On October 13th, Moz released its much awaited annual survey analyzing the current state of local search and online ranking factors. Specifically, Moz built upon the framework they used for their 2013 survey and aimed to identify more specific changes.
As most small business owners understand, the search ranking of your website has a major influence on the web traffic and customers directed to your business.
Thus, studies like the Moz survey are an invaluable resource for small business owners.
A Basic Rundown of the Moz Survey
For this year’s analysis, Moz aimed for a more streamlined approach. To be more precise, uninfluential factors such as variances between desktop and mobile as well as different results between pack/carousel and maps were removed. The individual list factors were also limited to the top 50 in each category.
Like in previous years, the survey participants were a large panel of local marketing experts. To participate, the respondents were asked to report which specific factors contributed to rankings as well as which factors were affected the most by the Google Pidgeon update.
Similar to 2013’s format, this year’s Moz survey was composed of four parts, namely: General Ranking Factors, Specific Ranking Factors, Factors Most Affected by Pigeon, and Negative Ranking Factors.
For General Ranking Factors, respondents were tasked with conveying the percent influence of thematic clusters (such as business or social signals) across two types of local search results (localized organic and pack/carousel). They were asked to assign each of the 8 clusters with a percentage that combined to a total of 100%.
For Specific Ranking Factors, the panel was given a section divided into three parts. Section A had respondents choose the top 20 of 106 ranking factors that had the greatest impact on pack/carousel rankings. Section B had respondents rank those same 20 factors again, but in relation to local organic ranking. Section C had those 20 factors ranked yet again but in terms of greatest impact across both ranking types.
For Factors Most Affected by Pigeon, the panel of experts chose their top 5 ranking factors which had increased or decreased in importance as the result of Pigeon.
For Negative Ranking Factors, the participants ranked a list of 30 negative ranking factors beginning with the most damaging.
Implications for Businesses
According to Moz survey administrator David Mihm, while the ranking algorithm has not transformed a great deal since 2008, there are a few important changes to take notice of.
- Google appears to have increased the weight of certain signals, namely behavioral signals. Mihm specifically noted that the importance of search result click-through rates seems to be increasing.
- Brand signals are expected to remain high in importance; however, domain authority appears to be on the up and up. This is especially true after the Pigeon update was implemented in the US.
- Authoritative and consistent structured citations continue to be highly rated across both search result types.
- In 2014’s survey, Google seems to have honed in its location parameter. As a result, it appears that business proximity to searcher is a more prominent ranking factor.
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