We’re obsessed with local search rank. We spend time, effort, and money in an attempt to rank higher in search results than our competitors. But chasing local search rank is a never-ending pursuit that can be a real distraction. There’s a better way.
First off, what do we even mean by local search rank? On Google there are three different types of results: (1) paid ads (2) local business listings and (3) organic search related to a website.
The easiest way to rank at the very top of a search results page is to buy local-targeted advertising through Google AdWords.
But let’s assume we’re talking about either the local business listings or organic search results. Your search rank in either of those two depends on many different factors:
- How close your business is to the city center, the amount and quality of other web pages that link to your site (“citations”) and the amount and quality of customer reviews.
- Whether someone is using a mobile phone versus a desktop in performing a search . . . and where the person is exactly when searching. Just a few miles can make a big difference!
- Whether someone is logged into Google or not. Google knows your search history and other demographics and adjusts search results accordingly.
- Search engines are also constantly tweaking the algorithms that determine search rank, and adjusting how they display search results to consumers.
And remember, this isn’t just about Google. People search also search on Apple Map and Yelp as well as Bing and Yahoo (both of whom have been gaining market share recently). They search on hundreds of other sites and apps too, and each one has its own, specific search algorithms.
You might be thinking, “It’s impossible to manage all of this!” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even local SEO experts and rank tracking companies have problems with it. Check out this recent Twitter thread with a debate about whether you can accurately track local search rank.
What Should You Do About Local Search Rank?
Frankly, stop worrying so much about it! If you follow the basic steps of local search optimization, your business will rank well in the search engines, but here are the most important points:
- Make sure your business is properly listed in the local business data providers — Infogroup, Acxiom, Factual and Localeze.
- Optimize just the major local business listings — The most important sites are: Google, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo, Apple, Yelp, Yellow Pages, CitySearch, Foursquare, and the BBB in your area.
- Then optimize your website itself for local search — This includes having a simple site navigation, properly formatted and consistent location pages, rapid download speeds and a mobile friendly site, among other factors.
- Solicit and respond to customer reviews on major review sites — The most important review sites are Google, Facebook and Yelp. Note: you can’t ask for a GOOD review; just ask your customers to give one on these prominent sites.
We’re not saying that search rank isn’t important or that you shouldn’t periodically check to see how your business appears on in search results for specific local search terms. But we ARE saying that there is a lot more to successful local business marketing than just where your company shows up on search rankings.
Let’s get off the hamster wheel of being obsessed with local search rank and go back to focusing on the fundamentals.