2020 was a no good terrible year for a lot of industries while others got an unexpected boost from lockdowns. Regardless of your niche, local SEO keeps growing as major acquisition opportunity for local businesses that shouldn’t be overlooked. As Google continues to tweak their algorithms and add new features, businesses have a new set of challenges to win the fight for search visibility.

Here’s a relatively quick recap on top ranking factors, what’s changed, and what you should focus on to have local SEO success in 2021.

Google My Business

Darren Shaw’s yearly survey of the local SEO brain-trust concluded that GMB signals are up – way up in fact. They credited GMB signals with 33% of the overall local ranking factor pie, that’s a skyward increase compared to the previous survey which was already way up. Why is Google My Business so darn valuable you ask? Good question.

As part of Google’s quest to own the user’s attention and keep them on Google as much as possible they’ve made some changes to the features in your GMB listing.

They continue to make more and more information available right from your knowledge panel so users don’t really need to visit your website at all to find what they need and contact your business. For many local businesses the GMB listing is actually their top lead generator. Some of that info includes:

  • Your business contact info including click-to-call and text options
  • Reviews
  • Business description
  • Services + Prices
  • Questions & Answers
  • Photos + Videos
  • Google Posts

Make sure you’re getting the most from your listing by filling out all the fields, taking advantage of google posts, and acquiring new customer reviews. You might be wondering, if so many shoppers are converting right from Google My Business do I even need a website anymore? I understand the impulse but no so fast compadre. Google isn’t your best friend and you’d be wise to consider how they might continue to monetize the search results in the future. It’s important that you actually control some of your brand assets online. I also spent some time rambling on my podcast last year about the very same topic.


I’ve heard that links are dead so many times it gives me a headache. That could very well be true in the future but that dark day has not yet descended upon us. Links still drive local search results and the experts agree – the survey results gave links 14% of the pie which makes it a close competitor to reviews in the local landscape.


This is hardly surprising, social proof is demonstrably effective and reviews line up right behind links as one of the most impactful local search factors. Compared the previous survey reviews are up again and continue to play an essential role in local search success.

  • Get more Google reviews
  • Keywords in reviews help, ask your customers to reference the specific service they received
  • Respond to your reviews, especially the bad ones! Potential customers want to see how you handle yourself
  • Expand your review portfolio to other prominent local review platforms like Facebook, Yelp, or other sources relevant for your industry.

One of the contributors to the local SEO survey added his overview on what’s been working for him.

“Seeking a consistent flow of positive-sentiment reviews on your GMB page. BBB listings *surprising find* paid/unpaid doesn’t seem to matter. Ensure as much completeness and engagement of the GMB page as possible” Andy Kuiper – Calgary SEO Expert

Local Citations

If your plan for 2021 was to build hundreds more local citations for your business you’re probably wasting your time. Continuing to drop compared to the previous survey the experts agree that local citations just don’t carry the same weight. Making sure you have accurate listings across the top 30ish most influential local citation sites for your business is still a foundational SEO factor that you need to have success. However, all those other obscure citations probably are doing much to move the needle.

I’ll also give a quick shout out to content. Naturally, having good quality content that matches user intent and helps your customers make decisions about your products or services will be essential for both ranking and conversions.

Patrick Leonard | Owner, Brighter Digital

Author: Patrick Leonard

Patrick is the owner of Brighter Digital, he's an experienced digital marketing professional with a focus on local search to help small businesses grow.