2020 Local Search Ranking Factors

Local Pack/Finder Ranking Factors

Localized Organic Ranking Factors

Introduction

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the Local Search Ranking Factors. As per usual, changes to local search continue at a dizzying speed. Google has added about 1 trillion new features to GMB, and of course, the entire world has been impacted by a global pandemic which affects every business and their marketing. Improving your business’ visibility on Google has never been more important, and the local search industry has exploded as businesses of all sizes shift their marketing focus online.

My summary and analysis of the survey results can be found here on our blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and any questions in the comments!

Definitions

GMB Listing

Google My Business Listing. Your primary listing at Google that is editable in the GMB dashboard and publicly accessible at 3 locations:

  1. Google Search (knowledge panel) (example)
  2. Google Maps (example)
  3. Local Finder (example)

GMB Landing Page

The page that a GMB listing links to. Usually the homepage or a location page. (example)

Local Pack

The regular local 3-pack that appears for most local search terms. (example)

Local Finder

The complete list of local results that appears when the “More places” link at the bottom of a local pack is clicked. (example)

Local Services Ads

These special packs are generated by Google’s paid lead generation program called Local Services. These packs appear at the top of local search results in specific industries and cities (example). For more information, please see Tom Waddington’s excellent post on the topic here.

The Survey

The 2020 survey is structured into seven primary sections:

  • Thematic Ranking Signals
  • Specific Ranking Factors in Local Pack/Finder and Local Organic Results
  • Factors Focusing on More and Factors Focusing on Less in the Past Year
  • NOT-Ranking Factors (Myth Busting)
  • GMB Conversion Factors
  • Negative Ranking Factors
  • Commentary

I. General Ranking Factors

In this section, participants are asked, “In your opinion, to what extent do each of the following thematic clusters contribute to rankings across result types at Google?” They then enter a percentage of influence for each of these eight thematic areas, for both local pack/finder results and local organic results:

  • Google My Business signals (proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.)
  • Citation signals (IYP/Aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.)
  • On-page signals (presence of NAP, keywords in titles, Domain Authority, etc.)
  • Link signals (inbound anchor text, linking Domain Authority, linking domain quantity, etc.)
  • Review signals (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.)
  • Behavioral/mobile signals (click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, dwell time, etc.)
  • Personalization

The results here give us a sense of which general ranking factor areas are more important than others.

II. Specific Ranking Factors

In part A of this section, I asked the experts to rank the top 20 individual ranking factors (out of a total list of 122) that have the biggest impact on pack/finder rankings.

In part B of this section, I asked them to rank the top 20 factors from the same list, only this time to rank them based on impact on localized organic rankings.

Results are then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the number one-ranked factor received the most points for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. (The factors ranking outside the top 20 for all respondents ended up with zero points.)

III. Focusing on More and Focusing on Less

Here, I asked the experts to rank the five factors they were focusing on more in the past year, and the five factors they were focusing on less in the past year.

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the #1 ranked factor received the most “points” for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. (The factors ranking outside the top 5 for all respondents ended up with zero points.)

IV. NOT-Ranking Factors (Myth Busting)

Here, I asked the experts to rank the 20 factors they think absolutely do NOT impact rankings. The purpose of this new section is to dispel some of the common myths we hear in local search.

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the #1 ranked factor received the most “points” for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. (The factors ranking outside the top 20 for all respondents ended up with zero points.)

V. GMB Conversion Factors

Here, I asked the experts to rank the 20 factors they think have the biggest impact on conversions from GMB. The purpose of this new section is to guide people on how they can make their listing stand out and perform better, regardless of rankings. This is important work every business should be focusing on.

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the #1 ranked factor received the most “points” for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. (The factors ranking outside the top 20 for all respondents ended up with zero points.)

VI. Negative Ranking Factors

In this section, I asked the experts to rank 34 negative factors in order of most damaging to most benign.

VII. Commentary

In this section, I asked the experts a series of open ended questions to get their thoughts on important topics in local search. I ask:

  1. What are some strategies/tactics that are working particularly well for you at the moment?
  2. What are some strategies/tactics that used to work well, but don’t seem to work anymore?
  3. What are some methods you’re using to try to influence behavioral factors, if any?
  4. Are there any ranking factors not included in this survey that you think should be added?
  5. Comments about where you see Google is headed in the future?
  6. Comments about anything else you’d like the readers of this survey to know?

Discussion

Please see my analysis and summary of the results here on our blog. If you have any comments or questions, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section of the post.

Darren Shaw
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
December 10, 2020

The Local Search Ranking Factors Checklist Tool

People read the local search ranking factors to understand what the top priorities are for ranking in local search. To make your life easier, we built an awesome and free checklist tool to help you work through the prioritized ranking factors. Create a checklist for each location you manage, then work through the list until you’re dominating the local rankings!

Top 50 Local Pack/Finder Ranking Factors

  1. 651 total

    Primary GMB Category

  2. 644 total

    Keywords in GMB Business Title

  3. 618 total

    Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)

  4. 493 total

    Physical Address in City of Search

  5. 264 total

    Additional GMB Categories

  6. 261 total

    Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain

  7. 226 total

    Keywords in Native Google Reviews

  8. 220 total

    High Numerical Google Ratings (e.g. 4-5)

  9. 216 total

    Removal of spam listings through spam fighting

  10. 213 total

    Completeness of GMB Listing

  11. 188 total

    Verified GMB Listing

  12. 181 total

    Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)

  13. 164 total

    Keywords in GMB Landing Page Title

  14. 139 total

    Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

  15. 128 total

    Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance Across Entire Website

  16. 123 total

    Domain Authority of Website

  17. 122 total

    Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

  18. 120 total

    Page Authority of GMB Landing Page URL

  19. 108 total

    Internal Links to GMB Landing Page From Other Pages of Website

  20. 103 total

    Click-Through Rate from Search Results

  21. 88 total

    Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

  22. 77 total

    Prominence on Key Industry-Relevant Domains

  23. 76 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains

  24. 75 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains

  25. 69 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL from Locally-Relevant Domains

  26. 66 total

    Consistency of Citations on Primary Search Engines (Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps)

  27. 66 total

    Positive Sentiment in Review Text

  28. 65 total

    Volume of Content on GMB Landing Page

  29. 63 total

    Local Area Code on GMB Listing

  30. 63 total

    Quantity of Engagement Signals on GMB Listing (scrolling through listing, clicking photos, reading reviews, reading Q&A, clicking on Posts, etc)

  31. 62 total

    Proximity of Address to Centroid

  32. 62 total

    Consistency of Citations on Data Aggregators (Infogroup, Localeze, Foursquare/Factual)

  33. 61 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL from Industry-Relevant Domains

  34. 57 total

    Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain

  35. 57 total

    Keywords in Domain

  36. 56 total

    Internal Links to Service Pages from GMB Landing Page

  37. 56 total

    Keywords in GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags

  38. 50 total

    Volume of Quality Content on Service Pages

  39. 49 total

    Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

  40. 49 total

    Clicks to Call Business

  41. 47 total

    HTML NAP Matching GMB Listing NAP

  42. 47 total

    Volume of Quality Content on Entire Website

  43. 46 total

    Matching Google Account Domain to GMB Landing Page Domain

  44. 46 total

    Proper Hours Set on GMB Listing

  45. 45 total

    Quality/Relevance of Photos

  46. 44 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

  47. 41 total

    Volume of Searches for Business Name

  48. 40 total

    Setting Service Areas in GMB

  49. 40 total

    Authority of Third-Party Sites on Which Reviews are Present

  50. 39 total

    Quantity of Citations from Locally-Relevant Domains

Top 50 Localized Organic Ranking Factors

  1. 535 total

    Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  2. 367 total

    Volume of Quality Content on Entire Website
  3. 345 total

    Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
  4. 340 total

    Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance Across Entire Website
  5. 323 total

    Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
  6. 319 total

    Mobile-friendly/Responsive Website
  7. 318 total

    Domain Authority of Website
  8. 289 total

    Keywords in GMB Landing Page Title
  9. 276 total

    Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain
  10. 259 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain
  11. 251 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains
  12. 249 total

    Volume of Quality Content on Service Pages
  13. 237 total

    Keywords in Domain
  14. 217 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains
  15. 203 total

    Click-Through Rate from Search Results
  16. 194 total

    Internal Links to GMB Landing Page From Other Pages of Website
  17. 163 total

    Keywords in GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags
  18. 127 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL from Industry-Relevant Domains
  19. 123 total

    Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
  20. 122 total

    Diversity of Anchor Text to Domain
  21. 121 total

    Website Uses HTTPS by default
  22. 116 total

    Loadtime of GMB Landing Page URL
  23. 115 total

    Volume of Searches for Business Name
  24. 100 total

    Dedicated Service Page for Each Category in GMB
  25. 97 total

    Physical Address in City of Search
  26. 96 total

    Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
  27. 90 total

    Primary GMB Category
  28. 89 total

    Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
  29. 88 total

    Internal Links to Service Pages from GMB Landing Page
  30. 88 total

    Page Authority of GMB Landing Page URL
  31. 81 total

    Keywords in GMB Landing Page URL
  32. 78 total

    Prominence on Key Industry-Relevant Domains
  33. 77 total

    Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
  34. 75 total

    Volume of Content on GMB Landing Page
  35. 73 total

    Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  36. 69 total

    HTML NAP Matching GMB Listing NAP
  37. 64 total

    Reference to Location Specific Entities on GMB Landing Page
  38. 61 total

    Presence of XML Sitemap
  39. 56 total

    NAP in Schema/JSON-LD on GMB Landing Page URL
  40. 52 total

    Presence of Outbound Links to Authority Topically Relevant Sites
  41. 49 total

    Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL from Locally-Relevant Domains
  42. 47 total

    Articles, Blog Posts, Gov Sites, Industry Associations)
  43. 46 total

    Diversity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
  44. 41 total

    High Numerical Google Ratings (e.g. 4-5)
  45. 34 total

    Keywords in GMB Business Title
  46. 33 total

    Length of Dwell Time on GMB Landing Page
  47. 32 total

    Authority of Third-Party Sites on Which Reviews are Present
  48. 31 total

    Presence of Business on Expert Curated “Best of” and Similar Lists
  49. 27 total

    Positive Sentiment in Review Text
  50. 26 total

    Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains

10 Factors Experts Focused on More in the Past Year

  1. 265 total

    Removal of spam listings through spam fighting
  2. 243 total

    Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  3. 166 total

    Completeness of GMB Listing
  4. 154 total

    Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)
  5. 126 total

    Primary GMB Category
  6. 124 total

    Comprehensive Google Q&A Section with Owner-Seeded FAQs
  7. 119 total

    Keywords in Native Google Reviews
  8. 117 total

    Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
  9. 110 total

    Positive Sentiment in Review Text
  10. 107 total

    Keywords in GMB Business Title

10 Factors Experts Focused on Less in the Past Year

  1. 372 total

    Consistency of Citations on Other Citation Sources
  2. 316 total

    Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)
  3. 241 total

    Enhancement/Completeness of Citations
  4. 224 total

    BBB Accredited
  5. 211 total

    Consistency of Citations on Data Aggregators (Infogroup, Localeze, Foursquare/Factual)
  6. 136 total

