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No. 1533
June 11th, 2012

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Local Search Ranking Factors, Vol. 5

Welcome to Year Five of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey.  It’s always a total thrill to compile the opinions of the world’s top experts in Local Search Marketing and be the first one to see these experts’ collective opinions about what’s working and what’s not in the world of Local Search.

Thanks to the dramatic increase in the number of Google’s Blended Local results since Venice, and various signals from Google about their commitment to blended results, this year I asked a simple question:

“When Google ranks a business in its Local Search results, I believe this is the ____ overall most important factor in those rankings.”

As was the case last year, the experts were asked to simply drag-and-drop their ranking factors in numerical order, rather than assign an absolute value to each factor on a 0 to 10 or -5 to +5 scale.

I’m so grateful for everyone’s continued involvement in this survey–if your business has any questions about Local, there’s no better crew to ask than this one 🙂

And now, on to my initial comments about the results:

Many of the fundamentals have not changed.
It’s still important to:

  • Have an address in the city that’s being searched
  • Associate your business with complete and proper categories.
  • Have an address close to the Centroid (sad to say)
  • Ensure your data is accurate and complete across the Local Ecosystem–especially on authoritative citation sources
  • Work on getting your customers to review you at the new Google +Local
All five of those factors were rated in the top ten way back in the first instance of the survey in 2008, as well as this year.

Website information matters.
Yes, on-page criteria dropped two spots as a general signal this year (I think appropriately), but with the advent of Blended results, it’s more important than ever that Google be able to associate your +Local page with your website.  Look how highly features like Domain Authority of Website (#4) and HTML NAP Matching Place Page NAP (#10) ranked on this year’s survey for all the evidence you need.  As Mike Blumenthal often says, “Your website is your most authoritative citation.”

Movin’ and shakin’ with Reviews.
Reviews were still weighted #4 (out of only five) as a general signal this year, but three of the top five factors voted most helpful this year vs. last were:

  • Velocity of Google Places Reviews
  • Quantity of Third-Party Reviews
  • Product/Service Keywords in Reviews
All were ranked in the top third of overall ranking factors. Those are three pretty powerful signals a business can send without having to worry about much more difficult technical on-site work or time-intensive linkbuilding.

Changes (?) in the Local link graph
The ever-perceptive Nyagoslav Zhekov speculated about this idea last week–namely, that “over-optimized” inbound anchor text containing keywords and geographic terms seemed to matter less for +Local results, and branded anchor text (including business title) seemed to matter more.  That hypothesis is right in line with what this year’s experts said (check out the factors that were voted least helpful this year vs. last year).

What do YOU think?
Once again, thanks to everyone who participated this year & I look forward to getting a conversation going about the results below in the comments.

  • Thanks so much for putting this together again! The best resource for local SEO.

  • Absolutely, David…a big #Kudos from me too! SO SO nice to read others opinions and thoughts on the various ranking factors and so nice to see how my own factors did too!

    Lots there to read still…and I’m working on some factors that I seem to have overlooked too!



  • Hi David,
    Just blogged about the release of the 2012 LSRF. Thank you so much for your masterful organization of this critical report and for the chance to participate. Has it really been 5 years??? Where did the time go?

  • David, thank you letting me contribute again this year. Have been dying to see this new report and am working on a blog post to help spread the word.

    Can’t wait to really dive in tonight when I can focus on digesting it all.

    I can’t even imagine how much time and effort it takes to coordinate all this data. Thanks SO much for all your hard work putting this together every year to help the industry!

    We appreciate you!!!

  • Hmmm… It is as I thought from the changes made in the Google updates.

    Relevance factors are up.

    NAP is up
    Area Code is up
    Reviews influence is up
    Proximity to Centroid is up
    Product/Service keyword visibility is up

    Anything to do with links, anchor text, authority, user entered data, is down or NA.

    I wonder how many are getting the message that links don’t count anymore?


  • Hole in one David!

  • Dave Oremland

    Thanks for including me again, David. As you said in a different blog post…its Google’s World. And so it was with this survey. They upset the apple cart unveiling google + local, midweek during the period the questionnaire was out to the participants. UGH!!!! I suspect had google + local come out earlier it would have changed some parts of the survey. Would have changed mine. LOL.

    Nice work for putting it all together.

  • As always a great resource for local SEO. Blog post going up about this today.

