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Local SEO: What Factors Affect Your Local Search Rankings?

October 1, 2020

How can tax and accounting practices rank higher for local search results?

It all comes down to focusing on a combination of the most influential local SEO ranking factors. Google’s algorithm for local search is fluid and complex, so it can be difficult to know where to spend your time and resources to improve your chance for high ranks.

It’s getting harder and harder to rank on search as a local business. The SEO landscape has changed, and it’s not just the major nationwide brands who are optimizing for search; local SEO is becoming more competitive as well.

2020 Key Local Ranking Factors 

At their recent Local Search Summit (September 2020), Whitespark announced the initial findings of their latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey. The insights they shared can help local businesses like CPAs, EAs, and tax and accounting firms to prioritize which aspects to allocate resources to. 

These were the most important ranking factors for local pack and localized organic rankings in 2020, based on Whitespark’s report:

Local Pack

  1. Google My Business (33%)
  2. Reviews (16%)
  3. On-Page & Links (15% – tie)
  4. Behavioral (8%)
  5. Citations (7%)
  6. Personalization (6%)

Local Organic

  1. On-Page (32%)
  2. Links (31%)
  3. Behavioral (10%)
  4. Google My Business & Personalization (7% – tie)
  5. Citations & Reviews (6% – tie)

These rankings were based on what local search experts said were the most important ranking factors to local pack and localized organic results.

For reference, “local pack” and “local organic” are referring to these types of search results:

BrightLocal averaged out the the combination of both factors for those businesses who are looking to improve their rankings in both:

  1. On-page optimization (24%)
  2. Links (23%)
  3. GMB (20%)
  4. Reviews (11%)
  5. Behavioral (9%)
  6. Citations & Personalization (7% – tie)

Remember: prioritization is never as simple as just dividing your time/efforts up by these exact percentages. Some of the factors are more time-intensive and others can be outsourced.

Trends of Local Ranking Factors Over Time

As Google’s algorithms change over time, it can be helpful to look at how the significance of local ranking factors evolve as well. This chart, also from BrightLocal, clearly indicates the exponential growth of Google My Business (GMB) Signals and their influence on local rank.

Source: BrightLocal

As you can see, GMB signals have remained the most important factor since 2013 – and by even higher margins since 2017. This is, of course, unsurprising: Google wants businesses to use their products, so they make it almost impossible to succeed in search without GMB.

That being said, it’s actually a positive for businesses. GMB is one more place to get your brand in front of consumers, and it’s often in the moment when they’re searching for services like yours – aka when they have purchase intent.

It’s imperative to keep your GMB listing optimized on an ongoing basis. 64% of consumers have used GMB listings to find a local business’s address or phone number, and GMB is the 2nd most trusted source to find accurate and up-to-date contact information (behind only the business’s website).

Graphic showing an iceberg. Small part above the water is "your site" and larger part below the water is "Google My Business"

How CountingWorks PRO Can Improve Practices’ Local Search Rankings

Most of the most important factors for Local Pack and Localized Organic results can be improved through your CountingWorks PRO subscription without needing to lift a finger.

As mentioned above, GMB is crucial to your SEO success as a local business – and it’s one of our specialties.

We will claim your GMB listing and work with you to verify your practice locations. Then, our team optimizes the content of your listing, ensuring your list of services, name/address/phone number, and other business information is accurate and consistent. We also lock in your data so outside users cannot touch your information, update your data for you as needed, and connect your GMB listing to your website.

Additionally, we’ll create logo and cover images for you to give your listing a professional look. With our Social Pro add-on, we provide frequent automated blog posting to your GMB to improve the quality of your listing, and we offer done-for-you review campaigns to drive customer reviews for your listing.

If you’d like to learn more about our SEO and GMB services, or have questions about local search factors and how to improve your rankings, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts.


Pro advice, ideas, and information to help your practice get going and grow.

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Lauren Detweiler

My passion lies in storytelling. I start work every day aiming to convey the right messaging to the right people, and the role of content manager for the CountingWorks PRO team allows me to do that for both our company and clients across the country. Since graduating university, I have been traveling and working remotely across Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and the USA.

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