    Quantity of Google Posts Posted
  7. 124 total

    Consistency of Citations on Key Sites (Yellowpages, Yelp, D&B, CityGrid)
  8. 120 total

    Proximity of Address to Centroid
  9. 90 total

    Frequency of Google Posts Posted
  10. 82 total

    GMB Messaging Feature is Enabled

Top 30 Non-Ranking Factors (Myth Busting)

  1. 421 total

    Keywords in GMB Description
  2. 221 total

    Keywords in GMB Services
  3. 210 total

    GMB Messaging Feature is Enabled
  4. 185 total

    Keywords in GMB Products
  5. 176 total

    Participation in Adwords, Adwords Express, Hotel Finder, or other paid Google products
  6. 169 total

    Keywords in Google Posts
  7. 157 total

    Presence of Appointment URL
  8. 148 total

    Frequency of Google Posts Posted
  9. 148 total

    Quantity of Google Posts Posted
  10. 136 total

    Consistency of Citations on Other Citation Sources
  11. 128 total

    GMB Booking Feature is Enabled
  12. 125 total

    Quantity of Messages Sent Through Messaging Feature
  13. 119 total

    Keywords in Google Q&A
  14. 119 total

    Embedded Google Map for Location on GMB Landing Page
  15. 105 total

    BBB Accredited
  16. 100 total

    Setting Service Areas in GMB
  17. 95 total

    Quantity of Products on GMB Listing
  18. 94 total

    Age of GMB Listing
  19. 94 total

    Enhancement/Completeness of Citations
  20. 93 total

    Presence of GMB Services
  21. 76 total

    Comprehensive Google Q&A Section with Owner-Seeded FAQs
  22. 75 total

    Proximity of Address to Centroid
  23. 74 total

    Length of Dwell Time on GMB Listing
  24. 69 total

    Quantity of Videos on GMB Listing
  25. 68 total

    Quantity of Bookings Through Google Booking Partners
  26. 66 total

    Quantity of Messages Through Google My Business Messaging
  27. 60 total

    Keywords in Image Filenames on GMB Landing Page
  28. 59 total

    Presence of XML Sitemap
  29. 59 total

    In-store visits tracked by third-party beacon or location detection technology
  30. 58 total

    Quantity of Questions Asked in Google Q&A

Top 30 GMB Conversion Factors

  1. 465 total

    High Numerical Google Ratings (e.g. 4-5)
  2. 330 total

    Positive Sentiment in Review Text
  3. 264 total

    Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)
  4. 217 total

    Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)
  5. 202 total

    GMB Messaging Feature is Enabled
  6. 165 total

    Proper Hours Set on GMB Listing
  7. 163 total

    Completeness of GMB Listing
  8. 138 total

    GMB Booking Feature is Enabled
  9. 134 total

    Frequency of Google Posts Posted
  10. 119 total

    Comprehensive Google Q&A Section with Owner-Seeded FAQs
  11. 105 total

    Quantity of Positive Google Review Attributes
  12. 104 total

    Keywords in GMB Business Title
  13. 99 total

    Primary GMB Category
  14. 85 total

    Presence of Appointment URL
  15. 70 total

    Keywords in Native Google Reviews
  16. 53 total

    Physical Address in City of Search
  17. 53 total

    Quantity of Photos on GMB Listing
  18. 46 total

    Keywords in Google Posts
  19. 46 total

    Presence of GMB Services
  20. 37 total

    Local Area Code on GMB Listing
  21. 32 total

    Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews (e.g. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yellowpages, etc)
  22. 30 total

    Number of Bookings Through GMB Booking Feature
  23. 30 total

    High Numerical Third-Party Ratings (e.g. 4-5)
  24. 19 total

    Additional GMB Categories
  25. 17 total

    Quantity of Reviews by Authority Reviewers (e.g. Yelp Elite, Google Local Guides, etc)
  26. 17 total

    Verified GMB Listing
  27. 16 total

    Quantity of Google Posts Posted
  28. 16 total

    Quantity of Products on GMB Listing
  29. 16 total

    Quantity of Questions Asked in Google Q&A
  30. 16 total

    Quantity of Native Google Ratings (no text)

Negative Factors

  1. 583 total

    Incorrect Business Category
  2. 468 total

    Listing Detected at False Business Address
  3. 438 total

    Address is a PO Box, UPS Mail Store, or Other False Address
  4. 417 total

    Site Hacked / Presence of Malware
  5. 359 total

    Reports of Violations on your GMB Listing
  6. 344 total

    Negative Sentiment in Google Reviews
  7. 326 total

    Low Numerical Ratings of Google Reviews (e.g. 1-2)
  8. 296 total

    Presence of Multiple GMB Listings in the Same Category with Same/Similar Business Title and Address
  9. 247 total

    GMB Listings with Same Address/Phone Marked as “Permanently Closed”
  10. 219 total

    Presence of Businesses in the Same Category at the Same Address
  11. 202 total

    Association of GMB account with other suppressed listings
  12. 182 total

    Incorrectly-placed Map Marker in GMB
  13. 176 total

    Absence of Crawlable NAP on Website
  14. 168 total

    Reports of Fake Reviews on your GMB Listing
  15. 151 total

    Choosing to Hide GMB Address
  16. 145 total

    Mis-match Address on GMB Landing Page
  17. 138 total

    Choosing Service Area for Business in GMB (as opposed to in-location visits)
  18. 124 total

    Category Dilution
  19. 95 total

    Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Numbers Across Data Ecosystem
  20. 92 total

    Absence of Crawlable NAP on GMB Landing Page
  21. 92 total

    Negative Sentiment in Third-Party Reviews
  22. 87 total

    Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Number on GMB Landing Page
  23. 78 total

    Incomplete/Missing Data on the Primary data Sources
  24. 74 total

    Listing 800 Number as Only Phone Number in GMB
  25. 65 total

    Keyword Stuffing in GMB Business Name
  26. 65 total

    No Hours of Operation on GMB Listing
  27. 63 total

    Presence of Multiple GMB Listings with Same Phone Number
  28. 37 total

    Presence of Multiple Crawlable NAP on GMB Landing Page
  29. 33 total

    Reports of Review Gating
  30. 32 total

    Reviews Copied from Third Party Sites as Testimonials in Schema/JSON-LD on Website

Comments

What are some strategies/tactics that are working particularly well for you at the moment?

Adam Dorfmanc
“Our clients are seeing success scaling GMB Posts for the first time now that the chain restriction is lifted. So long as the restriction remains lifted, it’s a no brainer for all enterprise businesses.

The other is improving workflows and response times for reviews and Q&A. Providing an owner verified answer for Q&A and an immediate and personalized response for reviews left about your business is imperative to show searchers you are actively listening to your customers. ”

Allie Margeson
“Consistency is key with all our tactics. We recommend a simple and effective review strategy to all our GMB service clients, whether it’s manual or using our Reputation Builder. We’ve seen clients double their review count in a few months if they get on board.

With Google Posts, we stick to a schedule of one post a week and consistently focus on the top service/product, this has a growing list of perks, including post snippets in the local finder, visual content for carousels on the business profile and business-generated content that pops up as related when a user asks a question. We also love the Offer Post type for its staying power.

Spam fighting has become increasingly important for clients in some categories with higher spam density so we’ve dedicated more time and efforts to this tactic over the past year.”

Amanda Jordan
“Focusing on gaining reviews and on-page optimization have improved rankings and conversions for clients significantly.”

Amy Toman
“Quality, easily-discernible cover images in GMBs. Strong EAT on About pages, including blog page author boxes. And schema on applicable main interest pages. Also, answering questions before they’re asked, and making that information easily accessible by both the search engines and site visitors. ”

Andrew Shotland
“Keyword in Biz Title FTW! Narcing on GMB spammers.”

Andy Kuiper
“Seeking a consistent flow of positive sentiment reviews on the GMB listing. Seeking to have as much important info as possible on the GMB listing. Checking to ensure GMB listings have up-to-date and relevant catagories. Seeking to improve engagement of GMB listing. ”

Andy Simpson
“Schema, schema, schema. Particularly local business, person and FAQ schema. Targeting the pages that matter and making sure that they look the best they can when compared to results that appear above and below them in the serps. Particularly targeting service pages and team/profile pages.

A quick and easy way to start is by looking at your organic top landing pages in GA and picking the pages where schema can be applied, even if it means rewriting the content and thus making your content even better and thus better for the user.

I am also a huge fan of internal linking, making sure that relevant pages and blogs are associated with each other. Techniques such as “hub and spoke” and “siloing” content have worked very well on larger sites with a lot of related content.

Work on your BRAND! Do a search for “Brand/Company Name + City” and see what appears. Do you like what you see? Take control of how your brand appears online for both desktop and mobile search results, they can differ. Within the company, you may also have individuals, partners, etc who are a brand themselves. Potential clients/customers will also be Googling these individuals, so make sure you take control of that person’s individual brand as it appears online and work with them to find out how they want to build their brand. Remember to also do a brand search on your competition and see how they appear online, do they look better or worse than you? If they look better, what are they doing you’re not?

For GMB, fight/report local spam. If you’re doing local SEO for anyone then spam-fighting should be high on your list of regular things to do. Start with those that are affecting you locally, in the same street/town/city, that might be enough BUT remember to keep on top of it! Do NOT, do as they do, don’t try for the quick win and start spamming your business name, the last thing you want is your business to be on a flagged spammer list!

Finally, make sure your site technically works okay. Keep your site clean of 301s and 404s, can be crawled and indexed? Keep an eye on site speed and all that other complicated CLS, FCP fun stuff!”

Ben Fisher
“1. Spam Reporting
This tactic still leads the pack (no pun intended) when it comes to strategy for local clients. The impact spam has and is having on the local ecosystem has only intensified since the time of the prior study. It has spread from large categories like personal injury and garage door to air duct cleaning and even tree pruning. These fake listings keep real merchants out of local results, so it is an easy win to remove bad actors. Here is an article put out by DASMA (Door and Access Magazine), they are the leading voice of garage door companies and manufacturers that shows how many fake listings there are in this industry.
( https://www.dasma.com/articles/feature/StudyRevealsFakeGarageDoorListings_Fall2020.pdf ) Most of the time when we clear out a market of spam we see a 300% lift in sales/conversions for our clients.

