The Local Search Ranking Factors

Volume 3 | Published June 7, 2010 SKIP TO RESULTS »

Introduction

Local Search has truly arrived in the year since last year's edition of the Local Search Ranking Factors was published. We've seen Google re-brand its Local Business Center as Google Places, begin to show an incredible number of Local-related results for nonspecific search phrases, a handful of review controversies involving Yelp (an increasingly important search engine for business owners to pay attention to), signals from Facebook that they're about to get involved in Local in a major way, and an explosion in the number of location-aware applications and "games" like Foursquare and Gowalla.

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.

It's getting harder and harder, even for the Local SEO experts polled for this survey, to keep up with all the developments in our industry. I think all of us empathize with small business owners who are not only trying to understand how to use the Internet to market their business, but also to run it.

Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local remain critical places for search visibility, though--and if anything, the increasing complexity of the space makes it even more important to get the opinions of the practitioners who follow Local most closely about what can improve one's ranking in the Google, Bing, and Yahoo Local algorithms, as well as techniques to be avoided. This year's edition of the LSRF contains responses from 34 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 69 criteria with respect to their influence on rankings in the Google, Bing and Yahoo Local "Universal" search algorithms (those that drive the 7-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
June 7 2010


The Results

  1. General Importance of Claiming Place Page / Local Listing
  2. Business Address in City of Search
  3. Associating Place Page with Proper Categories
  4. Volume of Citations from Major Data Providers + IYP Portals
  5. General Importance of Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria
  6. General Importance of Customer Reviews
  7. Quality of Citations from Major Data Providers + IYP Portals
  8. Product / Service Keyword in Place Page Business Title
  9. Volume of Customer Reviews associated with Your Business
  10. Quality of Unstructured Citations
  11. Volume of Unstructured Citations
  12. Proximity of Address to City Centroid
  13. Customer Reviews Left on Third-Party Websites
  14. Product / Service Keywords in Place Page Description
  15. General Importance of On-Page Criteria
  16. Quality of Inbound Links to Website
  17. Velocity of Customer Reviews Associated with Your Business
  18. Volume of MyMaps on which Your Business Is Included
  19. Associating Photos with Your Place Page
  1. Associating Local Area Code as Primary Place Page Phone Number
  2. Associating Place Page with Marginally-Related Categories
  3. Customer Reviews Left Directly at the Search Engine (Google/Bing/Yahoo)
  4. Inclusion of Product/Service Keywords in Reviews Associated with Your Business
  5. Product / Service Keywords in Inbound Links to Website
  6. Including City + State in Most/All Website Title Tags
  7. Location Keywords in Inbound Links to Website
  8. Quantity of Inbound Links to Website
  9. GeoTagged Photos + Videos Associated with Your Business
  10. Location Keyword in Place Page Business Title
  11. Including Full Address on Places Landing Page
  12. Location Keyword in Place Page Description
  13. Including City + State in Places Landing Page Title Tags
  14. Product / Service in Place Page Custom Fields
  15. Places Business Title in Inbound Links to Website
  16. Associating Video(s) with Your Place Page
  17. Inclusion of Location Keywords in Reviews Associated with Your Business
  18. Including Local Area Code Phone Number on Places Landing Page
  19. Having a URL that contains a Product/Service Keyword
  20. Having a URL that contains a Location Keyword
  1. PageRank of Homepage/Highest-Ranked Page
  2. Popularity of MyMaps on which Your Business Is Included
  3. Positive Ratings associated with Reviews of Your Business
  4. Age of Place Page
  5. Positive Sentiment associated with Reviews of Your Business
  6. Providing a KML File of Your Location(s)
  7. Matching Google account / URL
  8. Unstructured Reviews of Your Business
  9. PageRank of Places Landing Page
  10. Choosing List of Areas Served for Your Place Page
  11. Coding Address on Website in hCard Microformat
  12. hReview-Formatted Reviews of your Business
  13. Including Coupons with Your Place Page
  14. Location(s) in Place Page Custom Fields
  15. Volume of Location Service Check-ins
  16. Velocity of Location Service Check-ins
  17. WHOIS Record Associated with Your Domain
  18. Defining a Service Area for Your Place Page
  19. Participation in Local PPC or Place Page Advertising

Negative Factors

  1. Negative Review Sentiment (Most Benign)
  2. Negative Ratings
  3. Location Keywords in Categories
  4. (800) Phone Number on Website w/o Local Area Code
  5. (800) As Primary Place Page Number
  6. Multiple Locations on Places Landing Page
  1. Multiple Place Pages w/Same Business Title
  2. PO Box on Website w/o Physical Address
  3. Multiple Place Pages w/Same Address
  4. Hiding Address on Your Place Page
  5. Multiple Place Pages w/Same Phone Number (Most Harmful)

Most Important Data Providers

Most Important Review Engines


Place Page / Local Listing Information

1
General Importance of Claiming Place Page / Local Listing
4.40
high importance
(↑0.55)
0.90
high agreement

Andrew Shotland - If you haven't already claimed your Google Place Page WTF are you doing reading this? Close the tab, head over to Google and come back when you have learned to walk the rice paper without breaking it, grasshopper.

Matt McGee - Claiming is the right thing to do, but building out your profile with great information is what helps rankings.

"Claiming is the right thing to do, but building out your profile with great information is what helps rankings."
--Matt McGee

Tom Crandall - Claiming or creating listing(s) in Google Places does two things. First, it tells the search engines that they have the most accurate and up-to-date information about a business location. Second, it gives the business owner an opportunity to out-rank competitors by optimizing their business listing for targeted keyword sets and geographic areas.

Mary Bowling - One of the most important factors in ranking, although unclaimed listings can and do rank well due to other factors. In addition, you should claim your listing so that you can control much of what searchers see about your business, rather than letting others control it.

Ian Lurie - While claiming your Places page can help a little, it's more about control than ranking: By claiming your listing, you protect yourself from someone else claiming it.

Mike Ramsey - Claimed listings give you the ability to make corrections and expand your category choices, which is extremely crucial to utilizing your listing's potential.

Miriam Ellis - You'd think I would give this a 5, but there are just too many 'strange' instances of non-business-owner-generated, unclaimed listings outranking owner-created, claimed ones for me to feel that Google has yet to weight this quite as you might think they should.

Dave Oremland - In the absence of other claimed listings it helps. In general if there is significant effort at optimizing with significant citations and other user generated content I don't think any of these characteristics have significant weight. Moreover if there is significant competition with well supported places pages that have significant citations, any one of the below characteristics will show minimal impact.

Aaron Weiche - This is the base you need to start with to build a strong local search presence. Claim your listing as the start to your efforts of ranking.

Tom Critchlow - Making sure your listings are claimed and verified is really crucial to ranking well. Not only claiming the listing but ensuring accurate and complete information will give you the best results, Google in particular is always looking to reward accurate and complete data

Steve Espinosa - You can definitely rank without claiming your listing, most listings are unclaimed, but the stuff that happens while claiming it are the first steps to acheiving success.

Mike Blumenthal - There is no proven correlation between rank and just claiming but many things affect ranking flow from the claimed listing. There is also definite and strong correlation to peace of mind! Controlling your information rather than letting the general public is a critical foundation.

Martijn Beijk - Considered the most important step.

John Biundo - I see claiming as separate from creating. And in fact, a places page may exist for your business without you having done anything, as a result of Google aggregating data it gets elsewhere. The key thing, I think, is to a) ensure that a single, accurate version of your Places page exists; b) verify it. The distinction I'm drawing is that you don't want to create one that might conflict with (duplicate) one that already exists. If one exists, you *may* be better off claiming it, than creating an original. The nuances of how Google collapses duplicates is quite arcane, and it is quite easy to create a duplicate Places page inadvertently. Doing so can definitely hurt you, in a manner that is very analagous to the way duplicate content can hurt you in web search (i.e., by diluting off-page factors like web references, reviews, etc.)

Brian Combs - It's simple, if a listing doesn't exist, the search engines can't return it. And with Google particularly, claiming a listing is one of the simpliest, highest impact things you can do.

Paul Jahn - It makes sense to do this in the first place. You might already have a high listing, but verifying it solidifies this.

Erik Whaley - In the hierarchy these search engines create, claiming your listing reigns supreme followed by a trusted feed and then all other 3rd party data.

Shagun Vatsa - Claiming a listing is definitely one of the most important ranking factors. It allows full control of the listing including the provision of local analytics. It also avoids a listing from being hijacked which results in representation of inaccurate data.

Mike Belasco - While certainly is not neccesary to claim your listing to achieve good rankings, it is a really good idea especially in tough markets.

Steve Hatcher - Without claiming a listing you cannot further optimize it

Dev Basu - Claim your listings not only for ranking purposes, but also to gain control over your data and prevent hijacking of your listing.

Ed Reese - Claim your listing, people! While this is no guarantee it's the closest thing I've seen to it out of the gate. Yes, I've many unclaimed listing outrank claimed ones. In non-competitive verticals I've seen this alone improve rankings dramatically in an afternoon.

2
Business Address in City of Search
4.16
high importance
(↓0.26)
0.96
high agreement

Matt McGee - The only time that this doesn't matter is if there aren't enough matches to satisfy the search. Do a search for "luxury car dealer" in a small town and you might see results from other, nearby towns. But those are very rare occasions.

Tom Crandall - Yes, but...Google recently updated the Place page Location Settings section to differentiate between businesses with a static location and businesses that provide mobile, on-site services. If you select "Yes, this business serves customers at their locations," then actual location is a factor.

"Maps search means 'near me.' 'Near me' mostly means in my city."
--John Biundo

Ed Reese - For general keywords relative to your business this is a powerful signal. It's local search producing (mostly) local results. I've seen many companies just outside of the defined city limits (See Mike Blumenthal's recent blog post about Google's definition of your city for more details) be completely shutout because they were a mile or soo too far away. However, Google has gotten MUCH better at recognizing unique/niche offerings from companies and ranking them over a very wide area. I've seen several instances where a company was featured for a local city result with an office of 50+ miles away.

Mike Ramsey - This is still (and most likely always) going to be a major component of ranking. While it seems that the overall distance from the center of the city doesn't matter as much as it used to, there is still an imaginary border that you have to be inside to make the city listings.

Paul Jahn - In my mind, it's up there close to claiming your business in the first place.

Shagun Vatsa - Having an address located in the city being searched largely affects local rankings. Almost all the time, local businesses located in the city being searched are given more importance for local rankings.

PureSheer - Depends on the competition in the specific city - less competitive cities will have listing from other areas still rank high.

Mike Belasco - In some markets it is almost mandatory.

Dev Basu - This seems to be an important factor this year.

Martijn Beijk - Depends on volume, score/authority of businesses available.

John Biundo - Still a major factor. Maps search means "near me". "Near me" mostly means in my city.

Andrew Shotland - You've got to be in it to win it.

Aaron Weiche - With accuracy always the goal for the search engines, when they have enough data for the city searched, they'll take LOCAL over a listing that may just be close to the area. Location trumps many other factors in local search, that's the point.

Ian Lurie - We're not technically in the city of Seattle, but we still rank for Seattle place searches. Google in particular seems to apply a common-sense approach: If most people assume your address is in the metro area, then they rank you for that area.

Brian Combs - Critical if you wish to rank in the main city in the area. Not as important for the suburbs.

Ash Nallawalla - I see results from outlying suburbs when the metropolis name is searched.