  • I was beginning to think you boys weren’t coming out to play this year. So far I have only looked at the blog post. And Dave O you can bet your bottom dollar that Google timed this to bollocks up David’s survey as it does have such an influence on so many people. Thanks for sharing your experience with us relative minnows.

  • Hey David,

    Thanks again for all the time you’ve put into this, and for giving me the chance to contribute!

    For me, this will be “LSRF Digestion Week.” Plus, the commentary this year is nothing short of epic.

  • I have to say thanks again for this excellent compilation. I really got a lot out of your last survey (the first one I read sad to say) and this one looks just as thorough. Thanks for the great resource.

  • Great job again David! It is so great that so many people are willing to openly contribute to the good of local SEO. With the metamorphosis of Place into G+ Local, it will be quite interesting to compare this year’s analysis to the one coming out in 2013. I think a great follow up to this piece would be a post on the top 1 or 2 prognostications from each expert. Whaddya think? (Sorry, I’ve been outta the loop… had some personal issues but still working on Local U here in the SW)

  • Superb compilation of information David, for both the recap above, and the full local ranking report.

    There’s no doubt about it, that Google even with it’s ever changing landscape, acknowledges the importance of local search, and how this ultimately can benefit local business, but more importantly, deliver a great experience for their end users who search.

    Having access to cutting industry information like this, is what allows professionals like us who offer services to small business to stay one step ahead of the local internet marketing pack.

    The negative ranking factors and ‘what not to do’ was as always ever insightful.

    Thank you for taking the time and to all the contributors for a very powerful and useful resource.

  • David, totally awesome! Thanks so much for getting this all together. It truly is a gift to folks who want to understand the local search ranking factors. Bravo to you for doing it!

    It should really be interesting over the next year (especially with Google+ Local) what will change. In the local seo, there is only one thing guaranteed and that is: change!

  • G

    Very much a case of plus ça change…
    Does anybody else think that Google has a problem with Local Search Results – the problem is that people tend not to like them!
    As my wife puts it ‘Why does Google insist on showing me this s**t.’
    And the CTR on the sites I have that rank #1 0r 2 in Local Results seems to confirm she is not alone in her view.
    Before people jump in with ‘you’re doing it wrong” – I’m reasonably adept at meta descriptions/snippets and tend to use PPC to a/b test text I then use for snippets… so they tend not to be too bad! And I’m talking about seeing this on between 10 – 20 sites that Local Results are relevant to/for.
    Back to CTR I regularly see less than 5% CTR from Local even with top rankings… anybody else see similar? have other views/advice?

  • Excellent as usual David. I echo those top 5 results as still being the foundation for local search ranking. Nyagoslav’s hypothesis about anchor text is very interesting and something I’d like to test on my own as well 🙂

    Thanks for putting this all together again!

  • David – Thank you so much for putting this together. It’s truly an invaluable tool.

    Do you have any tips — or perhaps could your experts respond — to critical factors to use to rank service based businesses that don’t have physical addresses other than their home address or a UPS store? You can hide the address in Google Places — and so can get listed — but how does such a business actually rank? what are the most important factors for them?

  • Sean


    First off thanks a lot for taking the time to compile this awesome list! I always love reading your stuff.

    Quick question: It seems like more experts are agreeing that hiding your address isn’t necessarily a negative factor anymore. I was wondering though, how would you go about building citations if you got rid of the address? Would you still put your actual address on the citation sources? It seems like most citation sources wouldn’t accept your listing with just a city and no address. Or would you just have to omit citations?

    Thanks a lot

  • Great compilation from the best in Local SEO. Thanks David 🙂 I’d say this year’s Search Ranking Factors should receive a rating of 29 —> which will make perfect sense to those in Local SEO 😉

  • Several Results I Found Interesting:

    1st Social Factor does not appear until #57 (almost 2/3s through list) Thought it would be higher since Social is a lot of the buzz right now.

    Off-Site Accounts for more than twice as many Top 40 Factors as Places Page.

    There are more Places Page Factors ranked 41-59 as there are in Top 40.

    Thanks to David and All the Contributors for your Time and Energy in the preparing, collecting, analyzing and reviewing all the data!! It is MUCH Appreciated!!

  • David, As always, every year, you out do yourself in the development of the industry’s most trusted source of ranking signals in the search engines. Well done.

  • Amazing. As a local SEO marketer, I look froward to this post from you every year. I am always guessing that it is going to be different from the previous year, although, I am wrong. Thanks for your hard work on this.