2. Moving to Where the Money Is
This is another tactic that is still tried and true. Proximity to your searcher is still one of the largest factors in ranking (well next to #4). Nothing much has changed here since the last study. If you know an area will bring in better leads and sales, then we will encourage our clients to look for a temporary location to see if it brings in sales. They will get a tracking number and watch it for at least 3 months. It is a simple business decision if the capital expense of the location is less than what it is generating, then keep it.

3. Focusing On Engagement/Prospect Goals
While GMB is our core focus in local, we also encourage our clients to do an audit. Then we can make any changes that can give them an edge. Both are critical to success. How is the content on GMB and or website? Is it engaging? is it informative? Are people messaging you? Calling you? Filling out your contact form? When you have all the pieces in place, meaning a fully optimized GMB listing, good content on-site, and a funnel that works well then you are giving the prospect what they need to make an informed decision.

4. Brand Renaming
All things being equal, unfortunately, this is a thing. If spam did not work so well then merchants would never even think of this. Even though back in the YellowPages days it was a normal practice. But, we have had some clients after being suspended without name stuffing. Go the route of legally changing the business name to reflect their highest converting keyword. Or incorporating a competitor’s name into their name. This is all done more than in the guidelines and still carries a suspension risk, but the benefits seem to outweigh the risk.

5. Link Building By Giving back
Scholarships, donations, helping those in need are all great ways of generating natural press. Guess what? It also happens to bring in links and unlinked brand mentions.

Blake Denman
“I’m a big fan of doing competitive analysis to help develop a link benchmark report. Everyone knows to build links, but should you be focusing on locally relevant links? Topically relevant links? Sponsorships? Citations? By looking at the top-ranking competitors in a market, we’re able to find a benchmark across these categories and compare it to our client. If our client matches the benchmark on citations and topically-relevant links but we’re under on local links, then we know we need to focus on local links. ”

Brian Barwig
“Removing spam from the local finder and 3 pack
local link building
Adding review schema to high ranking pages”

Brodie Clark
“Really focusing on the quality of imagery added to listings. Particularly the feature image. Can also be used for other purposes (on the website, promotional material etc.), but adding to the GMB listings is a nice opportunity if the effort has been put in.”

Carrie Hill
“Building authority of the entities that do business at a location and making sure content is associated to those people/entities. Earned media, FTW.”

Casey Meraz
“One strategy that we continually see movement from is getting high authority links from niche or location relevant websites with branded anchor text that also contains a keyword. There are a lot of bad ways to do this, so you have to be careful and the anchor text should be unique for best results.

Another strategy we see a lot of success with is reporting the fake business listings or inaccurate business listings. Everyone is fighting for the top positions and this causes some people to do things outside of Google’s guidelines. Reporting these inaccuracies can knock them out of the 3 pack and also move your listing up multiple positions at the same time. Google kind of sucks at policing their own product, so to be the most successful we have to do it for our clients. ”

Cindy Krum
“We have had more success than expected simply by building out the business categories.”

Claire Carlile
“In my experience of working with SMBs putting in place a review and feedback loop and growing the corpus of their reviews on Google has worked well from a visibility and conversion perspective – along with using Google posts and products to drive traffic that converts. Ensuring that we are measuring the right things (leads, phone calls, downloads, sales etc) and making sure that we can attribute visitors from GMB via UTM tagging has been fantastic for demonstrating the ROI of the GMB work I’ve been doing for clients. Working with SMBs on their link development and brand building strategies continues to yield excellent results, and for a couple of clients in spammy verticals some spam fighting has worked really well to increase their map pack presence.

Making sure that their websites are easily navigable for PEOPLE, are crawlable and indexable by Google, that they have great architecture, are fast to load, and that they look and function great on a range of devices, and that they have awesome localised content. This sounds basic – but so many SMBs have website that perform horrendously from both a technical and UX perspective. ”

Colan Neilson
“I’ve been paying close attention to internal linking optimization. I have seen very impressive performance lifts by doing nothing but internal link optimization. Sitebulb has an amazing internal linking visualizer that I have been using to help identify additional internal linking opportunities.

Another strategy that is working well is strategically optimizing practitioner GMB’s for specific services. One example would be a dental clinic who has a dentist on staff that specializes in cosmetic dentistry. Setting up the practitioner listing accordingly, instead of trying to cover it with the main practice GMB, that is not using the cosmetic dentist category as the primary GMB category, can pay off big time, IF DONE CORRECTLY. Keep in mind that this is a tactic that can cause harm to the main practice GMB if not done right so make sure you know what you are getting into. ”

Conrad Saam
“Surprisingly, many many clients still miss on the basics – primary category for example. So I still find (depending on the market) that we can get a lot of traction by handling the basics. ”

Cori Graft
“We’re spending a lot of time on GMB optimization, making sure our clients’ listings are completely optimized and as engaging as they can be. Categories, photos, videos, posts, Q&As, descriptions are all things we’re focusing on. We haven’t seen data to convince us that they individually contribute as “factors” in the algorithms, but we have seen increased user engagement which has led to more conversions. ”

Dan Leibson
“I think if you aren’t focused on robust, comprehensive local organic strategies. Particularly for enterprise/regional brands, marketplaces and directories that means things like technical SEO, rendering, content, how well you perform for query classes etc all are more important than how things are on your GMB listing as focusing on local organic SEO still continues to be a twofer driving organic and local pack performance.”

Dana DiTomaso
“Improving on-site content, improving location page content, and spam fighting – those seem to be the top 3 things moving the needle when it comes to traffic/rankings.”

Darren Shaw
“- Converting more people to leads through GMB conversion rate optimization strategies through Whitespark’s Google My Business Management Service.
– Internal linking to the service pages from the GMB landing page (which is usually the home page for most SMBs) in the main body content.
– Adding more terms to the GMB landing page title tag (and NOT worrying about how long the title tag is thanks to Joel Headley’s excellent research).
– Optimizing contact us pages with better titles, lots of content, a stream of fresh reviews, and outbound links to locally authoritative local websites.”

Dave DiGregorio
“We’ve had a big push for earned media and local link building the past 6-12 months, and it’s working quite well. We’re getting high-quality links pointing back to the client’s domain, and localized (or just super-niche) links pointing back to their local or service pages. Even just a few really good links can make a difference.”

David Mihm
“In my opinion, Local SEO boils down to:
– a domain with at least a few strong inbound links,
– with content *somewhere* on the website that matches what the searcher was looking for
– with at least one reference to the city/area you serve

and a GMB profile with
– proper categories
– at least a few quality photos
– a steady stream of positive reviews
– searchers actively clicking to call, book, or visiting via driving directions (and soon, but not yet, messaging)

You can also help yourself out with Posts that mention your long-tail services, so that if those terms get searched there’s a chance they’ll show up underneath your business name in a 3-pack.

Beyond that it’s a combination of PR (links and mentions on key blogs in your industry) and expanding your review acquisition to Yelp and to other key sites in your industry.

In some ways, it should have always boiled down to this, but Google’s algorithm is finally catching up to its rhetoric (at least where it hasn’t been completely compromised by business name and review spam).

Realize, though, that while your website is driving GMB and 3-pack rankings to a significant degree, customer engagement and acquisition is increasingly happening on your GMB profile. Make sure that you are tracking accordingly (not just looking at GA, for example).”

Eric Rohrback
“Internal linking is actually working pretty well for medium sized sites. If the TLN is pretty flat, then fixing up their site architecture is a way to see some link-like results from something that is completely within the site owner’s control.

From a conversion-focused standpoint, the messaging feature does a great job as long as the response times are quick enough. You really need someone to man the app, but for restaurants especially, this is a critical connection point with potential customers. Some people have some very unique questions (specials, dietary restrictions, etc.), so having a way to communicate that is a little more private than a phone call is a great resource to have. ”

Greg Gifford
“We’re having a lot of success with nesting department listings for auto dealers – so the parts department and service department are sub-listings under the main dealership listing (obviously, completely filling out all listings). We’re also seeing success with well-executed Google Posts (one published per week) and with seeding questions into Q&A. And, we’re still getting great success with old-school tactics: really awesome content, geographical keyword relevance throughout the site, and acquiring quality local links.”

Gyi Tsakalakis
“Meh, still links. Relevant links, both topically and locally, still seem to be a major competitive difference maker. Building relationships and engaging with people, organizations, and businesses in your local community, that can mention and link to you, still works really well.”

Joy Hawkins
“We see some really great results from onsite optimization tactics. All the same best practices for onsite SEO impact the local and organic results, but they do so differently. Some things have almost no impact on organic and have a drastic impact on local. Things like title tags, internal links, and URL structure. The only way to keep on top of what strategies to utilize is to do your own testing and see what moves the needle. Testing is so important. I can’t tell you how many times I have a hypothesis that ends up being wrong. We start a test thinking “Google is going to do this…” and, in the end, Google doesn’t act the way we think they should.

Link building is another thing that can really move the needle. It’s not cheap but has a great long-term payoff. One of the best moves I’ve made this year was hiring another full-time link builder. ”

Krystal Taing
“Spending more time being thoughtful about the attributes you are adding to your listing is becoming more impactful. With the enhanced display on profiles and these appearing earlier in the search journey, attributes are easily one of the growing conversion elements to be considered when optimizing your GMB profile. ”

Lisa Kolb
“In the lodging industry, the use of Hotel Partners is imperative for providing room pricing to even be seen in the Local/4-pack. Without using OTAs or a paid service such as Google Hotel Ads, our clients won’t even be seen in the Local/4-pack, as the results are all date-driven. ”

Mary Bowling
“Building brand recognition online and offline within a business’ desired market areas.
Focusing on attracting new leads and conversions via GMB engagement features (Q & A and appointment links, for example)
Building good email lists and improving email stats.”

Matt Lacuesta
“Slashing old content that isn’t providing any value or performing continues to be impactful. If you have a lot of content around a core theme or category but only getting traffic to a small portion of them, it’s time to get rid of them. Redirect the pages to the relevant pages that perform and feel free to refresh or repurpose that content someplace else.”

Mike Ramsey
“There’s always the “Change the business name through the proper channels to instantly rank higher” trick. I can’t believe it works. But it does. Supposedly Google will fix this in the near future. I have been holding my breadth since 2015.

Outside of that I think long term winners in local are focusing on reviews. Quality and quantity. You can show up for a lot of random terms in maps if reviews on google and around the web are talking about it. ”

Miriam Ellis
“For the foreseeable future, the three strategies I would lead with would be 1) brand accessibility/communication, 2) review management as fundamental to customer service and 3) customer-brand affinity (not just customers discovering you — customers LIKING you). In hard times, these are the three conversion and loyalty factors I believe could make a world of difference for local business viability. I expect to be devoting lots of space in my Moz column to these areas of work in the coming year. ”

Nick Pierno
“- Larger volumes of content on home/service pages
– Covering as many GMB listing bases as possible
– Updating/refreshing/dynamic content on home/service pages”

Niki Mosier
“Focusing on the quality of location specific content on location pages has been helpful, especially adding location specific reviews. Increasing user generated content on GMB listings such as photos and Q&A has also been working well.”

