The 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors

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

What's Working / Not Working in Local SEO?

This section should help you understand what’s hot, what’s not, and what definitely doesn’t work in local SEO.

For local pack results, what factors have you been focusing on MORE in the past year?

What the Local Search Experts are Saying….

“Keyword stuffing a business name continues to work well. Being sure to have the correct primary category on the GMB listing is critical as well. We have noticed positive changes in rankings with internal linking on your GMB landing page as well.”

Brian Barwig

Sterling Sky

“I’m still spending plenty of time on GMB optimisation as this is often the first point of customer contact for the SMBs and Attractions that I work with. Ensuring the information is correct, that the content looks and reads great, and that it encourages potential customers to take action.

SPAM fighting is still working well for spammier industries – sadly there still exists plenty of crap on the map!”

Claire Carlile


“I’ve updated the cover image on most GMBs to group staff photos, added GMB Products, and installed internal links and jump links on web pages. The latter has also been working well.

Amy Toman

Digital Law Marketing

“Creating practitioner GMB listings and optimizing them for a specific service. For example, a hair loss doctor working out of a dermatology practice.”

Colan Neilson

Sterling Sky

“Consistency is key for a lot of our bigger clients, consistency across the GMB listings helps to show the brand as well as on-page itself. By consistency we mean, the same writing style, the same message across listings, and giving the customer exactly the reason why they should pick us over someone else instead of the popular “family-owned business” line which, to be honest, most people don’t really care about for most industries.”

Emily Swinscoe


“Localized content that’s associated with the business is working really well, and we’re having awesome success at targeting featured snippets. Once a client gets a few snippets we see a traffic boost every time. Locally-focused inbound links have also been incredibly powerful.”

Greg Gifford

Search Lab Digital

“Scaling localized content across hundreds or thousands of locations is challenging but worth the effort. Creating a unique experience for users and engines that highlights relevant information about each location helps differentiate the location pages from not only the competition, but the other locations on your site.”

Matt Lacuesta

The SEO Department

For local pack results, what factors have you been focusing on LESS in the past year?

What the Local Search Experts are Saying….

“Citation consistency doesn’t seem to be very important at all, other than first-tier sources like Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. Having fake/spam GMB listings modified or removed is becoming more and more time-consuming and difficult: I’m seeing fewer positive results than before… Google seems overwhelmed.”

Andy Kuiper

Andy Kuiper Internet Marketing

“Still citations, we almost ignore them. We do some local citations, but nothing amazing.”

Ben Fisher

Steady Demand

“City center proximity.”

Cindy Krum


“Google posts. More for conversion rate and CTR than rankings. They were better when they were more prominant (obviously).”

Darcy Burk

Burk Digital Factory

“Since Google Posts aren’t a ranking factor, the frequency of them doesn’t matter as much if you are a business that doesn’t have constant news or specials to post about.

We completely removed the GMB description from our local SEO audit, along with a few other GMB fields that we found have no impact on ranking and get very little exposure in the search results.”

Joy Hawkins

Sterling Sky

“I used to think links were the primary differentiator between pages that ranked well and pages that didn’t, but I’m seeing more and more pages ranking with very few links, even for decently competitive terms. The difference seems to be shifting to content quality. This means incredibly well written, expert-level content, written by noted experts in their field. Google is getting better at figuring out what content should rank based on the merits of the content itself. They also seem to have gotten better at knowing which links to count, and which ones to ignore.”

Darren Shaw


“Really any quantity factors seem to matter less than they once did. Whether it’s the number of citations or links, sheer numbers don’t move the dial like they once did. In fact, I see sites with less overall quantity of links, beating more linked to sites, more regularly.”

Gyi Tsakalakis


“Spam fighting is less effective. Redressals don’t seem to be getting much attention and even the most blatant name spam or fake listing cases are difficult to get removed.”

Allie Margeson


“For highly competitive markets, it used to be possible to identify something fairly simple, like getting more reviews, that would help you stand out. There’s not always such low hanging fruit as more and more businesses of all sizes and types adopt local digital strategies.”

Krystal Taing


I also wanted to take the opportunity to dispel some long standing myths in local SEO about things that some people think will help your rankings when actually they are completely useless activities (like geo-tagging images, for example).

Which individual factors do you think absolutely do NOT impact rankings?

And here are the myths, busted!

What are the factors that the local search experts think are the most HARMFUL to rankings?

Try to avoid these problems in your local search work.