  • Great information as always David! Is there ever going to be any professional listings/sub listings… ever? I know you’re not Google, but I’m hoping you have heard something that I haven’t. They’ve seemed to start handling this better, but it is still a major issue for a lot of our dental & medical clients.

    Anyways, have a great day!

  • Dan

    As always, one if not the top resource for Local Ranking on the net’.

    Nothing stands out as surprising here… based on the recent changes from Google, these factors seem to be representative of the changes. I especially like the fact that Domain Authority keeps pace as being one of the most important factors since it’s something I’ve been stressing recently.

    Thank David!


  • David,

    Thanks again for another year of great information! I always enjoy this post, although I must be getting old because it doesn’t feel nearly like a year has passed. 🙁

  • I look forward to this research every year David – fantastic job putting this together. As always, I’ll share the content at LocalSearchSource and across the land in our local search seminars. Thank you!

  • Dave Oremland

    Must say was impressed by many comments, especially those from Nyagoslav and Mike Ramsey.

  • Just had a chance to read through everything, great stuff everyone. Lots of great feedback and additions to our process here after scouring the commentary. One recent thing that I have noticed with the new Google +Local change is that photos have a Comment option, which when user submitted and geotagged, could add some sort of social interaction in there. Being a new feature, I’m guessing it’s not worth much, but definitely a small boost when all other things are equal.

  • Local Marketing Genius

    Thanks for all your hard work and contributions to the industry David.

  • Amazing work on this David, as usual.

    As a local business, this material has proven to be invaluable over the years.

  • Jeanette

    Thanks for this good piece of insight David!

    Since local search became common there’s one question still bugging me: are there any downsides and how big are they? Let’s take an Online Shop that sells mainly to the German speaking countries D-AU-CH. The facts that the company’s HQ is located in Munich and the logistic center in Duisburg are of no importance as there is the same logistics and service to all locations in these countries.

    What happens, when the company does local SEO for the HQ in Munich? Well, the ranings for Munich go up. But what happens to all other ranking? Is there any downside for rankings in Berlin or Cologne when there’s much optimization for Munich local rankings?

  • Thank you so much David. This information is invaluable to seo’s and business owners. You really should have a donation button somewhere on your site. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say “I’d be happy to support your research”.

    Thank you again!

  • Hello David, First, thank you for assisting in making the WEB a better place….. Your study is and will continue to be a huge asset.. For those that actually take the time to read and follow direction they will see success.. And those that don’t well that’s ok too… Their clients will be calling us shortly …

    I ECHO James Douglas



  • David, another year and another amazing contribution to the local SEO community. If you notice a spike in traffic to your local SEO ranking factors Page, that’s from all the clients and friends I sent your way to help them get educated. Thank you so much. We hope to see you at the conference in November.

  • I love this! It’s invaluable to be able to hear from so many about Local Search. And as someone mentioned above, the basics have pretty much remained the same over the last couple years. Thank you for providing great content like this. 🙂

  • Bernadette Coleman

    I have been following your study for the past 3 out of 5 years and though I very rarely comment I am today. Thank you for your work. As a company that specializes in helping clients with their local online presence this has been a very valuable source for our team of local SEO experts. It’s a great reference source for clients also when we are trying to educate them as to what they need to do to boost their rankings locally. We are getting ready to launch a weekly segment on our local tv station that reaches 2.5 million viewers and would love to use this as a reference on air too. Maybe you would consider an on air interview?

  • Hi David, thanks for putting this altogether. I’m actually having a lot of trouble with the ranking for 3 of my local SEO clients. One of the examples is that one website is ranking in 1st place but it only has a couple of citations. There are no reviews. It is in the city centre and it has a Google+ page. Apart from that, the rest of the top 7 competitors are also in the city centre, have G+ for business pages, positive reviews, etc. How did the website ranked in 1st place get there in the first place?

  • Local search is one of the areas where I struggle with my clients. They just assume…”build it and they will come” and Google+ does not seem to have the traction to get them interested…is that just my B2B clients?

  • Moz has an excellent resources talking about the best citation sources for various markets. So if you’re a dentist, you can see the most important (trafficked, i would assume) resources to get your NAP information on.

    Citation sources should not only be used to boost your local SERP ranking! Having your citations on quality sites could drive traffic directly from them as well.

  • Great post David. I know this article outdated but still want to make a point regarding an SEO. I never thought it’s gonna be that hard to optimize my website.

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