Local SEO Ranking Factors - How to Rank in Local Search Results in 2021

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[Music] so the local search ranking factors what is it it was started by...
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[Music] so the local search ranking factors what is it it was started by david mim back in 2008 12 years ago so uh he started this amazing survey where he would survey the top experts in local search and just ask them a series of questions to try to identify what how does google's local ranking algorithm work and so these experts are in the field studying all the time uh in 2017 he passed the reins to me and i've done it the past uh three times we published it i wouldn't say it past three years i missed a year or two in there but uh we're serving the top experts in local search we have uh all the greatest minds that are in the trenches doing local search day in day out really researching studying trying to understand how how the local ranking algorithm works and so the benefit of this survey is that all this amazing information gets downloaded to your brains
And so you you can just absorb the collective knowledge and...
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and so you you can just absorb the collective knowledge and because i i compile everything in aggregate and we identify what most people think is impacting rankings so let's get into some of the results uh the first question that i ask is for local pac rankings to what extent do each of the following thematic areas of google search contribute to rankings at google that's a bit of a mouthful but basically what factors impact local search uh rankings so the local pack and local finder just to be clear this is a local pack you see that all the time search for like seattle personal injury lawyers you know local pack and then if you click that link at the bottom it said more places that one there then it goes to what's called the local finder and that's you know more than just three business it's the rest of them it's all the other businesses so if you're in position four you're trying to make it break into the local back because you have great visibility there that's what we mean by local pac and local finder and so
I i asked them to score the seven main areas of local search which uh...
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i i asked them to score the seven main areas of local search which uh are google my business citations on page so basically your website signals links reviews behavioral signals and personalization and so what they do is they kind of assign a score to each of the primary areas so you know this one's worth 35 20 20. these are my scores this this is what i is what i guessed at i don't know it's interesting to see a lot of us have a different idea about how google awaits these different areas of local search and so after that um i tabulate the results and we can see that in aggregate we have for the local pac finder google my business score the highest at 33 then reviews on page links and then that other stuff basically it boils down to these four main areas and
It's interesting to see how strong gmb is um and so let's look at how this...
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it's interesting to see how strong gmb is um and so let's look at how this has changed over time so if we look at these uh signals from 2013 to 2020 there are two really interesting themes here that you can see uh both in gmb the rise of it and in citations the decline of it and so the rise of gmb i think can somewhat be attributed to the investment google has made in google my business google has added so many features and has really turned gmb into an amazing platform for local businesses and so there's a lot of businesses out there that haven't looked at their listing in the last three four years they set it up like five years six years ago and they have no idea of what's in gmb and it's amazing and so the local search practitioners are seeing all these new things that google has been doing and they are taking advantage of them and so you should do um and then the decline of
Citations is another story that we see over time and so this is when you go...
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citations is another story that we see over time and so this is when you go back to the you know early days of local search google um didn't have its own great knowledge base of data about businesses so it really relied on the outer web all the business directories that that refer to your business that's become less and less important as google has really built its own amazing uh database it is now it's like you know what we're the source of truth for this we don't really need to leverage all those other directories as much as we used to i think they still play us a role but it's quite small and that's why you're seeing this decline there it's just not as important as it used to be back in the early days you just built a bunch of citations and you would rank and it was like ah cool citations help me rank these days there's a lot more to it so first we looked at what impacts rankings in the thematic areas uh for the local pack and finder next we want to look at how does it impact for the local organic results and so let me
Point out what the local organic results are it's those it's the blue links that...
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point out what the local organic results are it's those it's the blue links that are underneath the pack that's your local organic result survey says uh it's mostly your website and your links it's no surprise we're getting into traditional seo here and so these other signals like what you put on your google listing i don't know why those are upside down like that what you put on uh you know the reviews you're getting your citations all that has a pretty small impact behavioral is a little bit bigger here and that makes sense because like people clicking through how much time whether they bounce back to the search results that's all uh important for your local organic results and so it's interesting to compare these two you can see that so like uh ranking in the pack finder it there's more emphasis on the google my business signals ranking in the local organic you see these two blue spikes that's your website and your links that's that's what's really impacting uh rankings for the local organic versus the pac finder
All right so the next question i ask in the survey is what individual factors do...
