For those doing local SEO for a small geographical location…
How do you guys build authority… Do backlinks coming from sites outside your area have any impact in local search?
Thank you so much!
14 👍🏽1 🤔15
Yes they do, I do try to stick with links from websites in the same niche and language but you should give it a try and see if this works for you.
I've heard a lot about Google taking on local search and it should become more important, even linking to and from businesses in the area but this doesn't mean links from outside a specific area wouldn't build authority.
Thank you for your insights Kevin! 👍👍
Yeah! Relevant links with authority are going to be your best bet, since they give you a more powerful "vote" – local SEO is more or less just taking all those votes and applying them to your locality. Those backlinks matter quite a bit!
Make sure you also have your Name, Address & Phone Number (NAP) consistent wherever it's at on the web, and publish a lot of relevant, authoritative content. If you're in a competitive or professional niche, it helps to have authoritative authors with credentials on your site.
Thank you for your insights Caleb 👍👍👍
Ammon Johns 🎓
Google's Local Search doesn't treat links the same way as any other kind of search product they offer, most importantly in that it doesn't use PageRank.
The reason for that is that around most cities anywhere in the world there are suburbs and villages, within easy enough commuting distance, but with their own local stores and services. If Google were to factor PageRank into Local Search this would almost always cause the far away shops and services in the city to massively outrank the smaller, but much more local shops and services that someone would have used Google Local to find.
Additionally, and far more importantly, PageRank is a great way to rate the importance of ONLINE resources. But for Local Search the emphasis is not on how good the website is, but rather how good the service is locally. PageRank isn't at all a meaningful metric in this case. The best local landscape gardener may not even have a proper website, just a Google My Biz (GMB) listing, and that is the one that Google would want to rank highly.
Citations for Local Search are therefore not so much about the link itself, and certainly not the power of the link, but instead is about the consistency of signals that the business is a real thing and really where Google think it is.
Wow wow wow. Thank you so much. You always go all in when sharing information. 🙏🙏🙏
Dean » Ammon Johns
We have seen a corilation (over the last year) between Google Business Profile (GBP) rankings and the authority of the associated website. That didn't used to be the case
Kathy » Ammon Johns
How does what you just said fit in with Dean's observation?
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Kathy
He said he'd seen a correlation. I am in no position to judge what he has seen, but correlations happen a lot without causation. For example, there is a high correlation between areas with a lot of drug crime, and areas where many people wear sneakers – it doesn't mean that the wearing of sneakers turns people to either drugs or crime. It is a non-causal correlation based on other factors of income and culture.
A lot of good businesses will have good reviews, plenty of customers, and do very well on local search. Since they have success and money, a lot of those will have been able to invest in a better website, and through the fact they have a better website, have it earn more links and authority. That's correlation for you. But the cause of all those other effects in my example is that it was, at core, simply a good business. There are a lot of pretty bad businesses that spent fortunes on their website, on marketing, on getting links, and still failed because those things don't *cause* success, they just happen to coincide a lot.
Kathy » Dean
I have 2 personal injury attorneys in the same city (they agreed to share me). They've both been jumping back and forth to positions #1 and #2 for years. I have not been on a retainer for 20 years with them because they honestly haven't needed anymore other than rebuilding them new sites periodically. And what I did stuck like glue.
But once I started to see big firms from out of town coming into their space because of their big SEO budgets, I warned my clients it was time to up their game. They didn't listen until one fell, and then fell again, and they finally called me when they were at the bottom of page 1 and their Google Business Profile (GBP) was #15. So I built them a new website, refreshed their local citations and GBP and had them start posting on their GBP and putting an effort into getting reviews. Their GBP is now #2.
The other client is #1. Last time I did anything for them was when I rebuilt their website about 4 years ago. They do NOTHING. No blogging. No GBP updates. No review acquisition. Nothing. And yet nothing can knock them off that #1 perch, not even me! 🙂 Their organic has dropped a bit though and the client with the newest website is approaching position 1 in organic.
So what is it then? That #1 client has something the others don't – CLEARLY. One of the attorneys in that firm is nationally recognized as a child sexual abuse attorney. He used to have some powerful backlinks for that, but those sites have since disappeared. Actually, there may be one left. As that expert, Google has for years brought up their website as the authority for those queries. In fact, they get more visitors on those queries than anything else to this day. Those are signals the other client can't even come close to having.
What's interesting to me is their holy grail keyword is "personal injury attorney". They rank #1 for that on their GBP, but their authority is for child sexual abuse litigation. Related, sure, but not the same. And this gets back to a question/comment I left the other day that pulled in Ammon Johns. It was, can STRONG "engagement" signals on a related topic or entity support the pillar? And maybe it's not engagement at all. Maybe it's authority. I have another PI attorney where I see the same thing happening.
Steven 👑 » Kathy
I am with Dean on PageRank correlation. Website authority is a factor from what I've seen.
"correlations happen a lot without causation" I Absolutely. I understand that it's very difficult to distinguish the two unless you have a single variable test. I'd like to say I have that in the PI attorney example I gave, as well as another. But I don't have enough examples to come to any kind of conclusion, which is why when I bring it up, I'm raising a question. I'm hoping to find others who have definitive proof. It could change the way we approach local SEO, especially if topic authority trickles up.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Kathy
This sort of question takes a lot of digging, as you probably know from the time you've already spent on it.
