The 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors

What you need to know to rank in Google’s local results

Google Local Pack/Finder Individual Ranking Factors

Which individual factors do you think have the biggest impact on local pack/finder rankings?

Here are the top 20 local search ranking factors, as ranked by the local search experts:

What the Local Search Experts are Saying….

“Ensuring Primary and additional Categories are correct. Assessing competitor’s GMB Categories for Category opportunities. Assessing Categories for new ones that I can add/change. Encouraging clients to provide more high-quality/relevant photos for their GMB listings. Dealing with fake/spam GMB listings (this can be very frustrating), which if removed or modified, can really help my client’s GMB listings to rank higher.”

Andy Kupier

Andy Kuiper Internet Marketing

“Changing the official business name to include main keywords so that the GMB listing name can be changed and still be within the guidelines. Linking to service pages from within the content of the home page.”

Yan Gilbert

Sterling Sky

“Sadly, officially changing your business name to include category keywords still works really well. In fact, in legal, in competitive practice areas and locations, it’s *almost* table stakes to have an official name that includes keywords.Next to keywords in the official business name, making strategic decisions about opening locations to influence proximity to your target audience’s location. In other words, have a location in the cities in which (and for which) your target audience is searching. [Getting] mentioned on and linked to from topically and a geographically relevant sites.”

Gyi Tsakalakis


“A consistent review strategy that nudges clients to use keywords and positive sentiment with some simple prompts. We’ve helped clients pivot to using digital review collateral, with more focus on emails, automated requests (through tools like Reputation Builder), and producing “digital business cards,” that business owners and their staff can show clients at in-person appointments.”

Allie Margeson


“Reviews are as important (maybe more important?) than ever – potential customers are living through covid / post covid times and so much has changed in how they choose their products and services. Consumers expectations for how their services will be delivered are altered forever – and businesses need to make sure their GMB presence continues to reflect their safety procedures and their product and service delivery pivots.”

Claire Carlile


“GMB spam fighting. Removing spam listings or incorrectly created listings seem to benefit rankings significantly. We make sure we can measure everything in GMB and local search – both from an online and offline perspective. Equipped with that information it is easier to take qualified decisions on where to focus local efforts. Keeping GMB attributes updated in light of the pandemic is quite important too.”

Rasmus Himmelstrup

Resolution Media

“Hyper-local links/citations from small news outlets, radio stations, chambers of commerce, business improvement area sites (BIA), etc. seem to have a significant impact on Maps rankings.”

Stefan Somborac

Marketing Metrology

“Creating pages for each of the client’s services and adding high quality content, imagery, video, etc. to them and optimizing the main elements with keywords such as title/h1/content.”

Darcy Burk

Burk Digital Factory

Changes Over Time

How do these local pack/finder factors compare to last year? 

NEW: Internal Linking Across Entire Website

How was this not a factor in previous editions of the survey?! My apologies for not catching this earlier. Internal linking is some of the most valuable and important optimization work you can do on your website.

Practically, this means going through your website content and looking for opportunities where you can add links to other pages of your website. Ideally your unique service, product, or location pages. Don’t have a page for that service? Create one!


NEW: Proper Placement of the Map Pin

Again, I’m not sure how this factor was missed in previous editions. It’s critically important to ensure that your map pin is on the right spot. Proximity is a critical component of the local search algorithm, and Google bases proximity to searcher off of this map pin. Is your pin misplaced to be in the middle of a lake or in a school field? This can negatively impact your rankings. It’s important to check that it’s in the right position on the map. Go into Google Business Profile Manager, click Info on the left side, then click the address field, then check the position of the pin.

TIP:If you want driving directions to send people to a specific door of the building, zoom in and drag the pin to that door.


INCREASED +136%: Age of GMB(GBP) Listing

New Google Business Profiles will rank almost immediately after verifying them, but typically only within a tight radius around the address. Local search practitioners have noticed that the longer a listing has been around, the better (and further) it tends to rank. Personally, I question if this might just be more correlation than causation. It makes sense that the longer a listing has been around, the more reviews, links, mentions, and other signals it will build up over that time, which contribute to the rankings.

TIP: The only way I know of to determine the approximate age of a listing is to scroll to the bottom of the reviews and see when they received their first review. This isn’t a guarantee of when the listing was created, but it’s the closest approximation we have.


INCREASED +61%: Keywords in GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags 

This factor should probably be revised to “Across Entire Website” instead of just on the GMB Landing Page (I’ve made a note for next year). Optimizing your headings with keywords is a long standing best practice in SEO, and the increase in importance this year could be related to how Google has been rewriting titles in the search results, often by replacing it with your H1 heading, thus making these headings even more important.


DECREASED -44%: Keyword in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

I wouldn’t read too much into this. Keywords in your link anchor text definitely do still help with rankings, but the advice around this factor remains unchanged: keep the majority of your links with branded anchor text, and when possible, sprinkle in a few keyword optimized anchor texts here and there. You won’t be able to control this on the vast majority of links you get to your site anyway, so there isn’t really anything actionable here.