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all right so the next question i ask in the survey is what individual factors do you think have the biggest uh impact on the pac and finder rankings so the way that participants have to do this is they just there's a list of 122 factors on the left-hand side grouped into different groups and they have to click them and drag them over to the right-hand side and then they have to organize them into the order that they think is best and i put so painful here because it's kind of hard it's like you know once you get the first five to ten you're like okay that makes sense these are these ones are roughly in order but anything like beyond 10 it's like that's hard like is this factor more important than the other but you know we try to sort them we try to indicate some kind of importance and it allows me to put some kind of score on things so i score them based on the position that they've sorted them into it's like the top spot is worth 20 next plus worth 19. and then i aggregate that across all the different contributors to order
In order to come up with a score for that individual factor...
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in order to come up with a score for that individual factor and so this allows me to say well the participants think this was the most important factor this is the next most important factor and it's not perfect it's all opinion based but it's interesting and so it allows us to get a sense of what people think is most important so let's look at the results uh here they are this is these are the top 15. now there's a there's 85 other factors but these are the top 15. i'm not going to make you read a big page of text it's too hard so i'm going to go through some of these for you so number one is primary gmb category your primary category hands down is the number one thing that you can optimize on your listing that will impact your ranking so getting this category right is super important what category should you pick um it's usually pretty obvious it's like i'm a plumber so i want to rank for plumbers so i'm going to pick plumber as my category but it's also helpful to use this great
Little uh feature our little chrome extension from george nenny it's called gmb spy and it...
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little uh feature our little chrome extension from george nenny it's called gmb spy and it allows you to go to any listing on maps press the little chrome thing it'll show you what categories your competitors have so you know you can look at like 10 20 businesses in your bit in your industry and see what categories they've selected and it might spark some ideas about what might be a more important primary category um the next number two thing is keywords in the google my business business name so the the name that you enter for your business yes if you put keywords in it you'll actually help you rank for those and it's very significant strong factor for local rankings so this example's a prime example of what we call keyword spam so they've stuffed every keyword they can imagine that they want to rank for in here and you can guarantee that it's helping them rank and so sadly uh that's true it definitely does help them but it is against the google's guidelines and if you do it you are at risk at getting your listing suspended which
Would be bad you don't want that um joy hawkins did an amazing study on...
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would be bad you don't want that um joy hawkins did an amazing study on this like how much do keywords impact your uh ranking and you can see like when she added the keywords boom they went from like 50 all the way up to like position five they took the keywords out dropped again oh put the keywords back in there you go back up and you can also see it in like your your proximity radius how well you can rank around your business in the local pack results or local finder results with the keywords in the business name oh ranking really well take the keywords up not ranking as well that really has a huge impact this is why it's number two on our list and i don't know google needs to fix it because it really encourages spam i'll talk about spam later um proximity to the searcher uh isn't is the number three most important factor back in the last time i did the one before this was the number one factor but it's basically google is trying to return results to you that are close to you so if i did a search for dentists then and i did uh you'll see that all these dentists are within one kilometer of my actual location i can see them
They're really close to me and so google tries to show you businesses that...
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they're really close to me and so google tries to show you businesses that are close and what that means actually is that it's really hard to rank outside of that in the local pac finder so it's very hard to sort of break out of five to ten kilometers miles it's really hard to sort of rank beyond that and so some businesses can do it and you can do it with all the other signals by sort of expanding your radius but in general proximity researcher plays a huge role in how well you're going to rank so if you're close to the searcher you're going to rank better um this is such an interesting thing it's like people don't really realize this they think oh i want to rank around the whole city most businesses are going to rank you know if you're standing up in front of the business's front door and you do a search you're probably going to write them that business will rank number one but as you get a little further out you'll see that the business ranks you know like kind of further away and so like in this case the business doesn't even rank in the local pack just in the surrounding neighborhoods um and this can even change block by block like every street corner you go down so like i wanted to test this
I did a little drive around my neighborhood i was going to pick up our...