3
Associating Place Page with Proper Categories
3.91
high importance
(↓0.09)
1.04
high agreement

Chris Silver Smith - Knowing the most commonly-used business category names to associate with your business is highly beneficial for ranking purposes when consumers search for the category name in your locality. Category is probably treated as a stronger ranking element than a mere keyword association.

"This is the best way to achieve relevance on any given search."
--Mike Blumenthal

Mike Blumenthal - This is the best way to achieve relevance on any given search.

Erik Whaley - With the customization of categories, this is becoming the new must do in Google.

Brian Combs - Be sure to use at least one of Google's default categories! Custom categories are great for keyword usage.

Shagun Vatsa - Again, this is a very important ranking factor. Categorizing each business listing accurately and appropriately can definitely boost local rankings. However, it is very important to follow the best practices with regards to categorization in order to avoid penalties due to custom categories.

Ed Reese - One of the most important factors by far. Take a lot of time to research and test your categories. Ignore your glory categories and use what work for your business.

Paul Jahn - In general, I stick with categories that Superpages.com provide.

Tom Crandall - The product/service categories continue to be a top factor, and for good reason. Google's semantic indexing does a fair job of assigning a listing to a group of synonymous keywords, but the Category section provides an opportunity to rank for very specific sub-categories.

Dev Basu - This is definitely important. I'm finding that having the same categories in citations being built can help them become part of enhanced content in place pages.

Martijn Beijk - Very important, but keep it clean and correct. Make sure you select categories that matches 'Google's system' f.e. categories already being used or similar to 3rd party providers

Mike Ramsey - Choosing the correct categories completely determines the direction of your listing. If you choose wrong, you screwed.

Mike Belasco - Hugely important.

Ash Nallawalla - When you search for a "SEO" phrase, the categories available to advertisers don't include SEO.

Aaron Weiche - Anything that has been pre-set by the engines is information they want to gather and understand. Completing these are a must and secures proper information.

Mary Bowling - Choosing the right categories for the main terms for which you wish to be found is critical!

Will Scott - We have definitely seen this as an effective tool when we need to address more than the 5 given categories.

John Biundo - Still spammable, so not fully trusted. I think external categorization (IYPs, Localeze/Acxiom/InfoUSA) are more important. Perhaps consonance between self-chosen and externally applied categories gives some boost (speculative).

Ian Lurie - I've seen increasing evidence that this doesn't matter as much as it used to.

8
Product / Service Keyword in Place Page Business Title
3.07
high importance
(↓0.49)
1.58
low agreement

Mike Ramsey - Sad to say, but I still see a plethora of businesses that are ranking well with extra keywords. This is against the guidelines but still seems to have a positive effect for the time being. I don't see this method working through 2010-2011.

Matt McGee - I have more appreciation for this as a factor today than I've ever had. Within the last two months, I've seen local businesses come from nowhere to suddenly appear in the 7-pack and the only thing I can see that they've done is put the keyword in their business name.

"It influences many small businesses to keyword stuff perfectly good names because they see it working for their competitors."
--Ed Reese

Mike Blumenthal - It is the most frequently abused feature of Maps and misuse can lead to your listing being "dinged."

Steve Hatcher - Lately, if that keyword does not exist in your official business name this can work against you, in a big way. If your name includes those keywords you get a free pass to this overweight ranking factor.

Ed Reese - I believe Google has slightly lowered the importance of this signal. It still needs to be less of a signal in my opinion. It influences many small businesses to keyword stuff perfectly good names because they see it working for their competitors.

Paul Jahn - Works great if it's part of your business name. If not, I don't recommend it.

Martijn Beijk - It works awesome! Until you get delisted because it is not allowed when not part of your business name.

Aleyda Solis - It is one of the most important elements to optimize! Add your highly relevant keywords in a user friendly way.

Brian Combs - This can be helpful, especially for newer listings that don't have many citations. It seems to hold the listing back in the long run, however.

Erik Whaley - Although still an effective tactic (Spam) for ranking, we have seen Google pull back the weight on this in favor of trusted feeds that play by the rules.

Tom Crandall - There is no doubt key-word-rich business titles continue to loom as a powerful ranking factor, especially in competitive markets. If there is an opportunity to consult the business owner about their DBA, I recommend a business name that incorporates a brand name with a keyword set, such as "Universal Carpet Cleaning."

Chris Silver Smith - It's helpful for ranking on that same keyword search, but not worth it if you get penalized for doing it. Not worth it if it's an otherwise non-competed term, too – if the keyword term is not competed, use of the keyword in a field or on the website in a place where it's allowed within the rules would be preferable.

Dev Basu - This has less effect than last year but overall I'm still seeing this is a quick win tactic to ranking in the 7 pack.

Tom Critchlow - Much more important in uncompetitive queries. For example "window cleaner london".

PureSheer - This is becoming less and less important in Google maps - and if too many keywords are inserted it can lead to a penalty. In the Locksmith industry we would give this a -5 as you can not use the word locksmith or lock in your listing without it being flagged. However in Bing and Yahoo this is more important and there doesn't appear to be any penalties associated with keyword stuffing.

Mike Belasco - I think this still helps quite a bit, although it is very important to be careful and avoid SPAM.

Aaron Weiche - This addition can be valuable to the user as well as the engine so it carries a high value. Please note I said keyword without an S. Spamming this sooner or later will work against you.

Shagun Vatsa - Overall, I've noticed that listing the product or service in the business title has improved some rankings in the 7-pack.

Ian Lurie - Keywords matter! If you can work in a great description that includes your product/service keywords, you'll definitely see an improvement.

Ash Nallawalla - The keyword in business title seems to help a little but in competitive niches, the first few dozen results probably use identical titles.

John Biundo - Probably less so over time. A "spammable" signal that Google would like to get away from relying on overmuch.

Mary Bowling - I think it has had a big influence on rankings, but Google is finding it necessary to reduce that influence due to blatant spamming.

Will Scott - We don't do that! That's spam :)

12
Proximity of Address to City Centroid
2.51
high importance
(↓0.34)
1.36
moderate agreement

Aleyda Solis - Unfortunately keeps being important.

Paul Jahn - Just from experience, this is a top 3 factor.

Ed Reese - Likely not a factor in less competitive markets.

Chris Silver Smith - Now appears more important to have the address location within the city outline polygon.

Matt McGee - Depends how competitive things are. In less competitive situations with fewer ranking signals, this becomes more important.

"This continues to decline and should be completely gone soon (I hope)."
--Aaron Weiche

Aaron Weiche - The engines realize it's more important to determine where you are at (i.e. Mobile device in your hand), than where the center of a city is. This continues to decline and should be completely gone soon (I hope). This factor arose because they needed something to factor location strength, but its need is now gone.

John Biundo - Only in the sense that, for now, as stated, "near me" means in my city, and "near the center of my city" is the best approximation of this for users of unknown location. As mobile blends more with local (and location aware browsers become more sophisticated, and Google becomes more sophisticated, etc....), this may lessen a bit. However, statistically, it seems that the centroid will still represent a larger segment of searchers' actual locations than anywhere else, so I think it remains important.

Ian Lurie - It's really important, actually, but I wouldn't run out and grab a PO box. You can rank just fine without it.

Mike Blumenthal - Generally this no longer has any impact. There is a specific use case where there are not enough listings in the geo area and Google expands the geography that it has a positive effect.

Miriam Ellis - Obviously, this continues to depend on the competitiveness of a vertical, the type of environment (urban vs. rural) and, apparently, some 'secret sauce' algorithm factors that I'm not sure any of us understand at this point which may cause well-cited, centrally-located business to rank lower than less-cited, farther away ones.

Brian Combs - Not that big a factor, but can have a major impact on how your listing spills over to the subburbs.

Tom Crandall - I believe this factor has weight but it also appears to me that Google's algorithm is sprinkling in well-optimized listings from the perimeter as well.

Tom Critchlow - This is most important for really competitive search terms, and plays a strong role in the ranking factors.

Steve Hatcher - I was under the impression that this factor had become very small lately, but some recent changes in Canada where Google obtained postal code boundary data shows differently. Still not a strong factor but stronger than I thought it might have been.

Martijn Beijk - It matters

Mike Belasco - Most important is that the city in the address matches the city in the search.

Dev Basu - In competitive markets it can be very important to have an address close to the centroid.

Will Scott - While distance from centroid isn't what it used to be, we've see locations farther from centroid rank higher than those closer when they are in the same named city.

Don Campbell - I know this is supposed to be declining in significance but see this still mattering in some competitive markets; when you are further away from the centroid it can be harder to rank.

Shagun Vatsa - While other factors have become more important than just having a business close to the centroid, I've noticed that in competitive niches, businesses close to the city centre definitely gain better local rankings.

PureSheer - In Yahoo this is crucial (4.5) however in Google Maps it has become less so.

14
Product / Service Keywords in Place Page Description
2.49
high importance
(↑0.27)
1.15
high agreement

Mike Blumenthal - Be cautious to not repeat your category information as it could lead to a penalty.

PureSheer - Too many keywords in the description will lead to a penalty.

Martijn Beijk - Works great, but make sure these aren't the same as your categories.

"This is effective if done in good taste. You simply need to reinforce your keyword theme here and not over saturate by stuffing."
--Erik Whaley

Erik Whaley - This is effective if done in good taste. You simply need to reinforce your keyword theme here and not over saturate by stuffing.

John Biundo - This is one I would really like to test more systematically. Again, it seems highly spammable (i.e., if this worked well, wouldn't it be a reprise of keyword stuffing in the early 2000's?), so I would think Google wouldn't want to rely much. But...in the absence of a lot of external signal for some markets/locations, it may have to use this more than it would prefer.

Dev Basu - I've seen rankings jump from the 2nd page to within the 7 pack with carefully placed keywords in the place page description.

Paul Jahn - A must if a keyword doesn't match part of your company name. It's a good idea for the users nonetheless.

Brian Combs - Definitely helps, but the real estate is limited, so be judicious. The description is also something very prominent in the listing detail, so make sure it reads well for prospects.

Tom Crandall - Though not as powerful as Category keywords, product/service keywords in the description of a Places listing can make all the difference. Comparing listings for similar businesses that provide tuxedo rental, I found that listings that included the keyword-rich phrase "prom tuxedo rental" in only the business description would outrank competitors for that search phrase in their respective markets.

Shagun Vatsa - Making minor changes to the description to include product and service keywords has slightly helped in gaining rankings in the 7-pack.

Tom Critchlow - I don't think this helps you rank higher, but I think it can help you rank for a broader set of phrases.

Ed Reese - I absolutely love crafting the perfect 200 character description for a client. It works so well for local long-tail search queries. It also often produces an authoritative one-box when done in tandem with a custom category and other factors.

Mike Ramsey - If they are not in your title, or categories, this is a great way to pick up long tail search queries.

Aaron Weiche - This gives you the ability to add further information and keywords that don't belong in your place title, but do speak to your products and services. It contributes to the understanding of your business offering.

19
Associating Photos with Your Place Page
2.06
high importance
(↑0.56)
1.17
high agreement

Shagun Vatsa - Adding photos contributes towards the level of profile completeness. I've noticed significant increases in rankings after adding 10 photos.

Don Campbell - It's easy to do, and makes your Places Page more friendly to visitors. Why not do it?

Tom Crandall - Logos, images, and photos enhance the user experience. They are good for the business owner, good for the prospective customer, and good for Google Places Pages.

"Adding photos contributes towards the level of profile completeness. I've noticed significant increases in rankings after adding 10 photos."
--Shagun Vatsa

Brian Combs - Helps establish importance of company, and dresses up the listing for prospects.

