How important are local citations for Local SEO in 2021?

How Important are Local Citations in 2017

In 2016, many Google Algorithm updates reconfigured local search results. The most significant update that affected local SEO was Possum, which occurred in September. This update altered local rankings to accommodate the 2016 change in local packs, going from 7 listings to 3, and local organic rankings using local citations, Google My Business (GMB), proximity, and many other organic ranking fundamentals, including links. Some businesses saw a ranking boost while others had no visible change in ranking factor. If you need help with your Local SEO, look at our SEO Services.

Local SEO listings continue to grow and be the test subject for Google’s upcoming algorithm updates. The value of being in the number one position is where most clicks happen, according to this article by Infront Webworks.

In general, citations are declining as a ranking factor. Comparing Moz’s 2017 local search ranking factors study to previous years; studies show a progressive decline in the importance of citations for local search. Local SEO citations aim not to have as many citations as possible in as many IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) or aggregated Local citations but to ensure NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) consistency on critical listings. On a competitive level, citations are losing their edge, giving link profiles and on-page ranking factors the competitive advantage.

One of the most significant ranking changes in local pack search results is the physical address in the city of search. A business further away from the point of inquiry is a determined ranking factor for local businesses.

What to focus on for local listings:

The same ranking fundamentals are the way to go for overall local SEO organic rankings.

  1. Linking

Linking has always been one of if not the most significant, ranking factor when it comes to organic search results. Having authoritative and high domain authority links increase a site’s backlink profile/authority and provide huge ranking benefit, especially if the referring domains are directly relevant to the product or service. It’s not about the number of links pointing to the site but the quality and authority of the links. An excellent backlink profile can be the determining factor of competitive organic ranking for overall and local results.

  1. On-Page Factors (Titles, H1’s, Content, etc.)

On-page ranking factors such as meta titles, heading tags, and relevant Content with carefully placed LSI keywords are an essential part of organic ranking that transfers to local results with appropriate city and service keywords. A city name and (depending on the town) state within a page title or content can provide rank benefits.

  1. Citations (Quality and Consistency, not quantity)

NAP citations, whether in organization schema markup or the on-page Content, provide Google with the information needed to base a local listing. If these are inconsistent or poorly done (not complete), they can become a negative ranking factor.

  1. GMB – Filled to completion with verification

Google My Business has many advantages that benefit local rankings and prove useful when trying to appear in the local packs. Google My Business is one of the primary sources (besides Wikipedia and schema markup) that Google will pull from to fill in Knowledge Graph information. Keeping the Google My Business information consistent with the NAP information elsewhere is essential, as well as making sure the category the business is defined under is correct. If the class is incorrect or doesn’t coincide with similar companies’ ranking for the exact keywords, Google will see this as a negative ranking factor.

  1. Geographic Relevance

There’s no way of getting around it. You will receive a ranking bump if you are local and they are searching in your area.

For SEO local pack rankings:

  1. Proximity (about the point of search)

Closeness takes the business’s mileage away from the search location to organize the pack rankings from closest to furthest. We’ve noticed proximity becoming a more significant local pack ranking factor. Ranking locally is one thing, but being in the actual area from the point of search is becoming a more substantial ranking factor for a pack position.

  1. Quality and Consistency of Citations

Just as stated above in the Citations and GMB sections.

  1. The address is in the city of search.

Similar to proximity without the mileage. The ranking benefit will be received if the physical address is part of the town where the search is being done.

  1. Relevant Keywords per Product or Service

Both are very important to organic rankings overall, but having the city or state in the behavioral factors will provide a higher possibility of reaching a local pack position.

(Proximity Example):

Local Search Proximity

What are the local pack/local finder ranking changes and predictions for 2017?

For 2017, the intrusion/expansion of Ads will significantly impact the local pack/finder and organic search results.

Google’s Local Pack/Local Finder is the place for a local business. Since the downsize from 7 to 3 listings, the competitive landscape for the local pack positions has immensely increased, and paid search has made its way into local pack results when expanded. Not only has paid search worked its way into the local organic packs, but there are now sponsored packs featuring Google’s new “Google Guaranteed” listings for plumbers and locksmiths. “Google Guaranteed” is a sponsored ad pack for home services (specifically plumbers and locksmiths right now) that guarantees these listings will get the job done correctly and efficiently.

 (Google Guaranteed Sponsored Listings)

Google Guaranteed Service Search - Plumber Carlsbad

Undoubtedly, Google will expand the list of the ability to rank above local organic packs.

Eventually,  paid search will work its way into local packs, and there are two ways that PPC could enter the local pack scene. One was presented at the SMX conference last year, where ads will begin to appear in various local packs and shift the three organic listings to a mere 2 listings. The other possibility, going to an extreme, would be creating a paid search local pack entirely and having two localized snack-packs, one for organic and one for paid search (maybe even expanding to 6 and having 3 of each) OR having a paid local pack and the first page is entirely made of paid ads.

This is a mockup of what was proposed at last year’s SMX meeting. The image displayed at the conference was in mobile form, so there is a possibility that Google adds Ads to mobile and not desktop.

(Local Pack Ads)

Local Map Pack Ad - Dentist Search Carlsbad

In conclusion, the value of citations is dwindling in local search, but they are still essential and beneficial when used and maintained correctly. Although Google does update its algorithms regularly, many of the fundamentals will remain best practices for SEO for quite some time. Local pack listings will continue to change, and, in my opinion, we shouldn’t be surprised to see 2/3 of the first page become paid search shortly.

Ready to Collaborate? Contact Us!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Blog Sidebar



Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Newsletter Signup