Any business that includes local customers into their business plan needs to be aware of the different sources available to market for their target audience. One of the biggest tools we use is Google Places for our local clients. It's free, provides analytics, and generally provides some decent traffic. Of course there are always new Google Updates that create another service to provide better ranking and results such as our local listings that we pushed early Jan 2011.
Local listings service was created from Google's search update that we wrote about in Nov 2011. We analyzed the changes that were made and found the best way to optimize for those rankings that our clients wanted. Throughout 2011 Google has updated several times such as PageRank update, Content Copyrighting, and introduction of Google Plus. This kept the SEO industry on it's toes and many "SEO experts" that used grey or black hat techniques lost their positions due to the fallout on their client websites.
New Information on bettering Google Local Results
As always, we work hard at keeping up with changes and staying ahead of the curve for SEO. Here is a great study done by Bizible that shows what they found to play a factor on ranking using scientific study techniques. You can read it here.
Their process consisted of:
- 22 local business categories (i.e. photographer, hotel, etc.)
- 22 major U.S. cities and searched Google for the given localized term (i.e. “Seattle photographer”)
- First 30 results in Google Local and all the local results from the integrated web results
- Inspected each Places page for all of the ranking factors
In total, they analyzed 477 queries, 14,309 individual search results, and 457,888 data points.
Their results consisted of:
Top Local Ranking Factors:
- The search city - “Seattle” when searching for “Seattle pizza.”
- The search category - “pizza” when searching for “Seattle pizza.”
Factors in Integrated Results:
- Primary category match a broader category of the search category was associated with a 1.42 improvement in rank. For example, search category of "tires" would match primary category of "Tire Shop".
- Search category or a synonym in the business name was associated with a 0.64 improvement in rank. For example, "Expert Car Care Tires, Auto Repair, & Transmission"
- Search category or a synonym in “at a glance” was associated with a 0.36 improvement in rank.
- Five or more Google reviews was associated with a 0.31 improvement in rank. (Next boost would be at 100+ reviews)
- Photos (atleast 1) was associated with a 0.25 improvement in rank.
Factors in Pure Local Results:
- Five or more Google reviews was associated with a 1.47 improvement in rank. (Next boost would be at 100+ reviews)
- Search city in “at a glance” was associated with a 1.42 improvement in rank.
- Search category or a synonym in in review content was associated with a 0.97 improvement in rank.
- Search category or a synonym in the business description was associated with a 0.85 improvement in rank.
- Search category or a synonym in “at a glance” was associated with a 0.85 improvement in rank.
- Primary category match the search category was associated with a 0.79 improvement in rank.
- Search category or a synonym in in the business name was associated with a 0.75 improvement in rank.
- Secondary business category that was a broader category than the search category was associated with a 0.68 improvement in rank. i.e. secondary category is “restaurant” when searching for “Seattle pizza.”
- At least one photo was associated with a 0.66 improvement in rank.
- Owner verified was associated with a 0.52 improvement in rank.
SEO Local Myths BUSTED!
- Physical address in the city of the search is not a strong ranking factor, only distance from centroid seemed to matter.
- Not having any Google reviews or having an average review score of one hurt ranking (as expected). Review score of 2+ makes no difference on ranking.
- Having the search category in the business description did help.
- Fifth Google review significantly helped ranking, although incremental reviews between one and four and above five had a very small impact on ranking. You have to get 100+ reviews to again have a significant impact on ranking.
- On average, for every mile away from the centroid, ranking dropped by 0.4 of a position.
- On average, there were five local results on the main page.