How Does Google Rank Local Businesses in Search Results?

Search Engine Optimization is all about improving search engine rankings – boosting how high a business appears when, say, a consumer searches for a “chiropractor in San Anselmo,” “dentist in San Rafael” or “financial advisor in Marin County.”  If you are  wondering what criteria Google uses to decide how to rank your business in search engine results and what factors you can influence, here is your answer.

One of the best sources for that type of information is Moz. Every year Moz conducts a survey of industry experts on the top local search engine ranking factors. A summary of that survey was published in Search Engine Land, and that summary is what I am going to share in this post.

If you are a local business owner, the following information may be incredibly interesting and important to you. Some of my clients, however, are national brands. Google’s ranking factors for your business will be the topic of another post.

How does Google determine how prominently to show your business in local searches?

The following are listed in terms of their importance.

Calla Lillies Pacific Ocean

#1 Relevancy – how well your website answers a searcher’s needs (20.3 percent)
Let’s say a person in San Rafael is searching online for a dentist who can do a same-day crown. Does your website say that in the clearest way it can? Does the text on your website and its “SEO tags” tell consumers that your business is in San Rafael and offers the same day crown service they need?

#2 – Your website is an authoritative, credible source of information (20.0 percent)
The major way Google determines if your website is authoritative and credible is to look at other websites that have linked to your website, and the authority of those websites. Let’s say, for example, that you have a link to your website from the local chamber of commerce because you are a member. Or, you have recently done a presentation to an industry group, and that group linked to your website. Because these websites have credibility and authority, their links send signals to Google that your business is also credible. What Google is looking for is quality links, not quantity of links to your website.

#3 – You have a Google Business page (14.7 percent)
Many business owners do not have a Google Business page, yet that is the #3 most important ranking factor in local searches. Here’s how to create a great Google Business page, if you don’t have one already, and how to be sure that yours is as effective as possible:

#4 – Your business is listed consistently across the Internet (13.6 percent)
Your business name, address and phone number is your Internet fingerprint. You need all three to be consistent around the web. To learn more, please see my previous post: Is Your Business Listed Exactly the Same Across the Internet.

#5 – Click-through rate to your website from search results (9.5 percent)
This local Google ranking factor has to do with, whenever searchers sees your business listing in search engine results, say of one of ten dentists located in San Rafael, how often historically did they click on your business listing rather than your on competitors. To make them click more often, you want to have the most appealing business listing possible.

6. Personalization (8.5 percent)
This is a ranking factor that you really can’t influence because it has to do with the searcher and their search history rather than your business listing or website.

7. Reviews (8.4 percent)
Online reviews for your business on sites like: Google+, Yelp, or an industry specific site, such as Trulia for realtors or Houzz for interior designers, will help your local ranking.

8. Social Media (5.0 percent)
Here’s where getting those Facebook Likes can help your local business ranking.

If you’d like to learn more about how to boost your local search engine ranking, please shoot me an email or call for a complimentary strategy session.

Carolyn Kohler is an SEO writer who specializes in helping businesses get found online. Her company is Website Wordsmith, and she is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.