Local Search Ranking Factors 2023: Tips and Key Takeaways
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Local Search Ranking Factors 2023: Tips and Key Takeaways

WhiteSpark’s 2023 Local Search Ranking Factors report is out and full of helpful insights into what marketers think is most important for local search optimization right now – and what to prioritize as you plan for the year ahead.

This report was developed by David Mihm in 2008 and adopted by Darren Shaw in 2017. He has become one of the industry’s most trusted sources for insight into local ranking factors. This year, 44 prominent local SEO experts were surveyed on 149 potential local ranking and conversion factors.

As Shaw notes in his report, neither he nor the survey participants have specific access to the internal workings of Google’s local search algorithm. Rather, the survey gives us a comprehensive insight into the factors that industry professionals, based on their extensive experience as local SEO practitioners and researchers, consider to be the most important factors for ranking in the Map Pack and local organic search results.

In this post, we take a look at the key takeaways from this year’s report. First, let’s review some key changes in this year’s survey for more context.

What’s new in the 2023 Local Ranking Factors Report?

Potential ranking factors have been grouped into the same seven broad categories this year as last year, namely:

  • Google Business Profile Signals
  • On-Page Signals
  • Check signals
  • link signals
  • behavioral signals
  • citation signals
  • personalization

However, the perceived weight of each group in Google’s local algorithms changes as the various factors within it shift. For example, Google Company Profile signals were perceived as slightly less important this year than last year, while on-page signals gained importance from 2022 onwards.

Local search ranking factors change over time
Image courtesy of Whitespark

Shaw wrote in his report, “Local search professionals are investing more time and resources into website content in 2023 and are seeing that work result in improved local Pack/Finder and local organic results.”

He dismisses the slight increase in the importance of personalization signals, writing that although they’ve increased from 4% to 6%, he’s not overly concerned. Shaw explains, “Personalization will always play a small role in search results, and there’s nothing you can do to control it.”

Importantly, the survey structure has changed for 2023. In previous years, respondents were asked to select their top 20 factors in each category and rank them in order of importance. This resulted in somewhat random results after the top 10, and Shaw wanted to give marketers a more informed view of the perceived value of all ranking factors.

So instead of just sorting the top factors, this year the panel of experts was asked to rate each of the 149 potential factors on a scale from 1 to 5, as shown below:

Structure of the 2023 Local Search Ranking Factors survey
Image courtesy of Whitespark

“This gives us information about the perceived ranking and conversion impact of all potential factors, not just the top 20 factors,” says Shaw.

Other notable changes in this year’s Local Ranking Factors survey include:

A new section entitled “Suspension Risk Factors”

Shaw explains, “There has always been a section of negative ranking factors in the survey, but Yan Gilbert wisely points out that some of the factors in this list should be classified as suspension risks rather than factors that can hurt your ranking. “I thought this was a great idea, so in the Negative Factors section, I asked participants to rate each harmful factor in terms of negative impact on ranking and risk of ban.”

A new factor table for local services ads

Shaw asked those contributors who do client work on LSAs what they think are the most important ranking factors. He then scored their responses in terms of the number of mentions each factor received and compiled them into a new table of LSA factors for optimizing LSA packets.

A new table on how local SEOs use AI

Contributors were asked how they use AI in local search engine optimization. The five most common overall responses were:

  • Create content that is then edited by a human
  • Idea generation/inspiration for content
  • Keyword research and topic classification/clustering
  • Running images via Google Vision AI
  • Write spreadsheet formulas

Top Google Search Ranking Factors in 2023

Here are the top ranking and conversion factors according to Whitespark’s survey:

Ranking Factors for Local Packages/Map Packages:

  1. Primary GBP category
  2. Keywords in GBP business title
  3. Proximity of the address to the place you are looking for (distance between the searcher and the company)
  4. Physical address in the searched city
  5. Removal of spam entries by combating spam

Local Organic Ranking Factors:

  1. Separate page for each service
  2. Internal linking throughout the site
  3. Quality/authority of inbound links to the domain
  4. Geographic (city/neighborhood) keyword relevance of the domain content
  5. Keywords in GBP landing page title

Conversion Factors:

  1. High numerical Google ratings (e.g. 4-5)
  2. Positive sentiment in the review text
  3. Mobile-friendly/responsive website
  4. Number of native Google reviews (with text)
  5. Separate page for each service

Key local SEO insights for multi-location brands

With Whitespark’s Local Search Ranking Factors, we get a front row seat each year to seeing what the best and brightest local SEO experts are focusing on — and what they’re not spending time or budget on. Brands can use this as a guide to their local SEO strategy and determine what deserves their most attention. Here are some of the key takeaways and insights from this year’s survey.

Quality local content is becoming increasingly important

Link signals and Google business profile signals lost some of their importance as on-page and behavioral signals increased. Content is an essential part of the local customer experience and the quality bar has risen significantly as competition in search results continues to increase.

It is critical to have a defined process and tools in place that enable local stakeholders to create rich content without sacrificing brand control. Cash this Content tips for more effective local marketing.

Local service ads are gaining traction and expanding into new categories

This ad format appears above PPC results and is a great way to increase your brand’s visibility, especially in competitive markets where you’re not already ranking organically. Shaw added a new table of LSA factors to this year’s report, and you can learn how Local Service Ads work and What you need to do to get started with this article.

Local SEOs are experimenting with innovative ways to use ChatGPT

Using generative AI like ChatGPT to create content that is then edited by human experts is the most common use of this technology so far, according to survey results. This editorial process is critical, especially at the brand level, where publishing misinformation can have significant legal and PR ramifications. See How ChatGPT affects local SEO to learn more.

Google reviews are an important part of ranking and conversion

Reviews are more than just social proof; You are a heavily weighted ranking factor for local searchto.

Corporate brands must have technology in place to monitor new reviews across platforms, triage and escalate negative reviews, alert local stakeholders to reviews that need to be followed up, and collect meaningful brand insights. Local reviews are not only a record of what customers are saying about your brand, but also an important opportunity to connect and engage in the moments that matter.

Learn more by viewing all results from this year’s 2023 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey. The full report is available without download At Whitespark’s website.