The Local Search Ranking Factors

Volume 2 | Published May 26, 2009 SKIP TO RESULTS »

Introduction

Much has happened in the world of Local Search since last year's edition of the Local Search Ranking Factors was published. We've seen a major quantitative study of Google Maps, detailed interviews with the heads of both Google Maps and Yahoo Local, the launch of a number of new portals, and just in the last few weeks, Google's introduction of the Local 10-pack for generic keywords.

It is my hope that this study will help small business owners confused by Local Search, or those strapped for time, to prioritize their marketing efforts.

With that in mind, I felt that it was time to survey the experts once more to gauge the factors most helpful for ranking well in the Google and Yahoo Local algorithms, as well as techniques to be avoided. This year's edition of the LSRF contains responses from 27 prominent bloggers and practitioners.

Helpful Background Articles on Local Search:
+ Chris Silver Smith's Anatomy of a Local Search Listing
+ Bill Slawski's Local Search Glossary
+ Matt McGee's 10 Likely Elements of Google's Local Search Algorithm
+ My Own "Local vs. Traditional SEO: Why Citation Is the New Link"
+ Lisa Barone's "How to Launch that Small Business Website"
+ Dev Basu's "Local Landing Page Best Practices"
+ The Local Search SEMMYs

For further background on the Local Search Ranking Factors, you may also want to read the introduction to last year's results.

The Survey

Participants were asked to rate the importance of 49 criteria with respect to their influence on rankings in the Google and Yahoo Local "Universal" search algorithms (those that drive the 10-pack, 3-pack, and authoritative onebox search results; NOT the standard organic algorithms) using the following scale:

The first number listed to the right of each factor indicates the importance of that factor. The higher that number, the more important the panel considered it to be in ranking well. Negative numbers indicate factors that could lead to penalties or lower rankings, depending on how they are used.

The second number listed to the right represents whether a particular factor has increased or decreased in importance in comparison to last year's responses.

The third number listed to the right indicates the standard deviation of the responses. The lower that number, the higher the agreement of the panel. The higher the number, the more the experts' responses varied.

Participants were also asked to rank the importance of specific third-party data providers and sources for customer reviews within the Local Search algorithms.

Discussion

My initial reaction to the results of this survey can be found here on my blog. If you would like to comment on this project, please join the discussion here.

David Mihm
Portland, Oregon
May 26 2009


The Results

  1. LBL Address in City of Search
  2. Citations from Major Data Providers
  3. Association of Proper LBL Categories
  4. General Importance of Claiming LBL
  5. Product/Service Keywords in LBL Title
  6. General Importance of Off-Page Criteria
  7. Volume of Customer Reviews
  8. General Importance of Customer Reviews
  9. General Importance of On-Page Criteria
  10. Full Address on Contact Page
  11. Proximity to Centroid
  12. Quality of Inbound Links
  13. HyperLocal/Web Crawl Citations
  14. Product/Service Keywords in LBL Description
  1. Location Keywords in Inbound Anchor Text
  2. Customer Reviews at Search Engine
  3. Location Keywords in LBL Title
  4. Product/Service Keywords in Inbound Anchor Text
  5. Inclusion of City, State in Title Tags
  6. Customer Reviews at 3rd-Party Websites
  7. Location Keywords in LBL Description
  8. Quantity of Inbound Links
  9. City, State in Contact Page Title Tags
  10. Product/Service Keywords in URL
  11. Product/Service Keywords in LBL Custom Fields
  12. Association of Marginal LBL Categories
  13. Location Keywords in URL
  14. LBL Phone Number with Local Area Code
  1. Association of LBL Videos
  2. Local Phone Number on Contact Page
  3. MyMaps/User Generated Content
  4. High PageRank Homepage
  5. Association of LBL Photos
  6. Creation of KML File
  7. Positive Customer Ratings
  8. Location Keywords in LBL Custom Fields
  9. Address in hCard Microformat on Website
  10. High PageRank LBC Landing Page
  11. Age of LBL
  12. Association of Coupon with LBL
  13. Participation in Local PPC

Negative Factors

  1. Use of (800) # in LBL (most benign)
  2. Multiple Addresses on Contact Page
  3. Negative Customer Ratings
  4. Exclusive Use of (800) # on Contact Page
  5. Multiple LBLs with Same Business Name
  6. Exclusive Use of PO Box
  7. Multiple LBLs with Same Phone Number
  8. Multiple LBLs with Same Address (most harmful)

Most Important Data Providers

Most Important Review Engines


Local Business Listing Information

4
GENERAL IMPORTANCE OF CLAIMING LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
3.85
high importance (↓0.42)
1.39
moderate agreement

Mary Bowling - One of the most important factors in ranking well. It helps to establish trust in the information the search engines have about a business.

Alex McArthur - Claiming a business listing is a must and should be considered step one in the process of improving 10-pack positioning.

"One of the most important factors in ranking well. It helps to establish trust in the information the search engines have about a business."
--Mary Bowling

Martijn Beijk - I consider this the most important step of the process. Google is able to determine lots of data about your business but there is no 'certificate of trust' unless you claim your business listing. Usually claiming your business listings also implies adding extra data about your business which inherently means better targeting and ranking. The most important thing is creating trust.

Miriam Ellis - While this is obviously of key importance as a step to confirming your validity in the eyes of Google, such a major percentage of high ranking unclaimed listings currently dominate the Local results that it's hard to see the true impact, ranking-wise of claiming the listing.

Mike Blumenthal - You can't see the game if you don't enter the gate.

Matt McGee - It bothers me that Google has trouble counting its own database of business listings as the authoritative source. Yahoo doesn't have that problem.

Mike Belasco - Seems to be imperative in competitive niches, especially on Google.

Tim Coleman - It can prevent someone else from claiming it which is obviously important. It also helps you fix any issues or mistakes. Which are all too common.

Ed Reese - Creating a Google Local Business Listing is always the first step in to a local search campaign. However, many other factors are important to its success. While an optimized GLBC profile is ideal, it can't compete with hyper aggressive advertisers who create a large number of relevant citations over time. In many cases, I have seen local listings rank #1 for their desired keyword phrases without even filling out a GLBC profile or even knowing what a citation is. Aggressive local advertising over time (in directories like SuperPages and Dex) can overpower a great descriptive listing pretty easily if that listing does not have a history of citations.

Will Scott - While in some cases we've seen good maps rankings without claiming we usually see a marked change once claimed. And in many cases in competitive categories failing to claim assures no listing in maps.

Andrew Shotland - I have seen this work really well and then I have seen it have absolutely no effect. I think it depends what other data they already have for the business. Still this is a must do for any biz.

Ian Lurie - Once you claim your listing you can add photos, edit your information and select categories. All of this has a huge effect on the rankings. Also, if you don't claim it, you're vulnerable to another person grabbing your listing.

John Biundo - Claiming, in and of itself, is not important. Managing your listing IS important. For example, choosing the right title, phone number, etc. is important.

Dev Basu - Claiming your listing is very important, however I've noticed that new well optimized profiles can quickly rank even in competitive niches.

1
LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING ADDRESS IN CITY OF SEARCH
4.42
high importance (↑0.29)
0.73
high agreement

Ed Reese - This has changed drastically in the past 6-8 months in my opinion. Google Maps is now incredibly accurate (and forceful) in listing your business in your city/town regardless of actual service area. I have a few accounts that are (unfortunately) on the wrong side of the tracks and rank #1 for their small town, but completely non-existent in local search for the large city (and the location of 95% of their customers) just a few miles away. This has proven quite frustrating as these accounts are near the top of page one organically, serve this much larger community/city, yet are not even in the top 200 local searches for their desired keyword phrases.

