GEO Ranking Tools: How Variability Affects

Rankings and Rank Monitoring

Whilst ‘Rank Tracking’ summarises how and where webpages appear in the rankings for various keyword phrases, Linkdex’s Geo-Variance score is a way of measuring rankings susceptible to change depending on the search location.

 

In practice, what does this ‘Geo-Variance’ score mean?

On average, across all the keywords we measured, we found that the average ranking of a URL differed by 4 places from its non-location specific rankings when monitored at a named location. This is massive – SEO professionals will know the potential value of an increase in rankings by 4 positions across the board, or the impact an unmonitored position fall of 4 positions could have on a business.

 

If you don’t specify a location from which to check your rankings, the location will revert to that of the server/proxy used by the rank tracking service. This means the results given won’t even just be an amalgamation of the results for the whole country, but will be locally focused, just on an unexpected area.

 

Small variations in location can have large impacts on the rankings. For example, two locations in the research were ‘London’ and ‘SW6 6NU’, which is a postcode in the West London area of Fulham, not far away from the center of the city. Even with this small geographical difference, we picked up an average ranking change of 2.9 places. It is important to be sufficiently granular in your localized SEO strategy – just targeting the ‘London’ location in general won’t necessarily improve your reach to the whole of the metropolitan area.

According to Linkdex data, on average 37% of clicks will go to the site in first position of the natural listings. If a search marketer takes a #1 ranking at face value, when in fact the site ranks at #2 across half the country (picking up only 17% of the natural search traffic), the lower ranking is reducing traffic by a third. This is a scenario we have seen many times in our testing.

 

How Variability Affects Rankings and Rank Monitoring

This all shows that, in order to get the most reliable data, it is absolutely imperative to be able to view a true picture of how your site is ranking across your important local markets, rather than just trusting that the location of your proxy is representative. For the less

variable keywords, there’s a good chance it will be, although it’ll never be 100% correct. For keywords with a high Geo-Variance score, where the majority of URLs making up the rankings will change from one location to another, there is little chance the data will be useful for your optimization strategy.

 

Geo-Optimization

Agencies and businesses should use Geo-Ranking insights to optimize their sites

differently based upon location. This will ensure their products and services receive the same coverage and visibility regardless of geography.

 

One of the key challenges to Geo-Optimization is the need to use metrics to measure the performance of geo-specific strategies. In other words, in order to optimize for keywords and locations, you need data that allows you to understand where you rank in different places for each keyword. You need to know which keywords vary by location, which ones are triggering Google+ Pages (local listings) and whether or not you are ranked as a ‘Places’ result in the SERPs. Not just for the keywords that are “keyword + location” but also for generic keywords that vary by location.

 

Once you have this data, you can define and test strategies that allow you to measure improved geo-specific performance. Optimizing results in increasing taffic and revenues. After evaluating Geo-Ranking results to identify the locations where businesses need to improve, Geo-Optimization can then help them appear in more regions and receive more impressions and traffic as a result of increased visibility.

 

Industry Response

After conducting our research we asked industry thought leaders to comment on our findings and share their knowledge of Geo-Optimization.

 

How important is having data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability?

Understanding how rankings fluctuate based on keywords is imperative particularly if organic rankings are used as a KPI of the SEO campaign.

 

How do you think Geo-Ranking insights will affect your business?

We are already doing things differently based upon the Geo-Ranking changes that we’ve seen with clients in a number of verticals. As this research has demonstrated, some verticals are more acutely affected than others (such as tradesmen being highly affected and finance being one of the least affected).

An important take away from this research however is that of the 2000 keyword rankings , no keyword ranking remained stable across all 10 locations, implying that the considera­tion of location optimization should be done across all verticals. Broadly, I think Geo-Rank­ing insights will affect how we deliver SEO within MEC to our clients in the following ways:

Location specific optimization strategies – While we have already started this, I think this will become more important as rankings continue to fluctuate more based upon location. Location specific optimization will include onsite recommendations, link building and local social/event activation.

Geo-Ranking reporting – Reporting rankings transparently by key locations and providing an average keyword geo-location ranking which will be weighted by geographic location based upon either the client’s presence by region or population in the geographic area.

Continue to move away from rankings as a core KPI – We’ve been moving away from rankings as a key measure of success for a number of years now as traffic and conversions are a much more effective measure. The introduction of Geo-Ranking data makes reporting on rankings even less reliable than rankings were before (with personalisation, social recommendations etc.) so we’re confident this is a good enough reason to move away from rankings as a primary KPI.

That said, it’s important for us and clients to be aware of Geo-Ranking variations so as to identify opportunities to optimize locally but rankings alone will not be the key measure of success of an SEO campaign.

How important is data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability?

Having data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability is extremely important as it can help provide more insight into the tactics that may be required to rank for a certain keyword and can help steer targeting and keyword prioritization.