John Biundo - I think that having rich listings in other directories (SuperPages, CitySearch, etc.), including photos, can be a very positive ranking factor. In terms of quality of signal, as I've been using it, I would think Google would believe that "if people (even if it's the business owner) are willing to upload photos, that's solid evidence that this is a real business, with real people operating it". After all, I think much of the algorithm is *really* based on gaining confidence (getting a high quality signal) that a business exists, and that its basic business profile data is accurate.

Mary Bowling - While I don't think including photos, per se, helps your rankings, it does help to make your listing more complete, which I believe does help your rankings.

Mike Blumenthal - It doesn't hurt and provides a better customer experience so for that reason alone it is worth doing.

Andrew Shotland - Nice to have but haven't seen a big bang from these. Much more important for click through from Map SERPs. Optimizing your image for Maps SERPs is one of the most overlooked aspects of Local SEO. Search "SEO" in any city and you'll see what I mean. It's kind of embarrassing - myself included.

Matt McGee - The fact that Google will go out and find photos to add to a listing (if the business owner doesn't add photos) tells me this is kind of important.

Cathy Hillen-Rulloda - Most definitely a plus. Spammers have learned that photos and videos help them rank well despite having zero citations.

PureSheer - This is more to convert clicks to calls (less for a ranking factor). If you get the photo from a third party as opposed to inserting it yourself this has a higher effect.

Steve Hatcher - Google wants you to include photos of your location. Some is better than none.

Martijn Beijk - Important because Google puts great effort in showing the customer the location (Streetview, Instore view).

Erik Whaley - Important for the overall completion of profile, but also important to name these logo's accordingly to match the business category/keyword theme.

Dev Basu - Having 10 images definitely seems to improve rankings.

Aaron Weiche - I'm of the opinion that visuals add value both to the engine and the user.

20
Associating Local Area Code as Primary Place Page Phone Number
2.03
high importance
(↑0.29)
1.41
low agreement

Mary Bowling - This will become increasingly important as Google moves further towards enforcing compliance with their new business listing quality guidelines.

"This will become increasingly important as Google moves further towards enforcing compliance with their new business listing quality guidelines."
--Mary Bowling

Mike Blumenthal - While it doesn't affect ranking, Google really, really wants a number that rings locally.

Steve Espinosa - I imagine it definitely is small indicator that it is a truly local business.

Shagun Vatsa - While I've seen active local listings with an 800 number, local numbers still reign when it comes to ranking prominently in local results. Moreover, customers are more likely to call a business which provides local service rather than an 800 number due to their perception of it being a large business with a call-centre.

Larry Sullivan - Using a local phone number is key, since many of the data providers use that as a filtering and organizing mechnanism.

Mike Ramsey - If it matches the local phone number elsewhere on the web, it can definitely help.

Mike Belasco - I don't have any examples I can reference where we did not use a local area code. Regardless it isn't hard to obtain a number (Google Voice) with a local area code if neccesary.

Brian Combs - Anything you can do to establish location is good.

Dev Basu - In 90% of cases local numbers seemed to perform better than toll free ones. Additionally, the Place page guidelines seem to promote having a local number as a best practice.

Andrew Shotland - Couldn't hurt, but not a slam dunk. Probably a signal that helps confirm locality but since anyone can buy a local number, you'll need a lot more than this to seal the deal

Ash Nallawalla - This is not relevant in Australia where an area code can cover more than one state and number portability means that you can't use the phone number to identify the current location.

Aaron Weiche - When Google can use numbers to assist their rankings, it's far easier and accurate for them. I give weight to this and know that different phone numbers at one address can rank well. A great example are Realtors in the same real estate brokerage office. 5 agents in one office location can fill a 10-pack.

John Biundo - Some testing shows this is a factor, but not a major one in isolation. I think it's best practice, and I think it's a better user experience, and a better "click through" experience (I'd rather call a local proprietor than a call center).

Tom Crandall - Since Google specifically recommends using a local number, I have to believe it is a factor. I also believe toll free numbers appear spammy to prospective customers.

Ed Reese - Only use a true local number in your listing. Simple as that.

21
Associating Place Page with Marginally-Related Categories
1.99
high importance
(↑0.18)
1.64
low agreement

Andrew Shotland - You need to have a number of other signals working with you for this one to make a big difference.

"Selecting as many specific category names as possible is highly beneficial, because ranking for long-tail phrases and obtaining clickthroughs on them will be more likely to result in conversions."
--Chris Silver Smith

Chris Silver Smith - I think it unlikely that having semantically-related categories associated with the profile will influence rankings of the primary category search results. For instance, if you selected "Barristers" in addition to "Lawyers", having "Barristers" wouldn't help you rank for "Lawyer" searches. However, selecting as many specific category names as possible is highly beneficial, because ranking for long-tail phrases and obtaining clickthroughs on them will be more likely to result in conversions.

Steve Hatcher - Can help for long tail search phrases.

Dev Basu - This is usually useful for getting quick 3 or 7 pack rankings for low search volume keywords.

PureSheer - If they are too marginally associated or resemble keywords you may be penalized by Google.

Tom Crandall - This is an excellent opportunity to rank for very specific sub-categories.

Steve Espinosa - Really only helps on long tail phrases.

Mike Belasco - Could negatively impact rankings due to miscategorization.

Martijn Beijk - Good for focussing on multiple keywords.

Aaron Weiche - After you set your main categories, complete the marginal ones. It just adds more clarity for the engines.

Shagun Vatsa - Marginal categories have enhanced local rankings for many low search volume keywords which bring up the 2 or 3-pack.

Tom Critchlow - This is most useful for helping you rank for a broader set of terms, though there is some boost to the ranking position as well by adding the term to your categeories.

Mike Ramsey - If your listing is strong, choosing outreach categories will some a bit of extra traffic.

John Biundo - Well...you can clearly rank for bizarre things by putting them in your categories, but do you want to?

Brian Combs - Waste of the real estate, IMO.

29
Location Keyword in Place Page Business Title
1.82
moderate importance
(↓0.68)
2.24
low agreement

Chris Silver Smith - Highly beneficial, yet not worth the risk if you'll get penalized for doing it. Only use this if the location keyword is actually a part of your legal business name or DBA name.

Paul Jahn - It seems to work well as long as the business has different physical locations.

Ed Reese - Again, this is something I wish Google would do a better job of addressing. It's much too strong of a signal. I believe they are going to drop the hatchet in the very near future for both keyword and location stuffing in the title. However, as of today it's still working like a charm in many verticals in my region. It makes your business title look spammy and lame, but it's still effective (today).

Mike Blumenthal - There appears to be a penalty in place at the moment that really dings this behavior.

"I don't normally recommend this approach because of the spammy appearance and lack of a brand name."
--Tom Crandall

Tom Crandall - Nearly as powerful as using product/service keywords, a listing that features the city name within the business title can garner high rankings. I don't normally recommend this approach because of the spammy appearance and lack of a brand name. However, a business name that incorporates the corresponding city, such as "Memphis Carpet Cleaning," can help outrank competitors in competitive markets.

Mike Ramsey - Sad to say, but I still see a plethora of businesses that are ranking well with location keywords. This is against the guidelines but still seems to have a positive effect for the time being. I don't see this method working through 2010-2011.

Martijn Beijk - Works great, but not allowed if not part of your business name!

Shagun Vatsa - Similar to listing the product and service, I have noticed that location based keywords slightly enhance local rankings in the 7-pack.

PureSheer - This is important - however if the location keyword is not part of the official business name you run the risk of being penalized. In yahoo and bing there is no penalty associated with this even if it is not your official business name.

Brian Combs - This seems to be getting more attention from Google lately. And not the good attention.

Tom Critchlow - I don't think this helps at all.

Ian Lurie - Very little effect: No search engine wants to encourage folks to stuff locations into their business names. If location keywords in place titles mattered, you'd end up with place listings that read like an old phone book, only the city name would replace "AAAAA".

Mike Belasco - I think this still helps quite a bit, although it is very important to be careful and avoid SPAM.

Matt McGee - I think the search engines generally get location signals in other ways, but it can have a positive effect. I'm thinking of all the hotels with the city in their business name, for example.

Ash Nallawalla - In a few niches I have checked, the location in business title seems to help

Dev Basu - Location and Service keywords seem to go hand in hand and work very well for less competitive industries.

John Biundo - We've actually tested this, and I can't say it's 0, but it's not a large number. On the other hand, it's also clear that Google isn't *systematically* penalizing people for this (which one might expect from the guidelines).

Aaron Weiche - This works well for large cities, but if you are a SMB in a suburb or smaller community, I would pass on it. It will limit you more than it can help for the listing rank or the user.

Will Scott - We don't do that! That's spam :)

31
Location Keyword in Place Page Description
1.78
moderate importance
(↓0.99)
1.24
moderate agreement

Brian Combs - Worth including, but the impact isn't huge.

"Worth including, but the impact isn't huge."
--Brian Combs

Mary Bowling - Most helpful in ranking for long tail and less competitive location terms.

Tom Crandall - Much like product/service keywords in the description of a Places listing, location keywords such as cities and counties also help that listing rank in the corresponding market.

Paul Jahn - Works well, but just like organic SEO it can and has been overdone.

Ed Reese - It's mostly a non-factor. If it's important to associate your location for users, put it in the description. If you need the characters (I mean, there are only 200) to describe your products or services leave your location out of the description.

Dev Basu - I've seen rankings jump from the 2nd page to within the 7 pack with carefully placed keywords in the place page description.

Shagun Vatsa - Making minor changes to the description to include location based keywords has slightly helped in gaining rankings in the 7-pack.

Mike Ramsey - Googles guidelines are moving to stop any duplicate listing information showing up in the description box. I think currently it has a minor positive effect but will soon work as a penalty for companies.

PureSheer - Too many location keywords in the description will lead to a penalty.

Mike Blumenthal - It can help but again extreme caution is urged as it has lead to a penalties.

Erik Whaley - Once again, effective if limited to a single mention that flows in the context of the description.

Andrew Shotland - Much more valuable for Web search rankings.

Aaron Weiche - I think that any keywords in the description, locations included, help give the listing a stronger value to some extent.

33
Product / Service in Place Page Custom Fields
1.71
moderate importance
(↓0.11)
1.26
moderate agreement

Cathy Hillen-Rulloda - This attribute seems more important if it is categorized by a third party site, especially one with authority.

"This attribute seems more important if it is categorized by a third party site, especially one with authority."
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

Shagun Vatsa - Making minor changes such as adding custom fields to provide additional information about products, services or locations has slightly helped in gaining rankings in the 7-pack. This also contributes in making the local business profile more complete.

Mike Blumenthal - They have a positive effect unless they are repetitive of category or business name at which point them become negative.

Mike Ramsey - Currenlty helps, but is not against guidelines and will de-help soon.

Brian Combs - Little to no effect.

Dev Basu - This increases the overall keyword richness of the place page and we've used this to tweak rankings.

Erik Whaley - Creating custom anything demonstrates added interaction with a listing which Google likes. Whether that's adding your facebook/twitter links or by creating additional content fields for specialties.

PureSheer - If there are too many keywords listed it resembles spam and can have a negative impact on the listings.

Tom Crandall - They don't come close to the strength of Categories, but custom fields are another low level opportunity to optimize a business listing for product/service keywords.

John Biundo - More spammable factors. (See a common theme here?)

Ash Nallawalla - I have seen Onebox entries where the Specialties don't contain all the words in the search term.