Ian Lurie - Our company is a perfect example. We're not actually in Seattle. We're slightly south (about 5 miles), in Tukwila. That's made a good LBC ranking for things like 'Seattle search engine optimization' very difficult.

"5—unless you are a locksmith."
--Andrew Shotland

Tim Coleman - This depends on the type of business. Google is smart enough to tweak the importance of location based on business category. This is going to be less important for a roofer than a pizza shop.

Matt McGee - Totally depends on your location, industry, and keyword. If the engines can fill the 10-pack or 3-pack with matches within the city, they will. But do a search for "ford dealer richland wa" and you'll get listings from a different city because there's only one in Richland.

Dev Basu - Affects rankings very positively. Locations closer to the perceived downtown core of the city (centroid) tend to perform better, especially in large cities.

Martijn Beijk - Very important, but depends on the amount of data that is available for the focus keywords in that particular niche.

Mike Belasco - I've seen businesses in close suburbs rank ok, but it is much easier with an address in the city itself.

Will Scott - Far less work than trying to rank suburban locations.

Andrew Shotland - 5—unless you are a locksmith.

3
ASSOCIATING LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING WITH PROPER CATEGORIES
4.00
high importance (--)
1.09
high agreement

Dev Basu - This is one of my most well kept secrets. Including keywords in the categories improves rankings dramatically.

Martijn Beijk - Categories are important, but not as important as having the services/products/keywords mentioned in your title.

Don Campbell - If you don't categorize, the search engines may use data from one of the data providers to categorize your listing, and those are frequently wrong.

"Most effective factor!!"
--"PureSheer" Locksmith

PureSheer - Most effective factor!!

Chris Silver Smith - One caveat to keep in mind – if your listing is currently miscategorized, fixing this situation could help quite a lot! I've seen listings miscategorized in a lot of online directories.

Brian Carter - It's possible to rank well locally for a search if the product/service keyword is in a category, even if that keyword is not in the LBL title (business name).

5
PRODUCT / SERVICE KEYWORD IN LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING TITLE
3.56
high importance (↓0.22)
1.29
moderate agreement

Don Campbell - This is important but if everyone takes this too far we'll start seeing crazy business listing names. Eventually Google will tweak the algo to make this less important.

Steve Hatcher - I've seen multiple occasions where the only change made to a listing was to add a keyword-loaded tagline to business title and the listing rocketed up to #1 within days (from page 3)—but in lower competition environments.

"It's really much too strong of a signal in my opinion as it's a known factor and is used for rampant manipulation of local search."
--Ed Reese

Steve Espinosa - This is a huge ranking factor right now for both Yahoo! and Google and can make the difference between #4 and #1.

Jordan Kasteler - Very important but make your keywords fit naturally. Blatant spam (keyword stuffing) is not recommended.

Ian Lurie - It has to make sense to visitors. If you stuff keywords into the LBC title you may end up penalized.

Alex McArthur - There's a fine line between good keyword usage and spamming.

Ed Reese - It's really much too strong of a signal in my opinion as it's a known factor and is used for rampant manipulation of local search. I agree that in some cases it makes sense to allow the inclusion of keywords in the description to impact the result. However, over time this will diminish the quality of the results considerably if all businesses focus on gaming the search engines rather than accurately describe their offerings.

Tim Coleman - Probably has a small effect in ranking and a little more in click-thru-rate but nothing worth stuffing. I would only make a small change, e.g. if I am managing a listing for a business named Panda China I might change it too to Panda Chinese Restaurant.

Dev Basu - Putting your main keyword in the LBC business title is a surefire way to rank well.

Martijn Beijk - Having your focus keywords in the title affects your ranking a lot! These definitely weigh in more than having the keywords in your description or category.

Matt McGee - I'm sure it doesn't hurt, but I think what you tend to see in the SERPs is that some industries naturally have the keyword in the name. Most dry cleaners have the word "cleaner" or "cleaning" in their name, so eight or nine out of the 10-pack will have the keyword and it looks like this is a strong signal. Same with keywords like "salon," "restaurant," and "insurance agent." But very few auto dealerships actually have the keyword "car dealer" in their name, and the ones that do don't seem to get any ranking boost.

Andrew Shotland - You don't need an exact keyword match but it certainly doesn't hurt to have a variation of the search (e.g. "plumbing" or "plumber"). Look at any 10 pack and 80% of the listings typically have some variation of the keyword in the title. Whether this is a symptom of the algorithm at work or that most companies in the 10 pack are trying to optimize, I will leave to our readers to decide.

Aleyda Solis - Keywords in the title that match with the query are bolded ... and definitely taken into consideration in the rankings.

Brian Carter - It does not appear that singular vs plural is critical, though that may vary with how competitive the local space is for that keyword.

11
PROXIMITY OF ADDRESS TO CITY CENTROID
2.85
high importance (↓0.74)
1.44
low agreement

Steve Espinosa - The search engines (except Live) have gotten a lot better at not using this as a ranking factor on general search terms but sometimes fall back to this on longer tail search terms that may not be explicitly located in a listings description or associated website.

Chris Silver Smith - This criterion has reduced in importance during the past year or two, since a number of us who critique local search have pointed out that centroid proximity is just a bit arbitrary/unfair as a heavy ranking factor. My tongue-in-cheek blog post of "extreme" local optimization factors suggested businesses could move closer to city center to take advantage of the positive bias back then. However, as Google is now defaulting more service/product types of searches to users' IP geolocations, could we see a return to this? For cases when Google knows ZIP-code-precise or city-block-precise geolocation, they may find that it makes more sense to feed users much more locally-specific results than they have been.

"Doesn't affect ranking one way or the other unless there are very few competitors and Google goes outside the area being searched, in which case proximity becomes a critical ranking issue."
--Mike Blumenthal

Miriam Ellis - More important in less competitive industries in less populous regions.

Don Campbell - This seems to be of a little less importance than last year, but still affects rankings.

Alex McArthur - This was important early on across the board and remains important when enough signals aren't present for a specific search (ie small town where no listings have been claimed).

Mike Blumenthal - Doesn't affect ranking one way or the other unless there are very few competitors and Google goes outside the area being searched, in which case proximity becomes a critical ranking issue.

Steve Hatcher - The centroid model is either no longer as strong a factor as it once was, or other factors easily overcome it.

Dev Basu - This doesn't seem to matter much in the 3-pack but pays off when there is a 10 pack.

David Klein - This one still has a huge effect, but you can beat it with an authority site.

Dave Oremland - Oh boy…this very much is a function of # of signals.

Ed Reese - I have not seen this as a dominant factor at all in the past 6-8 months. As long as your business is within the defined city per Google you can rank well for that city/town.

Andrew Shotland - This used to be a much bigger factor but now I think it is a secondary variable. When they don't have anything else they might use this.

14
PRODUCT/SERVICE KEYWORDS IN LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING DESCRIPTION
2.77
high importance (↓0.23)
1.12
high agreement

Martijn Beijk - Definitely important but not as important as having them in your title.

Steve Hatcher - For a business with a wider range of services, beyond the obvious main categories, I've seen this help with ranking for searches of those other keywords. But it is weaker than keywords in title.