The degree to which having specific Geo-Variance data will be valuable will be slightly more dependent upon the nature of the query, the target audience, and so forth. Knowing whether or not there is Geo-Ranking variability will always be a hugely beneficial top level metric when evaluating keyword targeting and any offsite strategy.

How do you think Geo-Ranking insights will affect your business?

As alluded to above, I feel Geo-Ranking intelligence will affect our business in varying ways depending upon client needs. The first and most obvious point is that rankings that vary by location make reporting on the value of SEO more difficult and this is magnified by personalized search results. Without the ability to look at highly location sensitive keywords from multiple locations rankings, as a proxy KPI, become even less valuable and comprehension for clients will be an increasingly difficult issue.

 

Setting aside the reporting issue, having more refined data around Geo-Rankings and the degree to which there is variance for a keyword, or group of keywords, could provide greater tailoring of SEO efforts and more strategic control over all online marketing efforts.

For some clients location specific rankings may become an essential metric for which we prioritize and monitor Geo-Ranking separately, for others we may use this data to provide “blended” ranking data (as ultimately we concern ourselves more with profits and traffic than rankings), and for a minority we may find that variance is not significant enough to report on. In any of the above scenarios, easy access to this data will ultimately allow us to make better strategic decisions that should lead to better results.

 

Industry Response

When presented with data on which locations are performing and underperforming, how would you go about improving the performance of a business with a physical address in multiple locations that is underperforming in a few key towns and cities?

 

In my view the most important part of this issue is first identifying the “key towns and cities” in question and ensuring that the business case drives this decision rather than a desire to improve rankings for the CEO when they search from their home town.

 

Beyond that there are a number of tactics we would look to employ which could include outreach to local press/businesses/customers in those cities and towns, a focus on local SEO strategy (and performance within local search engines, maps, etc.), and creation of location specific content on the website if it does not already exist.

In some respects this could create additional work though I think the upside of this is that it could encourage a greater focus on local consumers and improving their experience to encourage increased conversation, reviews and potentially links within the communities that matter most for the business – which ultimately should be the core objective of any client looking to rank better in a specific geo location.

Please give your ‘top tip’ for geo-optimization.

I won’t go so far as to classify it as a “top tip” as I think the results are still inconclusive, however I personally think Google’s provision and adoption of the hreflang attribute could be hugely beneficial toward improving localised international rankings. Further, I would not be surprised if there is enough adoption to see them roll out similar directives (or utilisation of existing markup) to allow for better targeting of content of cities/locales as well.

One tip I would suggest – and an area that many large business so often seem to miss out on – is creating relevant and unique content targeting the most important towns and cities (if all locations cannot be targeted). Ultimately providing useful information about your offering as it pertains to these very specific audiences and their needs should be the first step for any local business or business with a physical location in a target area.

If a user can find content that is entertaining, interesting or useful they will be more likely to value the contributions of that brand/website and in turn will be more likely to share this information and speak highly of your offering which should lead to more citations from sources in a specific target area and more relevancy to a local audience.

Nick Wilsdon, Head of SEO for Arena Media

How important is having data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability?

Geo-Ranking has become increasingly important as Google develops their algorithm but, as you have suggested, having actionable data is the key factor. This would allow us to cross

reference organic rankings with localized PPC campaigns and foot fall or sales data from the stores themselves. Geo-Ranking data will contribute to this local model and help increase our performance.

 

How do you think Geo-Ranking insights will affect your business?

This data will allow us to improve our models and business cases for clients, showing the value and return of local campaigns. Geo-Rankings should help focus clients on the importance of performing across all key towns and cities they service.

When presented with data on which locations are performing and underperforming, how would you go about improving the performance of a business with a physical address in multiple locations that is underperforming in a few key towns and cities?

Google Places listing are an essential part of any localization strategy, to gain additional real estate in these SERPs. However the ideal is to create an on page strategy where content is created to serve these local results from the website itself. Rather than boilerplate landing pages, businesses should be thinking about how to provide value, through local information, offers and engagement.

These pages can then be used to create local links to key websites associated with those key towns and cities. Local store or franchise owners will help build content to these pages, rather than build out additional content on new domains.

Please give your ‘top tip’ for geo-optimization.

Always check competitor PPC activity from different regional IPs within the UK. I’ve previously discovered adverts that infringe client trademarks but are not displaying these within the London area. I assume these competitors know that many of the major agencies are based there, so hide them in order to avoid having their adverts reported to Google. My second tip would to work closely with the PPC team, in order to gain conversion data from localized campaigns, this can help you prioritize your local content production.

Andrew Girdwood, Media Innovations Director for LBi How important is having data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability?

It is very important that businesses understand that Geo-Ranking does happen because all businesses should know about Search. The importance of Geo-Ranking on any given business depends on the geographic coverage of that business.
A restaurant in Brighton with a site of its own and a popular Facebook page may concentrate solely on ensuring it has strong local search coverage even though knowledge of how well its site did in other locations would be good to know. An international chain or franchise has to be the master of geo-location; at the national and global scale.