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i did a little drive around my neighborhood i was going to pick up our groceries and so i stopped every couple blocks and i did a search and i wanted to see how the rankings change and so you can actually see the results of this here so right at my location we have this is the three pack it's these three businesses ranking i go up one block okay fine same businesses it didn't really change from one block i go another block okay now we have some new businesses this uh cindy newfield has come into the rankings i go another block cindy's gone but glenora family dentistry and empire has come in you can just see that how the rankings change as i go spot to spot they change and so that that's what we're getting at here rankings do change significantly depending on where you are and that's why this signal is so strong and this this illustrates how strong that signal is number four is having your physical address in the actual city of search and so this amazing study
That that uh that colin nielsen did at sterling sky really demonstrates this...
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that that uh that colin nielsen did at sterling sky really demonstrates this this is a business there you can see this is the outside border of a city called olaf and they are just right outside of it right and so if you look they're listing um it says google thinks that they're in lenexa and you can see that because back here it's just just outside right so it's actually in lenexa but even though her mailing address is in olaf and so this business is like how come i'm not ranking an olaf i'm in olaf that's my address and you can see because google thinks she's actually in a different city she has a really hard time ranking in olaf but she works really well in lenexa and so that's what this signal is getting to is getting the that detail that you really need to have your address in the city in order to be able to rank well all right number five additional categories once you get that primary one done make sure you add as many other categories as you can and go back to
That that category uh extension that i mentioned gmb spy and you can use this to see like...
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that that category uh extension that i mentioned gmb spy and you can use this to see like what are all the other categories that i should be targeting and so it's really valuable to add you're going to cast a wider net every category you add it's like another keyword you're going to rank well for these categories have a strong impact on your rankings number five on our list and so um another awesome study by uh by khan oh wait a minute i think joy did this other study didn't she oh no this one's coffee okay good all right another study by by colin is uh he was just checking out whether adding more categories would hurt your listing and it didn't in fact it actually had the opposite effect it improved listings and improved rankings for their terms so there's another uh study to back up that that statement but just one caveat caveat i don't know how you say it in the us or versus canada but um if you add a bunch of really weird obscure unrelated categories it can
Actually have a negative impact so just make sure that you're not adding totally...
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actually have a negative impact so just make sure that you're not adding totally weird categories i tried like hat shop hot dog stand hair removal sexologist i put in all these different categories on the white spark listing and it was really interesting to see that like overnight our local finder rankings dropped and then once i took them out our rankings went back up this is from our local rank tracking software where i track all this stuff all right so important tip is that google is often adding new categories and so it's really valuable to make sure that you're checking for new categories all the time because um if they've added a category that you could benefit from you should definitely put on your listing so you it's like free rankings basically it's like if they didn't have that category before and they have it now every month there's a whole bunch of new ones coming in so make sure that you're always checking and adding categories number six is quality authority of inbound links to domain so inbound links are referring
To other websites linking to your website and you can use a tool like...
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to other websites linking to your website and you can use a tool like ahrefs or moz uh or majestic or semrush to check your links you can see who's linking to your website these are different software systems but just to be clear because a lot of small businesses maybe don't get this it's not websites that you link to from your website it's other websites linking to your website so for example this is the university of alberta linking to pringle law's website um and you know some links are better than others that's the essence of this this factor quality authority of the links that are linking to you so for example this business has a few links one from crunchbase one a few from the university of alberta these are very high quality links that's what we mean by quality whereas by example the these links are not so high quality this is some asian directory this is uh business directory edmonton.ca which just doesn't have a lot of authority it's a new directory
Uh pringle law coupon code some coupon code directory these are low quality links these are...