"I've seen this as THE differentiator among 2 otherwise equal listings."
--Will Scott

Ed Reese - This area is one of the most important aspects of local search. A well crafted, descriptive, keyword rich description is imperative for a local listing to succeed. It's important to perform thorough keyword research to determine the highest relevant volume of local search terms in your geographic area to determine the keyword combinations for products, services, and location. As keyword tools typically have poor data for local low volume searches, use Google Adwords to discover real search volumes for your geographic area to gain the insight to which keywords to use in your description.

Tim Coleman - Minimal effect on ranking, could have tremendous effect on conversion. There is an old yellow page saying; if you don't say you do it people assume you don't do it.

Matt McGee - I think you have a better chance of increasing visibility by playing up keywords in your description than you do of fudging your location.

Will Scott - I've seen this as THE differentiator among 2 otherwise equal listings.

Dev Basu - I haven't seen any tangible evidence of keyword rich descriptions affecting rankings.

17
LOCATION KEYWORD IN LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING TITLE
2.50
moderate importance (↓0.40)
1.52
low agreement

Dev Basu - I've seen this change from niche to niche. In my opinion it's a good practice to put city names followed by the main keyword into the LBC title.

"The combination of location keyword and product/service keyword in a business title is of the utmost importance in rankings."
--Chris Silver Smith

Steve Espinosa - This does not affect the rankings in the Onebox but it will help you for Web References and your listing showing up in natural results when the Yahoo! Local Listing is indexed by Google.

Tim Coleman - I would be more concerned with conversion and click through rate (CTR) than ranking. It just won't have a big enough effect in ranking for me to care. It will increase CTR & conversion if it matches the term and kill it if it doesn't; so I wouldn't try this in the suburbs.

PureSheer - This factor is relevant to the customer much more than for the listing's rating.

Martijn Beijk - While having the geomodifier in your title might seem important this will become less important in the future because of location determination. The 'location keyword' f.e. city is already available in your business listing which should be enough. In some searches it might benefit you.

Chris Silver Smith The combination of location keyword and product/service keyword in a business title is of the utmost importance in rankings. Both the LBC title and the website title are highly important.

Alex McArthur - Consider this one additional signal, but not of high importance. This may become more pertinent if/when search engines display listings beyond city, state, etc. (ie Chicagoland or Bay Area).

Miriam Ellis - Unfortunately, this practice has been abused to a ridiculous extent by spammers.

Ed Reese - Much like the inclusion of product keywords this has a massive impact in local search results. I've performed multiple tests with and without location in the titles. In nearly every case the title with the location in the title performs better. Again, this is being manipulated and will likely continue if this factor continues to be so powerful.

21
LOCATION KEYWORD IN LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING DESCRIPTION
2.22
moderate importance (↓0.12)
1.25
moderate agreement

"This seems like a secondary factor, but it couldn't hurt."
--Andrew Shotland

Matt McGee - I think the search engines rely much more on your physical address than whatever location you want to put in your business description. The phrase "putting lipstick on a pig" springs to mind. You may want to rank for "new york pizza" but if you're up in Scarsdale, good luck.

Ed Reese - It absolutely has a general positive impact on local search rankings. However, the impact is not nearly as powerful as location keywords in the title.

Andrew Shotland - This seems like a secondary factor, but it couldn't hurt. When everything else is equal this might be what pushes you ahead of the other guy.

25
PRODUCT / SERVICE IN LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING CUSTOM FIELDS
1.82
moderate importance (↑0.07)
1.31
moderate agreement

"Google says this is important and recommends it as a way to mention services your business does that do not fit into the categories."
--Don Campbell

Mary Bowling - It helps to optimize your listings just as you would the pages on your website. It's particularly helpful in ranking for long tail searches.

Don Campbell - Google says this is important and recommends it as a way to mention services your business does that do not fit into the categories. But they have a big problem with people "spamming" these so I think that limits the usefulness of it.

Ed Reese - I have found this to be a very effective technique in adding additional details that aren't important enough to add to the description but important to the user to know. For examples, adding terms like "licensed and bonded" in your specialties is a nice bonus for people searching for "Licensed contractors in Portland, OR" or other long-tail local search phrases. I have not found this technique useful in increasing rankings, per se, but very effective in being found in a much wider array of local search terms.

26
ASSOCIATING LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING WITH MARGINALLY-RELATED CATEGORIES
1.81
moderate importance (↑1.10)
1.18
high agreement

"Sometimes these marginally related categories do fit well, or well enough, for other services...in some cases the categorization options are limited."
--Steve Hatcher

PureSheer - You'll get the relevant 10-pack position per related category. Don't fill up the category box with related keywords! Choose the main related ones & use them with the other, more relevant ones.

Tim Coleman - Will help you rank for those terms and have little or no effect on main keywords. Treat Google like you would a potential customer, let them know what you do.

Steve Hatcher - Sometimes these marginally related categories do fit well, or well enough, for other services...in some cases the categorization options are limited.

Ian Lurie - It looks to me like the primary category is the one that's most heavily weighted. That's common sense, too.

Dev Basu - Affects ranking somewhat positively in my opinion.

Andrew Shotland - If your site has a strong profile you may be able leach rankings from other categories but these are typically weak categories and it won't last for long – unless you are a locksmith.

Ed Reese - It helps your business rank for those marginally-related categories if they are relevant to your business. However, I don't believe they will impact your other category results.

28
ASSOCIATING LOCAL AREA CODE AS PRIMARY LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING NUMBER
1.74
moderate importance (↓0.26)
1.33
moderate agreement

Ian Lurie - I see some ridiculous area code mismatches, like an 801 area code showing up in Seattle. 801 is Utah. Seattle is not close to Utah. Look at a map. But an 801 area code holds the 2nd position for one search phrase in Seattle. Buh?

"There are far too many profiles with call tracking numbers ranking well to justify this as an important factor."
--Alex McArthur

Don Campbell - I think this is an important factor if there are few other web references to your business and Google is trying to correlate. Phone number is one of the ways the algo determines how to map your business to other sources of information it has. I've seen multiple businesses at the same address (different suite #s) with different phone numbers and Google keeps them distinct. So this must be one of the primary keys.

Andrew Shotland - Certainly worth doing but given the flaky nature of phone numbers these days – 800, tracking #s, cell phone numbers, etc. I can't see how this could be a big factor. A tertiary variable at best.

Dev Basu - In most cases local phone numbers out rank 800 numbers in most competitive markets, however I have seen certain cases where 800 numbers rank well.

Alex McArthur - There are far too many profiles with call tracking numbers ranking well to justify this as an important factor.

Dave Oremland - Hmmm...too many sites w/ 800 #'s and totally spammy citations and referrals get high rankings.

29
ASSOCIATING VIDEO(S) WITH YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
1.74
low importance (↑0.77)
1.33
moderate agreement

"This helps you get another Web Reference which helps overall ranking."
--Steve Espinosa

Steve Espinosa - This helps you get another Web Reference which helps overall ranking.

Don Campbell - They can become web references for your listing so this is important.

Andrew Shotland - This works much better for web results but it certainly doesn't hurt to have a citation of your biz on the major video sites.

Dev Basu - Works great, especially if the video is syndicated via Youtube.

33
ASSOCIATING PHOTOS WITH YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
1.50
low importance (↑0.57)
1.06
high agreement

Martijn Beijk - The more information Google has about your business the better. More information means better user experience. Google is all about user experience (or at least they say so). Having photos listed with your business listing can positively impact CTR.

"Any updates to your local listing can help you move up. Add photos!"
--Ian Lurie

Matt McGee - Google is pushing to have very full business listings, and is probably starting to count this very slightly in the rankings. They want the user experience to be great, and it's great when searchers find full listings with photos and videos and such.