Mary Bowling - The main purpose of doing this is to help you rank better for long tail product/service search terms. If you do it well, it also gives searchers useful information about what you do or sell and where you do it.

35
Associating Video(s) with Your Place Page
1.63
moderate importance
(↓0.11)
1.10
high agreement

Andrew Shotland - Nice to have but haven't seen a big bang from these. Much more important for click through from Map SERPs.

"Nice to have but haven't seen a big bang from these. Much more important for click through from Map SERPs."
--Andrew Shotland

Tom Critchlow - I've not had enough experience with this in practice to say with confidence the effect but Google almost always reward businesses which have extra information such as photos or videos.

Matt McGee - I don't have specific experience that adding videos has improved rankings, but the search engines want to return the most content-rich business listings they have that meet the relevancy requirements. So video has to be part of the bigger ranking picture.

Martijn Beijk - Seems to help.

Erik Whaley - Incorporating not only the tv spot, but other videos such as how to videos have proven successful.

Shagun Vatsa - Adding videos also contributes towards the level of profile completeness. I've noticed some improvements in local rankings after adding more than 1 video.

Mike Ramsey - Postive to have. Surprised Google hasn't started gathering youtube videos with same business titles at data.

PureSheer - This is more to convert clicks to calls (less for a ranking factor)

Dev Basu - Having 2 or more videos has tweaked the position of client rankings.

Tom Crandall - Videos enhance the user experience. They are good for the business owner, good for the prospective customer, and good for Google Places Pages.

Aaron Weiche - Same as with photos, the more you can see and in this ecase hear, the stronger the content. This gives your listing stronger content and just like as in organic SEO, good content wins users and rankings.

Ash Nallawalla - Very few businesses have video. This could change in a couple of years.

Brian Combs - Helps establish importance of company, and dresses up the listing for prospects.

John Biundo - Like photos, but not as important (fewer people have the resources to create, so Google would want to rely on it less).

Mary Bowling - While I don't think including videos, per se, helps your rankings, it does help to make your listing more complete, which I believe does help your rankings.

43
Age of Place Page
1.29
moderate importance
(↑0.49)
1.32
moderate agreement

Dev Basu - Rankings that are at least 6 months old seem to be more stable. New listings may rank quickly but don't have 'staying' power.

Steve Espinosa - I believe that the age of the listing is general factor, as is the age of reviews, how many reviews, citations, etc.

"Rankings that are at least 6 months old seem to be more stable. New listings may rank quickly but don't have 'staying' power."
--Dev Basu

Martijn Beijk - A Google Maps listing with some history has had some time to merge with the right clusters, citations and reviews for that listing. This as a whole makes it an important factor.

Shagun Vatsa - I don't think Place Page age is a major ranking factor since I have seen many new businesses in certain niches attain high local rankings with a relatively new Place Page.

Mike Ramsey - I have seen old and new listings perform well within 5 weeks of optimization.

PureSheer - If listings have identical details, then the age of the listing is not as relevant. However an older listing has had a longer chance to collect the information that contributes to its ranking. For Bing we are not sure yet about this and for Yahoo this is irrelevant.

Erik Whaley - The age of the account has shown benefits in ranking as long as it has been well maintained with updates, ect. Stale accounts tend to fall off the radar.

Tom Critchlow - I don't think explicitely the age of the listing affects the ranking, but obviously those businesses that have been around longer will have more citations and reviews etc.

Ian Lurie - Trust is everything, just like in regular SEO.

Brian Combs - There actually seems to be a boost given to newly created or claimed listings, although this boost was larger in the past. There is no benefit to older listings that cannot be better explained by increased citations, reviews and UGC.

Paul Jahn - Definitely holds a little weight, and don't think it takes as long to be "aged" as it would in the organic listings.

Tom Crandall - It depends on the level of competition; determined primarily by the size of the market and the competitiveness of the targeted keywords. I believe there is a threshold, somewhere between four to six months where a newly published listing in Google Places matures, similar to a sandbox effect. I score a rating of two because age is important, but only for the initial six months of a new listing.

Mike Belasco - I have not seen any evidence of this as of yet.

Dev Basu - Rankings that are at least 6 months old seem to be more stable. New listings may rank quickly but don't have 'staying' power.

John Biundo - Definitely lots of evidence that new listings, all else being equal, can perform as well as old listings.

Mary Bowling - As with most things Google, listing age matters because it contributes to the trustworthiness of the information in the listing.

Ash Nallawalla - I see new businesses getting into the OneBox while older listings don't.

Andrew Shotland - Age seems to only matter in that the older the page, the more likely it is to have more content on it.

Aaron Weiche - Time is trust, so it does matter at some level.

46
Matching Google account / URL
1.08
moderate importance
(--)
1.09
high agreement

Ian Lurie - I haven't seen this have any influence at all. Given how many hijacked listings I've seen ranking #1, I'd say e-mail address has zero impact.

"Given how many hijacked listings I've seen ranking #1, I'd say e-mail address has zero impact."
--Ian Lurie

Miriam Ellis - I think it may be a trust metric, in the eyes of Google, in the case of manual review.

Martijn Beijk - Don't believe this effects ranking as it makes sense that in some companies this doesn't correspond with corporate structure. It is however 'considered necessary' for whitelisting your Google Places feed.

Erik Whaley - Provides extra validity of the data ownership.

Paul Jahn - A company email address definitely helps. I've used Gmail addresses such as CompanyName@gmail.com which has worked well, too.

Mike Blumenthal - I don't think it has a huge affect on ranking but it is definitely a trust issue. If there is ever a dispute about which record is authoritative Google will favor the listing with your domain email

Mary Bowling - I don't think this is a big factor, yet, but that it will become increasingly important as time goes on because it is such a simple way to prevent malicious manipulation of a listing by those not legimately representing the business.

Andrew Shotland - Plenty of businesses use webmail, including Gmail, so this would be a dumb one for G to use.

Brian Combs - This has some impact, but I'm not convinced it's a great one. I've seen gmail accounts rank for competitive terms.

Mike Belasco - This is a specific recommendation made by Google. While this may not influence rankings now, it could in the future.

Matt McGee - Google recommends it, but I don't think they said anything about using it for rankings.

Ed Reese - This is a change I've noticed in 2010. I didn't test it until I heard the rep at LocalU from Google talk about how Google "prefers" a matching Google account / URL. When Google "prefers" something you can assume it's in the algorithm.

Tom Crandall - While I don't have the evidence to support this as a ranking factor, I believe it may be one of many secondary factors that enhance the level of trust attributed to a listing by the Google Places algorithm. It also will help convert business because a prospective customer may see a Yahoo.com email address and get uncomfortable.

Chris Silver Smith - Use of a company domain email address may improve ability to become verified, but I believe there's no ranking benefit.

Tom Critchlow - Speculative, but I'd say this helps a bit. So long as it's verified though I don't think this will make much difference.

Shagun Vatsa - Using a company email address for a Places account definitely adds more trust value than any other email address.

Mike Ramsey - This is a positive effect and has been mentioned by google in their forums and also the updated guidelines as a trust factor. I see this become a more important way to fight spam listings in the future.

Dev Basu - This seems to be a trust factor. I.e. a company email is more legitimate than a random AOL, Yahoo, or Gmail address with no history.

John Biundo - Haven't tested it. Interesting question. Can't see how Google would consider it a reliable factor though, and it certainly would be a problem for agencies.

Aaron Weiche - It's always helpful to have consistent information across the board. The same email on your website, other directories and your local listing keeps it clean and consistent. Google recommends this.

49
Choosing List of Areas Served for Your Place Page
1.00
moderate importance
(--)
2.22
low agreement

Dev Basu - Rankings have dropped when selecting this option.

Mary Bowling - The idea is great step forward for Google Places, but actually using this feature at this point in time is hurting rankings.

"The idea is great step forward for Google Places, but actually using this feature at this point in time is hurting rankings."
--Mary Bowling

Erik Whaley - Good from a user experience standpoint, but we haven't seen positive or negative results from this.

Mike Ramsey - No effect I have found as of yet.

Steve Hatcher - At this time this feature will not let you rank for search terms outside of the listed in your address location.

Shagun Vatsa - While it was introduced for businesses which service more than one location, rankings have dramatically dropped after choosing this option.

Ian Lurie - I just had a case where this appeared to give someone a serious boost.

Don Campbell - I always do this for surrounding cities, but see varying results. Doesn't help as much in competitive markets.

Tom Crandall - Currently I recommend the option to use targeted cities and zip codes.

52
Including Coupons with Your Place Page
0.87
low importance
(↑0.26)
1.00
high agreement

Mike Blumenthal - Google has a coupon feature? (Editor's note: Mike is being facetious.)

John Biundo - It may appear as a web reference! This may be a small boost, but again, I can't see how Google would believe that presence/absence of a coupon would be a high quality signal about how to rank a business.

"I can't see how Google would believe that presence/absence of a coupon would be a high quality signal about how to rank a business."
--John Biundo

Dev Basu - Seems to give an edge in tweaking rankings especially in competitive industries. The number of coupons does not seem to matter.

Erik Whaley - The coupon not only contributes to the overall completion of the places page, but the content on the actual coupon can also be optimized to reinforce the business theme.

Tom Crandall - While I believe the benefit is less than significant, I recommend keyword rich coupons for many clients. Google may also credit a Places page with a slight boost because the business owner is taking the time to present a promotional offer to further engage the visitor—further enhancing Places pages.

Martijn Beijk - Might increase CTR.

Shagun Vatsa - While coupons differentiates one local listing from another and adds more rich content to the Place Page, it does not add to the Place Page's completeness making it a minor ranking factor.

Mike Ramsey - I have not noticed a change in rankings with a coupon listed or not.

PureSheer - This is more to convert clicks to calls (less for a ranking factor)

Andrew Shotland - Nice to have but haven't seen a big bang from these.

Don Campbell - Each of these factors (coupons, photos, videos, etc...) helps a little, and there is a synergy to having them all in a complete profile

Aaron Weiche - Just a small piece of your listing quality, but the coupon will work well in certain types of businesses.

Mary Bowling - While I don't think including a coupon, per se, helps your ranking, it does help to make your listing more complete, which I believe does help your rankings. In addition, your coupons may show up on other websites and/or be linked to from other sites.

Ian Lurie - Any form of update to your Places or Local listing will help you rank, coupons included.

Brian Combs - Not convinced this impacts rankings.

53
Location(s) in Place Page Custom Fields
0.84
low importance
(↓0.33)
1.36
low agreement

Matt McGee - I've only seen this make a difference in extremely uncompetitive situations.

"I've only seen this make a difference in extremely uncompetitive situations."
--Matt McGee

Mary Bowling - The main purpose of doing this is to help you rank better for long tail product/service search terms. If you do it well, it also gives searchers useful information about what you do or sell and where you do it.

Brian Combs - Little to no effect.

Ian Lurie - Depends entirely on the specialty. Generally assume that location keywords have to make sense in context. Saying 'Seattle SEO' doesn't make sense for a specialty. But if you run a taxi service, then "Seattle taxi service" may matter.

Steve Espinosa - Could be a sign of spam to the engines.

Shagun Vatsa - Making minor changes such as adding custom fields to provide additional information about products, services or locations has slightly helped in gaining rankings in the 7-pack. This also contributes in making the local business profile more complete.

Mike Ramsey - If they aren't listing else on your listing it isn't a bad thing. If they are…it's a bad thing.

Mike Belasco - This is great place for service area terms.

