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Local Search Ranking Factors 2011 – Top 10

June 3rd, 2011
33 Comments


David Mihm’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey of local SEO geeks is out.  As always, I like to provide a summary of the top ten recommendations:

Top 10 Ranking Factors for Google Maps/Google Places SEO

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. Manually Owner-verified Place Page
  3. Proper Category Associations
  4. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)
  5. Crawlable Address Matching Place Page Address
  6. PageRank / Authority of Website Homepage / Highest Ranked Page
  7. Quality of Inbound Links to Website(
  8. Crawlable Phone Number Matching Place Page Phone Number
  9. Local Area Code on Place Page
  10. City, State in Places Landing Page Title

In the past I used to spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out the weight of each of my preferred tactics, but over the past year I have seen so much random garbage/SPAM show up in Places results that my ranking philosophy these days comes down to the following factors above all:

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. NAP Consistency
  3. Links, Links, Links
  4. A Few More Links

Another incredible job by Mr. Mihm.  Well done David.








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33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nyagoslav

    It’s actually funny that basically all admit that these two factors:

    - proximity to city centroid

    - keywords+location words in business name

    Are still very important, especially regarding the old-style 7-pack. It means that the door is still wide open for spam. And I do agree.

  • 2 LocalLasso

    Yes, the “bible” has arrived again this year! Some pretty good insights there too Andrew.

    Regarding your comment about links, in my research, the more links people seem to throw at the high authority citation resources/local authority resources, they become VERY powerful on their own in the SERPs as well as pass along that coveted geo-relevance that can really “tweak” the local algo in your favor.

    I think this specific backlinking strategy is at play more than some people realize when they start analyzing their local competition and begin wondering why a business with only a few “local citations” is dominating for Places terms and non-Places terms as well.

    So, I’d recommend people think about the “tiering” concept in relation to the “local scene” as well. Essentially “piggy-backing”….

    Saying that, Places is the wild wild west lately and I see all kinds of things showing up as citation resources regularly….blog posts, web 2.0′s, blog comments, facebook pages, article directory resource boxes, etc.

    Google makes it pretty difficult to do anything other than follow the “let’s just throw everything we can at it and see what works” philosophy, ESPECIALLY in the emerging and ever-evolving local scene.

    Heck of a blog here by the way….

    - Jim

  • 3 Jim Rudnick

    Spot-on Andrew….and I believe that the only thing missing might be the word “quality” in your #3 & #4 items above just in front of the word “link!”

    Doing the whole survey was very much a task for us “newbies” to same…but I loved the final results…and hopefully more of us SEO practitioners will read and learn too, eh!
    :-)

    Jim

  • 4 Vlad Piersec

    I would add to your list also the “interaction”. I’ve noticed reviews and responses to those reviews play an important role.

  • 5 Danny Milea

    Great job Andrew. However, I am still confused how an unclaimed business can be # 1 in a competitive city and competitive category! And the citations of the biz on the bottom of the place page are relatively low. This is an outcry! (ex: attorney los angeles – ie. white & case llp – 4/7 are unclaimed) ( Dentist Los Angeles- ie. West Coast Dental)

    It’s incredible how everyone tries to gun for that # 1 spot by claiming and doing all the leg work, meanwhile, unclaimed businesses in these tough categories make it without a claim. Please let me know the explanation.

  • 6 Andrew Shotland

    Danny,

    White & Case is an example of a law firm with a very strong brand. They have citations up the wazoo (including the fact that one of their partners was the chief prosecutor in charge of the Monica Lewinsky case against Bill Clinton). They have thousands of links.

    They rank high in Google Places for the same reason that the Yankees would show up for queries for “New York baseball team”.

    They don’t need to claim their stinking Place Page. In fact, if you called them and told them you found them on Google, they would probably refer you over to Jacoby & Meyers :)

  • 7 Mallen

    “They rank high in Google Places for the same reason that the Yankees would show up for queries for “New York baseball team”.”

    This is a really good (and now that you wrote it obvious) statement. Google really favors big brands (and in many cases rightfully so), but that being said, the little guy can use your 3 or was it 4 items and still do pretty well.

    Thanks

  • 8 Danny Milea

    Does anyone know if “Ave.” is the same as “Avenue” or “East” is the same as “E” when it comes to different citations? Some businesses have mismatched addresses on here. 191 East 2nd Street on Google vs. 191 E 2nd. St on all other citations. Thanks.

  • 9 Andrew Shotland

    Danny, I would go for an exact match of all words on a citation if possible. Robots are indeed like little children – amazingly intelligent, but prone to meltdowns at the drop of a hat for no good reason at all.

  • 10 Miguel

    Always look forward to this post. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your position, nothing has really changed in the local ranking factors space for 3+ years now.

    I do have a question that has gone ignored in many comments left in local blogs.

    Does linking to your Places page URL help increase it’s rankings in Places/Maps?

