Google Updates Local SEO Guidelines, Ranking Factors

April 7, 2016

On the heels of Google’s big reveal of their top two ranking factors comes still more direction and ranking factor-information—this time specifically for local SEO efforts.

Google recently hinted at “new guidance” for improving local search rankings. In fact, this new information triples what Google previously provided on local SEO ranking factors.

New My Business features


Google’s newly expanded guide to improving local rankings now details three local SEO ranking factors, and provides new information on how to improve your business’s chances of appearing in the coveted Top Three mobile search spots.

Why Local SEO?

But SMB marketers (and owners), are constantly organizing and reorganizing precious marketing resources, so is local SEO really a priority?

Remember that mobile internet usage overtook desktop years ago, and the gap continues to widen. More mobile usage naturally up the ante for local SEO:

Local SEO targets the consumer who is most likely to buy, and ready to pull the trigger. If your business could benefit from smoking-hot leads, local SEO should get a seat at the marketing table.

3 Local SEO Ranking Factors

We knew these already, but Google has provided some extra details:


Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for.


How far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search? If a user doesn’t specify a location in their (sic) search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their (sic) location.


Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking.

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

Most of that information can be fed to Google, but the information on how Google determines “prominence” is especially interesting.

Google collects information from all over the web to determine how important your business actually is in the real world—one more reason to set up your business’ name in Google Alerts and/or Social Mention. Make sure you know what is being said about your brand.

Optimize Google My Business for Local SEO Results

Google My Business is how you feed some of the information that Google is looking for, directly to the search engine. The new, expanded recommendations include:

  • Enter complete data—Complete business entries are easier to match for relevance. FIll out as much of the information as you can, and be sure to keep it updated.
  • Verify your location(s)—The #1 piece of information sought by local searches is location/address. Google wants to deliver close results, and users want to find you easily. Make sure your location info is complete.
  • Keep your hours accurate—If users are traveling, they’re more likely to go to a business they know is open, rather than one with no hours posted. Make a special note to keep this updated during holiday seasons.
  • Manage and respond to reviews—88% of consumers trust local reviews as much as personal recommendations. Engage with your customers by responding to reviews.
  • Add photos—They’re worth 1000 words, right? Include the outside of the building to help consumers find you, and your most popular products/dishes/etc.

Filling in and maintaining this information is not a huge task, and the ROI is great. A lot of SEO is a long-term strategy of building trust, but here, Google is asking you for information to deliver directly to users. No marketer can pass that up.

Improve Your Local SEO Today

There is a lot that any SMB marketer can do to jumpstart local SEO efforts in light of this new information from Google. Of course, the weightier factors are going to be overall SEO and customer reviews—both of which your business will have to earn over time—but now we know what Google is actually looking for.

Start by checking in with Google My Business to fill in any holes. As you update and maintain your local SEO strategy, make sure to check on it primarily from your smartphone since that’s where local search usually happens.

As mobile continues to grow, local SEO will continue to get more and more important for brick-and-mortar businesses. Get your business started now so you’re not scrambling to catch up in a few more months.

Nate Dame
CEO and Founder
Nate is the founder and CEO of Profound Strategy, a results-oriented SEO consultancy trusted by forward-thinking companies, including a few of the world's largest B2B and technology brands. Profound Strategy builds holistic SEO strategies, supports internal teams, and offers full-service execution to create an organic search presence that generates significant revenue.

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