Dev Basu - Counts towards a more complete profile and hence better rankings.

Don Campbell - This seems to make a difference, but I've been adding these for a long time and haven't tested it for a while. I think it encourages click through to the business website when prospective customers are looking at the Google profile listing, though.

Ian Lurie - Any updates to your local listing can help you move up. Add photos!

36
LOCATION IN LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING CUSTOM FIELDS
1.17
low importance (↓0.36)
1.25
moderate agreement

Steve Espinosa - It will help when the Yahoo! Local listing is indexed by Google.

"These extra fields only come into play when the engines are desperate to fill the search results."
--Matt McGee

Ian Lurie - If you stuff area keywords into "Specialties" or other non-geo-related fields, you could get penalized for keyword stuffing.

Matt McGee - I could point out a single case where adding a city name to these extra fields has led to a 10-pack listing for a small business, but it's only because there aren't enough businesses inside that city to fill the 10-pack. To me, that says these extra fields only come into play when the engines are desperate to fill the search results.

Ed Reese - I have not found this helpful in ranking for competitive geo-areas.

Andrew Shotland - Couldn't hurt but I have seen this have more effect by having it on your site than in these fields. These kinds of things seem much more helping your listings get seen in other engines than in the engine it is on.

39
AGE OF LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
0.80
low importance (↓1.01)
1.44
low agreement

Mike Blumenthal - There appears to be some benefit to a recent claiming, i.e. the record gets a bump when claimed. This seems to dissipate some with time.

"There appears to be some benefit to a recent claiming, i.e. the record gets a bump when claimed. This seems to dissipate some with time."
--Mike Blumenthal

Tim Coleman - The older the listing the more time Google has to find and associate citations with the business, but it is also possible to show up in the 10-pack within a couple of weeks depending on the level of competition.

Martijn Beijk - While verifying your business listing almost instantly means that your business is 'activated' in Google Maps it does take some time for Google to merge all the right clusters. Merging clusters means more citations, reviews and references to a single business listing, thus important for rankings.

Steve Espinosa - The age of an overall listing matters but not the age of listing since it has been claimed, although sometimes the two can be at the same time.

Ian Lurie - Search engines look at trust across the board. I'd be shocked if they aren't applying the same rules to local search, and time is part of trust.

Alex McArthur - Age of the profile and website are tracked and most likely factored, but do not hold significant value.

40
INCLUDING COUPONS WITH YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
0.61
low importance (↓0.05)
1.25
moderate agreement

Mike Belasco - I think including as many extras as possible can help some. It could also enhance Click Through Ratio (CTR), which may be part of the algorithm as well.

"In competitive markets, having a coupon gives both an edge in rankings and also visually in the 3 or 10 pack."
--Dev Basu

Dev Basu - In competitive markets, having a coupon gives both an edge in rankings and also visually in the 3 or 10 pack.

Tim Coleman - Google seems to count this under 'web pages' so I've always done it... no reason not to.

Andrew Shotland - I haven't seen this help a bit. I put a coupon up for my blog when they first launched this feature and have received 0 responses. Then again I don't think people are searching for "SEO coupons". Probably worth doing for retail/products.

Steve Espinosa - No effect on ranking, but it does help dramatically in conversion rates. I have seen as great as 30% increase in some industries.

-1
ASSOCIATING (800) AS PRIMARY LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING NUMBER
-0.26
negative factor (↓0.26)
0.97
high agreement

"I would NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE AN 800 NUMBER!"
--Tim Coleman

Dev Basu - I'd try to use a local number as much as possible as the primary contact number.

Tim Coleman - I would NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE AN 800 NUMBER!

Matt McGee - Yahoo specifically asks for a local number, and includes another field for toll-free numbers, so it may count for more in their system. Google just asks for your primary phone number. But I'd still think it's better to use a local number.

Steve Espinosa - I have listed literally hundreds of listings with 800 tracking numbers and have shown no negative effects.

-5
MULTIPLE LOCAL BUSINESS LISTINGS WITH SAME BUSINESS NAMES
-0.67
negative factor (↑0.06)
1.77
low agreement

Matt McGee - It has no impact in Google until someone reports you as a spammer. They're terrible at picking this up algorithmically. Not positive, but I think Yahoo does a much better job with this.

Miriam Ellis - It works for spammers, but we're hoping Google will ban them one bright day.

"It works for spammers, but we're hoping Google will ban them one bright day."
--Miriam Ellis

Mike Blumenthal - If Google handles the multiple listings as different clusters then it has the negative impact of splitting the strength of your listings.

Ian Lurie - I've seen this wreak serious havoc in some cases. It depends on why you have multiple listings with the same name. If they're franchises, like "Quizno's", they tend to do OK. If it's a single business entity with locations around the same metroid, though, it can really confuse things.

Dev Basu - If the listings are optimized properly, merging of business listings might occur, hence this is unfavorable for a number of businesses.

Mary Bowling - Erodes trust in the information the search engines have about a business.

-7
MULTIPLE LOCAL BUSINESS LISTINGS WITH SAME PHONE NUMBER
-1.86
negative factor (↑0.21)
1.49
low agreement

"This is an error on the level of FEMA/ Katrina as it can royally screw you up in the different databases."
--Andrew Shotland

Andrew Shotland - This is an error on the level of FEMA/Katrina as it can royally screw you up in the different databases.

Steve Espinosa - This will cause major merging issues for you.

Miriam Ellis - This is complicated because conflated records have made this issue common amongst business owners who have no intent to spam.

PureSheer - OH, man! you definitely don't want to do that! 21 (or so) days & you got yourself only one listing from the bunch...

Dev Basu - From experience, this kills rankings quicker than most factors.

-8
MULTIPLE LOCAL BUSINESS LISTINGS WITH SAME ADDRESS
-2.02
negative factor (↑0.09)
2.03
low agreement

Cathy Rulloda - With Google's merger mania of late, having a similar or same address can have a substantial negative effect, since the listing can disappear entirely.

"With Google's merger mania of late, having a similar or same address can have a substantial negative effect, since the listing can disappear entirely."
--Cathy Rulloda

Steve Hatcher - In the case of multiple listings created from bad data/duplication from YP's, one listing tends to become the dominant listing. Google is getting better at merging these.

Andrew Shotland - Recipe for disaster.

Martijn Beijk - This is against the Google Guidelines and therefore not advised :D.

Matt McGee - If you own all the listings, then it's spam and if someone reports you, you're in trouble. But there are typically several dozen real estate agents at the same address, and they can each have a local listing in Yahoo and Google.

Dave Oremland - Seems to be effective in Google. More value to the spammers.

Dev Basu - In the plumbing, electrician, garage door type industries, this seems to work very well.


Traditional On-Page Criteria

9
GENERAL IMPORTANCE OF ON-PAGE CRITERIA
2.98
high importance (↓0.08)
1.41
moderate agreement

Matt McGee - Like I said last year, you don't even need a web site to rank in the 3-pack or 10-pack, so it's hard to say that on-page web site factors are tremendously important. They matter, and SEO is important, but I think in some areas and industries you can get visibility just with the listings that the the search engines offer.

Ed Reese - While this is quite helpful it's far from necessary. I have a number of clients ranking in local search with near zero on-page factors in their favor. However, in highly competitive markets on-page factors become more and more important and should not be ignored.

"The Local algo is independent of associated web sites. Many sites rank well without having a web site."
--John Biundo

Steve Hatcher - Other than the business website being recognized as the authoritative source of info about that business I don't see traditional organic SEO factors on that website having much influence on the local, non-organic, rankings.