Dev Basu - This is especially relevant when using a 'service areas' nomenclature to represent less competitive cities being serviced.

Martijn Beijk - Custom Attributes are not of influence of ranking. They do however create a Google Places page that is more dynamic and will be more appealing to the visitor.

PureSheer - However, if there are too many keywords listed it resembles spam and can have a negative impact on the listings

Tom Crandall - I recommend creating a custom field for cities, and a separate custom field for zip codes.

Andrew Shotland - This is so two years ago.

57
Defining a Service Area for Your Place Page
0.47
low importance
(--)
2.45
low agreement

Mike Belasco - All the research says this can hurt you, but I can't believe that is Google's intention for long.

"All the research says this can hurt you, but I can't believe that is Google's intention for long."
--Mike Belasco

Steve Hatcher - This feature is far too new and so far appears to have no bearing in the ranking algorithm. That may change at some point.

Matt McGee - In Google's case, this "feature" is too new. I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Aaron Weiche - I've yet to see a big impact and if anything it seems Google continues to work out the kinks with this feature. I like the fact that they are giving the listing owner more of a voice though.

Mike Blumenthal - It seems to have no effect on ranking at this point.

Mary Bowling - The idea is great step forward for Google Places, but actually using this feature at this point in time is hurting rankings.

Ed Reese - Don't do it.

Dev Basu - Rankings have dropped when selecting this option.

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen rankings fall dramatically after choosing to specify a service area.

Cathy Hillen-Rulloda - Anecdotal comments from local brick & mortar store owners seem to indicate a decrease in rankings for the physical location when service areas are indicated.

Mike Ramsey - No effect I have found as of yet.

Tom Crandall - Service area is a very important factor but I believe there are some issues with the option to select area by radius. Currently I recommend the option to use targeted cities and zip codes.

Brian Combs - Not seeing much impact from this yet.

Andrew Shotland - I tested this with my own profile by expanding my service are to about 20 miles and after 30 days saw almost no change in rankings

Paul Jahn - I really like the customized option that Google Maps provides.

-3
Including Location Keywords in Place Page Categories
-0.14
slight negative
(--)
2.37
low agreement

Mike Ramsey - Some get away with this. Most get a nice drop in rankings.

"Some get away with this. Most get a nice drop in rankings."
--Mike Ramsey

Steve Hatcher - Google dropped the ban hammer on this one. Don't do it!

Mike Blumenthal - This behavior is being penalized.

Mike Belasco - This is specifically against Google's Guidelines and should now be avoided at almost all costs.

Dev Basu - While this used to be a trump card last year, keyword spamming has resulted in this becoming a negative factor for both new and old listings.

Mike Ramsey - Some get away with this. Most get a nice drop in rankings.

Don Campbell - I was told by a Google Advertising rep to do this, but Google HQ later confirmed this is against the guidelines and does not help (via Mike B.)

Ed Reese - Don't do it. The hammer will fall!

Martijn Beijk - Probably works, until your listings get deactivated.

Shagun Vatsa - It used to be one of the most effective ranking factor last year but with the revised guidelines for Google Places, custom categories with location modifiers have been penalized heavily this year.

Steve Espinosa - Could be a sign of spam to the engines.

Ash Nallawalla - I have been associated with a major data partner where only one category was provided to Google.

John Biundo - Don't know. Seems highly spammable, so guessing it's a low-value signal to Google.

Andrew Shotland - Warning: You are entering the SPAM zone.

Brian Combs - Great way to get unwanted attention!

-5
Associating (800) As Primary Place Page Number
-1.03
moderate negative
(↓0.77)
1.36
moderate agreement

Tom Critchlow - I'm not sure if this has no effect or a slightly negative effect; certainly I'd prefer to have a local area phone number wherever possible.

"I'm not sure if this has no effect or a slightly negative effect; certainly I'd prefer to have a local area phone number wherever possible."
--Tom Critchlow

Steve Espinosa - Plenty of businesses that are large corporations use 800 numbers all the time and rank fine.

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen various active local listings with an 800 number but majority of the cases show that having a local phone number is necessary to rank high locally. The Google Places guidelines promote having a phone number that rings to an individual person rather than a call-centre.

Don Campbell - This creates a "NAP" consistency issue if the 800# is not your primary business #, not worth it

Tom Crandall - I believe there are limited circumstances where it makes sense to use a toll free number. However, it is generally not encouraged and could ding a business listing with a penalty, particularly if the phone number on the listings of other trusted directories is different.

Mike Ramsey - I haven't seen a negative or positive effect.

Andrew Shotland - Not a factor plus or minus.

Brian Combs - Hurts, but something you can overcome.

Mike Belasco - I don't have any examples I can reference though I would think as per the previous question it is probably well worth obtaining a local number.

Dev Basu - Aside from getting lower call volumes, 800 numbers don't seem to help a listing rank better than local numbers.

Aaron Weiche - Nothing says "not local" like an 800 number. There is no location tie to an 800 number, use your local number.

Ed Reese - No, no, no.

-6
Multiple Place Pages with Same Business Title
-1.35
moderate negative
(↓0.68)
1.49
low agreement

Tom Crandall - I haven't seen any significant impact other than the fact that Google will not allow a chain with multiple locations rank in every spot of the 7-Pack for a given location.

Ed Reese - I've had to deal with this a few times now. Typically it's with larger organizations that create multiple rogue accounts. It can be tough to clean up. It's worth the effort, though. I've seen pretty quick improvements once the multiple listings are removed.

"Shouldn't matter as long as they have different addresses and numbers."
--Steve Espinosa

Steve Espinosa - Shouldn't matter as long as they have different addresses and numbers.

Aaron Weiche - Clean up your listings, make then the right "one".

Will Scott - This is a big issue for us when we have customers who have trademarks or DBA names which are the same as location based keywords. E.g. "New Hampshire Fishing Guide". The issue comes when other businesses attempt to use those search terms in their places name rather than their proper name causing some funky clusters.

Brian Combs - Happens all the time with chains.

Matt McGee - A franchise with multiple locations has to have multiple place pages with the same name, so this should not matter.

Steve Hatcher - Some businesses do have more than one location, and would therefore use the same name. As long as the address and phone numbers are unique for each listing your listings can remain independent of each other.

Mike Ramsey - This is the fastest way to duplicate nightmares that are a pain to fix.

Mike Belasco - You really should clean this up per Google's latest recommendations on cleaning up multiple listings.

Dev Basu - We've seen issues ranging from merging of listings, swapping of reviews, and in certain cases 'this location is not supported' errors.

John Biundo - Though it can vary greatly. I am going to combine these three and define it a bit differently. Google would like to decide whether there is a single business (with multiple conflicting bits of data) or multiple businesses by sorting through this duplication. As a result, they try to consolidate. There seem to be many ways this consolidation can go wrong; if it does, you can essentially disappear from the results (or get very poor positioning -- effectively disappearing).

Andrew Shotland - Not a factor. Make sure they have different contact info

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen instances where having similar business titles for multiple locations can cause issues such as merging. In many cases, the URL's have also disappeared to show maps.google.ca or they were swapped with another business.

-8
Multiple Place Pages with Same Address
-2.33
significant negative
(↓0.31)
1.34
moderate agreement

Mike Blumenthal - Either it will suck listing strength from the main listing, merge or possibly lead to a penalty.

Brian Combs - Can be handled as long as company name and categories are different. Happens with office buildings, but suite numbers can help.

Ian Lurie - This COULD be bad, if there are no suite numbers, etc. to distinguish, but I've never seen it hurt anyone.

Martijn Beijk - Multiples of the same place on one address is not gonna work.

"We've seen issues ranging from merging of listings, swapping of reviews, and in certain cases 'this location is not supported' errors."
--Dev Basu

Dev Basu - We've seen issues ranging from merging of listings, swapping of reviews, and in certain cases 'this location is not supported' errors.

Paul Jahn - I think it's fine to used as long as it's not abused. Collaborative business offices would be a good use.

Matt McGee - If they're in the same account, this can't be good. But it's normal for doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, and others to have separate accounts and place pages with the same address.

Ed Reese - This is something that I believe needs to be addressed by Google. There are many large entities that share an address (and in many cases a main phone number) but are actually multiple companies or clearly defined and unique business units under a large corporate umbrella. I'm not exactly sure how to address this scenario.

Steve Hatcher - This will lead to merging of listings. Having them active in one Places account could lead to a suspended acount.

Steve Espinosa - Shouldn't matter as long as you have different names and phone numbers. This is very common in NYC.

Shagun Vatsa - Having the same address for multiple locations has resulted in merging as well as Google Places prompting the message "We currently do not support this location", in which case the business gets completely de-indexed from local search results.

PureSheer - However, listings can merge and become stronger - in which case there is actually a positive impact. In yahoo this is -4 listings will be declined

Tom Crandall - Most of the time this is not the fault of the business owner, but rather the fault of the directories themselves, extrapolating data from multiple points. I believe this can be a detriment and the options are to either merge the listings if valuable Places reviews are at stake, or delete the incorrect listing.

Mike Belasco - If this question means having a completely separate business share the same address as in an office building, it does not appear to matter. If this means really the same business with maybe a different name but the same address, this can come back to bite you.

Mike Ramsey - I see a lot of citations that are lost/gained through this problem.

John Biundo - Watch out for slight differences in addresses. Simple things like Boulevard vs. Blvd can trip Google up. Presence/absence of a suite number. Tricky addresses like NW South Ave (is it NorthWest S Ave?), etc. can exacerbate. Not to mention problems when Google flat out refuses to believe an address actually exists!

Andrew Shotland - Not a factor. Make sure they have as much different contact info as possible.

-10
Hiding Address on Your Place Page
-2.48
significant negative
(--)
1.96
low agreement

Mike Blumenthal - If I could give this a -10 I would. It totally buries your listing showing only on business name specific searches...boo to Google on this...

"If you don't want to be found, guess what? You won't be."
--Andrew Shotland

Andrew Shotland - If you don't want to be found, guess what? You won't be.

Paul Jahn - If you don't want to show a physical address, I see no need to be listed in the first place.

Mike Ramsey - Every listing I have tested this on has instantly dropped.

Matt McGee - This combined with Google's new Service Area tool seems to produce disastrous results.

Martijn Beijk - Consider this feature a beta and broken.

Shagun Vatsa - I've noticed a complete drop in rankings and de-indexation of local profiles.

Mike Belasco - All the research says this can hurt you, but I can't believe that is Google's intention for long.

Dev Basu - Rankings have disappered when selecting this option. They have returned as soon as you remove this option.

Brian Combs - This isn't directly a problem, but if you don't list your address in citations, you'll have a weak listing.

Miriam Ellis - I'm speculating on this, but there have been several disturbing reports of concealing the address having the effect of making the listing drop or vanish.

John Biundo - Don't know.

Ian Lurie - Isn't that like buying a iPod and never turning it on? :) I haven't tested this.

Mary Bowling - The idea is great step forward for Google Places, but actually using this feature at this point in time is hurting rankings.

Tom Crandall - I believe this is a non-factor.

Aaron Weiche - Depends on the cometitiveness of the category.

Steve Hatcher - There should be a warning next to this check box that reads "use at own risk"

Cathy Hillen-Rulloda - Appears to depend on the type of business.

-11
Multiple Place Pages with Same Phone Number
-2.75
significant negative
(↓0.89)
1.54
low agreement

Steve Hatcher - You will not be able to verify the extra listings by phone as that number is already tied to another listing and you will be forced to verify by postcard. This looks like a common spam tactic for creating fake listings. Google wants to see a unique phone number for each unique location.

