Local SEO Ranking Factors

flag pins representing local points on a map

Local SEO makes or breaks businesses.

We’re not joking.

Fundamentally, good business is about, well, good business. If you don’t have a quality product—be it pizza or plumbing—all the digital marketing in the world won’t save you. 

But even if you have a superior product, no one will notice unless they can find you. Word of mouth only takes you so far.

With the internet as the first and last stop for most consumer decisions, understanding local SEO ranking factors can significantly impact your online visibility. Here, we’ll dive into the elements that affect your business’s rankings in Google Maps, the local pack, and organic search results. 

Looking for more on local SEO? Check out our guide “What Is Local SEO?”

Local businesses generally have two opportunities to get found in typical Google search results: (1) the local pack and (2) organic search results. Let’s take a look at the local pack and Maps, and then we’ll move on to organic below—just like the SERPs (search engine results pages) are laid out!

Maps & Local Pack Ranking Factors

Your Google Business Profile (GBP) allows you to rank in Google Maps and the local pack, the listing of (typically) 3 places or businesses with a map at or near the top of a standard SERP. Google clearly states that they rank these local results based on (1) relevance, (2) distance, and (3) prominence.

Remember: Google is constantly combing for signals across the local search ecosystem, which means that your GBP alone can only take you so far. Your website (or lack of a website!) also directly impacts your local pack and Maps GBP rankings, as do other signals like links and citations, which we’ll discuss more under prominence. 

RicketyRoo founder, Blake Denman, and director of digital strategy, Amanda Jordan, regularly contribute to the leading industry survey on local SEO ranking factors


Relevance in local SEO refers to how well your business matches what users (including potential customers!) are looking for.

Google Business Profile Utilization

Google advises us that “to maximize how often users find your business in local search results, ensure that your business information in Business Profile is accurate, complete, and engaging.” 

Seems straightforward enough, and it is. But you’d be surprised at how few businesses actually make the most of their GBP. Are you one of them?

  • Choose the category that best matches what your customers are looking for
  • Select relevant subcategories
  • Use a compelling business description
  • List your local phone number (even if you list it as an alternate under your call tracking number)
  • Ask for and respond to reviews (more on that below)
  • Include images representing your products and services well (yes, Google is watching!)
  • Fill out your products and services where applicable
  • Post regularly 

Keep your GBP in tip-top shape, put the most into it you can, and you’ll likely notice better rankings. At the very least, you’ll increase engagement and conversions for anyone who lands on your profile—which, in turn, can indirectly impact your rankings (what a dizzying feedback loop!).


Reviews play a significant role in your relevance. Positive reviews that mention your key services can boost your rankings. (We’ll talk more about reviews under prominence.)

On-site SEO

Your website (we sure hope you have one!) also impacts your local pack and Maps rankings. The information on your site and your GBP should be consistent—that means a NAP (name, address, phone number) match. Topically relevant, localized content on your website (along with all the right on-page signals) will boost your GBP’s relevance. 


The closer your business is to the searcher, the more likely you will appear in local search results. There are always exceptions, though:

  • Your business might rank higher in less competitive areas even if it’s farther from a searcher.
  • If your business offers truly exceptional products or services, and customers are willing to travel further to you while bypassing your competitors, this can positively impact your rankings (see this patent).
  • If you have a phenomenal (and believable!) review profile and your competitors are far behind, you might show up in their territory even if you’re further afield. 

You can’t do a whole lot to impact the distance metric. But if you focus on being the best business you can possibly be and build a loyal customer base, you might actually be able to extend your reach.


Prominence refers to how well-known and authoritative your business is. Key factors include:

  • Citations: Ensure your business information is accurate across major aggregators like Foursquare, Data Azle, and Neustar Localeze. You also want to ensure you’re listed on popular places like Yelp, Bing Maps, and Apple Maps. Topically and locally relevant directories also help.
  • Links: Acquiring high-quality, topical and local backlinks can boost the performance of your website and GBP in search results. 
  • Reviews: The quantity and quality of your reviews matter. More positive reviews will very likely increase your local pack and Maps rankings. And don’t fret too much over a few negative reviews. Respond professionally, do right by the customer, and keep working to foster positive engagement.
  • User signals: Remember how we harped on making your GBP engaging? Engagement metrics can positively influence your prominence.

Be as proactive as possible, but also recognize that building a good business and a corresponding quality web presence takes time. 

Organic Local Ranking Factors

Organic local ranking factors are similar to traditional SEO factors but with a little dash of local flavor. Ensuring your website is optimized for local search gives you a chance to show up not only in the local pack but also right underneath it in the organic listings. 

Clear site structure

A well-organized website structure helps search engines and users understand your content better. Use clear, descriptive URLs and robust internal links to interweave relevant pages. Ensure you have relevant pages for all your services and easy-to-use navigation. (We’d mention responsive, mobile-friendly websites, but that’s so twenty-tens.) 

Optimized local content

Crafting content that resonates with your local audience is crucial. Optimal local content goes beyond including your location in title tags and H1s. 

Your entire website should demonstrate that you are invested in the community or locales you serve. Speak to what matters most to your neighbors. Address their unique needs and concerns. 

Your content will overlap to an extent with similar businesses all over. That’s expected. Generally speaking, a toilet is a toilet, used tires are used tires, and a bakery is a bakery. But we shouldn’t be able to just Find and replace the location in your content and replace it with another that’s states away. Your content should feel like your brand and your locale. Your content should speak to your audience in a way that resonates with them.

Topical and local authority

We brought this up under prominence when discussing Maps and local pack ranking factors. Backlinks matter in local! Citations and directory listings are great. But building citations ≠ link building. Try your best to acquire links that are topically or locally relevant. Landing those links that relate to your industry or your location can have a huge impact on your website rankings in organic search and your GBP rankings in Maps and the local pack. 

Better Business for Improved Rankings

At the end of the blog day, good local SEO reflects good business practices. If your business has a negative reputation, it doesn’t matter how great is your on-site optimization, links, or anything else. You won’t rank—at least not for long. Focus on delivering exceptional customer service and superior products and you’ll already be well on your way to improving your local SEO. 

And don’t forget: Your business—whether your only location or your thousandth—is part of the fabric of the community you serve. Even if you feel like your business tends to go unnoticed, you matter to the people you serve, and they ought to matter to you. Participate in real-life local events, advocate for your customers, and help your community flourish. 

You might be surprised at how real-world benevolence can contribute to a host of local SEO ranking factors. 

At RicketyRoo, we specialize in helping businesses like yours improve their local SEO. From the fundamentals to advanced strategies, we help you generate more revenue and achieve your business goals.

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Blake Denman

Blake has more than 14 years of local SEO and paid search marketing experience. He founded RicketyRoo in February 2009. Outside of running RicketyRoo, Blake enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and Goldendoodle, June, hiking throughout Central Oregon.
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