How Are Businesses Ranked in Local Searches?

In order to rank higher in local searches, you need to gain a deeper understanding of how directories operate to display particular businesses in search results.


You know your business needs to show up (and rank high) in local searches, but do you know how search engines decide which businesses belong in which searches?

And, how do they even know if a search is locally focused?

Well, search engines will assume that some searches have local intent — for instance when you search for “pizza” or “salon" it will automatically pull results nearby. Other times, the searcher will have local intent behind the search by adding “near me” or other location info to the search.

Think of a search like “pizza Short North Columbus.”

Once the search engine knows (or assumes) that you are looking for a local business, it will decide which businesses are right for the search.

So, here’s how it works.

Search engines like Google use many factors to rank local businesses in what they assume are locally focused searches.

The main local search ranking factors are:

  • Google My Business (GMB) signals
  • Link signals
  • On-page signals
  • Citation signals
  • Reviews

Read on for a detailed breakdown of each of these signals and why they're so impactful!

Google My Business Signals

First off, if you haven’t claimed, verified and optimized your Google My Business listing, now is the time. This is the top-ranking factor, and you can’t afford to ignore it.

When a local consumer is searching for a business, Google uses your Google My Business info to determine if you’re the right fit for that search.

The search engine wants to know if you’re near the searcher and whether or not your business is what the person is looking for.

With signals like proximity, contact information, categories and more set up on your listing, Google will be assured in placing your business high in relevant searches.

Link Signals

Did you know that search engines also know when other websites link to your website?

These are called inbound links or backlinks, and high-quality inbound links help prove that your website and your business are trustworthy.

When we reference high-quality links, this means that local, relevant and authoritative websites are linking to your content or webpages! But don't forget, you can't begin to gain those inbound links unless you are offering high-quality products or writing valuable content.

Because links help search engines see that they can trust you, those links can have a positive impact on your local search ranking!

On-Page Signals

On-page signals come from your website.

Search engines will look for things like your NAPU (name, address, phone number and URL) as well as relevant keywords in page titles. And, they will take your website's domain authority into account.

So, don't miss your opportunity to build out and optimize your business listing with information!

Citation Signals

Citations are mentions of your business on other websites (like online business directories).

If you have enough high-quality citations, you are more likely to rank higher in local searches.

Make sure you are spreading the word about your business and building positive relationships in your community and across your industry in order to build your citation presence. 

Review Signals

Not only do potential customers care about your reviews and star ratings, but so do search engines.

Your local search ranking should improve if you have a steady stream of positive reviews coming in online from happy customers.

And, people are more likely to click on your business in the local search results if you have good reviews. 

What's there to lose? Learn more about the best and worst ways to gain reviews for your business when you visit this blog.

Don’t Forget About Proximity

And, proximity has a lot to do with whether or not your business shows up in searches. If the search engine can tell where the searcher is (if they are using a phone and have location services enabled) it will try to provide the closest relevant businesses for the searcher’s needs.

So, to rank higher (or at all) in local searches, you'll need to work on these ranking factors.

Looking for a place to start and grow your local search strategy? Let's chat!

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