings in 2021 and where things are likely headed next year.

If you’re working towards improving Local Pack and localized organic rankings at the same time, then it can be helpful to see the average importance of the local SEO ranking factors when combined:

1. On-page optimization (25%)
2. Links (22%)
3. GBP (21%)
4. Reviews (12%)
5. Behavioral (9%)
6. Citations (7%)
7. Personalization (5%)

It’s important to remember that each of these factors will require different amounts of time to be invested; the percentage does not correlate with the amount of time that should be allocated to each.

For example, link building is an ongoing task that is quite time-intensive, whereas Google Business Profile (GBP) setup and management should not take too much of your time.

Local SEO Ranking Factors 2013-2021

As with Google’s regular search algorithm, the local algorithm is often updated by Google. This ongoing fluctuation means that doing the best job for your clients will require you to pay ongoing attention to what’s happening in the SERPs. This is a task you can stay on top of by using Local RankFlux—the only ranking fluctuation monitoring tool for local search.

If you’re an agency working specifically with local businesses, being vigilant to the changing local environment can be critical to success. The factors that have the biggest impact on local search engine rankings can make a huge difference to customer conversions, so changes in importance should be monitored closely.

As with the 2020 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, social signals aren’t included in the 2021 results. Social signals have been decreasing in importance in relation to local search rankings for a while, so it makes sense to exclude them entirely from the survey.

It’s worth noting that the exclusion of social signals has shifted voting power to other factors, which may account for slight inflations in the past two years.

Local Pack / Local Finder Ranking Factors Over Time

Local Pack Data

Since 2015, Google Business Profile has continued to increase in importance for Local Pack/Finder ranking importance, leaping from 15% in 2015 to 36% in 2021. Links, citations, behavioral signals, and personalization have all seen drops in importance during this time.

Local Organic Ranking Factors Over Time

Local Organic Ranking Data

The Local Search Ranking Factors survey has revealed that on-page optimization and links are the most significant factors for localized organic rankings, accounting for a combined 65% of ranking importance.

Although the remaining factors reportedly carry less weight, they’re still important to give some attention to, and doing so could give you the final push you need to outrank your competitors.

Interestingly, citations have begun to increase in importance again, after being on a downward trend since 2018.

The Top 15 Individual Local Search Ranking Factors

Local Pack/Finder Local Organic
Primary GBP category Quality/authority of inbound links to domain
Keywords in GBP business title Volume of quality content on entire website
Proximity of address to the point of search Internal linking across entire website
Physical address in city of search Topical (product/service) keyword relevance across entire website
Additional GBP categories Geographic (city/neighborhood) keyword relevance of domain content
High numerical Google ratings Keywords in GBP landing page title
Completeness of GBP listing Website’s degree of focus on a specific niche
Quality/authority of inbound links Keywords in anchor text of inbound links to domain
Keywords in native Google reviews Quantity of inbound links to domain from locally-relevant domains
Removal of spam listings Domain authority of website
Keywords in GBP landing page title Quantity of inbound links to domain from industry-relevant domains
Quantity of native Google reviews (with text) Mobile-friendly/responsive website
Verified GBP listing Volume of quality content on service pages
Quality/authority of inbound links to GBP landing page URL Diversity of inbound links to domain
Proper placement of map pin Keywords in GBP landing page H1/H2 tags

Concentrating your efforts on the individual factors from the table above is a great way to move forwards when optimizing for local search. However, don’t overlook the fact that there are many more contributing factors beyond those featured here, therefore it’s important to give your attention to a wide range of optimization tasks.

Google Business Profile Signals

Important individual ranking factors within Google Business Profile include the primary category, the use of keywords in the business name, and the use of additional relevant categories.

The impact and value of GBP for Local Pack/Finder rankings has been on an upward trajectory since 2018. However, it has fluctuated slightly in importance for the localized organic results.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 23% 20% 22% 19% 25% 33% 36%
Localized Organic Results 10% 10% 8% 7% 9% 7% 6%

This overall increased significance of GBP for local rankings correlates with how Google continues to evolve and improve this tool. New features are often being added to enhance the user experience, so it makes sense that GBP is becoming even more valuable to local business owners.