"This looks like a common spam tactic for creating fake listings. Google wants to see a unique phone number for each unique location."
--Steve Hatcher

Miriam Ellis - Technically, a business owner could legitimately be running several business with the same phone number, but because of the potentials for conflations of their listings, I would certainly recommend having a distinct local area code phone number for each distinct business.

Ed Reese - This is something that I believe needs to be addressed by Google. There are many large entities that share an address (and in many cases a main phone number) but are actually multiple companies or clearly defined and unique business units under a large corporate umbrella. I'm not exactly sure how to address this scenario.

Mike Belasco - This can kill you.

Ian Lurie - This can kill a local listing.

Andrew Shotland - Could get confusing for GOOG. Why tempt fate?

Steve Espinosa - This becomes a problem for citation attribution.

Mike Ramsey - I see a lot of citations that are lost/gained through this problem.

Shagun Vatsa - Having the same phone number for multiple locations results in Google Places prompting the message "We currently do not support this location" in which case the business is completely de-indexed from local search results.

PureSheer - However, listings can merge and become stronger - in which case there is actually a positive impact.

Dev Basu - We've seen issues ranging from merging of listings, swapping of reviews, and in certain cases 'this location is not supported' errors.

Tom Crandall - This has the same effect and consequences as multiple listings with the same address.

Brian Combs - Almost always going to be merged, even when Google says it's ok (such as with doctor and practice listings).

Mike Blumenthal - Good chance it will lead to a merging of the two.


Traditional On-Page Criteria

15
General Importance of On-Page Criteria
2.36
high importance
(↓0.62)
1.33
moderate agreement

Tom Critchlow - Since the Places listing is not necessarily tied to a website I don't believe that on-page factors count very strongly at all towards ranking well. You'll often see places pages with no URL associated ranking well even for competitive queries so this is not a large factor in my opinion. Some of these aspects factor more when Google is taking the data from yoru site without you submitting it to them, but if the listing is claimed then I don't believe these factors carry much weight.

"Since the Places listing is not necessarily tied to a website I don't believe that on-page factors count very strongly at all towards ranking well."
--Tom Critchlow

Ed Reese - While you still don't need a website to rank locally, it certainly helps. On-page optimization helps quite a bit.

Matt McGee - I think I used to rate this stuff higher, but I'm becoming more convinced that what's on your web site isn't as important as it used to be. Your mileage may vary.

Steve Hatcher - Your own website should be a strong citation for your listing. Good onpage SEO for your website strengthens those quality signals from that citation.

Martijn Beijk - The more competitive your business, the more it gets down to regular SEO.

Ian Lurie - On-page criteria continue to be very important. If anything, we may see more emphasis on this as search engines try to deal with rising local spam.

PureSheer - When irrelevant URLs are inserted it can be as strong as or stronger then your own url with matching on-page data.

Tom Crandall - A lot of brands rank with listings that are incomplete and incorrect. I believe this is due to citations, and to a lesser degree, on-page criteria.

Paul Jahn - It may help a little, but considering you can achieve great results without a website I'm giving it a 0.5.

Don Campbell - Although a business can rank in the local results without a website, the more competitive the market, the more a well optimized website or landing page matters.

Dev Basu - Key things that I consider important include good hCard formatting and location based landing pages.

John Biundo - Not major. How can it be? Many, many businesses have no web site. However, it's not zero, as having a web site *is* a source of data and *is* a somewhat trustworthy signal that a business exists and is a going concern, and has the business profile it says it has.

Erik Whaley - In our experience, we have seen listings without a web page rank higher than one's with a site. Essentially the places page or profile page for search engines not named Google rely more on the content provided there than the actual site, but having an optimized site should be best practice as well.

Larry Sullivan - Having the basics such as address, phone, local keywords can all help list your page properly.

Mary Bowling - The importance of compliance with the newest Google Places Business Listing Quality Guidelines is becoming increasingly important as Google finds ways to weed out offenders. Getting your listings into compliance should be a top priority for all businesses.

Aaron Weiche - While you can rank, and even rank well without a website, relying on your local listing as your web presence is a weak move. Having a web presence with it's own best practices adds to your credibility online and your local rank.

Mary Bowling - Your website is the authoritative web document about your business. The more trust Google has in the information on your website, the more it trusts the information on the business' Places page, as long as the core information on the website and on the Places page match. A strong website can also help your business listing to rank better in the Local 7 Pack.

Shagun Vatsa - On-page optimization helps improve both organic search rankings as well as local rankings. Separate landing pages per location with hCard formatting can definitely enhance the search friendliness of a website which results in better local rankings.

Ash Nallawalla - None, given that most of the partner feeds lead to directory pages that are not well optimised compared to dedicated business websites.

25
Including City + State in Most/All Website Title Tags
1.88
moderate importance
(↓0.54)
1.13
high agreement

Brian Combs - Title is a strong signal for both traditional SEO and local SEO.

"Title is a strong signal for both traditional SEO and local SEO."
--Brian Combs

Aaron Weiche - It's a good idea to use a key aspect of your website's content and information structure to communicate your location.

Ed Reese - I don't think it's required for all of your pages, but it certainly helps to have it in the ones that make sense for your business (services, about, location, etc.)

Matt McGee - It's good for traditional SEO, but since this is all about the 7-pack and universal/blended results, doesn't matter.

Mike Ramsey - It sure makes for a strong citation and usually the first to show up.

Paul Jahn - Great, for natural SERP results.

Dev Basu - Has little effect on positive rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - I've noticed that including city based or location based keywords in all or most title tags affect organic search rankings more than local rankings.

30
Including Full Address on Places Landing Page
1.78
moderate importance
(↓1.08)
1.63
low agreement

Mike Blumenthal - It is a trust factor and guarantor that Google will properly associate your website and your local listing.

"It is a trust factor and guarantor that Google will properly associate your website and your local listing."
--Mike Blumenthal

Shagun Vatsa - Having a full address which is formatted in a search engine friendly way can result in the city landing page being picked up as a citation source. It can also help improve local rankings at least in non-competitive markets.

Tom Crandall - I consider it a best practice to use the city, state, and local phone number in the title tag of your Places Page URL. For SMB's with one location this may be the home page, for brands I recommend specific location page URL's.

Dev Basu - Having a full address that is formatted properly seems to help.

Brian Combs - Increases the chances that the Places URL becomes a citation

32
Including City + State in Places Landing Page Title Tags
1.75
moderate importance
(↓0.19)
1.38
low agreement

Tom Crandall - I'm not convinced there is much weight given to geographic-rich title tags on most or all of your Title Tags, but I consider it a best practice for the actual URL (location page) in Places.

"I consider it a best practice for the actual URL (location page) in Places."
--Tom Crandall

Dev Basu - Has little effect on positive rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - In some cases I've noticed that a URL which includes location specific keywords being picked up as citations.

John Biundo - Grudgingly.

Brian Combs - Title is a strong signal for both traditional SEO and local SEO.

Paul Jahn - Great, but can hurt if the city is not in the actual business name.

37
Including Local Area Code Phone Number on Places Landing Page
1.53
moderate importance
(↓0.12)
1.33
moderate agreement

Tom Crandall - Because this information is important to the search user experience, it makes sense to consider it a factor.

"Local phone numbers seem to work better than toll free numbers."
--Dev Basu

Dev Basu - Local phone numbers seem to work better than toll free numbers.

Shagun Vatsa - Google Places guidelines promote the usage of a local phone number for each service location. Customers also prefer dealing with a local service which results in more conversions than with an 800 number.

Mike Ramsey - Can help to build citations.

Brian Combs - Phone number is one of the strongest signals you can send Google.

38
Having a URL that contains a Product/Service Keyword
1.50
moderate importance
(↓0.40)
1.35
moderate agreement

Will Scott - Combination of the two: Geographic Keyword URL + Product/Service URL is a stone killer.

"Combination of the two: Geographic Keyword URL + Product/Service URL is a stone killer."
--Will Scott

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - Having a product/service keyword in your URL does not seem to improve local rankings.

Brian Combs - Some positive impact, but can be overdone.

Steve Espinosa - When the query is around that particular product it def. makes an impact.

39
Having a URL that contains a Location Keyword
1.49
moderate importance
(↓0.30)
1.19
high agreement

Brian Combs - If there's an impact, it's minimal.

"If there's an impact, it's minimal."
--Brian Combs

Dev Basu - This can cause a small but noticeable shift in rankings.

Aaron Weiche - It won't hurt you and it won't do much on it's own.

Ian Lurie - It might have a slight effect.

Shagun Vatsa - Having a geographic keyword in your URL can slightly help improve local rankings as it further emphasizes the local nature of the business and I've also seen city landing pages being picked up as citation sources.

Tom Crandall - I consider this a best practice for location page URL's utilized in Places pages.

40
PageRank of Homepage/Highest-Ranked Page
1.44
moderate importance
(↓0.08)
1.20
moderate agreement

Matt McGee - Can't be a huge factor because so many small businesses rank well and don't even have a web site.

"Can't be a huge factor because so many small businesses rank well and don't even have a web site."
--Matt McGee

Mike Blumenthal - Google uses a local alternative algo to PageRank that is similar but different. So it would be a 0 on "PageRank" but a 5 on "Location Prominence" (or whatever they cal the variation).

Martijn Beijk - PR is only half an indicator of domain authority but it seems to be of importance.

Ian Lurie - If by 'PageRank' you mean 'authority', then a 3.

Dev Basu - I can surmise that this is a non-factor in ranking although links that have been built to a domain may show up as citations in the place page profile as a by product.

John Biundo - Grudgingly, a 1. But very grudgingly.

Aaron Weiche - I only view this as a trust curve number and any ranking of any kind will favor higher trust.

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen new websites with little or no link juice rank highly in local results. Websites which have been around for a while and have gained a high PR have more chances to maintain their local rankings however, businesses with a new website and a well optimized local listing can still rank highly in local results.

45
Providing a KML File of Your Location(s)
1.17
moderate importance
(↓0.26)
1.63
low agreement

Martijn Beijk - Consider KML to be like a website sitemap. It helps Google to tie all the tiny bits together.

"Consider KML to be like a website sitemap. It helps Google to tie all the tiny bits together."
--Martijn Beijk

Dev Basu - We've seen this help aggregation of NAP data become quicker when using the bulk upload feature and hundreds of listings. The result is one of correlation but not causation.

Shagun Vatsa - Providing a KML file on your domain is definitely recommended for a business with numerous locations in order to provide search engines with trusted and accurate information. However, the Google whitelist bulk upload has also proven to be very effective in getting locations verified and rank well in local results.

Chris Silver Smith - The KML file influence appears to be independent of being hosted on the company website – it could be hosted elsewhere, or loaded directly into Google Maps. I believe this is a PlaceRank signal to Google Maps, used as a UGC signal of interest/popularity.

Mary Bowling - This is particularly helpful when there is a great deal of location confusion regarding the business.

Steve Espinosa - This almost seems like it makes no difference at all and I have stopped bothering with it.

Mike Ramsey - Like a super citation.

Tom Crandall - It doesn't appear to have a high-impact affect at this time, but may have more weight in the future.

Erik Whaley - This seems to provide a boost for businesses with multiple unique locations across the country.

Mike Blumenthal - It is a trust factor but does not affect rank.

John Biundo - Maybe.

Brian Combs - Seeing some conflicting data on this, but don't believe the impact is very high.

