Chances are you’ve seen the 2016 Local SEO Ranking Factors done by Dan Leibson & Andrew Shotland.

They looked at 30k businesses to figure out where Local SEO’s should really focus their efforts for better rankings.

In short: Links really freaking matter.

Look…

I’m not trying to ride on their coattails, though I imagine it would be fun riding around Pleasanton CA with Andrew. Dan and I would end up in traffic on the 55 freeway, so we would end up playing punch buggy (watch out Dan, I’m coming for you! 😉 ).

Moving on…

Earlier this year I wanted to conduct our own research, but I had a different set of questions

My team and I wanted to look at:

  • Do the top 50 citation sources really matter for map rankings
  • Average number of structured citations for ranking websites
  • Average domain authority of sites ranking 1-3, 4-6, 7-10
  • Average site speed of ranking websites
  • Mobile-friendliness

All good questions, so we set out to answer them. We wanted an accurate representation for our data, so we used the following parameters:

Cities:
  1. New York City NY
  2. Los Angeles CA
  3. Chicago IL
  4. Houston TX
  5. Philadelphia PA
  6. Phoenix AZ
  7. San Antonio TX
  8. San Diego CA
  9. Dallas TX
  10. San Jose CA
  11. Austin TX
  12. Jacksonville FL
  13. Indianapolis IN
  14. San Francisco CA
  15. Columbus OH
  16. Fort Worth TX
  17. Charlotte NC
  18. Detroit MI
  19. El Paso TX
  20. Memphis TN

These are the most populated cities in the USA, in order, in case you were wondering.

Business categories for each city:
  1. Personal Injury Attorney
  2. Dentist
  3. Plumber
  4. Rehab
  5. Chiropractor

4 brick and mortar businesses, and 1 SAB (Service Area Business)

So we roughly looked at 1000 different businesses in total (988 to be exact).

Tools used:
  • BrightLocal: Huge shoutout to Myles, Ross M, and Mathew C for helping us streamline the process. We used BrightLocal to find ranking businesses for each category and location through their CitationTracker to pull results. We then created Roll Up Reports to go through the data.
  • Moz Bar: How else were we going to get the DA of each website? We pulled all data from the Roll Up Reports and imported them into a Google Sheet. I then proceeded to click on each domain name and copy the DA into the spreadsheet.
  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Same as DA, I copied over the URLs into separate tabs and let the tool do all the work. Copied the results into the spreadsheet

The results:

avg_domain_authority

Sites ranking 1-3: 25.16

Sites ranking 4-6: 20.79

Sites ranking 7-10: 20.08

Here’s the explanation of DA from Moz: “Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. Use Domain Authority when comparing one site to another or tracking the “strength” of your website over time. We calculate this metric by combining all of our other link metrics—linking root domains, number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc.—into a single score.”

Here’s how to improve your website’s domain authority from Moz: “The best way to influence this metric (DA) is to improve your overall SEO. In particular, you should focus on your link profile—which influences MozRank and MozTrust—by getting more links from other well-linked-to pages.”

This further reiterates the findings from Local SEO Guide. Links really do matter for map rankings. Citation building alone does not mean you are building links.

For a great resource on local link building, I highly recommend you check out the Ultimate List of Local Link Building Ideas by Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing.

I’m scrolling, just give me the jist of it:

Click on the link above and learn some great new ways of acquiring links to improve your domain authority.


average-total-citations

Sites ranking 1-3: 90.73

Sites ranking 4-6: 86.69

Sites ranking 7-10: 78.02


Some other noteworthy data we found (single business only):

citations-found

Sites ranking 1-3: Highest citations found: 338 | Lowest citations found: 7

Sites ranking 4-6: Highest citations found: 335 | Lowest citations found: 3

Sites ranking 7-10: Highest citations found: 291 | Lowest citations found: 3

Based off what we’ve found, there is a slight correlation between the total number of citations and ranking. Chances are some of these citation sources are passing dofollow links to websites. Most citation sources pass a blanket nofollow link, but it’s still a link.

Rand Fishkin of Moz posted a Whiteboard Friday on 8/26/16 titled Why Every Website (Not Just Local Sites) Should Invest in Local Links and Citations.

From the transcript: “Local information, even citations by themselves, can be a trust signal for Google, where they essentially say, “Hey, you know what, we trust that this is a real business that is really in this place. We see citations for it. That tells us we can trust this site. It’s not spammy. It doesn’t have these spam signals around it.” That’s a really big positive as well.”

I’m scrolling, just give me the jist of it:

Don’t focus 100% of your “link building” efforts on citation building. Diversify!!!!


Top 50 Citations:

Ahh yes, the top 50 citation sources. The go-to for most Local SEOs when starting a campaign.

But do they still matter?

Here’s what we found:

top_50_citation_results_graph

The data shows us the sites that are ranking all have the big citation sources covered. It may NOT be the sole reason they are ranking, but it seems to have a slight effect overall. Remember what Rand said about a trust signal?

I’m scrolling, just give me the jist of it:

Do get your data correct on the top 50 citation sources. From there focus on hyperlocal and industry specific citation sources.


Average Site Speed:

Leveraging browser cache, optimizing images, reducing server response time, eliminating render-blocking JS in above-the-fold content, minimizing HTML, JS, and CSS, does that sound right?

average_site_speed_

Average site speed desktop | mobile for sites ranking 1-3: 71.13 | 61.43

Average site speed desktop | mobile for sites ranking 4-6: 72.09 | 61.49

Average site speed desktop | mobile for sites ranking 7-10: 70.17 | 59.29

I was really hoping that we would find some drastic differences on website speed. Based off what we’ve found there is no ranking boost for site speed, yet.

I’m scrolling, just give me the jist of it:

Just because we can’t show an improvement in ranking doesn’t mean you shouldn’t optimize your site’s speed. Think about the user.


Mobile-Friendly:

nonmobile_friendly_sites

Non mobile-friendly sites ranking 1-3: 10

Non mobile-friendly sites ranking 4-6: 16

Non mobile-friendly sites ranking 7-10: 28

*The rankings we have are based off desktop searches, not mobile.

I’m scrolling, just give me the jist of it:

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, hire someone immediately to build you a responsive website.

Conclusion/I didn’t read anything, just tell me what I need to know:

  • Get correct data on the top 50 citation sources
  • Find and get listed on relevant industry-specific and hyperlocal citation sources
  • Getting citations does not equal “link building”
  • Earn high-quality links! Again, here’s a great local link building resource from Nifty Marketing
  • Site speed doesn’t seem to affect rankings, yet. Regardless, get your site speed up to improve the user-experience
  • If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, hire someone immediately to build you a responsive website

—–

Penguin 4.0 – All of our data was collected prior to the update that happened during September. I highly recommend you check out this video put on by Conrad Saam of Mockingbird Marketing and Joy Hawkins of Imprezzio Marketing