If we look back at the two lists for the top 15 individual local search ranking factors, we can see that many are directly related to Google Business Profile. This includes actions such as setting the primary GBP category, completing and verifying the GBP profile, using keywords on the GBP landing page, and more.

It’s clear that there are certain actions on these lists that are great for rankings, but that you don’t have much control over or potential to optimize.

For example, the primary GBP category is the most important ranking factor for the Local Pack/Finder, but as soon as you’ve set the relevant category, there’s no more work to be done here.

Similarly, having keywords in the business name listed on GBP can boost rankings, but if the business in question doesn’t have keywords in its name, then there’s not much you can do (without violating Google’s guidelines). Once you’ve entered the name into the listing, this task won’t require any ongoing attention.

What you can do, however, is ensure the ‘completeness’ of your Google Business Profile. This means making sure you’ve filled out all of the relevant sections and that you continue to add photos and make new Posts.

Data from Google highlights how important this is, stating that, “Customers are 70% more likely to visit and 50% more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with a complete Business Profile.”

Google Business Profile Factors That Don’t Impact Rankings

It’s worth noting that you don’t need to take advantage of every aspect of GBP if you’re only focusing on improving your rankings.

The 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors survey experts are in agreement that several GBP-related factors don’t impact rankings.

These include:

  • Geo-tagged photos uploaded to GBP
  • Keywords in GBP description
  • Keywords in GBP products
  • Keywords in Google Posts
  • Keywords in GBP services
  • GBP messaging feature enabled
  • Frequency of Google Posts
  • Setting service areas

Remember, there’s more to Google Business Profile than just rankings. The actions that don’t influence rankings could still contribute to conversions, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to the bigger picture.

A Note on Google Business Profile Name Spam

2020 was the first time that GBP spam fighting was included as a possible ranking factor in the Whitespark survey, and this task has remained relevant throughout 2021.

Although this is an action that doesn’t improve your own listing, it can still give you a boost if higher-ranking competitor listings are penalized for spam violations.

Fighting spam has been the third top action that the experts have given more focus to this past year when working towards Local Pack/Finder rankings. This task is behind completeness of profiles in second place, and keywords in the business title in at number one. Arguably, as long as keywords in the business title remains a top ranking factor, some listings managers will continue to try to violate the guidelines by inappropriately including keywords.

In 2020, only 23% of local businesses were investing time in actively fighting GBP spam, which means that vast numbers of GBP profiles could still be winning with spammy tactics.

Tools that show GMB profiles and business names on a map as part of a grid tracker can make the process of combating spam a lot easier. This is because all of the appropriate information can be easily seen on a map display.

To learn more about Google Business Profile, check out these resources:

Review Signals

Individual review signal factors include first- and third-party reviews, review quantity, review velocity, and review diversity.

Reviews have grown slightly in importance for Local Pack/Finder rankings over the last few years, moving from 12% in 2018 to 17% in 2021. Although this increase is small, it reflects the ongoing value of reviews among consumers. Reviews have consistently been the second most important Local Pack/Finder ranking factor since 2018, when links were knocked out of this spot.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 12% 12% 11% 13% 15% 16% 17%
Localized Organic Results 6% 7% 6% 7% 6% 6% 5%

If we look at the top 15 Local Pack/Finder ranking factors, we can see high numerical Google ratings, keywords in native Google reviews, and quantity of native Google reviews all to be of high importance.

The experts also revealed that a high Google rating from reviews is the leading factor driving conversions in GBP. So as well as helping local businesses to rank, reviews can also increase sales.

Wondering how to get more reviews from your customers? You might be surprised to learn that, generally, all you have to do is ask. Figures show that 67% of consumers who are asked to leave a review will go on to do so!

As online reviews continue to grow in value for local rankings, developing processes to monitor, grow, and display reviews can be extremely beneficial. This helps save time while also enhancing a local business’s online reputation and rankings.

Review management software, such as BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager, can automate review monitoring. This helps to ensure that you don’t miss important feedback. This tool can also help you to grow the quantity of your reviews.

It’s easy to believe that consistently getting five-star ratings is the only way to dominate reviews, however, this isn’t the case. In November 2021, Google shared that a mix of positive and negative reviews actually makes a business appear more trustworthy.

Remember, Google isn’t the only place that you should be getting reviews. Third-party review sites can also impact rankings and encourage conversions.

