Digital marketing is a constantly evolving landscape; never more so than in 2023. With the impending onslaught of Google’s Generative AI search, Bing’s Chat GPT hybrid and whatever new AI influenced surprises pop up in the next few months, change has never been so rapid. Keeping abreast of the latest shifts in importance of local ranking factors is good basic business sense for Carlisle businesses.
For many years I obsessed about this survey, back in the days it was created and maintained by David Mihm. When it was taken over by Darren Shaw of Whitespark in Canada, I stepped back from it a little. It didn’t seem to have the same rigour. It seems I was wrong.
This year’s report has been an important one though. It begins to grapple with the influence of the surge of AI tools now available to local marketers.
The Shifting Sands of Local SEO Ranking Signals
According to the most recent survey, Google Business Profile signals and link signals have seen a drop in their influence. On-page and behavioural signals have taken the spotlight in boosting local SEO.
Expert advice for local search marketing in Carlisle still encourages businesses to invest in their website content and Google Business Profile. Investing time and effort is key to success. This bolsters behavioural signals and conversions. To you and me – that’s the button clicks and clicks to call your business.
The survey also seemed to reveal an uptick in personalisation signals. However other anecdotal evidence mentioned by many respondents, suggests not reading too much into that.
Decoding the 2023 Survey Structure
The 2023 survey structure has been thoroughly revamped. All 44 contributors were asked to score all 149 of the presumed ranking factors. This comprehensive data set can provide rich insights for business owners to fine-tune their SEO strategies.
The survey also sets out to debunk some of the pernicious “myths” that still interfere with successful local SEO strategy. This is done by identifying the factors that have the least influence on rankings. These factors were then placed at the end of the list. This should enable businesses to focus their efforts more effectively.
Insights and Innovations
Intriguing new sections in the survey include “Suspension risk factors” and “Local Services Ads factors”. These offer businesses keen insights to enhance their visibility in local business ads and to mitigate potential risks. It’s also worth noting the increasing role of AI tools, such as ChatGPT, in assisting with SEO tasks.
New Local Ranking Factors for 2023
Two noteworthy local ranking factors have emerged in 2023. Firstly the contributors confirmed the positive effect of having a sustained influx of regular Google reviews over time. The presence of internal links to the Google Business Profile landing page(s) from other pages of the website was also pointed out as having been a benefit to businesses.
Some factors seem to have gained prominence. These include “proximity of address to centroid”. it’s a horrible phrase that simply means how close to the ton centre you are.
Having inbound backlinks to the Google Business Profile landing page URL was highlighted as a positive. These needed to come from locally-relevant domains: i.e. local websites. Giraffe Network and Carlisle B2B members take note! 😉
Many contributors emphasised the importance of having a page for each service offered. This shows the need for good, helpful content that explains what you offer – clearly. A big bugbear remains spam Google Business Profile and other listings. You are perfectly entitled to complain to Google or Bing to get these removed if they are simply spamming keywords into their name and hurting your visibility.
Local SEO Ranking Factors Losing Steam
Some factors are felt to have become less influential over the year. The quality or authority of inbound links to the domain no longer seem as influential for local ranking. That is not an invitation to go out and build thousands of spammy backlinks though!
A quote from the report itself is worth bearing in mind.
“While links in general are seeing a decline, this factor is on the rise. Local search experts know that it’s not the domain authority of the link source that matters, it’s the local relevance (and industry relevance) of the links that really gives the ranking boost.”
The perceived “domain authority” of the business’ website doesn’t make as big a difference as it used to. Individual pages seem to have their own “authority score as well. The importance of a business’ Google Business Profile landing page URL’s page authority has decreased.
Having keywords in native Google Business Profile reviews, and owner responses have seen a decline in importance. Nevertheless, it is still recommended to respond to reviews as it is better for conversions.
Local Search Marketing Advice for Carlisle Businesses
Reflecting a colleague’s comment in one of last week’s regular networking meetings, actively asking for reviews is important. Business owners in Carlisle should make continuous review acquisition a key part of their marketing strategy.
For businesses that operate in more than one location, it’s a good idea to focus on boosting the page authority of your location pages by effective internal linking. When creating content, find chances to link to the page your Google Business Profile refers to. This will help you maximise your online presence and visibility. Despite the reduced emphasis on link factors, links with local relevance continue to be a significant booster for rankings.
Preparing for 2023: Key SEO Strategies
Carlisle businesses should continue to be aware of the keywords that potential customers use when they are looking for what you provide: be that a product or a service. Any future AI, or souped-up search engine is still going to be looking for relevance. Using the language that searchers use is the first step to being relevant. The future of search is likely to see the bar being raised higher in terms of content. You will be competing against a literal flood of content, some of which WILL be high quality, useful stuff. And so, being specific, targeted and HELPFUL will become increasingly important whether you create in the time honoured fashion or with AI support.
You still need to optimise for featured snippets by making use of local schema markup. Again, it’s all part of being relevant. It’s still important to keep up to speed monitoring and responding to online reviews. Engagement by visitors and yourself is still important, despite the increasing distrust of online reviews.
The switchover to AI powered search in Google and Bing is approaching: rapidly. This will bring many changes to the emphasis on keyword choice and targeting. Much like preparing for visual and voice searches, preparing for the AI revolution will involve more long tail, super specific content. Yet again our hands will probably be forced into creating more content of a higher standard than we were previously able to get by with, in order to stand out.
Mobile-first design of websites and faster website load times remains crucial. Google Business Profile optimisation remains important even though Google is noticeably reducing the number of searches where it shows up.
Understanding the search intent of your local audience will be a major factor in local SEO rankings in 2023. This is an important element to consider. Google’s algorithms grow ever more sophisticated in interpreting and anticipating user needs.
Aligning your business with these trends will be crucial in the race to stay ahead of the competition. Make your business visible to local customers with ClimbHigh SEO because #ItsGreatToBeOnTop.
Lots of people – yet again – are hyping up that oh so familiar cry. “SEO is dead!” as Ai comes into play. As always that cry is b*ll*cks! However, it’s certainly going to change: are you up to speed with the changes?
A Note On the Contributors
The 44 contributors to this report are all highly respected practitioners in the search engine optimisation and digital marketing arena. Claire Carlisle of Bright Local, Tim Capper of Online Ownership and Luc Durand of the Ranking Academy give the British perspectives to the survey.
We are grateful to Darren Shaw of Whitespark for permission to use the graphics, highlighting the overview of the current local search marketing scene and the flux over the past several years. The Local Ranking Factors report 2023 is well worth a read for any local business owner.
How ClimbHigh SEO Can Help Cumbria Businesses
Ray Cassidy discussing business in his natural environment… outdoors.
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