Our local UK SEO study compared the statistics of different websites listed on page-1 of Google.
The study was broken down into 4-categories; keywords, domain, security and software. Categories that we knew Google may be monitoring when calculating ranking positions for page-1.
Localised keywords used
80% of listings included the localised focus keyword inside the title tag with an exact match*
This was astonishing! The reason being is that localised keywords often come across too spammy for humans to read — however, Google seemed to still favour these listings.
For example; both “web design Newcastle” or “SEO services North East” don’t read well to humans, as there are no stop-words in between (i.e. “web design in Newcastle” or “SEO company in the North East, etc.). With that said, it’s important to note that the remaining 20% of listings did contain these stop-words and still ranked on page-1 successfully.
Only 40% of listings included the localised focus keyword in their meta description as an exact match*
After our initial findings regarding the title tag, this made more sense. Google descriptions are intended to describe the page to humans. Therefore, making them easy to read seems to be favourable for SEO.
It’s important to know that Google may rank websites based on their title tags, but not their meta description tag. However, the more clicks you’re getting on your rankings may also play a factor. Meaning, it’s important to favour the traffic towards clicking your result rather than another’s.
40% of listings included the localised focus keyword as an exact match within their page’s content*
As we’ve previously mentioned, localised focused keywords are often found to be too spammy. However, a balance between none and a maximum of 2-matches seemed to be favourable for local SEO rankings.
Any more than this, we presume that Google may find too spammy and adjust the rankings accordingly. As a page’s content (along with a meta description) is intended for a user, therefore, making this easily readable by humans is important.
70% of listings used a .co.uk domain extension*
We believe that this may play a favour if you’re trying to rank locally in the UK. However, should you choose to use a .co.uk domain — if this is true, you could be missing out on global traffic from other keyword rankings internationally.
60% of local results contained www*
Most of the websites on page-1 are often established businesses, which have been going for years. Meaning, back then including www may have been a trend and that you shouldn’t switch over just because you read this.
In the eyes of Google, they let you decide inside Google Search Console whether you’d like to use www or non-www. Therefore, we believe that this is simply a preference.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that URLs have character limits in Google listings too. Meaning, if you’re intending to use long keyword rich URLs, you should stick to non-www to maximise this opportunity. As even Google Ads allows you to change the URL paths to increase clicks.
10% of local results used a hyphen in their domain*
Unsurprisingly, only 10% used a hyphen in their domain name.
We again believe that this is simply a preference. It might be more to the fact that their chosen domain (which was without-hyphens) has been taken and they’re just not yet established enough to compete with older domains.
Backlinks didn’t matter for local SEO*
We compared total backlinks, the number of dofollows and the number of referring domains too using Ahrefs. The minimum we had seen for page-1 was around 2,000-backlinks (29% dofollow) and 60-referring domains (64% dofollow).
However, from our research, it seemed that backlinks didn’t matter for local SEO. Local businesses with over 500,000 backlinks were on page-1, as well as businesses with as little as 2,000 too. In fact, it was often the case that pages with too many backlinks ranked lower than those with fewer.
Most local page-1 listings use an SSL certificate*
No surprise there, after Google’s Chrome update — everyone decided to invest. However, from an SEO perspective, Google favours secure websites, undoubtedly.
The statistics for the type of SSL was more interesting though. For local listings, 50% of page-1 websites used a free SSL issued by Let’s Encrypt (often free with cPanel hosting providers), 40% from Starfield Secure (often issued by GoDaddy) and 10% from other SSL providers.
60% instantly display cookie warnings (above the fold)*
If you visit our website in a private browser window, you’ll notice a cookie warning pop-up. Due to GDPR, a lot of local businesses within the EU began to implement these along with other legal Intenet practices.
With this data, we believe that Google may be monitoring website legal compliances and laws too. With that said, even if Google didn’t, it’s most likely better for a website to be compliant than not to be.
80% of local listings used WordPress as their CMS*
WordPress is open source, reliable and even affordable from a custom theme’s perspective. Which is why it’s ideal for local businesses to use. Generally, local websites are either information based or eCommerce (through free plugins such as WooCommerce for example).
Not only that, but WordPress is extremely efficient when it comes to SEO as it continually gets updated — as does Google’s SEO algorithms. With that, smaller businesses can even DIY their SEO through free plugins such as Yoast SEO, WP Fastest Cache and other optimisation plugins.
90% of local listings used GA, GTM or both on their website*
60% of listings had their HTML lang attribute set to en-GB*
HTML lang attributes allow search engines to understand which language your website is in and also which country too. For example, if this attribute was set to en-US, Google would index the page as if it was written in American English.
Some websites on page-1 simply had their’s set to only “en” and not “en-GB”, telling Google that their website is in English, whilst not defining that it’s British English exclusively.
For local SEO, it’s important to get as localised as you can. With 90% of these including the attribute and 60% using en-GB, we believe it may play a role in reaching page-1 for local SEO.
50% of listing scored between 90–99 with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool (for desktops)*
Page speed mightn’t be a local SEO ranking factor, however, it should still be looked at as a part of your overall SEO strategy.
50% of listings scored between 90–99 and it was often the case that websites which scored 100 weren’t even position-1. Therefore, we believe that scoring 100 is great, however, should you reach the 90s, from our research, it should be enough to rank on page-1 too.
What we learned from researching local SEO trends in the UK
- An exact match of the localised focus keyword included inside the title tag.
- Localised focus keyword included in any match time inside the meta description.
- Use between 0 and 2 references of the localised focus keyword as an exact match in the page’s content.
- Use a .co.uk domain extension, however, do consider global searches too.
- Don’t bother with backlinks.
- Use an SSL, if possible, get one provided by Let’s Encrypt (most cPanel hosting providers offer this for free).
- Notify your users if you’re using cookies instantly (fixed pop-up bar upon page load for example).
- Build with WordPress.
- Include the en-GB HTML lang attribute.
- Include Google Analytics and/or Google Tag Manager.
- Get your site speed for desktops to score 90 or more for the best results.
*This local UK SEO study looked 50-local page-1 listings in Newcastle upon Tyne, searched from our office in Newcastle. Each keyword was targeted towards a service (for example “web design Newcastle”), allowing us to monitor buying localised focus keyword listings. Each of the numbers listed in this study and relevant material (infographics, etc.) are rounded estimates and not exact. All the data in this study is purely for educational purposes and Point And Quack Limited, including its authors, should not be accountable for any damages or losses to any person, business or organisation from following the guidance of this report.