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New Study Reveals Top Local SEO Ranking Factors for 2016

A new study conducted by Local SEO Guide, in conjunction with The University of California Irvine’s Center for Statistical Consulting, reveals new information about the factors behind high ranking Google My Business (GMB) pages.

The study set out to answer the question “How do you prioritize your local SEO operations?”, and came back with data about the similarities shared between GMB pages that rank well in Google searches.

In this post I’ll summarize the findings of their study, though I highly recommend reading it in its entirety.

Top Local SEO Ranking Factors

The study concludes that “links are the key competitive differentiator even when it comes to Google My Business Rankings”. Data from Majestic, including AC Rank, Trust flow, and Citation flow, proved to all be within the top 10 link metrics.

Website Signals
Traditional SEO ranking signals from a business’s website proved to be likely to influence the ranking of that business’s GMB page. Use of keywords, and the amount of words contained on a page, appear to be particularly influential. The study also shows that if a business’s website ranks well in organic search then its GMB page is likely to rank high as well.

GMB Signals
Signals within the GMB page itself ended up being among the top ranking factors. These include signals such as reviews, photos, and having the page associated with an Owner Verified profile. One of the most popular ranking factors was having a keyword in the GMB page’s business name. It’s so popular in fact, that the study says you will rank at least 1.5 spots higher.

Toolbar PageRank
Even though PageRank is officially dead, the study found that there was a high correlation between a high PageRank score and high ranking local pages.

What’s Not So Important

Citation consistency is important, but the study says overall volume of citations doesn’t seem to matter that much. Once your citations are in place and consistent, move on to the more important stuff.

Geo Text
Geo text on a website, such as using the state and city in the title, ended up having a poor correlation with the ranking position of GMB pages.


The study emphasizes throughout that links were by far the dominant local SEO ranking factor. The second most popular were website signals. Prioritizing them in that order is key to a successful local SEO strategy in 2016:

”When it comes to Local SEO in 2016, if you are not invested in links and your website, and instead focus predominantly on traditional Local SEO areas like Google My Business and citations then you are going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more? Check out our updated local SEO guide!

Category News
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

New Study Reveals Top Local SEO Ranking Factors for 2016

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