Nyagoslav Zhekov
“A number of additional direct and indirect engagement features related to GMB have been introduced over the last couple of years. This is probably the number 1 new thing businesses and agencies should focus on as compared to before.”

Phil Rozek
“I’ve had much success with what I call reverse-siloing. In classic “siloing” you build a page focused on a certain service/product/phrase, and you stick that page in a very specific and thematically related subdirectory or other area of your site. One page focused on one phrase. The idea of reverse-siloing is you increase the number of pages that realistically may rank for a certain term. (To some extent that’s because Google often doesn’t rank the page you expect or want it to, despite your efforts. In my experience, you can use that to your advantage.)

For instance, if my client has a service he or she really wants to rank for, I don’t just put up a nicely siloed page on that service. Rather, I put up that dedicated page, add a section to the homepage and main “Services” page about it, and maybe add a section to the “Areas Served” and/or “Online Services” page, and maybe on an appropriate “city” or “location” page. Also, see what additional pages you can create on niche versions of that service (what I call spin-off pages). Add links to the dedicated “service” page on all those other pages, plus some. Amp up all of those things over time, when appropriate.

That’s mostly a local-organic strategy, of course, but it also can help you on the map. In some cases all it takes to pop you into the Google Maps 3-pack for a given phrase is a prominent mention on your homepage, preferably with a whole section of supporting content and a link to a page dedicated to that service/product/phrase. Also, if it’s a pretty niche offering, that may be all you need to get a one-box result (see my 2019 post titled “The Easiest Way to Get a Google Maps One-Box Result – without Spamming”).

I’ve also seen great results from what I call spam patrol: submitting edits on Google My Business pages that clearly violate one GMB policy or another. That’s true at least when Google actually removes a GMB page that’s at a bogus address, for instance: Then all the non-spammers (and the spammers you didn’t catch) go up a notch. But I haven’t noticed the same boost from getting spammy GMB fields (e.g. name or category) fixed, if the GMB page lingers in the 3-pack like a ripe odor. Anything you can do to keep Mapspam at bay is good, but in practical terms it will only help YOUR rankings if you can get a spammy competitor removed entirely.”

Elliot Haines
“A robust review management and acquisition strategy for your GMB page.”

Tim Capper
“Content that statisfies users search queries during their purchasing research”

Yan Gilbert
“Link building
Content on website
Interlinking on website”

What are some strategies/tactics that used to work well, but don’t seem to work anymore?

Adam Dorfman
“We continue to see diminishing returns on cleaning up the long tail of citation sites. When we look at metrics like GMB Impressions and Actions for locations within an enterprise business that have cleaned up their citations on sites like 2FindLocal or EZLocal vs those locations that haven’t we are unable to find any correlation between citation cleanliness and performance. ”

Allie Margeson
“We test every new feature GMB comes out with and – not that it used to work well – but we’ve stopped setting up welcome offers in GMB. There just aren’t “followers” at this point for the types of businesses we work with. ”

Amanda Jordan
“Spam fighting seems to not be very effective recently. ”

Amy Toman
“In GMB listings, review numbers used to be of primary importance; but this year, their content is being highlighted. Sentiment, use of key words, services… all can be pulled out by Google and used in categories or in small snippets. So instead of encouraging reviews as a whole, I now recommend businesses ask for more detailed reviews from satisfied clients. ”

Andrew Shotland
“Yelling at my team to get our clients more links. Gift cards to cocktail subscription services seems to be much more effective these days.”

Andy Kuiper
“Citation consistency doesn’t seem to be all that important anymore, other than first-tier sources like Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. ”

Andy Simpson
“Good question, most of the strategies I’ve tried and tested over the years seem to do okay. Some new ones come and go as just Google test things in the serps. The biggest thing is not to stress about losing a tactic that no longer works, just move onto something else, it’s all just part of trying to understand the game we play with Google.

This one’s for Jason Brown, I find animated gifs don’t seem to work as well in your GMB listing ?”

Ben Fisher
“Still on the decline are citations, you should really only focus on ones that are core like Apple, bing, Uber Waze, and then the ones where your prospects are at. Yelp, *gasp* Facebook, and local citations if it will bring in business. ”

Blake Denman
“Citation building as a sole means of link building needs to die. Many moons ago, you could build a few dozen citations and rank quite well. Those days are longgggg gone. ”

Brian Barwig
“building citations
reporting fake reviews”

Brodie Clark
“Would say the consistency aspect of NAP. The links for sure, but not so much the consistency. Seems to be less impactful based on my experience.”

Carrie Hill
“Although I ranked spam fighting high – its becoming more difficult. I see it diminishing, but not ready to go away yet.”

Casey Meraz
“When I first started getting serious about optimizing for Google Places back in the day I would rename photos to keywords I wanted to rank for and upload them. That worked well. That has not worked in a number of years 🙂 ”

Cindy Krum
“We are focusing less on citations and directories and more on things like Q&A.”

Claire Carlile
“I’m seeing less importance of third party review sites in terms of the traffic they send to client’s sites in the tourism space. Volume of reviews on third party sites has fallen away, Google reviews have increased in volume, and in turn we’ve concentrated more on prompting those and collecting first party reviews that we can use on the page, in marketing materials and in schema.”

Colan Neilson
“Spam Fighting is still VERY effective. However, after the pandemic hit, most of the GMB support team was moved over to get “all hands on deck” for health care verticals, which meant that the spam team, and removing spam was taking MUCH longer than before. This seems to be recovering now and our speed in having Google take action on spam reported via suggest an edit and the Redressal form is picking back up. ”

Conrad Saam
“Relying on real reviews instead of fake ones. ”

Cori Graft
“Citations. They still matter, but not nearly as much as they used to. Focus on getting a solid base layer – get listed on GMB and the main consumer portals (Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps), top vertical and local directories where your competitors have visibility and move on. We’re talking more about these as “managing your presence / listings” vs “building citations” (have been for a while) but that seems to help some people understand the difference. ”

Dan Leibson
“Can’t believe people are still talking about citations. Ranked them at the bottom, this is all the effort I can devot to them.”

Dana DiTomaso
“It all depends on competitiveness but it seems to take more reviews than it did previous to see boosts in local pack rankings. Obviously if you’re in a very competitive industry you’re going to need more than reviews to rank.”

Darren Shaw
“- Consistency of citations across the wider web. Google used to struggle with giving you “credit” for a citation if the NAP didn’t match exactly, but they have solved this and can identify business entities through many signals now. NAP consistency isn’t really a ranking concern like it used to be. These days, you just want to make sure your data is accurate on the sites where real humans view your data, and you do it for the humans that are trying to call your business, drive to your business, see your hours, etc. You don’t do it for SEO anymore.
– I think BBB accreditation used to actually have a minor impact on rankings, and I don’t think it does anymore.
– We used to think Google Posts might have a small impact on rankings, but no longer think that. BUT WAIT! I am definitely not saying don’t do Google Posts. In fact, I think Google Posts are one of the greatest untapped opportunities in local search right now. They are media-rich, FREE ADS ON GOOGLE. They drive impressions and they drive direct sales, and you are absolutely kooky-dooky if you are not posting new Google Posts every week. They are a free gift from Google.”

Dave DiGregorio
“Obsessing over citations/having a perfect NAP. I don’t even waste my time with that anymore. ”

David Mihm
“I wrote a relatively complete summary of my Local SEO worldview here: https://www.davidmihm.com/local-seo-2020.shtml. GMB has really eaten the long tail of Local Search and it’s time to stop offering citation packages based on volume.”

Eric Rohrback
“Citations in general. If the NAP is messed up, then they’re needed but in general they’re not going to move the needle. People selling traditional citation services as a way to rank (read: agencies) need to position them as more of a foundational tactic instead of a path to ranking.”

Greg Gifford
“Citations. They’re almost a non-factor. The only times we even worry about them are a) brand new businesses or b) a business that’s moved recently”

Gyi Tsakalakis
“Building large numbers of citations across irrelevant sites, continues to matter less and less. ”

Joy Hawkins
“We’ve focused less on spam fighting as a strategy for certain verticals lately. There are some industries (like HVAC) that continue to have a massive amount of lead gen listings that need to be reported, but others (like locksmiths), we see a lot less than we used to. Additionally, we don’t see nearly as many virtual offices these days.

I think another huge misconception in the industry is that a large number of GMB factors influence ranking. The only 4 we have seen influence ranking is the business name, categories, reviews, and the website URL. All the others we’ve tested have made no measurable difference in ranking. The overall percentage that GMB contributes to in this survey will still be high because those 4 factors have a pretty substantial impact. However, I’ve seen articles quote this survey to argue that tons of time should be spent on GMB optimization when in reality, the GMB-related factors that influence ranking do not take a lot of time to implement. There is a huge difference between Google My Business management and Local SEO. They are different things with different objectives. The former’s objective is to help increase the likeliness of people calling you once they find you in the results by getting accurate and up-to-date information. The latter is aimed at getting more traffic and conversions from Google through strategies that impact ranking and click-through-rate. ”

Krystal Taing
“Historically, doing the bare minimum in Google My Business (and other citation sites) by adding your NAP was enough. Now, and especially when it comes to Google My Business, you need to be doing a lot more than just the basics in order to be visible and competitive. ”

Lisa Kolb
“Your typical local strategies that work for plumbers/doctors/lawyers used to apply to the lodging industry, but with the release of Google Travel, lodging properties must, even more so, engage in paid services in order to be seen in the Local/4-pack. ”

Mary Bowling
“Cleaning up every citation you can find for a business.
Looking at factors individually, instead of holistically. For example, consider what a business’ entire review profile conveys to Google and to searchers, rather than whether it has the most reviews or not.

Matt Lacuesta
“Disavowing links doesn’t seem to do anything, even if you’re submitting a lot of clearly obvious links. Google seems to have gotten better at ignoring those links. ”

Mike Ramsey
“Most all things regarding citations. ”

Miriam Ellis
“I’m becoming less excited about Schema these days. It still has its uses, but after Google’s changes surrounding review Schema, I began to have a funny feeling that this might become one of those areas that disappear in the rear view mirror over time, as so many other initiatives have done over the past couple of decades. I could be wrong, but I’m feeling uncertain about the future of it. A couple of years ago, I was emphasizing business and review Schema. Now, not so much. ”

Nick Pierno
“I can’t think of any from the past year.”