  • 11 Andrew Shotland

    I haven’t seen any evidence that linking to your Place Page helps

  • 12 Miguel

    I wonder if anyone has tested for it?

  • 13 Jim Rudnick

    re: “…but prone to meltdowns at the drop of a hat for no good reason at all…”

    LOL! that’s so so so true, Andrew!
    :-)

    Jim

  • 14 Stuart

    Excellent, I have been waiting for this post since your local search ranking factors 2010 post Andrew…

    I’m agreeable that not a lot has changed in the last few years though.

    @Andrew & Miguel – ref Miguel’s question… I have found that linking to a Places page URL from the website possibly can have a positive affect on it’s ranking.

    I actually tried this tactic to try get a new Places listing to replace an older one which I had no access to, it had the wrong address/tel number on it and was ranking well in the SERPs. Due to this test and the results (the new listing finally knocked the old into touch!)

    I believe that linking to a Place page URL from your own website helps give it some trust in Google’s eyes in authenticity and maybe this is even a tiny bit of the Trust Rank algo?

    Any thoughts on that?

  • 15 Andrew Shotland

    It’s certainly possible, but it also may have been the case that GOOG figured out the new listing was more accurate by comparing it with various citation sources.

  • 16 Stuart

    Thats a fair point on the citations sources!

    I do think it def can’t hurt and to be honest I am going to do the same with all sites from now on, maybe with some more time and test results I could then provide some solid proof… of something! :-)

  • 17 IM Vanguard

    Great Post! … Just kidding man! Lol. I like the simple approach to your GP strategy. As, at the end of the day being away from the city centre is not insurmountable … etc. for the other factors.

    Personally since the merger of Places and organic I’ve been going mainly for links. Down with citations! I’m currently testing reviews as well though (should help with lead conversion regardless of SEO placement).

  • 18 Sergey Rusak

    Send this article to Titan SEO, maybe they will learn something and stop spamming people. :)

  • 19 Dave Oremland

    Andrew:

    Well said. I agree. In fact, I kept commenting about links and our friend, Mr. Mihm included my comments.

    yeah….get some nice linky linky links for those businesses and things start to look astounding good

    Dave

  • 20 Stuart

    Too much spam getting through here Andrew! I hate getting new comment emails for this spammy rubbish :-(

    @Corporate Logo Design
    @Essay Writers

  • 21 Andrew Shotland

    Sorry about that Stuart. They are now toast.

  • 22 Stuart

    Hehe :-)

  • 23 Urban

    Andrew,

    I just worked on a project that made me rethink the power of a claimed listing. The first two Places listing for insurance, in a large metro area, where both unclaimed listings. They did have several 5 star Google reviews, but they were still unclaimed.

  • 24 Andrew Shotland

    Claiming in and of itself is not such a big deal. Claiming your Google Place Page and updating it correctly can help.

  • 25 Mark Pantlin

    Help!
    My local page ranking has gone from number 1 page 1 to page 12 overnight.
    What’s gone wrong?

    Safe Flame UK

  • 26 MK Accounts

    Does proximity of the hosting server have any significant bearing on the local search rating? I am not sure whether to change my host from US based to a more local UK based company.

  • 27 Ankush Kohli

    Thanks Andrew! Agree with you on links and that’s why we’re submitting our facebook fan page and twitter profile into Google local listings.

    To engage users and to increase the fan/followers numbers as well.

  • 28 Stuart

    @Mark Pantlin…

    If you want to contact me I will do a full bespoke website SEO analysis for you for free, I see you are based in Skelmersdale – I’m just down the road from you in Chester!

    @Andrew… hope you don’t mind me offering that here.

  • 29 Joanna Ciolek

    I’m surprised that reviews are nowhere in the top 10 factors. I think reviews are still one of the best ways to improve your rankings and conversions. Diversity and volume are the way to go.

  • 30 Andrew Shotland

    Joanna,

    There were so many factors evaluated so the top 10 are merely the tip of the iceberg. Reviews are pretty high up there, but these are the creme de la creme. There’s more than one way to skin a cat though.

  • 31 Steve

    Yeah have to agree with your 4 distilled factors. I’d add a fifth one…links.

  • 32 Local SEO & Free Website Search Optimization

    So much has changed just in the last year regarding local search rank. Based on our findings, your website is back to playing one of the most, if not the most crucial part local search rank, beyond having a basic Google Places listing a just a few citations form other popular directories.

  • 33 David

    I’m coming back to this after about six months, and I think a couple of things have shifted in importance since this was released:

    1) Reviews can move a place page up in the rankings more noticeably and faster than links. i.e. going from 0 to 3 reviews or from 7 to 8 reviews can move the needle. Adding a couple links won’t cause a noticeable lift right off the bat (I’m not undermining the importance of a sound, consistent link building strategy over time, which will definitely help…a lot)

    2) Citations are less important. If you have a bunch of citations already (and an established location/site that’s been around for a while), you’re much better off focusing on content, links, and getting reviews.

    Would love your thoughts.

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