Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. This week, we’ve got something really exciting to share – the 2023 LSRF is here!
Every year, Darren Shaw and Whitespark conduct the Local Search Ranking Factors study – those of us in “the biz” lovingly refer to it as the LSRF. It’s basically the guide for what to do if you want to show up better in local searches. If you’re in Local SEO, get ready to get your mind blown… It’s been fifteen years since David Mihm did the first LSRF – way back in 2008!
If you were to put the 5 best Local SEOs in a room and ask them to optimize the same site, they’d all do it differently… But they’d all touch the same elements. That’s the thought process behind the LSRF. No one knows exactly how Google’s algorithm works, so Darren sends out a huge, in-depth survey to the top 40ish Local SEO experts across the planet. Between working with clients or doing research, these experts live and breathe Local SEO, so they have a pretty good handle on which factors have the most influence on local visibility.
Full transparency: Greg is one of those experts that contributes to the LSRF, and has been for years.
Darren then takes all the results, aggregates them, and analyzes the results. We get two pie charts every year. One shows the signals that influence visibility in the map pack and Google Maps, organized by signal weight. The other pie chart the signals that influence visibility in localized organic results, along with their weights.
The LSRF is basically the Local SEO bible. If you’re handling your own SEO, it’s the perfect guide for what to do in 2022. If you have a vendor handling your SEO, you should use the LSRF to hold them accountable.
We always like to look at what changes from year to year. Since the last version was released at the end of 2021, here’s how map pack signals changed:
Google Business Profile signals dropped
On page signals increased
Review signals dropped slightly
Link signals dropped
Behavioral signals increased slightly
Citation signals stayed the same
Personalization signals increased slightly
There were a few big increases in some of the individual signals:
Proximity of address to centroid.
In simple speak, that’s how far the business is from the perceived center of the city. Signal importance increased 360% since the last LSRF. This is likely due to the reduction in the radius of visibility after the Vicinity update in late 2021.
Quantity of inbound links to GBP landing page URL from locally relevant domains.
In simple speak, that’s links to your home page from local websites, or to your individual location pages if you’re a multi-location business. This one increased 257% since the last LSRF
Dedicated page for each service.
In simple speak, that’s… having a dedicated page for each service.
This one increased 186% from the last LSRF. It makes sense, if you want to show up as a search result, you need a dedicated page about that concept on your site
There were a few big drops in signal importance as well:
Multiple link signals dropped since the last LSRF: the quality/authority of inbound links to the domain, the domain authority of the website, and the page authority of the GBP landing page
Keywords in Google reviews dropped significantly since the last LSRF. This was most likely driven by recent research by Sterling Sky, but that was a study with just a single client, so we need more research done here to know if it holds true for everyone. Regardless of the weight of the ranking factor, it’s still important as a conversion factor.
A few factors related to owner responses to reviews dropped as well, but they were already pretty low on the last year’s LSRF. It’s still important to respond to reviews as a conversion factor though.
You can see a full list of the ranking factors for the map pack and Google Maps, as well as a full list of factors for localized organic. There’s even a list of conversion factors, which won’t affect visibility, but definitely help in getting more conversions.
There’s also a breakdown of myths, negative ranking factors, suspension risk factors, and for the first time, a list of factors that influence visibility of Local Services Ads, commonly called LSAs.
Head over to https://whitespark.ca/local-search-ranking-factors to read all the details on the study, there’s a ton of awesome info there about specific signals that matter.