To learn more about online reviews, check out these resources:

On-page Signals

Individual on-page optimization factors include NAP data, keywords in titles, and domain authority.

On-page signals are incredibly important for both traditional and local SEO. As we can see from the table below, on-page optimization has been consistently important for rankings since 2013, and especially so for the localized organic results.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 18% 15% 14% 14% 14% 15% 16%
Localized Organic Results 27% 27% 26% 24% 26% 32% 34%

In particular, the volume of quality content on a site, the topical keyword relevance across the entire site, and domain authority can make a difference to local rankings.

The importance of optimizing your local business website for the search engines shouldn’t be overlooked. Optimizing increases your chances of being discovered in both general organic and localized searches. On-page optimization is always going to be essential, so it’s wise to master this aspect of SEO.

Keyword research is a huge part of on-page SEO, and you should always be thorough with this when building your strategy. Be sure to get into the mindset of your target audience and tailor your content towards the words and phrases you know these people use. Essentially, you need to think like your customers in order to better appeal to them.

To be a serious competitor in the local search results, you’ll need to feature the name of your location (city, town, state etc.) in multiple places across your website. You’ll also want to use location-specific keywords in the metadata for titles and descriptions across your site.

To further boost your local authority in the eyes of Google, create dedicated pages on your website for local content. You’ll also want to make frequent mentions to your location within your blog posts—and if you’re not writing blog posts, then you’ll need to start!

What about multi-location businesses? In this case, you’ll need to create separate pages on your website for each location. Be sure to include all of the relevant NAP data on each page, as well as your opening hours, and any additional relevant information.

Not only is this helpful from a customer perspective, as they can easily find the information they’re looking for, but it can also impact local rankings for each of the locations listed.

If you’re working to boost the SEO efforts of a business with multiple locations, then enrolling in BrightLocal Academy’s How to Perform Local SEO Audits for Multi-location Businesses course is a great place to start. This course will equip you with the knowledge you need to comprehensively audit a business with two locations or 200!

To learn more about on-page optimization, check out these resources:

Individual link factors include inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, and linking domain quantity.

Link signals have long been known to be very valuable for boosting organic search rankings, and the same is true of localized results.

Links make up 31% of the localized organic ranking factors in 2021, having risen up from 24% since 2013.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 12% 12% 15% 17% 17% 15% 13%
Localized Organic Results 24% 25% 25% 29% 28% 31% 31%

The Whitespark survey placed the authority of inbound links to a website as the eighth most important factor affecting Local Pack/Finder results. The authority of the links to the landing page named on the GBP listing is also ranked as important.

Earning quality backlinks can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but they go a long way to improving the authority of a site, and are a worthwhile investment of your resources.

A word of caution: Bad backlinks can actually be harmful to your site overall, so it’s critical to assess the quality of the websites you’re getting links from. A simple way to do this is to download the MozBar Chrome extension.

The MozBar tool will show you the domain authority of the website you’re visiting, as well as the page authority of the individual page you’re on. The higher both of these numbers are, the better the quality of the site.

You can also use this tool to check the spam score of a website. If the spam score is high, then it’s probably best to avoid this website as a link could be detrimental to your SEO efforts.

In terms of the localized organic ranking factors, the quality of inbound links is the most important consideration, with internal links across the entire site also being of high importance.

Use of relevant keywords in the anchor text of inbound links is the eighth most important ranking factor for localized organic results, with quantity of inbound links to domain from locally-relevant domains coming in ninth.

To learn more about local link building, check out these resources:

Behavioral Signals

The individual behavioral ranking factors include click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, and dwell time.

In terms of importance as a Local Pack/Finder ranking factor, behavioral signals have been in steady decline for three years, dropping from 10% in 2018 down to 7% this year.

Behavioral signals saw a slight increase in importance for localized organic search, jumping back up to 11% this year after a previous decline.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 5% 7% 9% 10% 10% 8% 7%
Localized Organic Results 5% 7% 10% 11% 12% 10% 11%

Behavioral signals are a reliable source of information for Google because they’re much harder to manipulate than other factors. These actions are taken by the searcher, and therefore can only be influenced to a certain degree.