Martijn Beijk - On page ranking is important but not necessary. Even business owners without a website can rank well in the local results.

John Biundo - The Local algo is independent of associated web sites. Many sites rank well without having a web site. Relying on web site signals for local business rankings would produce distorted results because many local businesses do not have web sites, or if they do, their web site "SEO strength" is not a good signal for ranking them among peers.

Mary Bowling - It depends on the competition and is more important for ranking in the Google 10 pack than within Maps itself.

Don Campbell - If Google trusts your web page and can associate that with your local business listing it will help your ranking.

Ian Lurie - Onpage factors loom large in local search. It's a lot like the early days of web search: Search engines haven't totally figured out how to rate offpage factors, so they're leaning heavily on the onpage stuff.

David Klein - Doing well organically appears to have a huge cross over to doing well in local.

Alex McArthur - Although I believe there are on-page practices that effect local rankings, I think most on-page value is in conversion. By pointing profile links to location specific pages with relevant area information and prominent contact details the user gets what they are looking for.

Dev Basu - Link strength, domain strength, and presence of landing pages are key.

Will Scott - Title tags seem to have some impact but are likely to be limited to the home page. Agreement with LBC helps a bunch too.

Brian Carter - I don't believe this is as big a factor as some might think. I've seen local branches of national chains only represent 10 or 20% of the top ten for a local search. I think a lot of the SEO factors may be irrelevant and for good reason- if these were a big factor, then national big box type sites with PR>6 and >10,000 backlinks would dominate local listings. There would be no room for the mom and pops whose sites often have horribly low PR and backlinks.

10
INCLUDING FULL ADDRESS ON WEBSITE CONTACT PAGE
2.86
high importance (↓0.03)
1.58
low agreement

"This is a trusted signal for Google to merge with other citation sources."
--Martijn Beijk

Martijn Beijk - You are able to rank even without a website. But having your details on a page is very important as this is a trusted signal for Google to merge with other citation sources.

John Biundo - OK, so there is some importance of the web site, strictly in the sense that having a web site is a way of validating that a) there is an open business at the location; b) the owner of the web site may be somewhat relied on for information about the business. For example, a KML file, hosted at the web site, can be considered to be a somewhat authenticated/trusted source of information about the location and status of a business.

Dev Basu - It's a good practice, but having multiple addresses on the same page can confuse the search engines.

19
INCLUDING CITY + STATE IN MOST/ALL WEBSITE TITLE TAGS
2.42
moderate importance (↓0.11)
1.45
low agreement

"We've tested this and there's no longer any doubt – the title tag is as almost as critical for local rankings as it is for web search rankings."
--Ian Lurie

Don Campbell - In my experience this helps - even for surrounding cities in non-competitive markets. But I wonder if it will be devalued by the Google algo in the future.

Jordan Kasteler - It's not necessary for all your pages. I like to just focus on a specific local landing page or contact page unless I'm trying to rank for geo-modified phrases on all pages.

Ian Lurie - Title tags play a big role in your local ranking. We've tested this and there's no longer any doubt – the title tag is as almost as critical for local rankings as it is for web search rankings.

Matt McGee - This is a great way to target geo-based keywords, like "[cityname] Sony TVs" or "[cityname] bankruptcy attorney".

23
INCLUDING CITY + STATE IN CONTACT PAGE TITLE TAGS
1.94
moderate importance (↓0.59)
1.52
low agreement

"I've been successful with the 'What you do, Where you are, Who you are' format for local landing pages."
--Dev Basu

Dev Basu - I've been successful with the "What you do, Where you are, Who you are" format for local landing pages.

David Mihm - I'm a big believer in creating as strong a geo-targeted signal as you can from your LBC landing page. This absolutely means including city and state in the title tags of this page. Not only do I believe this helps directly with 10-pack ranking, but it ensures that your contact page gets picked up as a citation by Google.

24
HAVING A URL THAT CONTAINS A PRODUCT/SERVICE KEYWORD
1.90
moderate importance (↓0.26)
1.29
moderate agreement

Ian Lurie - As the web search algo goes, so goes URL keyword richness for local rankings. Right now, having a keyword in your URL confers very little SERP juice. It likely doesn't impact local either.

27
HAVING A URL THAT CONTAINS A LOCATION KEYWORD
1.79
moderate importance (↓0.58)
1.48
low agreement

Matt McGee - I think this is a big factor in the regular search results, but not at all when it comes to the 3-pack and 10-pack. I don't think they look much at the domain name when it comes to the 3-pack and 10-pack.

30
INCLUDING LOCAL AREA CODE PHONE NUMBER ON WEBSITE CONTACT PAGE
1.65
low importance (↓0.35)
1.43
moderate agreement

" I use the tel: attribute to make the phone #'s clickable from mobile devices as well."
--Jordan Kasteler

Dev Basu - A better practice is to have a site wide address and phone number in your site footer.

Jordan Kasteler - I use the tel: attribute to make the phone #'s clickable from mobile devices as well. This attribute is also a good indication for search engines of what the #'s represent.

PureSheer - Listings that are sharing the same phone # as they're linked to have a better position!

32
PAGERANK OF HOMEPAGE/HIGHEST-RANKED PAGE
1.52
low importance (n/a)
1.39
moderate agreement

"Having a high Location Prominence Score is a 5 in terms of importance. However it appears to be calculated somewhat differently than Page Rank."
--Mike Blumenthal

Mike Blumenthal - Having a high Location Prominence Score is a 5 in terms of importance. However it appears to be calculated somewhat differently than Page Rank.

Matt McGee - I've noticed that Apple stores often seem to rank well on "computer store" searches, so maybe the strength of apple.com is helping. Same with Best Buy and even Circuit City (which still ranks). But I suspect the good rankings are more to do with the amount of reviews they get, and then maybe the causes of the PageRank, like tons of inbound links and so forth.

Tim Coleman - Trust and links are a factor; I believe this is part of the local algo.

Ian Lurie - The traditional SEO algos work their way into the local rankings at some point. Having a lot of authority helps your work to rank in the local listings.

Dev Basu - I've seen domains with low and high page rank rank well in the 10 pack.

PureSheer - Ask the spammers–YOU DON'T NEED A PAGE RANK IN ORDER TO RULE THE 10-PACK.

Ed Reese - I have found a slight impact of high PageRank. However, I have clients with web sites with incredibly poor PR that rank #1 in local search for competitive keyword phrases.

34
PROVIDING A KML FILE FOR GOOGLE/YAHOO TO SPIDER
1.43
low importance (↑0.75)
1.30
moderate agreement

"Uploading a geositemap with KML reference to your authenticated and verified Google Webmaster Tools account is a part of 'trust'."
--Martijn Beijk

Mike Blumenthal - Matters more if the record is bulk uploaded.

Martijn Beijk - KML is a proposed standard brought to life by Google when they bought Keyhole. Uploading a geositemap with KML reference to your authenticated and verified Google Webmaster Tools account is a part of 'trust'. Especially useful when using bulk uploads because these, without any other information, get listed as 'unverified'. Creating extra sources or indications of trust with Google will remove the 'unverified' listing.

Steve Hatcher - Others have lumped this into the category of "99.9% of websites are not doing this so it's likely not a factor" but I've seen strong results from using KML files.

Dev Basu - So far it's about as useful as the hCard microformat but it could definitely pick up as the local algorithms mature.

Matt McGee - Another one for the "too geeky to matter" file, especially if you're doing everything else well to send signals of your location.

