*Update: (4/6/21) We are back to normal (i.e., #1), but the following should hopefully help you understand how to make sure that this doesn’t happen to your website OR how to optimize for these scenarios moving forward.

Potential SEO Surprises

For more than 8 out of 10 years, we’ve been #1 for “Seattle SEO” and “SEO Seattle” from all parts of the world.

Soon to be #1 LA SEO Agency

With that said, we just checked this past week ~mid March 2021 and we noticed we had dropped to the 3rd position:

Why do rankings drop in the local pack of Google?

It’s obviously not reviews.

Rather, you can see how both listings above us have less reviews at the 5 stars average we all have:

  • We outdo the #1 in the local pack by 8
  • We outdo the #2 agency by 28

So, it’s interesting how these two literally overtook us recently.  Moz says that reviews had a 15.44% influence on the rankings.

So, was it?

Link Signals?

Moz says 16.53% of the algorithm for the local pack is backlink signals.

Referring domains link velocity seems to be powerful factor for the local pack

Using SEMRush, we see our referring domains have dropped a bit in the past year:

And the #1 result had an increase:

And the #2 result also has seen growth:

Let’s examine us 3 through the lenses of “all time”:

Seattle Organic SEO’s overall

The #1 result in mid March 2021:

The #2 result in mid March 2021:

Link Signals Analysis of Top 3 Results in the Local Pack of “Seattle SEO”:

The first and biggest metric that blew my mind was that the total number of backlink unique domains really doesn’t matter.  Look at how many the #1 result has: 21.  We have 703.  The #2 one has 55.

The other interesting analysis in terms of domains by authority score is fascinating as well.

  • #1 has 5% of 81-90 root domain authority score, 5% is 61-70
  • #2 has <1% at 91-100 (but at least has 1), <1% at 81-90 (note: they have 7 of these domains), 3% at 71-80 (30 of them), 5% at 61-70 (51) and 8% at 51-60 (86)
  • We, as of now in #3 have <1% at 91-100 (1), 1% at the 81-90 level (yes, we beat both of them handsomely at 9 of these), 1% at 71-80 (9 domains — #2 is kicking our butt here), 5% at 61-70 (37 – again #2 is in the lead, but we are killing #1 on this level and the 71-80 level as well), 5% at 51-60 (37 of these).

Lastly, here are some other fascinating findings re: the link signals:

  • link velocity for the top 2 results is trending higher consistently
  • referring domains for the #3 result (us) is the highest with the #2 result being the second highest and the #1 result having the weakest total referring domains
  • authority score is highest for the #2 result and the #3 result being second and the #1 result having the weakest authority score

Link Signals: Anchor Text of the top 3 SEOs in Seattle

Our anchor text:

Mid-March 2021’s #1 “Seattle SEO” agency

Mid-March 2021’s #2 “Seattle SEO” agency

Summary of the Anchor Text ratios of the Top Seattle SEO Agencies

  • It’s o.k. to have unbranded text show up higher than your brand’s anchor text
  • The #1 “Seattle SEO” doesn’t even have “Seattle SEO” showing up as a top “anchor text”
  • branded anchor text doesn’t seem to matter in terms of the ratio for the #1 and #2 results

Lastly, we wanted to examine the location:

Since Moz’s 2018 study says:

“Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 25.12%”

How close are the top Seattle SEO agencies to the centroid?

According to WayMarking.com:

Seattle’s Centroid is N 47° 37.271 W 122° 19.986

Seattle’s Top SEO agencies in relation to the centroid:

  • The March 2021 Seattle SEO Agency that’s showing up #1 as of 3/20 is 7 min & 0.9 mi from the Centroid
  • Seattle Organic SEO is 10 minutes or 3.5 minutes from the Centroid
  • The March 2021 Seattle SEO Agency that’s showing up #2 as of 3/20 is 22 min & 7.5 mi from the Centroid

Summary of the Seattle SEO local pack results as of March 20, 2021:

  • The location to the “Centroid” may be helping + the unique domains velocity trending positive for the #1 agency in the local pack for “Seattle SEO.”
  • For the #2 result, the variety of pages they are ranking for that have different permutations for “SEO” may be influencing their ability to overcome their long distance from the centroid.  Google may be giving them credit for their overall SEO and also their link velocity is trending positive like the #1 result; the stronger reviews as well at a higher quantity in combination with the aforementioned help it stay #2
  • Lastly, for us, we may be getting slightly penalized for our unique domains in the backlinks dropping since May 2019 may be hurting us the most despite having the most referring domains

We know this analysis is quite basic in just analyzing the top 3 “local pack finding factors.”  With that said, we hope to go through the rest of the 47 sooner than later:

Top 50 Local Pack Finder Factors (by moz)

#1 530 total

Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)

#2 463 total

Physical Address in City of Search

#3 365 total

Proper GMB Category Associations

#4 333 total

Product/Service Keyword in GMB Business Title

#5 248 total

Location Keyword in GMB Business Title

#6 219 total

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain

#7 214 total

GMB Primary Category Matches a Broader Category of the Search Category (e.g. primary category=restaurant & search=pizza)

#8 188 total

Consistency of Citations on the Primary Data Sources

#9 166 total

Domain Authority of Website

#10 149 total

Completeness of GMB Listing

#11 148 total

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

#12 137 total

Quantity of Native Google Reviews (with text)

#13 130 total

Click-Through Rate from Search Results

#14 127 total

Product/Service Keywords in Reviews

#15 110 total

Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

#16 107 total

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally Relevant Domains

#17 104 total

Proximity of Address to Centroid

#18 96 total

Product/Service Keyword in GMB Landing Page Title

#19 90 total

High Numerical Ratings of Business by Google Users (e.g. 4–5)

#20 83 total

Page Authority of GMB Landing Page URL

#21 80 total

Consistency of Citations on Tier 1 Citation Sources

#22 80 total

Location Keyword in GMB Landing Page Title

#23 75 total

Quantity of Engagement Signals on GMB Listing (scrolling through listing, clicking photos, reading reviews, reading Q&A, clicking on Posts, etc.)

#24 70 total

Prominence on Key Industry-Relevant Domains

#25 70 total

Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts, Gov Sites, Industry Associations)

#26 67 total

Volume of Searches for Business Name

#27 65 total

Proximity of Address to Centroid of Other Businesses in Industry

#28 64 total

Age of GMB Listing

#29 64 total

Verified GMB Listing

#30 60 total

HTML NAP Matching GMB Listing NAP

#31 58 total

Driving Directions to Business Clicks

#32 56 total

Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews

#33 55 total

Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain

#34 55 total

Authority of Third-Party Sites on Which Reviews Are Present

#35 53 total

Mobile-Friendly/Responsive Website

#36 52 total

Quantity of Inbound Links to Landing Page URL from Industry-Relevant Domains

#37 51 total

Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

#38 45 total

Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

#39 45 total

Positive Sentiment in Reviews

#40 45 total

Clicks to Call Business

#41 42 total

Local Area Code on GMB Listing

#42 42 total

Volume of Quality Content on Entire Website

#43 40 total

Velocity of Searches for Business Name

#44 39 total

Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

#45 38 total

Association of Photos with GMB Listing

#46 37 total

Presence of Business on Expert Curated “Best of” and Similar Lists

#47 37 total

Quantity of Citations from Locally Relevant Domains

#48 37 total

High Numerical Ratings by Authority Reviewers (e.g. Yelp Elite, Google Local Guides, etc.)

#49 37 total

Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native + Third-Party)

#50 36 total

Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

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