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uh pringle law coupon code some coupon code directory these are low quality links these are high quality links that's the sense basically the easier the link is to get the lower the quality is is kind of one general way to think of it number seven is keywords in reviews this is a huge ranking factor it's basically the more people that mention your your keyword in the actual review that can have a pretty big impact on your rankings uh one pro tip there is when you ask for reviews from your customers say hey please mention the service that you have performed and then you're going to get those keywords and reviews it'll help you rank for those keywords so that has a huge impact up some people have asked do keywords and owner responses have an impact and they don't that has been tested you can keyword stuff your your responses to reviews all you want and it won't impact your rankings number set number eight this one's obvious uh google likes to rank businesses that are highly rated so having a good rating uh has a pretty good impact on your ranking
If you rank you know two or or lower generally it can it can hurt your...
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if you rank you know two or or lower generally it can it can hurt your rankings number nine is spam fighting so this is what uh you know the second ranking factor uh keywords in the business name kind of ties into this there's different types of spam fighting but this one here um i'm going to talk about the keywords in the business name and so what you can do with spam fighting is if i see a business that has keyword stuff business name like this i can go suggest an edit change the name change their name to the right name and then uh leave some feed and then google be like hey thanks for your feedback and usually within a day that will be approved and their business name will be back to its normal name when that happens they drop from the rankings your client or your business moves up so that's what we're getting at we're talking about spam fighting that's this is a new factor i've added to the survey this year and a lot of people think this is an important way to improve your rankings one thing i thought was funny is that google says
Your feedback won't directly influence the rankings of any single page...
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your feedback won't directly influence the rankings of any single page i guess they're thinking about it differently than we are because uh when we change your business name it'll definitely affect the ranking of that page they'll drop like a rock all right there's 85 other factors i can't dr draw through them at all so i will be publishing the results of this survey soon enough and then you will have access to the the full results should have been published within uh a couple weeks but you know if only there was some kind of checklist you could use wouldn't that be great if you could just like take this as a checklist that would be great darren and so uh we built one uh it's it's available at weissburg.ca local seo checklist and this is a checklist built off of the local search ranking factor so it's ordered by the uh importance of the factors and so basically the way it works is you add a business and then each business that you add has its own checklist and so you can keep all of your different businesses organized multiple checklists
And then you can work through it so here's mims charcoal grill this is a real place...
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and then you can work through it so here's mims charcoal grill this is a real place and uh you can just check off uh the factors as you do them so it's a great way to sort of keep your work organized and go through and some of these factors are uncheckable like keywords in the gmb business title and we're not going to let you check that because that's spamming google so don't do it all right so uh that's our tool check it out i think it could be helpful for you uh the next question i asked was same thing sorting the factors what do you think the individual factors are that impact rankings in the local organic results and so just to remind you these are local organic it's the blue links under the pack and the survey says here they are list again too many factors to read on one page so i'm just going to break it down it comes down to two things number one build a bunch of links and then these are some individual factors related to those links so you know what are the quality of them do you have keywords in the anchor text of the link
You know how many do you have um you know that kind of stuff so link building...
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you know how many do you have um you know that kind of stuff so link building great do that and then the other piece of it is your website and so you know those organic local organic rankings are really driven by your website and your links and your website is like how much content do you have does your content speak about the key phrase that you want to rank for is your website optimized your title tag do you have enough content this is a big failure of many smb websites where they just they barely described what they do and so more content will always help you rank better and making sure it's responsive making sure uh you know you've got it optimized and the keywords that's what this basically gets down and so your local organic visibility is important so don't think oh well i only care about the pack the local organic visibility is extremely important because if you rank there it's very likely you're gonna rank up here you're gonna improve your rankings down there by investing in your website investing in
Links is very important all right question three i asked what...
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links is very important all right question three i asked what have you been focusing on more this year than in previous years so this is to get at like hey what's what's new and hot in local search services um removal of spam listings through spam fighting that is hot people are doing that these days and it makes sense because when you when you bump out the spammers and spam is becoming a huge problem all those people are stuffing keywords into their business name when you remove them you rank better so hey do that that is uh that's really growing in popularity this year uh building links is really growing in popularity completing your gmb listing so this is what i got to at the beginning gmb has added so many awesome new features that most businesses aren't even taking advantage of watch ali markson's talk where she's going to really go into detail about like it's mind-blowing how many people are not taking advantage of all the future stories having a nice complete gmb listing is what people are focusing on focusing on getting more reviews and
Making sure that primary category is dialed in and so okay well what are you spending...