Don Campbell - It doesn't seem to have a big effect yet but this is something I'm watching.

37
CODING ADDRESS ON WEBSITE IN HCARD MICROFORMAT
1.17
low importance (↑0.40)
1.08
high agreement

Don Campbell - Will increasingly become a factor, especially now that Google has announced support for the hCard format and Rich Snippets. And Yahoo has been supporting this for almost 1 year already. I'm adding it to all my clients' sites.

"Google's recent deployment of Rich Snippets indicates growing support for the format, and higher likelihood that they're use this in their ranking secret-sauce."
--Chris Silver Smith

Chris Silver Smith - I believe that in highly-populated cities that this can have a small, indirect positive effect on ranking. For less-populated cities where fewer people are likely to be knowing-of or using hCard in webpages, it would likely have zero effect. Also, Google's recent deployment of Rich Snippets indicates growing support for the format, and higher likelihood that they're use this in their ranking secret-sauce. However, when they do indeed use this to help disambiguate address and listing info from business webpages, it's not likely to help in rankings except for cases where a business's webpages have been misinterpreted somehow (associated with similar-sounding businesses in other cities or on other streets in the same city). For business websites which are already interpreted properly, or which have already claimed their listings in LBC, this would have no effect on ranking. In other words, it would help rankings if it helps business's erroneous information to get corrected automatically. Finally, if/when Google adds special treatment for webpages with hCard through their Rich Snippets, this could help improve CTR if the SERP listing treatment is sufficiently eye-catching.

Dev Basu - Seems to send the search engines the right signals and prevents confusion of address data. This could be really important for the new meta data considerations launched at Google's Searchology 2009.

Martijn Beijk - I consider this important not specifically for ranking factors but also because of the new rich snippets Google has introduced. Greater visibility. Higher CTR.

Ian Lurie - It appears to finally be having an impact. Or, I'm writing this so my staff, who I continually force to use hCard, won't mutiny.

Miriam Ellis - I, personally, have not seen enough data to truly understand how Google is handling hCard formatting at this point, though recent news indicates that they are turning their attention more towards this now.

Matt McGee - It's too geeky to be a factor.

Mary Bowling - This will have more impact going forward.

38
PAGERANK OF LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING LANDING PAGE
1.05
low importance (n/a)
1.14
high agreement

Dev Basu - Page rank in general is a overall indicator of a page's link strength, and so having the LBC landing page with lots of inbound links helps rankings.

-2
LISTING INFORMATION FOR MULTIPLE LOCATIONS ON WEBSITE CONTACT PAGE
-0.26
negative factor (↓0.13)
1.57
low agreement

Matt McGee - It depends what else you're doing to send location signals to the engines. If this is all they have to rely on, you're in trouble. But if you cover all your other bases, I think this probably isn't a big deal.

"This can really confuse the search engines."
--Mike Belasco

Ian Lurie - Just make sure the 1st address and phone number is the one you want factoring into your LBC ranking.

John Biundo - Speculative, but the theory is that you would like to create a clear signal about the location of your business so that the search engine can match up your business with other information crawled from the web at large. Multiple addresses may dilute the strength of that signal.

Mike Belasco - This can really confuse the search engines.

Don Campbell - Always use a separate landing page for each physical address and phone number.

Steve Hatcher - Others say this should be done with dedicated pages for each location but I don't see it as a necessity when the number of locations is small.

-4
INCLUDING (800) PHONE NUMBER ON WEBSITE w/o LOCAL AREA CODE
-0.38
negative factor (↓0.63)
1.01
high agreement

John Biundo - I think you should always have a local phone number. An 800 number doesn't hurt (in fact, there's some indication it may be of benefit as the primary number in the LBC), but there should always be a local phone number.

Matt McGee - This is another case where I think it's not smart, but you can overcome it by covering all your bases in other areas of local optimization.

-6
LISTING PO BOX ON WEBSITE WITHOUT A PHYSICAL ADDRESS
-0.93
negative factor (↓0.93)
1.51
low agreement

John Biundo - I see this as something that has the potential for abuse, given that proximity to centroid is likely to remain an important factor.

"Over the last year I've seen this tactic really lose steam."
--Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie - Over the last year I've seen this tactic really lose steam. Think about it from the search engine's perspective – local search is there to get people to a physical location. A PO box isn't all that helpful. So search engines are deprecating PO box addresses.

Cathy Rulloda - I'm seeing out-of-area companies spamming by using PO Box 'physical addresses' and getting #1 positions for competitive terms.

Dev Basu - I've seen PO boxes ranking just fine in the 10 pack.

Miriam Ellis - Though this would obviously have an extreme effect on your local organic ranking, if the LBC listing has a complete physical address, that would have some counterbalancing effect.

Mike Belasco - A box from a PostNet or Mailboxes Etc works ok.


Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria

6
GENERAL IMPORTANCE OF OFF-PAGE/OFF-LISTING CRITERIA
3.50
high importance (--)
1.16
high agreement

Matt McGee - The more competitive the locale and industry, the more these things matter, I think.

"The more competitive the locale and industry, the more these things matter, I think."
--Matt McGee

Mike Blumenthal - Geo links and geo references are critical to success.

Dev Basu - A couple of notches above on-page SEO. The biggest factors are overall link strength, and links from local citation sources.

Ian Lurie - It's all about authority. Links from directory sites and local review sites, as well as other sites in your metroid, will give you a better shot at a high ranking. But it's a lot easier to get a strong local ranking without links than it is to get a strong web search ranking.

Mary Bowling - All other things being equal, a strong website will help you to outrank other businesses, especially in the Google 10 pack.

Steve Hatcher - Claimed listings with reviews, user submitted photos, web-references, etc. can rank well even when that business has no website. So traditional organic SEO factors such as inbound links, anchor text, etc. either don't actually matter for local rankings or have a small effect.

2
CITATIONS FROM MAJOR DATA PROVIDERS + IYP PORTALS
4.10
high importance (↑0.53)
0.90
high agreement

Ed Reese - This is still the single most important factor to local search rankings in my opinion. In addition to IYP's I would recommend adding citations that are powerful for your business' industry, your city, and citation sources related to your industry (like associations and social networking groups).

"This is still the single most important factor to local search rankings in my opinion."
--Ed Reese

Tim Coleman - I think this has the biggest effect after location.

Mary Bowling - These citations are used to build trust in the information Google has about a business. However, if the data varies between the citations, especially if it doesn't match the data in your listing, it will cause location confusion, instead of location trust.

Don Campbell - These are powerful. It seems they are more powerful than business owner supplied information in Google.

Dev Basu - Citations are to local SEO what traditional linkbuilding is to organic SEO.

Martijn Beijk - Citations and web references are the 'links' of local. It is not important to only focus on regular linkbuilding but also on gathering (the right) citation sources and references. N.B. Martijn has written a terrific guest post on my blog about European citation sources.

Ian Lurie - Being listed in the right directory or online Yellow Pages can make the difference between #1 and not listed.

Chris Silver Smith - Some directories are more/less effective, according to the business category. Some specialized vertical directories are particularly effective for their topic area and may provide more benefit in some cases compared with more generalized directories.

12
QUALITY OF INBOUND LINKS TO WEBSITE
2.82
high importance (↓0.52)
1.42
moderate agreement

"If 'location' is considered part of overall quality, this majorly affects Local ranking."
--Mike Belasco

Martijn Beijk - In the end, almost everything that matters is links. There are more factors weighing in to the algorithm but without any good citations you won't stand a chance against your competitors who do take action in their online marketing activities and are engaging in the benefits of local SEO.