How do you think Geo-Ranking insights will affect your business?

LBi, thanks to its bigmouthmedia heritage, is one of the few significantly sized international Search Marketing equipped digital agencies and as a result Geo-Ranking is very important to us.

The greater the knowledge and the more accessible the technologies are on the reporting and investigation of Geo-Ranking variance the better for the industry as a whole. This is an area where individual businesses and agencies benefit from collectiveimprovements in education and understanding.

When presented with data on which locations are performing and underperforming, how would you go about improving the performance of a business with a physical address in multiple locations that is underperforming in a few key towns and cities?

It’s important to think of modern SEO as multi-signal search. Location is a key signal. Modern SEO campaigns have to think about location signals just as they need to consider author signals, freshness, social signals, traditional link signals and others.

Businesses need to be able to engage platforms and audiences in any given location, connecting them with engaging content in order to earn those locational references and quality signals that the search algorithms look for.

Please give your ‘top tip’ for geo-optimization.

With international Geo-Optimization in mind; don’t translate content – localize it.

David Freeman, Head of SEO & Affiliates for MPG Media Contacts How important is having data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability?

Collating Geo-Ranking data is vital, especially when you are working on brand with stores or dealerships across the country. Web analytics is great at providing business metrics such as visits and conversions but being able to correlate this back to Geo-Variance will add another level of insight to the data. Whilst the overarching focus will always be the business metrics, Geo-Ranking insights will provide the additional data required to allow us to focus on how we can increase visits and conversion at local level.

 

How do you think Geo-Ranking insights will affect your business?

We always work on the basis that a ranking is never the same across locations, devices etc and always optimize a site rather than chase an algorithm. Will Geo-Ranking data change our processes that much? Most likely not, but the additional data would certainly help formulate the strategy at a localized level.

 

When presented with data on which locations are performing and underperforming, how would you go about improving the performance of a business with a physical address in multiple locations that is underperforming in a few key towns and cities?

In many respects very little will change in the process, however with the Geo-Ranking

data we would have additional data to interrogate during the analysis phase. This

additional data will guide what we are looking at both on and off page, for instance once you know a car dealership in Newcastle is not performing well locally in terms of rankings you can correlate this with site analytics data and put in place a strategy to increase performance.

 

Industry Response

Please give your ‘top tip’ for geo-optimization.• Geo search trends vary considerably, let the data guide you in terms of keyword targeting• Craft your content to engage on a local level• Maintain the holistic approach, ensuring there is synergy between your local media campaign and your local website (e.g. car dealers and restaurants)

 

Industry Response

David Harling, Head of SEO for Razorfish London How important is having data on whether keywords are affected by Geo-Ranking variability?

Extremely important – From an agency perspective it would allow us to give our internal teams and client teams more granular insights to inform strategic SEO decisions. Our SEO offering at Razorfish is global, but we centralize a lot of our strategy and leadership from the UK.

How do you think Geo-Ranking insights will affect your business?

Not sure it does, as we are part of a global network which doesn’t rely on search to drive awareness or demand.

 

It’s fundamental for us to have a strong search engine profile. We want to be able to talk to our clients about real growth opportunities in multiple markets as well as localizing regional campaigns based on UK demand opportunities – this can only happen if we have quality data to support conversations and decision making (data which is accurate and not compromised by running global ranking reports from a UK location).

 

When presented with data on which locations are performing and underperforming, how would you go about improving the performance of a business with a physical address in multiple locations that is underperforming in a few key towns and cities?

 

The focus of the optimization would need to be on creating the association between the physical addresses in the underperforming key town and cities, which will allow search engines to understand the attribution of physical locations to virtual locations.

Some effective ways to do this are as follows:

 

  • Include pages within the website which contain content about physical locations such as: address, phone number, embedded Google map etc

 

  • Create / claim Google places pages for all physical locations of the business and ensure that these link through to the corresponding physical store details page within the website

 

Future vision

With the integration of Foursquare reviews within Bing search results and the ramping up of Google+ adoption we may start to see location based results ranked by review

sentiment or micro data tag ratings shortly.

 

Please give your ‘top tip’ for geo-optimization.

Use ccTLDs, get web hosting in the local countries, localize all content and fully optimize Google places.

Industry Response

About Linkdex

www.linkdex.com

Linkdex allows you to track Geo-Rankings for any location – chosen by the user at

ZIP/postal code, town, city and country levels – for any number of keyword phrases. It

simultaneously shows where you and your competitors rank for these terms in the places important to you.

 

As an enterprise-level SEO platform, Linkdex includes tools for Geo-Optimization,

competitor analysis, dashboard reporting, team management, keyword research, onsite optimization, and link building.

Linkdex offers a range of subscription models and makes it easy to transfer legacy data from other data providers so improving your SEO is simple.