Aaron Weiche - KML is a great way to take your location to the furthest degree of confirmation and with a few moves you can get it indexed as well to show as user content.

Tom Critchlow - Having a KML file is good for discovery, but if your listings are already verified I don't see a big advantage to doing this.

Jordan Kasteler - I've seen rankings increase in less than hour from verifying a KML file.

Andrew Shotland - It doesn't penalize you to do this but I always thought this one was colossal waste of time so -5 for you.

48
PageRank of Places Landing Page URL
1.02
moderate importance
(↓0.03)
1.27
moderate agreement

Don Campbell - I see many PR0 Places URLs that rank well in competitive markets.

"I see many PR0 Places URLs that rank well in competitive markets."
--Don Campbell

Tom Crandall - The PageRank of the Places page URL shouldn't be a factor. It makes sense to give weight to the top level domain, but not a sub-domain or sub-page which may actually be more relevant with location information. I have used specific location URL's for brands and I do not see any negative results.

Dev Basu - Has no effect on rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - This factor doesn't seem to affect local rankings in any way.

50
Coding Address on Website in hCard Microformat
0.97
low importance
(↓0.20)
1.08
high agreement

Ian Lurie - I wish it mattered. I have yet to see it help.

"I wish it mattered. I have yet to see it help."
--Ian Lurie

Dev Basu - In an internal test hCard based websites seemed to show up as citations faster than those that did not use hCard.

Ash Nallawalla - For me this is a game changer where the listing doesn't have other good signals such as videos or reviews.

Tom Crandall - I believe this is a best practice for local search optimization but I am not convinced it is currently a powerful optimization tactic for Places pages.

Shagun Vatsa - It makes it easier for search engines to read and grasp business information which can effectively improve local rankings.

Brian Combs - I believe this helps Google sort out the data, but isn't a ranking improvement over data Google already understands.

Martijn Beijk - Google puts great effort in making the web smarter and they need it too!

56
WHOIS Record Associated with Your Domain
0.60
low importance
(--)
0.92
high agreement

Tom Critchlow - I've seen citations appear as a result of WHOIS information so Google is definitely looking at this data. As to how much they're using it in the ranking algorithms I'm not sure. I wouldn't be surprised if the WHOIS information played a part though.

"I've seen citations appear as a result of WHOIS information so Google is definitely looking at this data. As to how much they're using it in the ranking algorithms I'm not sure."
--Tom Critchlow

Mary Bowling - This is one more additional trust factor that may help your rankings. (Perhaps we should start thinking of WHOIS as another trusted data provider.)

Tom Crandall - Because of the common use of private registration, and the fact that many SMB's do not even own their own domains, I don't believe this has weight.

Mike Blumenthal - It is a trust factor but does not affect rank.

Brian Combs - May help, but not a particularly strong signal.

Dev Basu - I suspect that this is a minor ranking factor.

Ian Lurie - No effect - just be sure you're in the same country, if possible.

Shagun Vatsa - This is definitely a trust factor. When the WHOIS address matches the Place Page address of a business, it provides Google with more trusted information and backs up the business as being a true local provider.

John Biundo - Very maybe.

-4
Including (800) Phone Number on Website without Local Area Code
-0.85
slight negative
(↓0.47)
1.18
high agreement

Dev Basu - If no local phone numbers are present, then toll free numbers alone can act as a negative factor.

"If no local phone numbers are present, then toll free numbers alone can act as a negative factor."
--Dev Basu

Ed Reese - I've seen 800 numbers listed on pages negatively impact rankings. If you have to use an 800 number create an image showing your phone number with no alt text to make sure that only your local number is recognized by the engines.

Mike Ramsey - I have not seen a significant effect positive or negative.

Brian Combs - Not going to hurt, but not going to help.

Brian Combs - Doesn't hurt, but a missed opportunity!

Shagun Vatsa - Listing an 800 number on a local city landing page is definitely not a best practice. It receives less phone calls than a local phone number making it an unwise decision for conversions as well as local rankings.

-6
Listing Information for Multiple Locations on Places Landing Page
-1.19
moderate negative
(↓0.93)
1.31
moderate agreement

Brian Combs - It's something the search engines can overcome, but why make it harder for them?

"It's something the search engines can overcome, but why make it harder for them?"
--Brian Combs

Dev Basu - This can confuse Google. Our best practice is to have one LP per city or location.

Ian Lurie - Don't confuse the Googles!!!

Martijn Beijk - Will create difficulties for Google to determine the right phone number.

Mary Bowling - This makes it more difficult for Google to associate the business listing with the website.

Steve Hatcher - If these are separate in structured formats, ie. hCard formating, then more than one address can exist on the page.

Tom Crandall - If Google can crawl the corresponding NAP (name, address, phone number), or elements of the NAP, despite the existence of additional locations, it may give the Places page a slight boost. Because this information is important to the search user experience, it makes sense to consider it a factor.

John Biundo - Possibly a negative ranking factor. You may dilute Google's confidence that you really are the business owner at the associated address if you have multiple (different) addresses on the page.

Andrew Shotland - Potentially spammy.

Shagun Vatsa - Listing multiple addresses on the same landing page is definitely a negative local ranking factor. Each location should be allocated its own landing page to ensure Google picks up each of them as a citation. Having multiple addresses on the same landing page also takes away from achieving high organic search rankings for local keywords.

-7
Listing PO Box on Website without a Physical Address
-1.61
significant negative
(↓0.68)
1.34
moderate agreement

Ian Lurie - C'mon, everyone: The search engines have figured out this trick.

"C'mon, everyone: The search engines have figured out this trick."
--Ian Lurie

Mike Ramsey - You basically forfeit your site as a location prominance builder by doing this.

Dev Basu - I wouldn't use the phrase 'PO Box' as PO Box's aren't allowed under Place Page guidelines. Hence, having them on your website's landing pages wouldn't seem to help either.

Andrew Shotland - And I used to love this one. Sigh.

Ash Nallawalla - I haven't seen a PO box result in the local rankings for some years, although I believe it is OK now.

Shagun Vatsa - While they were allowed last year, having P.O Boxes is against the Google Places guidelines making them a negative local ranking factor.

Tom Crandall - I don't believe this affects local ranking. However, I recommend using the corresponding physical address on the Places page URL if applicable.


Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria

4
Quantity of Citations from Major Data Providers + IYP Portals
3.53
high importance
(↓0.57)
1.20
moderate agreement

Tom Crandall - The most powerful off-page factor is web citations. Aside from well-known, trusted directories and data providers, web citations from vertical directories and local directories (such as Atlanta.com, a Local.com property) are highly recommended.

"The most powerful off-page factor is web citations."
--Tom Crandall

Shagun Vatsa - This is definitely a determining factor. Having a 100% optimized profile is not enough if you don't have citations to back up your business information. Local links from citation sources such as vertical directories, IYP sites builds trust for a business and provides Google with uniform information.

Paul Jahn - Although it can work great, the data itself can often be incorrect.

Dev Basu - Perhaps the most important factor after claiming a listing.

Mike Ramsey - A very effective factor for gaining location prominance. It does seem there is a shift away from the power of IYP citations though.

John Biundo - Significant factor.

Aaron Weiche - When you compelte a listing profile it's what YOU say about yourself, when numerous sources are cited, it's what THEY say about you. Citations are still a top 3 component to local rankings.

Martijn Beijk - Get lots, lots of them.

Brian Combs - Quantity defintely matters.

5
General Importance of Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria
3.35
high importance
(↓0.15)
1.41
low agreement

John Biundo - Most important. Google doesn't want to trust what businesses say about themselves.

"Most important. Google doesn't want to trust what businesses say about themselves."
--John Biundo

Miriam Ellis - In terms of links and citations coming from outside sources, the impact on local rankings appears considerable in many cases, though not in all of them.

Ed Reese - Increasingly more important as competition increases. It looks like Google is incorporating the data more in 2010.

Dev Basu - Links mentioning buisness NAP can become citations in the long run.

Brian Combs - Links aren't the panacea they are in traditional SEO, but they help. Citations are critical!

Aaron Weiche - A good website is at the center of your online efforts including local search listings and rankings. In both credibility and decision making, your website often has the final say with a consumer.

Shagun Vatsa - Having quality links are always an important ranking factor for organic as well as local results. Building links on local or niche vertical sites such as local directories, IYP sites, niche vertical sites can act as citations which boost local rankings.

Ian Lurie - Listings in the right directories can be the biggest boost you'll get. Links help, too, of course.

Tom Crandall - The most powerful off-page factor is web citations. Aside from well-known, trusted directories and data providers, web citations from vertical directories and local directories (such as Atlanta.com, a Local.com property) are highly recommended.

7
Quality of Citations from Major Data Providers + IYP Portals
3.23
high importance
(--)
1.25
moderate agreement

Dave Oremland - Not sure about which citation sources are considered stronger. Sites with many citations have such a large quantity that it is difficult to ascertain if any specific citations have significant impact.

Erik Whaley - We have seen quality over quantity win out. It's not just about having consistent data across all channels it's also about staying ahead and getting your location data to the right places.

"We have seen quality over quantity win out."
--Erik Whaley

Tom Crandall - The more web citations from high-quality sources, the higher the Places page can rank.

Dev Basu - Having data syndication from trusted sources is key especially in themed verticals where a citation source is considered to be authoriative. Eg: TripAdvisor, RateMDs etc.

Mike Ramsey - Citations with Title Tag backup from trusted sources are key.

John Biundo - I'm going to define quality here to mean "fidelity". I.e., to the extent that data providers' business profile data is consistent with (each other and) other sources (business owner provided (via GLBC), and crawled sources), this is nirvana. Helps Google believe you are who they thought you were (do you know the great sports reference alluded to in that phrase? ;-)).

Martijn Beijk - If something is recognized as a citation at all it must be of some quality otherwise it would be discarded.

Shagun Vatsa - Quality of a citation is always important. Some citations sources are more important that others. I've noticed that niche vertical directories especially in the "law" industry are more powerful than generic citation sources.

Brian Combs - Quality matters more for being listing on the Places page than for being included in calculations

10
Quality of Unstructured Citations
2.58
high importance
(--)
1.38
low agreement

Shagun Vatsa - Having citations from content rich local sites such as industry blogs, directories can give a business the edge it needs to rank highly in competitive markets.

Mike Ramsey - I am seeing these get picked up as reviews more than citations lately. I didn't see a huge increase in rankings through them but a nice addtion.

"I am seeing these get picked up as reviews more than citations lately. I didn't see a huge increase in rankings through them but a nice addtion."
--Mike Ramsey

Matt McGee - I'll be glad to show anyone a listing that recently lost all of its web citations and currently cannot rank for jack squat in the local listings.

Dev Basu - The more citations one has the better. Unstructured citations can take a long time to show up.

Aaron Weiche - Especially with local citations like a Chamber site or hyperlocal blog, having as many as you can offers credibility and geo information.

Tom Crandall - Less powerful, but still have weight as a web citation.

Ian Lurie - I think it's hard to say exactly, but if a local blog has high value/authority in the eyes of Google/Yahoo!/Bing, then a link will help.

John Biundo - Important, but a little less so than the "data providers."

Brian Combs - Every listing helps, but if the search engines can't work out the theme of (or trust in) a site, the impact is minimalized.

Ash Nallawalla - I see a benefit when other trusted sites vouch for your site.

11
Quantity of Unstructured Citations
2.56
high importance
(↓0.24)
1.16
high agreement

Don Campbell - Hyperlocal citations seem to be getting more and more important. This is an area I'm watching closely.