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making sure that primary category is dialed in and so okay well what are you spending less time on well survey says what do you think citations so basically citations people are spending less time on this they they have realized that consistency on other citation sources like consistency on a greater web you got a wrong phone number on myhuckleberry.com is okay you don't have to fix that it's not going to hurt your ranking so that's old school local seo the new school seo is hey don't worry about fixing every incorrect citation on the web don't worry about building out hundreds of citations on all the directories it's a smaller signal and so there are more things that are more important that you should focus on and all of these signals get to the heart of that that there are better uses of your time and money than investing in citation work um all right myth busters which i love this question so i added this this year there's a lot of people that think a lot
Of things about local search that are wrong and so i wanted to uh...
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of things about local search that are wrong and so i wanted to uh i wanted to ask this question to uh try and get that to the broader community of seos that these things do not impact your rankings here they are we've got keywords in the google my business description let's let's dispel that myth right here you can stuff your google my business description with as many keywords as you want has no impact on ranking so yeah there you go can't do it don't do it keywords in the services no turning on gmb messaging that's not going to impact your rankings uh keywords in products no google doesn't look at those for rankings it's not part of the local search algorithm oh maybe if you buy advertising google will rank you better no that doesn't happen oh what if i stuff my google posts with keywords will that help me rank better no it won't but uh it will give you this awesome little related search thing which i'll i'll show you uh a little bit later um presence of an appointment url do you
Have the url will help you rank now we'll help you rank uh...
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have the url will help you rank now we'll help you rank uh if you're adding lots of posts on a regular basis nope that doesn't impact rankings and then consistency of citations on other sources they don't impact rankings i think it's great for that to show up because like i talked about my huckleberry wrong phone number don't worry about it all right now this one didn't come up in the top 10 but please let me let me highlight this one because it's very important a lot of people think that i am a plumber i service the whole city so oh great google provided me the service area section i can just put in every zip code that i service and i'm going to rank in those areas no i'm sorry google doesn't look at this they don't care about what you put in here for rankings it's like there's like the ranking team and they're like service areas i don't even know that exists so it has no impact on your rankings all it does is draws this map that's all it does so if you decide your service areas you're going to get this nice little map on your listing if someone searches it's like oh what areas do they service thank you google they service that area there
That's all it does no ranking benefit all right question...
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that's all it does no ranking benefit all right question five was which individual factors do you think have the biggest impact on conversions from gmb and the reason i wanted to ask this is because you know ranking number one doesn't mean you're gonna get the lead there is a a push in the industry to like be like hey it's not all about rankings it's also about hey you know what's even better than rankings getting phone calls getting people filling out our form getting people coming to our business that's that's actually better than rankings and so ally marcus input in her presentation this great example which i have borrowed thank you ali and so it this is a great example showing a search for drain cleaning edmonton so the number one rank here is all about drain cleaning ltd definitely benefiting from drain cleaning in their in their business name but that makes them rank number one but look at that stupid listing they got like one review no pictures no um no
Google posts or anything now i'm i'm like okay i'm looking for drain cleaning...
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google posts or anything now i'm i'm like okay i'm looking for drain cleaning i i i'm looking through the results oh look at mr rooter here 628 reviews 4.8 rating i read the reviews they've got this cool related to your search thing that pops up because they've been active on google posts and so the google posts that reference drain cleaning they're getting pulled into their knowledge panel oh that's amazing you want that and so you know evidence for why you want to focus on google posts look at all these great photos all right this is the company so this is this example is particularly interesting to me because i did this this was like a week ago we had a dream problem in our house i had to find someone to help with it i went to google and this is the company i called i called mr rooter they don't rank number one they're number four and so how do you convert more people from the search results survey says this is what you want to do you want to make sure you have high ratings on google that's obvious you want to make sure that people are saying good things about you in the review text you want to make sure that
The the you have lots of reviews that have uh text in them you want to...