Mike Belasco - If 'location' is considered part of overall quality, this majorly affects Local ranking.

Dev Basu - Quality, especially related to geo-specific links are far more important than sheer number of links.

Ian Lurie - Search engines are very sensitive to the online neighborhood you live in. That influences all your rankings: Local, image, product and web search alike.

Steve Espinosa - I have seen the stronger PageRank the web references have, the better they are, so it will affect rankings that way.

David Klein - In my successes, quality and quantity of inbound links has been practically the entire story. Google from the beginning has judged sites based on the quality and quantity of inbound links, and it remains the core of who they are. It is my opinion, that quality, and quantity of inbound links with the right anchor text will just possibly overcome everything else in doing well in Google Local.

13
HYPERLOCAL / TRADITIONAL WEB CRAWL CITATIONS
2.80
high importance (--)
1.26
moderate agreement

Alex McArthur - These citations are important for pushing a listing over the top in competitive industries or highly populated cities. This practice, like link building, requires constant effort.

"These citations are important for pushing a listing over the top in competitive industries or highly populated cities."
--Alex McArthur

Ed Reese - Several times I have targeted relevant, authoritative links for clients in with the goal of more traditional link building, but new citations have been the unintentional result. I've noticed this trend increase in the past 6 months with the growing strength of hyperlocal websites/blogs. These web sites are gaining enough trust to be given citation authority by the search engines in many cases. I believe this trend will continue with local content sites yielding nearly as much strength as the IYP's or local search in the future.

Cathy Rulloda - Being mentioned on local authority sites – blogs, newspapers, trade groups, civic groups, etc. - can have a favorable impact on a listing and the benefit can occur with or without a link to the listee.

Dev Basu - Local blogs, local web directories, and local forums all help in rankings as they are often picked up as web references.

Steve Hatcher - Seems that any crawlable web page that happens to have the business address and phone number, in any text format, can get counted as a web reference. Unclear of how much "weight" such a reference may have though.

Martijn Beijk - These citations will allow Google to better determine the trust level for your business. Having incorrect data on the web, however, might become a problem when Google decides to merge citation data in the wrong way. You might end up with a phone number you are no longer using or having your old URL listed.

Tim Coleman - I've seen these have an effect if Google associates them with the business.

Will Scott - We've seen these as the ONLY citations with some of our Main Street clients in the 10 pack.

Steve Espinosa - As long as they are category specific they are more powerful we have seen.

Ian Lurie - I feel it should matter. Call it wishful thinking on my part.

Don Campbell - I think these will increase in importance.

15
LOCATION KEYWORDS IN INBOUND LINKS TO WEBSITE
2.71
moderate importance (↓0.57)
1.55
low agreement

"Location + Keyword domain can, in less competitive markets, = instant authoritative one-box."
--Will Scott

Will Scott - Location + Keyword domain can, in less competitive markets, = instant authoritative one-box.

Dev Basu - Location keywords in anchor text are better, and may be picked up as web references.

David Mihm - Even in competitive arenas like real estate and insurance, I've seen a handful of links with geo-relevant anchor text push clients into sustained listings within 3-packs or even Authoritative OneBoxes.

18
PRODUCT/SERVICE KEYWORDS IN INBOUND LINKS TO WEBSITE
2.45
moderate importance (↓0.47)
1.67
low agreement

"Make sure your linkbuilding activities look natural."
--Martijn Beijk

Don Campbell - Just as with regular SERPs the anchor text is important when people are searching for those particular keywords.

Martijn Beijk - It will give Google a better understanding of what the landing page is about. Links need to be contextual. The correct anchor text will help a lot. But be careful not to over-optimize on your linkbuilding. Suddenly having 50 'follow' inlinks with the correct anchor text might trigger some red lights and buttons. Make sure your linkbuilding activities look natural.

Ian Lurie - Anchor text has been a bit deprecated of late. Variety appears more important.

22
QUANTITY OF INBOUND LINKS TO WEBSITE
2.14
moderate importance (↓1.20)
1.16
high agreement

Martijn Beijk - I don't believe in quantity but rather in good contextual links. Having 1000 inlinks from .ru domains will kill your business. Having a few contextual inlinks from good authoritive sources will flourish your business.

Don Campbell - Having quality links with good anchor text seems to help more than quantity, even when some of the links are from your own website.

31
MYMAPS/UGC REFERENCES TO BUSINESS
1.57
low importance (↓0.21)
1.11
high agreement

Steve Hatcher - Has a positive effect. Anything that gets included as more content on the listing page adds more value/relevance/quality to the listing.

David Mihm - Seems to be a secondary or tertiary factor, but Google's introduction of the "Easy Stars" for signed-in Google account holders late last week suggests these will become increasingly important in 2009-2010.

41
PARTICIPATING IN LOCAL PPC ADVERTISING
0.15
low importance (↓0.49)
0.55
high agreement

"Cough. The search engines say PPC doesn't impact local rankings. Cough."
--Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie - Cough. The search engines say PPC doesn't impact local rankings. Cough.

Dev Basu - I haven't seen tangible evidence that this makes any difference to your rankings.

Miriam Ellis - There has been some indication that participation in Yahoo's PPC can definitely affect local rankings.


Customer Reviews

8
GENERAL IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER REVIEWS
3.27
high importance (↑0.27)
1.00
high agreement

Matt McGee - I'm scoring this higher this year than last, because I think ratings and reviews are growing more important. The main driver for this, in my opinion, is simply that the search engines have more data to use as a signal. A year or two ago, local searches in the small town where I live rarely showed any businesses with reviews. But in the last couple months, I'm seeing reviews on a majority of the local searches I do.

"I'm scoring this higher this year than last, because I think ratings and reviews are growing more important."
--Matt McGee

Mike Belasco - We've been noticing the rankings in certain competitive niches are actually ordered by the number of reviews present.

Don Campbell - Reviews are an important ranking criterion, and even more important for getting the prospective customer to click through to your website or call. They act as social proof and help distinguish your business from the other results.

Mike Blumenthal - The value of reviews goes beyond their ranking value in terms of building trust and a desire on the part of the searcher to click through to the listing.

Tim Coleman - I believe reviews are important for conversion and they affect ranking. I don't believe they are as important as they were in the past.

Miriam Ellis - I have seen great variation in this from industry to industry. In some cases, getting reviews can really push up a ranking, but in other cases, businesses with few or zero reviews are outranking businesses with reviews.

Ed Reese - I don't believe the review itself is important from a positive or negative standpoint. However, they are valuable if they include descriptive details about your business and business location. Specifically, keyword information in the title of the review is valuable. Long-tail search terms in the review description area help reinforce that the business offers those services.

7
VOLUME OF CUSTOMER REVIEWS ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
3.34
high importance (↑0.23)
1.05
high agreement

Brian Carter - This factor has the highest statistical correlation I've seen of any one single factor with higher local listings. Again, no one factor can win it for you, but this is important. Still, what do you do with this? It's gray or black hat to engineer more reviews, and some of the review source websites have policies against this.

" Reviews, either positive or negative, help your listing stand out more than those without reviews."
--Larry Sullivan

Larry Sullivan - Reviews, either positive or negative, help your listing stand out more than those without reviews.

Mary Bowling - Yahoo Local has said there's a threshold for the number of reviews and that once you reach that threshold, the reviews begin to factor into your rankings. Of course they will not say what that threshold is. For Maps, more reviews help you to rank better and even one review is helpful and gives you an edge over businesses with no reviews.