Niki Mosier
“Citations as we all know don’t seem to make much difference anymore. ”

Nyagoslav Zhekov
“I have never been a fan of overdoing anything related to SEO, and that includes any citation work. In the last few years it has become apparent that overdoing citation work might not be the most productive way of spending one’s time. While it is unlikely to have any negative effect, it probably doesn’t bring in too many benefits either. A local SEO campaign should really focus on perfecting everything in regards with the top 10-20 citation sources for a country/industry/location, rather than on obtaining citations on every single possible platform out there.”

Phil Rozek
“It doesn’t seem to help much to get links from big-name domains that have little or no relevance to what you do or where you do it.”

Elliot Haines
“The importance of citation building with consistent NAP is continuing to dwindle. Still something to tackle but not worth heavy investment. The “Find Results On” feature does give the most prominent ones a bit of a stimulus. ”

Tim Capper
“Tidying up inconsistant citations across all tiers – Tier 1 – yes, 3 – No”

Yan Gilbert
“spam fighting (because Google is slow/backed up)
lower quality backlinks”

What are some methods you’re using to try to influence behavioral factors, if any?

Adam Dorfman
“One tactic we’ve been encouraging our clients to undertake is to create a repository of professionally taken photos that can be uploaded over the course of the year so that no matter how many user contributed photos are added, there will be high quality ones interspersed. ”

Allie Margeson
“We influence behavioural factors by maximizing every GMB feature so users can engage and convert at several points. We work with business owners to craft relevant Google Post content, engage with Q&A and always ask for reviews and photos.”

Amanda Jordan
“Improving review ratings to increase conversions”

Amy Toman
“We encourage photos with humans in them. So not just location images or logos, but images of the business in action. So attorneys working at their desks, service providers working with their tools, etc. All looking friendly and in control (high quality photos, even if from a cell). Adding photos consistently and using easily recognizable, friendly cover images work as well. Both GMB and site content need to be indicative of the vibe businesses wish to evoke, and photos are one of the keys for that.”

Andrew Shotland
“The simple stuff is often the most effective. Title tags in ALL CAPS. “Free shipping” or discount messages in descriptions. GMB Posts with offers are quite effective for brand queries. Don’t be intimidated. Most of SEO gains can be had by figuring out by how to do really simple stuff over and over at scale. ”

Andy Kuiper
“During Covid, ensuring searchers know what the business is up to is very important —> Open (if so, with what precautions) Closed? (what’s the interim plan?), Virtual Appointments, Virtual Inspections, Curbside Pick-Up, Dine-In, Delivery, any changes in Hours of Operation… the list goes on. Carefully crafted Posts can also be helpful for engagement: Sales, Limited Time Offers, Discounts for Viewers, New Products or Services… etc. Providing information on the GMB listing that ‘differentiates’ your business from your competitors (including differentiating from fake or lead gen listings). Photos (and lost of them), Videos. Recognize what a searcher would want to know, and provide that info. ”

Andy Simpson
“Apart from the schema and brand stuff I mentioned previously so that we look great in the search results. I also play around with the titles and descriptions, can I make the CTA better?

Once you have the user on the page I’ve also been trying to make the page experience better. How can users trust this business? Include testimonials / Google reviews on the page, add a CTA near the top of the page as well as at the bottom of the page, you’ll be surprised how many users don’t scroll down the page (just add hotjar to your site for a few days).”

Ben Fisher
“GMB Posts and Q&A
Really it is all about crafting your content in a way that will provide you leading headline in the character constraints across multiple Google surfaces (Desktop, Mobile, and In-App). For instance, the characters used in GMB posts will change based on post type and surface. So we change the characters so that posts stand out as much as possible. Seeding Q&A is important, it helps answer questions before a user has even thought about them.

Reviews
Using a short name to get reviews is key, and asking your clients to leave a review, not for you, but for someone elses benefit seems to get the best keywords and a description of the experience.

Photos
Uploading high quality photos from your location is pretty easy for some categories. Keeping a nice stream of photos flowing into GMB can help increase behavioral signals. ”

Blake Denman
“Title tag and meta description testing. Mainly to help increase CTR on local organic results.”

Brian Barwig
“Adding FAQ schema to high ranking pages. The more space a company can take in the SERP, the better off they will be.
Adding Review schema to high ranking pages in order to get stars to show in the SERP.
Adding Images to mobile. Sometimes, this triggers a photo on Mobile searches and correlates to higher click throughs.
Adding How To schema to pages
Adding more calls to action on pages, in titles, metas, etc.”

Brodie Clark
“Ensuring the completeness of listings. Make sure user are likely to engage with different aspects, like filtering through reviews and finding useful info on there. Like encouraging user to upload photos etc.”

Carrie Hill
“Better CTA on landing pages, clearer “paths” that you want users to take in your process”

Casey Meraz
“To influence behavioral factors we focus on providing the best customer experience. The devil here is in the details. If they contact you directly through the local pack or local finder all you can do is put your best foot forward. This means paying attention to the little things like Google Posts, responding to ALL reviews posted about your business, and uploading pictures and videos that really compliment your brand. ”

Cindy Krum
“Since COVID started, we have focused on maximizing the user-confidence that people experience when looking at Map Pack and GMB listings – Making sure that hours are correct, making sure that all the checks and X’s are set up correctly, and communicating about store policies related to COVID in Posts, images, and hopefully soon, videos.”

Claire Carlile
“In terms of GMB we’ve focused on using and doing ALL THE THINGS combined with having a solid idea of what our searcher is looking for, and how we can meet their needs better than the competitors has been key. Having lots of excellent photos, using Google posts (especially offers), Google products, q&a, services, messaging, encouraging reviews and responding to reviews, and making sure that the listing looks as compelling and clickworthy and action (call directions, message etc) worthy as possible.

In the SERP we’ve also used structured data and worked on our TT and MD to try and positively influence CTR, and we’ve worked on building branded search volume via offline advertising.”

Colan Neilson
“This is where all the GMB features that DO NOT directly impact ranking come in. In order to influence click-through-rates within a business profile, the 3-pack, or local finder, we are continually testing out different formats for Google Posts, GMB Products, cover photos, GMB attributes..etc.

Within the localized organic results it’s all about utilizing structured data that influences the look of your websites search result. Review snippets a la gold stars are still incredibly powerful. But Google got rid of those? But only sort of. But kind of. But sometimes. 🙂

Cori Graft
“We’ve been utilizing GMB descriptions to communicate, especially throughout COVID. Adding appointment links has proven to be effective for encouraging action too. ”

Dana DiTomaso
“Nothing in particular. (Good question, I am looking forward to seeing what people are suggesting for this.)”

Dani Owens
“Making content longer and more engaging. Adding more distracting, yes pleasing elements that get users to click to other pages instead of leaving the site.”

Darren Shaw
“- I have made the link to our website in my signature actually link to a Google branded search for Whitespark instead of linking directly to whitespark.ca. Every time someone clicks it, they run a search on Google for our brand name. Haha. Tricky tricky! I actually think it can be a better result to send them to anyway, because they can see our reviews, see our latest Google Posts, etc. As Mike Blumenthal says, “Google is your new homepage” and I have embraced that whole-heartedly in my email signature. :-)”

Dave DiGregorio
“On GMB, we’re trying to increase click through to the website through the product images. For organic results, we’re trying to increase CTR through the presence of FAQ’s in the SERPs, along with featured snippets and review schema. ”

David Mihm
“Photos and Posts are key here. There’s plenty of evidence that searchers love interacting with GMB photos (cf. my ThriveHive presentation at Local U Advanced 2019), both from other customers and from the business owner. And Posts for the reason I stated above. “You can also help yourself out with Posts that mention your long-tail services, so that if those terms get searched there’s a chance they’ll show up underneath your business name in a 3-pack.”

I’ve yet to see much evidence that Product and Service menus bring additional customers in, but they may in the future.

And hopefully it goes without saying that a strong review presence will almost surely increase the engagement on your profile (and a weak one will decrease it).”

Eric Rohrback
“Trying to use more photos/videos/gifs at volume. Most “good enough” photos and videos don’t need a professional photographer – they just need a smartphone. If people can see samples of plated food, the inside of the waiting room, or friendly faces of the staff they’ll interact with then a conversion can become more likely. Having a Google 360 video is great, but doing the basics with a smartphone and some decent lighting (maybe a little touch up) works great on a budget. ”

Greg Gifford
“Seeding questions in Q&A, answering all reviews, loading photos and videos, and using quality Google Posts.”

Gyi Tsakalakis
“Compelling page titles and meta descriptions still matter a lot. With respect to GMBs, it’s all about images, videos, and posts. Too often, content marketers forget about the “GMB real estate.” Video testimonials, image testimonials, loyalty programs, events, special offers, and educational content all play a significant role in GMB engagement.”

Joy Hawkins
“Schema is my go-to here. My advice for schema would be to watch what Google does rather than what they “advise” you to do. ”

Krystal Taing
“The desired behavior from searchers is going to vary by industry but in all cases, you need to give the user enough information to take that action. My recommendation is to focus on rich content and conversational elements to influence behavior.
– Localized and relevant images will spur interest
– Google Posts can be used to promote a sale or new product lines
– Product and service menus can highlight popular items users are looking for
– Enabling additional links or buttons, from ordering to messaging, create powerful CTAs on both desktop and mobile
– Responding to reviews and Q&A encourages engagement
– Posting videos explaining new processes or procedures can eliminate confusion and are an extremely under utilized opportunity”

Lisa Kolb
“Educating the traveling public about booking direct. We have even launched a website (https://www.bookdirect.education/) to assist lodging proprietors with strategies to grow direct bookings. We’ve also been involved in governmental action, such as congressional hearings and state-level action regarding Google’s ever-growing control of the lodging industry. ”

Mary Bowling
“Great content in the SERPS (organic and GMB listings) and on the website, including text, photos, videos and reviews.
Providing as many relevant links on GMB listings as are enabled for each business.
Making certain the business understands the importance of responding to calls, emails, forms, reviews and IMs appropriately and in a timely manner.”

Matt Lacuesta
“Taking advantage of all the new features, responding to reviews, answering question in Q&A and adding high quality imagery that is custom from your individual locations can help build trust with users. Doing all of these has showing positive impact on improving engagement with users. ”

Mike Ramsey
“Getting people to interact with your listing to leave a review gives a lot of signals. Brand search, click through, action. I think its a wonderful place to focus. ”

Miriam Ellis
“My list for this would be huge, but I would particularly highlight getting to know Google’s Place Topics and Review Attributes in the coming months, as well as making use of every type of applicable label and attribute out there. Anything that lets customers know what you’re known for and how you are there to serve them matters a great deal these days and can certainly influence user behavior surrounding your listings.”