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the the you have lots of reviews that have uh text in them you want to make sure you're close to the business that's interesting it's like people will convert higher on businesses that are close to them uh turn on the messaging feature that's smart might not impact rankings but it actually will increase improve conversions because now people can instantly ask you questions make sure you have your proper hours set make sure your listing is well built up and complete as this example shows make sure you turn on the booking feature if you have the booking feature it's a great way to instantly get conversions right off of google um post regularly and fill out your q a these are awesome so these these 10 things are things you should be doing make sure you check out ali's talk she's going to dive into all of these all right negative factors which individual factors do you think could actually hurt your rankings what are the things that can hurt your rankings look at that we got incorrect business category yeah put the wrong category in there and that will hurt your rankings listing at a false business address this is a spam
Signal you you've created fake addresses po box ups other kinds of like virtual...
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signal you you've created fake addresses po box ups other kinds of like virtual addresses that can hurt your rankings you have a hacked site you can refer to these later running low on time here all right i wanted to talk about the commentary so the comments are often full of great uh tips things that uh the prac the contributors are seeing so it's really great so i asked a question what are some strategies that are working really well for you at the moment one of the big ones popping up in all the comments are spam fighting so you can see some of the things people are saying about that you know andrew schotlin says that knarking on gmd spammers is definitely working it's helping you know it's basically spam reporting leads the pack when it comes to strategy so spam fighting for sure was a big theme in the commentary if you would like some advice on that uh jessie love is this fantastic comprehensive guide to how to spam fight you can check that out um another thing that's really uh was the theme in the commentary
Were reviews lots of people talking about how you know focusing on reviews...
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were reviews lots of people talking about how you know focusing on reviews is always helpful uh this is one of the things that is working really well for them right now uh any tips on reviews i've got a very comprehensive guide this is a presentation i gave at mozcon a couple years ago about reviews and so i returned that into a blog post this is how to get the most get more reviews and and turn those reviews into a conversion machine for you all right so uh what you what did you used to do that doesn't work as well anymore no surprise citations pop up a lot in the comments here they just don't seem to have the impact that they used to people spending lots of money on services like yex like a recurring fee a little bit mind-blowing or just spending you know building a 200 citation that stuff doesn't work the way it used to uh you know get your citations cleaned up on the sites that matter build out like another 30 40 and call it a day that's all you need to do with citations now uh what are some methods that you're using to try to influence behavioral
Factors if any so this stuff a lot of this behavioral factors ties into um...
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factors if any so this stuff a lot of this behavioral factors ties into um kind of some of the same things that we're talking about with conversion factors you know just taking advantage of all the stuff in gmb making sure that you have that turned on because when you have a well built out listing you're gonna get more people clicking on it more people engaging with it those are behavioral signals that google will pick up on and it'll help your rankings uh any comments about where you see google headed in the future this is a an important question um you know what what's in store and so uh basically google's headed to the bank and they are uh they're gonna keep monetizing so we're seeing this happening all the time local services ads are rolling out to more industries make sure you check out tom waddington's talk um they've just added this new google guaranteed badge and so just looking for more ways to monetize google's a publicly traded company they have a mandate to continue to make
More and more money and local search is right for them to...
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more and more money and local search is right for them to continue to monetize and so we can see a lot of that that's a lot more of you know organic getting more ads in it there's so much to fit in uh i couldn't get it all in this one presentation i will be publishing the results in a couple weeks you'll be able to dive in there read all the comments see all the different factors this presentation is just scratching the surface of the highlights of it i look forward to publishing it and hearing all your feedback about it that's all i have for the presentation uh any questions you can tweet at me at darren shop all right well that's it for me uh stick around we have so many amazing talks i i hope you get so much of it i can't wait to chat with all of you on twitter alright thanks see you on twitter [Music] you

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