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No. 326
May 26th, 2009

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Local Search Ranking Factors, Vol. 2

Earlier today, I published the results of the 2009 Local Search Ranking Factors survey.  Some of you may recognize last year’s edition, but particularly with all of the changes at Google Maps in the last 12 months, I felt it was time to re-assess what the world’s top experts in Local SEO felt was most important for ranking well.

This year, we had 27 experts take part, including a handful of gurus from Canada and Europe.  The questions remained more-or-less the same as a year ago, as a means of gauging how the algorithm(s) might have changed over the course of the past year.  I did include a couple of new ones aimed at trying to tease out a little of what we think we learned from Mike Blumenthal’s study last summer.

Of course, some of the “changes” may just reflect a different (better?) understanding of the Local Search algorithms–which would be a great discussion topic, in my opinion.

I was particularly struck by the following responses this year:

  • The power of Distance from Centroid as a ranking factor has diminshed, but many folks are still seeing clear evidence of its importance, despite Carter Maslan’s claims to the contrary last summer.  It’s becoming even more important, though, to have a physical location for your business within the city which is being searched.
  • The importance of links in the Local search algorithm(s) seems to be on its way down, while the importance of citations, particularly those from major data providers and industry/location-specific directories, was deemed to be increasing in importance.  HyperLocal citations (from blogs or other businesses in your area) are becoming more important, too, but not at the same rate.  The quality of links seems much more important than quantity, which speaks to the idea of Location Prominence as a central algorithmic factor.
  • When it comes to reviews, though, it’s the exact opposite–at least in terms of rankings.  Nearly every expert felt that positive customer experiences dramatically increased clickthrough and conversion, but that volume of reviews is what makes the difference in ranking. Ian Lurie’s concept of review “velocity” is an interesting one to consider.

Thanks again to all the experts for participating & I look forward to the upcoming discussion.