Nick Pierno
“- Friendlier, more brand-focused title tags and descriptions
– Rich snippets”

Niki Mosier
“Increasing clickthrough from the listing to website has been a goal, so increasing products and services on the listings to try to get people to go the website. ”

Nyagoslav Zhekov
“That would again be related to the new features in GMB – work related to Q&As, Google Posts, enhanced features on GMB pages.”

Phil Rozek
“Encourage reviewers to go into detail on what they like.

Don’t encourage Google reviewers to use a specific device or app when they review you. Get people to search for you through a variety of means and, as far as Google can tell, spontaneously.

Dig into the “Performance” -> “Queries” area of Search Console, identify pages with relatively high impressions and low clicks, and try to siphon off more clicks. How can you get more clicks than you do? Try some combination of writing title and/or description tags that hunt better, making sure your URL slugs don’t make your breadcrumbs look weird, and even creating new pages that are even more relevant to those search terms.

Stop worrying whether a given title tag is 70 characters or fewer. Half the time Google dynamically changes how your title tags show up in the search results anyway. Google often will show the part(s) it considers relevant to the query, or of interest to most searchers. It’s fine to go a bit long if it means you get in all the important stuff, but don’t make people think Iron Butterfly did your SEO.”

Phil Rozek
“Encourage reviewers to go into detail on what they like.

Don’t encourage Google reviewers to use a specific device or app when they review you. Get people to search for you through a variety of means and, as far as Google can tell, spontaneously.

Dig into the “Performance” -> “Queries” area of Search Console, identify pages with relatively high impressions and low clicks, and try to siphon off more clicks. How can you get more clicks than you do? Try some combination of writing title and/or description tags that hunt better, making sure your URL slugs don’t make your breadcrumbs look weird, and even creating new pages that are even more relevant to those search terms.

Stop worrying whether a given title tag is 70 characters or fewer. Half the time Google dynamically changes how your title tags show up in the search results anyway. Google often will show the part(s) it considers relevant to the query, or of interest to most searchers. It’s fine to go a bit lon if it means you get in all the important stuff, but don’t make people think Iron Butterfly did your SEO.”

Elliot Haines
“Encouraging clients to create more GMB Posts and be proactive in responding to GMB reviews. GMB Q&As can catch you out because anybody can respond to them on your behalf, so reviewing them regularly is important.”

Tim Capper
“FAQs
Customer search queries”

Yan Gilbert
“more engaging photos on GMB listing
seeded Q&A on GMB listing”

Are there any ranking factors not included in this survey that you think should be added?

Adam Dorfman
“Perhaps not a ranking factor, but proper pin placement for people visiting hospital campuses certainly improves the patient experience and makes them more likely to find the office or department they are looking for. ”

Andrew Shotland
“Most of the on-page seems to focus on the GMB Landing Page URL when local organic is about a lot more than your GMB landing page URL. ”

Andy Simpson
“At this moment in time my brain is about to explode, I think you’ve covered all the big ones but if I think of anything I’ll let you know Darren!”

Ben Fisher
“Having multiple real offices. I think incorporating LSA and Google guarantee next year may be a good idea, it is shifting the playing field. ”

Casey Meraz
“Yes, but I was not smart enough to write them down as I was thinking about them. I will put some thought into this and put this in a separte email. ”

Cindy Krum
“I’m sure that there are but I can’t think of them…. I think at some point soon, user ‘saves’, ‘shares’ and ‘send to mobile’ will factor into the rankings. This is going to be part of the personalization, but also part of the reason that everything in the GMB has it’s own, unique url. ”

Colan Neilson
“For next year, in SECTION V: GMB CONVERSION FACTORS, I would add “Owner responses to reviews”. I think this is a big factor, especially if a business has a lower review rating. Seeing that a business owner is responsive in the reviews can add trust and increased conversions. I just experienced this yesterday while shopping for a paving company. So not really a ranking factor, but a conversion factor, which can certainly have an indirect impact on rankings in the long term. ”

Cori Graft
“Binary yes/no presence of photos on GMB listing – in our correlation analyses we see consistently that just HAVING photos correlates to higher rankings, not so much the number/quality/views of photos”

Dan Leibson
“I still think it doesn’t do a good job of capturing or ranking the value of local organic search results. Since those are the most important things, it really effects how valuable I think output of that section is. Things like “proper internal linking” aren’t so easy to isolate as a single factor unless you are an SMB. So as a result the output is heavily biased toward SMBs.”

Dana DiTomaso
“I think you could remove the separation between keywords in title/URL/h1 & h2 — it’s just keywords. You should have them, in multiple places, on your pages.”

Dani Owens
“Time on page / site
On-site conversions and actions
Dwell time from users who arrived via backlinks”

Darren Shaw
“Yes, I received some great feedback from many of the participants and I thought of a few missing factors as well. I plan to add these ones to the survey next year:

1. Owner Responses to Reviews – good one as a GMB conversion factors
2. Keywords in Owner Responses to Reviews – good one as a myth buster
3. Review Recency – businesses with a lot of old reviews don’t tend to rank as well. You need a steady stream of new reviews coming in.
4. Keywords in GMB Landing Page Meta Description.”

Dave DiGregorio
“n/a for ranking factors – but for a myth buster aka non-factor.. maybe include “geo/location” data info on photos and adding them to GMB. I think that’s been debunked many times, but people still do it.”

David Mihm
“I was surprised to see review velocity removed as a factor. To me it’s a key sign of customer engagement with a business.”

Eric Rohrback
“I like what was added/removed this year. I think you have a pretty solid list. ”

Gyi Tsakalakis
“I think we could go a bit deeper on on-page / technical ranking factors.”

Joy Hawkins
“Internal linking was touched on as it pertains to the GMB landing page but it wasn’t referenced for the site as a whole. We have seen some amazing wins from doing more internal linking but also removing excessive linking in site menus. We’ve also seen evidence that not all internal links are treated equally, as many studies have confirmed as well.”

Lisa Kolb
“Yes – for some industries, pay to play is an enormous over-reaching factor. It should be included in all sections. ”

Mary Bowling
“Your choice of a great local search marketer ( either in-house or external) for your business is probably one of the most impactful factors for good rankings that I’ve seen over the years. Choose wisely and pay well.”

Phil Rozek
“1. “Velocity of Native Google Reviews” (please bring it back!).

2. The website’s degree of focus on a niche.

3. Click-through from the SERPs for relevant search terms / in geographically relevant locations.”

Tim Capper
“Google removes local intent from search queries that remove the local pack + local businesses from organic results – not common but does happen”

Comments about where you see Google is headed in the future:

Adam Dorfman
“While Google is expanding LSAs and other local advertising, it still feels under-monetized when compared to other search experiences like products or travel. Expect to see more ads appear within local SERPs and those ads to not necessarily be obviously pay-to-play for searchers that encounter them. ”

Allie Margeson
“I’m interested to see where Google goes with paid upgraded listings and I expect we’ll see it roll out to more businesses in the next year. There’s a lot of potential for businesses that have access to Local Services Ads and I’m keen to see how the two offerings work together for Service Area Businesses that have long scorned Google for getting the short end of the stick with Maps. ”

Amanda Jordan
“I see reviews and reputation becoming even more important. I am hoping that Google becomes more serious about fighting issues with spam.”

Amy Toman
“While I expect Google will be charging for GMB listings at some point, I hope the rates are reasonable. I work with many small / solo businesses, and many are their own marketers. While it would help to have the boost of a sponsored GMB listing, a high rate may be a bar to entry for these businesses. I hope it’s considered that those who may need this most are also the ones who will be barred from entry if the rate is too high.”

Andrew Shotland
“Google will continue Localize and Monetize every SERP it can. This is actually great for local businesses, particularly for multi-location businesses that can leverage both paid and organic across a large swath of SERPs. And most multi-location businesses are lagging in investment in Local SEO, so if you can get in the game, you will have an advantage.”

Andy Kuiper
“Very soon, pretty well everything above the fold will be monetized. LSA’s (Local Service Ads) at the top, Google Ads, then Local ‘Verified/Screened GMB (paid) listings. *The non-Verified/Screened GMB listings may end up being pushed down and out the 3 pack. I also suspect Google will continue to interject themselves between the searcher and the business, in LSA’s they are the lead gen, and within GMB’s I suspect they may provide some ‘value-added’ type of monetization… some way for GMB listings to ‘stand out’ from the other listings. ”

Andy Simpson
“Google’s GMB advanced a lot over 2020, with all things considered, rolled out some good new features to help out businesses try and survive this year. For many businesses we don’t even have to go to the company website anymore, users are staying within the Google environment. This is exactly what “they” want, so we have to try and control everything that appears in the serps for our business.

LSAs are now finally raising their profile as we near the end of 2020 and Local SEOs should be aware of this new beast, as they won’t be going away anytime soon!
GMB Spam, more strict guidelines for new businesses perhaps? With Apple My Business / Apple Local looking like it might make an appearance in 2021 will Google try and “clean-up” the product before it looses it’s local crown to a new kid on the block.”

Ben Fisher
“I am going to say it, GMB will become more pay-to-play. Organic results will always be important but with LSA reaching out to more categories and now the new Google Screened feature, it is not a stretch of the imagination to see paid things like phone support. But as with the whole history of Google, even when a paid element is introduced, organice still see conversions. So the 3-Pack will become even more important that it is today. Fake listings will still be around for quite a while, however.

Thankfully, virtual offices and UPS store addresses are slowly going the way of the DoDo. I see tons of suspension that are happening immediately when a merchant uses this type of address. I also see a lot of account level suspensions happening when there are a mixture of virtual offices being used with keyword stuffing. So thankfully this tactic is going to start to fade.

The Transparent Merchant Experience is the next big thing. This will keep a merchant on Google longer and they will not have to head to business.google.com to make changes. Having the ability to directly edit and also see analytics etc.. right from Google is huge for a merchant. ”

Blake Denman
“We’re going to see more and more paid options enter GMB, it’s already happening, there will be more.
I’m really hoping that within the next 2 years, GMB will not put so much relevance on keywords in the business name.”

Brian Barwig
“Google is truly the new home page for your website. There is more information potential clients can receive from Google than ever before. Anything a customer wants to know about your business can be found on Google. Google will continue to monetize the SERP with Local Ads, Local Service Ads, 3 Pack ads, bookings in the KP and so on. Moreso, companies will be fighting with their competitors for top rankings in the SERPs and also with Google to keep the real estate they see as theirs in the 3 pack and KP. ”

Brodie Clark
“It sounds like Google are going to crack down on weighting of keywords in the ‘name’ field. This was based on some commentary from Danny Sullivan on Twitter recently, but I’ll believe it when I see it. ”

Carrie Hill
“I wish I had a crystal ball. It will be interesting to see how Apple’s moves shape Google’s reaction. They’ve done a lot of really quick implementation since March 2020 – proving they CAN do things quickly. It will be interesting to see if they roll out more useful opportunities to business owners moving forward.”