The measures of 'authority' are different in Local, and for obvious reasons. The searcher isn't looking for the best available, with a global or at least wider search, but rather they are specifically looking for local. The signals that Google value then, and the algorithm that blends those signals into a complex scoring and ranking, take into account that intent and reality.
The user of the search engine has already, to a very real extent, explicitly told Google that they would rather have something close, than something top-rated generally.
There is, of course, the mixed intent variation, which is to say where someone used regular Google search rather than specifically switching to local, but used a query that favours local, or for which localized results have traditionally led to better overall search satisfaction.
So that's a regular Search Engine Result Page (SERP) usually with a map pack or local carousel feature, and where the algo blends in more of the local search signals than usual.
I mention this purely to be sure we're on the same page with what kind of 'local search' we're talking about – true Local Search, or blended *localized* Google search. People do still confuse the two in groups sometimes, and I want anyone reading to know what we're talking about.
True local search, e.g. using the Map tab, does not use PageRank. Localized regular search still _might_, because it's a more nuanced or blended result, often having a few non-local results still too, but results within a map pack still won't.
While PageRank itself is not used, that doesn't mean that local citations, reviews, media coverage, etc. won't make a difference. Good links from the local news is always going to help somehow. Being a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, or having other strong citations could also be counted in a non-PageRank sense.
But seriously, for true local, footfall and customer visitation is a massive factor for many business types – especially shops, restaurants, hospitality type businesses. I'm not entirely sure that will count as much for services where popularity is not the best signal where the best may simply be out of the average person's price range. Nor can I tell how much personalization would come into play based on whether the user tends to frequent few of the 'popular' places, and a lot of the more high-end and exclusive.
Ammon Johns 🎓
Also, don't forget how much Android is a part of Local Search. You already know how Google maps can tell you what shops you've been in, and if you are a local guide, ask you questions for info about those places. They know when you walk right by 2 barbers to get a haircut at another, and they take note. And they absolutely use footfall data.
Buddy of mine shared a screenshot earlier of how this was starting to appear really openly and obviously in maps (see image below where eateries are shown by the estimated busy-ness right at the moment). This exact same data you can already see they are using lets them know for sure which places are the most popular, which places people walk right past to go to a competitor, etc.
Great Point! Driving directions and such help, but it's not the complete picture.
Regarding android, are you saying that they're actively tracking the GPS data even if the maps app isn't open? I think with IOS it only works if you have it open
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Koszo
Android devices still absolutely dominate for volume/market share, and because of the way they connect so intimately with a verifiable individual, are regarded as a high quality signal. For years now Google have been using the GPS data from android devices to predict traffic, first on the roads, then a few years ago at venues, restaurants, events, etc.
In the years since, they've refined their systems further, so now as you can see in the image, not only are they estimating the current number of customers in the place, but comparing it to an average…
Curtis » Ammon Johns
Thank you.I know someone that offers Click Through Rate (CTR) using 50 or more android devices, logged in and driving around the cities. This makes sense.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Curtis
After a while that's really going to stand out – 50 'people' always travelling together. I'd think that even 10 would eventually get spotted somewhere as a 'statistical anomaly'.
On the flip-side, I can totally see some bosses asking their employees to buy android phones rather than iphones.
If you want to really manipulate the stats properly, the best way is to run events of some sort that bring real people into a business premises. Doesn't matter whether it is a 'coffee morning', or 'free seminars', or even having celebrity visits of some kind. Something that can bring in extra footfall from legitimate users of android devices, especially from further afield than normal where they may pass rival businesses… 😉
Curtis » Ammon Johns
Agreed. Your previous comment had me thinking that Google has the data to see the anomaly and once the "traffic" stops, the keyword crashes.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Curtis
One interesting one I did recently was for a shoe store that specializes in ladies and children's shoes. (Small business, but owned by a friend). One of the main workers is a jogger and charity runner, so I suggested the store back some charity runs, having a regular weekly session where they advise on footwear, the health and safety concerns for female runners (mansplaining free), and where they plan charity runs and fun runs. That's going well for them. For the kids, I suggested having a monthly fashion show of the latest styles, and running a competition for footwear models for posters in the store with some nice little prize, and done in association with a local photographer…
Small gains in the months so far, but all positive.
I figured that either one of these has a fair chance of also making the local press or news generally, especially if the charity fundraising takes off.
Curtis » Ammon Johns
Perfect for press release.
Kathy » Ammon Johns
Love it. I wonder if Google is doing anything special for SABs. Many claim that Google doesn't use the exif geo data on images, but I find it really hard to believe that Google is not paying attention to where you are conducting business. But if not images, what then? If you or your workers first go to your office and then to a client's, is Google following you and taking note? Is that far fetched?
I don't like it because it means that a small one-man plumbing business doesn't have a chance against the one with many plumbers in the field.
That's a problem for brick & mortar service businesses as well if you're right about footfall being used for ranking. It would mean the dental clinic with 3 dentists will win over the dentist who is running a solo business because the former will undoubtedly be getting a lot more foot traffic.
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