Instead of thinking up innovative new ways to influence user behaviour, why not spend this time optimizing your GBP profile to give the user the best possible experience. This involves creating optimized copy for titles, meta descriptions, Posts, and more. Make your listing as valuable and coherent as possible, and you’ll move closer to winning at rankings and conversions.

Try to remember that the end goal of SEO isn’t just to improve rankings, the focus must also be to attract the right customers to a business for those all-important sales. When you start getting seen by the right customers—those who want to learn more about your business—these users will naturally help to enhance the behavioral signals towards your site.

To learn more about influencing user behavior, check out these resources:

Citation Signals

Individual citation ranking factors include location data, IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, and citation volume.

Citations have decreased in ranking importance over the years, dropping from joint second for Local Pack rankings in 2013, down to joint sixth place this year.

We can see from the results of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey that citations began to decrease in value as a ranking signal in 2015.

In relation to Local Pack/Finder importance, citations dropped from 17% in 2015 to 7% in 2020, and held steady at 7% this year.

In terms of importance in localized organic search results, citations have decreased from 10% in 2015 down to 6% in 2020, and back up slightly to 7% this year. Although the percentage amount only improved slightly, its position in this list has gone up, moving from joint-sixth important in 2020, up to position four in 2021.

Even though citations have gradually decreased in overall importance, they’re still valuable for visibility and for building trust with consumers. When a potential customer can observe that a business’s information is correct and consistent across the web, then this helps to establish credibility.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 18% 20% 17% 13% 11% 7% 7%
Localized Oranic Results 11% 11% 10% 8% 9% 6% 7%

There are two different types of citations—structured and unstructured.

Structured citations, which are listings made by a business on relevant directories and third-party websites, are the most common type. These citations provide a quick and easy way for a business to earn backlinks.

Many of the websites that structured citations appear on are seen as trustworthy and authoritative by Google, which makes these backlinks valuable to the business in question. This can help a business to begin building the authority of its website, as well as to give an established website a boost.

Take a look at the example below of a recent Google search for ‘Cafe in Sacramento’. You can see that there are several results from business directories, including the top three spots!

Sacramento Cafe Highlight

To learn more about citations, check out these resources:

Personalization Signals

Individual personalization ranking factors include search history, search location, and device.

Personalization essentially boils down to how you’re more likely to see results from websites that you’re already familiar with and have visited frequently. However, it’s also influenced by the location a user searches from and the language that they use, among other factors.

In relation to Local Pack/Finder ranking importance, personalization peaked at 10% in 2017, and has held at 6% since 2018. For the localized organic results, personalization was rated consistently at 9% throughout 2013 to 2017, and has been at 7% since 2018.

  2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2020 2021
Local Pack/Finder 7% 8% 8% 10% 6% 6% 4%
Localized Organic Results 9% 9% 9% 9% 7% 7% 6%

Although personalization can have an impact on general search results, this is much less likely to impact local search results. This means there’s not much you can do from an SEO perspective to optimize a website for personalization considerations.

Businesses that serve customers in countries with different native languages can translate—and therefore personalize—their content to reach the relevant audiences. Multilingual SEO is a largely underutilized resource that local businesses can tap into where appropriate.

It’s worth noting that in the US, 60 million people—almost a quarter of the population—aren’t native English speakers. So if you operate a business in a multicultural city, then it’s likely worth targeting your website at the languages besides English that are commonly spoken.

To learn more about personalization in search, check out these resources:

What’s Next?

As you likely already know, there are no guarantees on the path to SEO success. This is a process that requires ongoing research, effort, and a willingness to adjust your strategy as you go.

Although there are a number of different factors influencing search rankings, some of the associated tasks require much more ongoing effort than others. Understanding where your priorities should lie—and being able to adjust your focus accordingly—will be key to staying one step ahead of your competitors.

The insights provided in the latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey should serve as your guide as you assess your local search strategy for the year ahead. This expert advice helps to take the guesswork out of local SEO so that you can dedicate your time and energy in all the right places.

Finally, we’d like to send our gratitude and appreciation to Darren Shaw, the Whitespark team, and everyone who contributed their expertise to the survey!

Alix Coe

Alix is the Content Marketing Manager at BrightLocal. They focus on sharing insights into the world of local SEO, with a particular interest in reporting on the latest industry news.

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