Dev Basu - Reviews indicate inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of LBC profiles, and it doesn`t really matter if they are positive or negative.

Ian Lurie - Volume of reviews isn't as important as velocity – a steady flow of reviews is essential. Make sure you work this into your strategy.

Steve Hatcher - Looking at hotels in major cities in Google Maps, with 300, 400, 500 reviews, shows that volume matters. The locksmith spammers seemed to have proved this too.

Matt McGee - Quantity is particularly important to Google, as we've seen cases where Company A fraudulently leaves poor reviews of Company B, and Company B shoots to the top of the 10-pack because they have so many more reviews.

16
CUSTOMER REVIEWS LEFT DIRECTLY AT THE SEARCH ENGINE (GOOGLE / YAHOO)
2.65
moderate importance (--)
1.21
high agreement

Mary Bowling - I think a review made directly on the engine may be given a bit more weight, especially if it is from an account holder who has provided a lot of information in their profile. It helps with trust that the review is legitimate and not gamed.

"It helps with trust that the review is legitimate and not gamed."
--Mary Bowling

Martijn Beijk - Depends per niche but for a small business you only need to few to make the difference.

Ian Lurie - These matter a lot for that one search engine. But that doesn't scale well if you're a small business. You can't go out and drive 2-3 different review campaigns.

Miriam Ellis - Google frequently fails to count Google-based reviews in its totals, and will often deny the user the ability to see full Google-based reviews. Google seems to handle reviews from third-party data providers better than it handles its own.

20
CUSTOMER REVIEWS LEFT ON THIRD-PARTY WEBSITES
2.30
moderate importance (↑0.05)
0.84
high agreement

"Some review sites are more impactful according to the business vertical."
--Chris Silver Smith

Chris Silver Smith - Again, as with directories, some review sites are more impactful according to the business vertical. Zagats is highly influential for restaurants, for instance.

Mary Bowling - Different niches have different authority sites. Different geographic locations also have different authority sites. Reviews made on these sites may have more impact on the rankings. Try to identify which sites are important to your niche and location and concentrate on getting reviews there.

Don Campbell - Very important, especially by certain third-party sites in certain industries.

Ed Reese - 3rd party reviews seem to have a slightly higher impact upon local rankings.

Steve Hatcher - Should have a positive effect, but maybe not as strong as reviews made directly inside Google Maps.

35
POSITIVE RATINGS ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
3.34
low importance (↓0.76)
1.38
moderate agreement

Dev Basu - No effect on ranking but has an obvious effect on conversions and clickthroughs.

"No effect on ranking but has an obvious effect on conversions and clickthroughs."
--Dev Basu

Mary Bowling - I don't think that whether a review is positive or negative actually affects your ranking. However, searchers can choose to sort the results they see by ratings, so it definitely has an impact on how often your listing is seen. After all, who wants to hire the worst plastic surgeon or baby sitter in their area?

Chris Silver Smith - Google engineers deny giving ranking weight to ratings values. Possibly true, considering how many listings I've seen in top ten rankings in Maps which also have prominently-displayed negative ratings. However, I theorize a possible indirect effect on rankings. If Maps users see a positively-rated business, they may click through at a much higher rate than lower-rated businesses. Google could be giving ranking weight according to CTR of their Maps listings – in which case Ratings could indeed have an indirect yet significant impact upon rankings.

Matt McGee - It depends how strong the overall signal is. If there are only a few ratings, it doesn't matter if they're 5-star or 1-star. They help with rankings either way.

-3
NEGATIVE RATINGS ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS LISTING
-0.29
negative factor (↑0.35)
1.48
low agreement

Tim Coleman - I don't believe Google differentiates between positive and negative ratings.

Matt McGee - There's no such thing as a negative rating. There are only degrees of positivity.

Steve Espinosa - If you have a large amount either way you will see either positive or negative. 1 or 2 wont make a difference rankings wise, only conversion wise.


Most Important Data Providers + IYP Sites

  1. infoUSA
  2. Superpages
  3. Localeze
  4. YellowPages
  5. Yelp
  6. InsiderPages
  7. Niche Industry Sites (BBB, Vertical Directories)
  8. Acxiom
  9. Yahoo
  10. Citysearch

Other sites receiving significant votes: Niche Civic/Municipal Sites (Chamber of Commerce, Local Directories), Merchant Circle, UniversalBusinessListing, Yellowbot.

Most Important Review Engines

  1. Yelp
  2. InsiderPages
  3. Yahoo
  4. CitySearch
  5. Google
  6. Superpages
  7. Niche Industry Sites (BBB, Vertical Directories)
  8. TripAdvisor
  9. Judysbook
  10. Kudzu

Other sites receiving significant votes: Yellowpages, Merchant Circle, AngiesList.

Note: Admittedly, this was a poorly-constructed portion of the survey in which I asked for an open-ended ranking of the consistent top data providers across category and geography variables.

In his or her response, nearly every participant mentioned something about the importance of finding sites that are relevant to both your industry and geography. Some did not include either grouping in their numerical answers, however, so please take the placement of those groupings with a grain of salt. I am open to ideas for how to make this section, or any other parts of the survey, more useful to readers for future editions.

--David Mihm

Importance of General Signals

  1. Verified Local Business Listing (3.85) (↓ 0.42)
  2. Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria (3.50) (n/a)
  3. Customer Reviews (3.27) (↑ 0.27)
  4. Traditional On-Page Criteria (2.98) (↓ 0.08)

Significant Positive Factors

  1. LBL Address in City of Search (4.42)
  2. Citations from Major Data Providers (4.10)
  3. Associating LBL w/Proper Categories (4.00)
  4. General Importance of Claiming LBL (3.85)
  5. Prod./Svc. Keywords in LBL Title (3.56)

Harmful Factors

  1. Multiple LBL's w/Same Address (-2.02)
  2. Multiple LBL's w/Same Phone (-1.86)
  3. PO Box w/o a Physical Address (-0.93)
  4. Multiple LBL's w/Same Name (-0.67)
  5. 800 Number on Site (w/o Local Area code) (-0.38)

Highest Agreement

  1. Participating in Local PPC (0.15)
  2. LBL Address in City of Search (4.42)
  3. 3rd-Party Website Reviews (2.30)
  4. Citations from Major Data Providers (4.10)
  5. 800 Number on LBL (w/o Local Area code) (-0.26)

Most Controversial

  1. Multiple LBL's w/Same Address (-2.02)
  2. Multiple LBL's w/Same Name (-0.67)
  3. Prods./Svcs. in Inbound Anchor Text (2.45)
  4. Full Address on Contact Page (2.86)
  5. Multiple Addresses on Contact Page (-0.26)

More Helpful Than in 2008

  1. LBL w/Marginal Categories (1.81) (↑ 1.10)
  2. LBL w/Videos (1.74) (↑ 0.77)
  3. KML File Submission (1.43) (↑ 0.75)
  4. LBL w/Photos (1.50) (↑ 0.57)
  5. Citations from Major Data Providers (4.10) (↑ 0.53)

Less Helpful Than in 2008

  1. Quantity of Inbound Links (2.14) (↓ 1.20)
  2. Age of LBL (0.80) (↓ 1.01)
  3. PO Box w/o a Physical Address (-0.93) (↓ 0.93)
  4. Positive Customer Ratings (1.19) (↓ 0.76)
  5. Distance from Centroid (2.85) (↓ 0.74)
1400 NW Irving St • Suite 111
Portland, OR  97209
(503) 560-2755