Casey Meraz
“In the future I think user behavioral signals will play a part more. Although Covid threw a wrench in this, tracking users visiting retail stores and then asking them to leave a review after their visit combines offline + online world to prove the business in the real world. It’s not like these can’t be manipulated either, but my hope is that Google figures it out more so that keyword stuffed GMB listings don’t outrank established businesses through bulk instant verification. /rant”

Cindy Krum
“Based on the high level of personalization happening in Google Discover, and some of the tests that have happened with Google Explore and the personal feedback and suggestions, I think that Google will start focusing their algorithms for local business more on individual user data when it is available in the category. EX: If I have never hired a plumber before, I will get generic ‘Plumber’ results, but if I have hired a plumber before, and left them a one star review, it will only serve me plumbers that have a 4.5 star ranking or higher – Something like that.”

Claire Carlile
“Increasing moves into the ‘Google as your new home page’ sphere – which more and more information, and ability to take more (especially transactional) actions within the business profile. More GMB features. More ads, in more places. Links will remain important – and maybe Google start to use more engagement and behavioural signals as ranking factors? I’d like that. Until SEOs start to game that too ?!”

Colan Neilson
“As far as Google My Business is concerned, I see them opening up the guidelines to include additional business models as a result of the pandemic and the shift that a lot of businesses have had to do going from an in-person brick and mortar to an online service. Telehealth is a prime example of this. We’ve already had a taste of this over the last year as Google has been adding several GMB attributes that a business can select that indicate that a business offers online services.

Currently, the guidelines say you need to make in-person contact with customers to qualify for a listing. At the very least, Google has opened this rule up temporarily during the pandemic. So the question is whether or not this will continue into the future once the pandemic is over. I think they will. ”

Conrad Saam
“Google’s expansion of LSAs into our category (law firms) may potentially bridge the traditional divide between paid and search. The Local Search results in legal has long been the petri dish of bottom feeding spammers, masquerading as law firms through Local Search and then selling those leads back to the legal industry. Because Google is now checking licensing information at the state bar level, for inclusion in the Google Screened ads through LSAs, they have the information in hand to actually determine if a law firm is actually…. a law firm. This, of course turns the paid and organic arms of Google into reluctant bedfellows – a move I would strongly encourage to weed out (some) of the Garbage in the Local Search results. ”

Cori Graft
“Google is headed toward selling more ad space while giving advertisers less control (think: sharing less data, leaning more into automated bidding / placement systems), all in the name of “protecting users privacy.” PPCers are going through their equivalent of SEO’s “not provided”-ageddon right now. That’s the reality of it, but it’s not all doom and gloom – Google’s algorithms are always trying to predict what people want, and the foundational pieces of the algorithm will remain the same (barring a major surprise). So if you’re optimizing with the goal of genuinely helping people, your performance should follow suit. ”

Dan Leibson
“More localization of organic search results, more packs, more local retail and local commerce features.”

Dana DiTomaso
“People actually going to be the business is going to need to change. I think that Google was relying on people looking up a business and then going to that business (for a certain minimum period of time) and I wonder if that will be dialed back due to COVID. For example, some listings would say “people typically spend 1 hour here” but… if it’s a restaurant and now it’s almost all takeout, that behavioural pattern would change. ”

Darren Shaw
“Money money money! They are adding all kinds of monetization options to GMB:
– Google Guaranteed badge for $50/m
– Local Services Ads rolling out to more categories
– See what’s in store that lets you add product inventory (and eventually purchase through Google so they can take a cut)
– Probably 10 other monetization ideas they’re working on behind the scenes.
They’re like a drug dealer: get everyone dependent on GMB, then start charging them for access and fancy new features.”

Dave DiGregorio
“It’s going to be saturated with ads. With the release of LSAs in new verticals, plus your regular ads, and then 3-pack ads, the SERPs are maxed out and crowded – and we know G isn’t going to stop. Just wait till everyone catches on to LSAs, and G released new types of ads. Wouldn’t surprise me to see “paid” options inside your GMB dashboard in the near future as well. Local SEOs/agencies, if they haven’t already, need to partner with some really smart PPC folks to make sure their clients aren’t left behind, and all angles are covered. Aside from that, I don’t think “local search” (GMB listings/local pack) is going anywhere… it’ll just continue to get buried a little bit further down the page – so we’ll just need to continue to evolve and get more creative to get eyeballs on our listings/site.”

David Mihm
“From my August blog post: https://www.davidmihm.com/local-seo-2020.shtml

We’ve continued to see organic results for local searches demoted to what may as well be the second page of results on mobile phones — ads, local packs, and answer boxes absolutely dominate. And, IMHO, this will continue to accelerate.

Now, you might say this is great news if you’re a local PPC agency — more ads = more money for Google and more money for you. And I understand the skepticism of Google’s AI (at least today) with respect to Smart Campaigns for the traditional units formerly known Adwords.

But if there are two developments from 2020 that I suggest you pay attention to, they are these:

Google enabling free Google Shopping feeds
Google radically expanding Local Service Ad categories
If you’re an agency whose revenue comes primarily from paid search for local businesses, between Google Shopping (and its easy entré into Product Listing Ads) and Local Service Ads, I’m not sure where there is left for you to add value — and make a margin. These ads require:

no keyword research — Google decides where to show them
no “creative” — the ads are the product or service themselves
no landing page — checkout happens entirely on Google
virtually no bid management — a small merchant can turn ads off or on themselves
Between Google’s massive expansion of PLAs and LSAs and the COVID-fueled decrease in budgets across so many industries, 2020-21 will be the tipping point.
Don’t be the frog who couldn’t feel it coming: Google’s pot of PPC agencies is reaching a rolling boil.

There will always be value in advising businesses on the appropriate mix of advertising and marketing for their business, and in getting business owners set up with these new ad products from Google. But it’s getting increasingly hard to justify an ongoing percentage of spend, or even a management fee, with these new formats.

Where Is Local Search Headed?
I’m still not sure that, as a whole, marketers or business owners realize the paradigm we’re in right now.

Your website’s content and and traditional organic signals are still essential for rankings in Local Packs and Google Maps, but increasingly customer engagement — decision-making AND conversion — is happening directly on the SERP, inside of GMB and inside of Google’s newer ad units.

2010 local search paradigm:
Search -> Organic Result -> Website -> Contact Form -> Conversion

2020 local search paradigm:
Search -> Ad/GMB -> Conversion

That’s an oversimplificiation, but Google is clearly building more and more features into Google My Business that will give consumers less and less of a reason to visit that business’s website (and give Google even more behavioral signals than it has already).

Spend your time and money optimizing for that reality.”

Eric Rohrback
“Seems like things are going more pay to play. Diversify traffic streams.”

Greg Gifford
“Local seems to be growing faster than ever before. Queries that used to pull generic e-commerce results are now pulling local packs, and with COVID affecting buyer/search behavior, I think that trend will continue. Local will become vital for most businesses.”

Gyi Tsakalakis
“More answers and ads. I’d like to see structured data play a more significant role both in terms of search enhancements, as well as, rankings. Hopefully, they dedicate more resources to fixing spam, it’s a much bigger problem than anyone at Google seems to publicly acknowledge.”

Joy Hawkins
“I think they’ll continue to make our lives harder. I think the gap between what Google says vs what they do also is growing. ”

Krystal Taing
“I do believe at it’s core, Google My Business will remain a free tool to all SMB and Enterprise users. However, I think we’ll continue to see more enhanced fee-based features roll out and more vertical specific features. In terms of product/industry enhancements, I think Google may be primed to take on the online servicing space as more businesses move to offer partially or completely remote services. ”

Lisa Kolb
“Pay to play will become stronger in industries other than travel, as we have seen from the introduction of Booking Partners, and the recent announcement regarding tour operators and paid, enhanced Google listings. Google is going to continue to look for ways to replace free advertising with paid. ”

Mary Bowling
“More ads in more places! This is already out of hand on Mobile phones in many categories, where you find yourself scrolling though ads rather than search results. ”

Matt Lacuesta
“Managing GMB in bulk will likely be supported more through the API rather than the Agency Dashboard in the future, so if you’re not working with the API yet, it’s time to get a jump on it. ”

Mike Ramsey
“I believe that we will continue to see more behavioral and review based factors gain in rankings. It’s slow, but it’s by far the most accurate indication of good businesses. As Google’s ability to detect real actions vs fake continues, this would definitely lead to the best local results. ”

Miriam Ellis
“Google will head wherever the money is, with little regard for ethics. It’s vital for local business owners and their marketers to make a dry-eyed appraisal of Google’s operations over the past decade and see how profit has motivated them to take actions that result in lack of local search results quality, continual lawsuits and protests around the globe. Google is in the business of making money, but local businesses exist to help create living real-world communities that can sustain themselves through good times and bad. Make use of the opportunities Google provides as a means of connecting your business to its community, but do whatever you can to diversify beyond Google. Build community and loyalty that are non-Google-dependent whenever possible. ”

Nick Pierno
“- Google as a “home page” for many businesses
– Investment in Google conversion options (booking, LSAs etc)”

Niki Mosier
“I really hope any pay to play GMB features are not cost prohibitive to small businesses. ”

Phil Rozek
“To your home to sell you ads.”

Tim Capper
“Google can change anything at any time, do not put all your eggs into one search basket – build real world local visibility too.”

Yan Gilbert
“GMB listing is becoming like a fully standardized local website. Google will continue to add more features.”

Comments about anything else you’d like the readers of this survey to know:

Amy Toman
“From my (very) small business clients, I’ve learned that they feel they’re powerless against Google. So if they need support, they have no obvious source. If they have a review they feel is unjustified, they have so resource. So it’s not that these support channels don’t exist, it’s that Google hasn’t made them as obvious to the business owners as they could be. I hope going forward, especially if they’ll be charging for GMBs, they make their support channels more clear, obvious to users, and more responsive in general. ”

Andrew Shotland
“I made a damn good hot sauce before I took this survey.”

Andy Kuiper
“It might be a good idea for small business owners to get familiar with their GMB listing (and App), in so much as it may become much more of a ‘portal’ than it is now. ”

Andy Simpson
“Two things, i. if anyone tells you to geocode images for your website or GMB listing please DON’T! Just tell them that you did it, it doesn’t do anything! and ii. Don’t create links to your GMB listing, think about it, how the hell is this going to help it rank higher in the 3 pack? Instead, go and find some local community connections with charities, clubs, etc that will help your client on a more hyperlocal level.”

Ben Fisher
“Pay attention to what is moving the needle for your clients, I am fortunate to work with 1000’s of locations spread out across multiple industries, states and business models. So I get to see what is and is not working at scale. Document these things and look to apply the same types of techniques to low performing locations. It may or may not work, but testing is critical to success. ”

Blake Denman
“I personally believe that Google’s purpose with local is to rank what’s popular in the offline world into the online world. Instead of solely focusing on links and reviews, think about how you can build up your local brand authority. Get involved in your local community. Check out your Affinity Categories in Google Analytics to see what customers are interested in! Then go be a part of that.”

Brian Barwig
“Thanks again for having me participate. I enjoy these and hope to provide clarity and information to Local SEO’s to make their jobs easier. ”

Carrie Hill
“I’m SUPER awful at the “put these 20 things in order part – maybe just move on along from my insights there……”

Casey Meraz
“Google has stated that they plan on reducing the impact a business name has in local search results. Let’s hope that this happens. When it does i imagine we will see a big shake up. Sometimes I feel like Google could build a spaceship or moon lander and then on other days I wonder why they can’t associate entities without keyword stuffing. ”

Cindy Krum
“I’d like to remind everyone that they can test live, local search results anywhere in the world, and see what they really look like, and interact with the results for free using the MobileMoxie SERPerator! (https://mobilemoxie.com/tools/mobile-serp-test/) ”

Claire Carlile
“This section – SECTION III B: FOCUSING ON LESS IN THE PAST YEAR
For local pack results, what factors have you been focusing on LESS in the past year?

I found very hard to answer so I just focused on citation stuff because perhaps I spent more time on this last year than this year. xx”

Cori Graft
“Correlation does not equal causation! Ranking factors are a piece of local SEO, but persuading users to take action and convert (either on your website or in your store) is the most important goal. ”

Dan Leibson
“I wish everyone care about including new voices in this space and diversity and inclusion as much as they do about surveys about ranking factors. One will make the community/world better, one will not.”

Dana DiTomaso
“I think a lot of what works and what isn’t going to work for you will depend on the specific environment you’re competing in. You need to look hard at your competition and figure out where they are weak and then take advantage of that. Don’t copy what everyone else is doing. What works for one of our clients might not work for another, so there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to local SEO.”

Darren Shaw
“This survey isn’t based on facts. Only Google knows what factors are actually considered in their local search algorithm, and it’s probably a lot more complicated than this list of factors we’re guessing at. This survey is the aggregated OPINIONS of 40+ local SEO experts that are actively researching and doing SEO on a regular basis. It’s our best guess based on what we’ve seen work for our clients to get better rankings and drive more leads from Google’s local results. Still, in my opinion, the collective brainpower of these expert contributors is the best guidance you’re going to get anywhere on what works in local search. I hope it’s helpful for you, and I would love to hear any feedback you have at darren@whitespark.ca.”

Dave DiGregorio
“The White Sox are the best team in baseball. ”

Eric Rohrback
“Spend time thinking about search intent before blindly trying to rank for keywords, and make sure you have an answer on your website to help answer the true intent of the query. If you can do that, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.”

Greg Gifford
“Stop trying to use shortcuts and stop trying to cheat. It’s not hard to get awesome results by doing things the right way. ”

Gyi Tsakalakis
“To me, this is one of the most valuable surveys in local search. It’s a testament both to Darren and his team, as well as, the contributors. When I look at who is contributing, I know that these respondents are in the trenches of local search. Honored to be included.”

Joy Hawkins
“On the negative factors, there were a couple that pertained to people reporting violations on your listing. It’s important for people to realize that someone reporting you doesn’t negatively impact you at all unless Google actually acts on it. ”

Lisa Kolb
“All of our ratings and comments center on the lodging industry, so factors like Posts and business descriptions don’t play into our rankings because they are simply not available to our clients.”

Mary Bowling
“While spam fighting can be quite effective, it is also totally frustrating. Expect GMB edits to be rejected regularly, even when the violations are obvious to everyone but Google.”

Matt Lacuesta
“Keep an eye out for local search and voice search actually picking up with people who are in their vehicles. With so many car manufacturers incorporating navigation powered by TomTom, Garmin, Foursquare as well as Alexa Auto, you’ll want to keep an eye on the strategies that manage your business listing data to ensure people can actually get to your business if they’re looking for you. ”

Mike Ramsey
“Local hans’t fundamentally changed in years. Focus on the pillars.
1. Local Listings with over emphasis on Google My Business
2. Reviews
3. Great Onsite Content and Expirience
4. Links, Likes, and Shares

These aren’t all equal in rankings, but in good business and presence. If you equally focus your marketing efforts across these areas you will be far ahead of fly by night tactics. ”

Miriam Ellis
“My heart is with independent local business owners right now, facing very tough times. You are doing the work of heroes, trying to keep your community functioning by staying in business in the midst of great adversity. Thank you for what you are doing. For those individuals considering opening a new local business today, or transitioning an existing one to meet changed conditions, I would recommend focusing on essential goods/services, abundant communication to understand the needs in your community, and learning to build affinity with your neighbors from a shared sense of ethics. And don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow business owners and the Local SEO community to build a support group. Local SEO isn’t a country club — it’s a form of community marketing based in our streets and neighborhoods, being contributed to by millions of people in all kinds of ways. You have gifts to share and can learn to be good at this, and I’m rooting for your success! ”

Niki Mosier
“Pay attention to GMB feature changes and make sure to monitor updates on the backend incase things like hours get changed and are not correct. ”

Phil Rozek
“In the COVID era many businesses’ service areas have expanded, or shifted, or both. Sometimes that’s because online (“virtual”) services usually target searchers outside one’s immediate vicinity, or because one’s new willingness to drive farther to deliver goods or render services, or because of one’s being forced to specialize in a new niche. In any event, many businesses are stepping on new toes. If you’re a bricks-and-mortar business, you may be more like a service-area business than ever before, and so you may need to use more of the strategies used by effective SABs.

Pay more attention to review sites geared to your industry. They’ve been slowly getting more prominent, and should continue to grow in prominence steadily – and maybe in a big burst. Yelp is one algorithm update – or successful introduction of native Apple Maps reviews – away from a whopper SERP real estate auction.

Before Google limits the search terms that show up in Google Ads “search terms” reports, I suggest you run a dummy PPC campaign (if you don’t do PPC already). Not necessarily to win any new business, but simply to learn the exact phrases people in your area search for. Not just the terms you rank for, and not just terms that you assume third-party software provides accurately to you. Some of the best keyword data you can ever get is in Google Ads “search terms” reports. Put a lousy couple hundred dollars toward getting data that helps you make the higher-peso decisions.

I expect Google reviews to get fancier and more structured in the next year or two, especially in terms of the still-new-ish “attributes.” Those will probably become more prominent in parallel to GMB attributes, which Google has ramped up throughout 2020 so far.

In these COVID times I just don’t see Google My Business “support” coming back (was it ever here?).”

Tim Capper
“Google removes local intent from search queries that remove the local pack + local businesses from organic results – not common but does happen – diversify the way you offer services based on “keywords””

Contributors

Adam Dorfman
@phixed
Reputation.com
Chicago, IL, USA

Allie Margeson
@seoallie
Whitespark
Toronto, ON, Canada

Amanda Jordan
@amandatjordann
LOCOMOTIVE Agency
Greenville, SC, USA

Amy Toman
@BubblesUp
Digital Law Marketing / Pet Sitter SEO
Spring Lake, NJ, USA

Andrew Shotland
@localseoguide
LocalSEOGuide.com
Pleasanton, CA, USA

Andy Kuiper
@andykuiper
Andy Kuiper Internet Marketing
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Andy Simpson
@ndyjsimpson
Digital Law Marketing
Alpharetta, GA, USA

Ben Fisher
@TheSocialDude
Steady Demand
Phoenix, AZ, USA

Blake Denman
@blakedenman
RicketyRoo Inc
Bend, OR, USA

Brian Barwig
@brianbarwig
Sterling Sky (Dream Team)
Crystal Lake, IL, USA

Brodie Clark
@brodieseo
Brodie Clark Consulting
Melbourne, Australia

Carrie Hill
@CarrieHill
Sterling Sky, Inc
Silt, CO, USA (Remote, FTW)

Casey Meraz
@CaseyMeraz
Juris Digital
Denver, CO, USA

Cindy Krum
@Suzzicks
MobileMoxie
Denver, CO, USA

Claire Carlile
@clairecarlile
Claire Carlile Marketing
Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK

Colan Neilson
@ColanNielsen
Sterling Sky
Toronto, ON, Canada

Conrad Saam
@conradsaam
Mockingbird
Seattle, WA, USA

Cori Graft
Seer’s Local Team (Cori Graft, Jackie Schluth, Tracy McDonald, Lauren Grabowski, Liz Smolinski)
@seerinteractive
Seer Interactive
Philadelphia, PA / San Diego, CA, USA

Dan Leibson
@danleibson
Local SEO Guide
Orange County, CA, USA

Dana DiTomaso
@danaditomaso
Kick Point
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Dani Owens
@Dannanelli
Pigzilla
St. Pete, FL, USA

Darren Shaw
@DarrenShaw_
Whitespark
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Dave DiGregorio
@deegs20
Sterling Sky
NJ

David Mihm
@davidmihm
Tidings
Portland, OR, USA

Eric Rohrback
@ericrohrback
https://www.ericrohrback.com
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Greg Gifford
@greggifford
SearchLab Digital
Chicago, IL, and Dallas, TX, USA

Gyi Tsakalakis
@gyitsakalakis
AttorneySync / EPL Digital
Chicago, IL, USA

Joy Hawkins
@joyannehawkins
Sterling Sky Inc
Uxbridge, ON, Canada

Krystal Taing
@krystal_taing
Uberall
San Diego, CA, USA

Lisa Kolb
@acorninternet
Acorn Internet Services, Inc
Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Mary Bowling
@MaryBowling
LocalU
Glenwood Springs, CO, US

Matt Lacuesta
@mattlacuesta
Location3
Denver, CO, USA

Mike Ramsey
@MikeRamsey
Nifty Marketing
Burley, Idaho, USA

Miriam Ellis
@Miriam_Ellis
Moz
SF Bay Area, CA, USA

Nick Pierno
@nickpierno
Whitespark
Courtenay, BC, Canada

Niki Mosier
@nikers85
Two Octobers
Denver, CO, USA

Nyagoslav Zhekov
@Nyagoslav
Whitespark
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Phil Rozek
@philrozek
Local Visibility System, LLC
North Attleboro, MA, USA

Elliot Haines
@haineshallam
Hallam
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, UK

Tim Capper
@GuideTwit
Online Ownership
Northamptonshire, UK

Yan Gilbert
@YanGilbertSEO
SterlingSky
dbaPlatform
Toronto, ON, Canada

Mike Blumenthal
@mblumenthal
GatherUp
Olean, NY, USA