"Hyperlocal citations seem to be getting more and more important. This is an area I'm watching closely."
--Don Campbell

Dev Basu - Certain citation sources are considered to be more authoritative even if they are unstructured in terms of the way data is scraped. Check your niche to see what citation sources are popular.

Brian Combs - Quality matters more for being listing on the Places page than for being included in calculations

Tom Critchlow - Citations from very strong trusted sites can really help places rank well.

Matt McGee - Quality probably matters more in competitive situations. When there's less competition, I think you'll get credit for just about any citation.

Shagun Vatsa - Similar to structured citations, some unstructured web reference sources are more important to have in order to rank highly in local results.

Tom Crandall - I believe the quality is correlated to the weight given the citation source.

16
Quality of Inbound Links to Website
2.36
high importance
(↓0.46)
1.59
low agreement

Martijn Beijk - You only need a couple of good quality links to rank well on almost any keyword.

"You only need a couple of good quality links to rank well on almost any keyword."
--Martijn Beijk

Tom Crandall - I believe the link popularity of the top level domain has an impact on ranking.

Dev Basu - If the IBL's are geo-centric they may be picked up as citations.

Aaron Weiche - Quality is the truest indicator of a trustworthy website and business. Strong links bleed authority into every aspect of your online reputation.

Shagun Vatsa - Quality is always better than quantity. If inbound links are local in nature (i.e. coming from quality local directories, niche vertical sites, IYP sites) they can be picked as citations which have a positive effect on local rankings.

Brian Combs - Not seeing the downside of junky links yet, but I expect that to change.

18
Quantity of MyMaps on which Your Business Is Included
2.11
high importance
(↑0.54)
1.16
high agreement

Steve Hatcher - User generated content, be it MyMaps, KML files, geotagged images and videos, appear to be giving a big boost lately. But from how this is being abused by spammers, as well as how much of the UGC in general is of low quality and not very useful I would suspect this factor to have its weighting decreased in the future.

"User generated content, be it MyMaps, KML files, geotagged images and videos, appear to be giving a big boost lately."
--Steve Hatcher

Dev Basu - More user content seems to be key to rankings in competitive markets.

Miriam Ellis - It's hard to put a number on this. In some cases, UGC such as MyMaps does appear to correlate with ranking position. In other cases, it appears like it isn't affecting it at all. A puzzle!

Ed Reese - I think this signal might carry more weight in the future.

Ian Lurie - I suspect this is too easy to game and is therefore devalued. We've tested and it doesn't appear to have an effect unless you get very steady growth over a long time.

Matt McGee - I think MyMaps and other user-generated content are becoming more important and will continue to over time, until everyone starts spamming the hell out of this stuff.

Shagun Vatsa - I've noticed that having more UGC has positively impacted rankings in competitive markets.

Mike Ramsey - The new citation.

Tom Crandall - I believe this type of reference is less powerful than a web citation but does impact rankings.

PureSheer - Having it is crucial, however the amount is not as important.

Brian Combs - Seems to be mostly about raw numbers right now.

Mike Belasco - We are seeing this is very helpful to obtaining rankings in the seven pack.

Aaron Weiche - I've seen this make a quick and decent impact in low competition 10 packs. A few inclusions seem to be a great wild card to overcom other local algo short comings. I'm guessing this will even out over time though.

Jordan Kasteler - I've seen significant results from little efforts with MyMaps generation.

John Biundo - Maybe.

24
Product / Service Keywords in Inbound Links to Website
1.90
high importance
(↓0.55)
1.45
low agreement

Mike Ramsey - This is a great way to get oneboxes for long tail search phrases.

"This is a great way to get oneboxes for long tail search phrases."
--Mike Ramsey

Aaron Weiche - This can help reinforce the settings you have designated in your listing.

Brian Combs - Definitely helps, but you need a variety of anchor text and IP addresses.

Tom Crandall - There is no doubt relevant anchor text impacts local search optimization but I don't believe it has much weight for Places pages.

Shagun Vatsa - This factor doesn't seem to effect local rankings in any way.

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

26
Location Keywords in Inbound Links to Website
1.88
moderate importance
(↓0.83)
1.35
moderate agreement

Aaron Weiche - The more mentions, tags and links that say WHERE you do business contribute positively.

"The more mentions, tags and links that say WHERE you do business contribute positively."
--Aaron Weiche

Shagun Vatsa - Having local keywords in the anchor text of inbound links can definitely help improve local rankings in low competition markets. They can also get picked up as citations for the business.

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

Paul Jahn - Great for natural results. I don't see much of a factor for the local results.

Tom Crandall - There is no doubt relevant anchor text impacts local search optimization but I don't believe it has much weight for Places pages.

Mike Ramsey - This is a great way to get oneboxes for long tail search phrases.

Brian Combs - Definitely helps, but you need a variety of anchor text and IP addresses.

27
Quantity of Inbound Links to Website
1.88
moderate importance
(↓0.27)
1.39
low agreement

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings. I've seen sites with 10 links rank better in the 7-pack than sites with 10x or 100x links.

"Doesn't seem to affect rankings. I've seen sites with 10 links rank better in the 7-pack than sites with 10x or 100x links."
--Dev Basu

Mike Blumenthal - It is critical that they be in the form of a citation.

Aaron Weiche - While it's good to have a strong number of links, I'll take links from the best sources over big numbers any day.

Shagun Vatsa - Quantity of inbound links has little or no effect on local rankings. Many new businesses with a few number of links manage to rank highly in local results.

Brian Combs - Variety of IP addresses seems to help.

Tom Crandall - I believe the link popularity of the top level domain has an impact on ranking.

Mike Ramsey - Listings with Business and location information seem to have a positive effect.

Tom Critchlow - As stated above, I don't think page metrics carry a lot of weight in ranking in local. It's the places page which is ranking, not the URL.

28
GeoTagged Photos + Videos Associated with Your Business
1.83
moderate importance
(--)
1.32
moderate agreement

Steve Espinosa - I have seen doing simple additions like adding photos, videos, etc. make changes from #4 to #1, probably because it makes the listing seem more active/trustworthy.

"I have seen doing simple additions like adding photos, videos, etc. make changes from #4 to #1, probably because it makes the listing seem more active/trustworthy."
--Steve Espinosa

Mike Ramsey - The most under utilized citation sources.

Andrew Shotland - One of my favorite cheap tactics.

Tom Crandall - Depending on the site, the impact is similar to web citations.

Dev Basu - Very good for off-beat citation building. We use these properties regularly.

Ed Reese - I've seen this work really well in a few cases. I'm not sure yet if this is an across-the-board factor but I've seen it work well for local rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen geo-tagged multimedia especially links from Panoramio being picked up as citations in many markets. I definitely think it's important to represent your business in with appropriate geo tags where possible.

Brian Combs - Some impact, but not much.

Aaron Weiche - More signals from more sources to increase your profile. Being social and media friendly is a great strategy.

34
Places Business Title in Inbound Links to Website
1.70
moderate importance
(--)
1.38
low agreement

Brian Combs - This is the one everyone forgets!

"This is the one everyone forgets!"
--Brian Combs

Tom Crandall - There is no doubt relevant anchor text impacts local search optimization but I don't believe it has much weight for Places pages.

Dev Basu - May be a contributing factor to that link being picked up as a citation.

Shagun Vatsa - Having uniformity in the way the business information is present on other sites can definitely help improve local rankings. Inbound links with the Place Page Title as the anchor text can sometimes act as citations for the business.

Mike Ramsey - This is a great way to get oneboxes or long tail search phrases.

41
Popularity of MyMaps on which Your Business Is Included
1.39
moderate importance
(--)
1.33
moderate agreement

Shagun Vatsa - I haven't seen popularity of MyMaps have huge impact on local rankings as yet.

"I haven't seen popularity of MyMaps have huge impact on local rankings as yet."
--Shagun Vatsa

Dev Basu - Much like the quality of reviews, popularity doesn't seem to be a ranking factor.

John Biundo - Maybe.

Mike Ramsey - The new super citation.

Brian Combs - This would be easy for the spammers to game.

54
Quantity of Location Service Check-ins
0.75
low importance
(--)
0.90
high agreement

Dev Basu - We've seen Foursquare being picked up as a citation but listings with double or triple the number of check-ins did not perform better than ones with less check-ins.

Tom Critchlow - I've yet to see any impact from this, though I don't have a huge amount of experience with it. Given that the local index is not updated that frequently and is certainly not real time I suspect the impact from this is still very small or non existent. I can see this playing a very strong role in the future however.

"Given that the local index is not updated that frequently and is certainly not real time I suspect the impact from this is still very small or non existent. I can see this playing a very strong role in the future however."
--Tom Critchlow

Ed Reese - This is probably the biggest change I've seen in 2010. This makes sense as these new geo-targeted check-in services show real people and verified data points/visits for the engines to incorporate into the local algorithm.

Ian Lurie - Only with super-steady velocity. Be VERY careful with this factor - there's evidence it can turn into a negative flag if traffic looks spammy.

Matt McGee - Gowalla doesn't associate exact addresses with businesses in its system, so it's probably pretty useless at the moment.

Steve Espinosa - The more checkins, the more times your listing could be crawled, the more citations you get.

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen only a few location service check-ins getting picked up as citations. I don't think its a substantial ranking factor as yet.

Mike Ramsey - I see this being a huge factor in the future for specific verticals. The problem is most of the buisnesses I work with are services that won't generate a lot of check ins.

John Biundo - Don't know. Sounds good. Think it's like Twitter. Sounds good, but Google not paying much attention (err, they *are* paying attention, but are not really *utilizing* the data) yet.

Andrew Shotland - Could affect crawling & indexing.

Tom Crandall - I believe location check-ins could prove to be a stronger factor in the future but currently have little weight.

Aaron Weiche - In just starting to factor this I feel it's minimal but the future of crowd sourcing this info from real people, not just site/directories/IYP seems to be a big next step.

Ash Nallawalla - This is still too esoteric to work for anything other than food / coffee outlets, so I don't see it being used.

Brian Combs - Not seeing impact from this yet, but expect it's coming.

55
Velocity of Location Service Check-ins
0.73
low importance
(--)
1.02
high agreement

Paul Jahn - I really think this will depend on how location checkin services grow.

"I really think this will depend on how location checkin services grow."
--Paul Jahn

Steve Espinosa - The more checkins, the more times your listing could be crawled, the more citations you get.

Mike Blumenthal - It may not improve your ranking but it will cement your position in the standings.

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - I've seen only a few location service check-ins getting picked up as citations. I don't think its a substantial ranking factor as yet.

Andrew Shotland - Could affect crawling & indexing.

Tom Critchlow - As above, I don't see this as an effect now but I can imagine this will actually be more important than overall volume in the future. i.e. If you get a sudden spike of interest it will help you rank very strongly.

Brian Combs - Not seeing impact from this yet, but expect it's coming.

58
Participation in Local PPC or Place Page Advertising
0.43
low importance
(↑0.28)
0.83
high agreement

Chris Silver Smith - Yahoo's local products are slightly in flux since the closure of Yahoo Yellow Pages at the end of March, 2010. Advertising appeared to be more influential within Yahoo YP, but advertising still appears slightly influential within Yahoo Local.

Mike Ramsey - If you have your NAP info in your ads and run content network advertising, ads can get picked up as citations.

John Biundo - Very interesting. Can be positive if you are able to generate enhanced listings (with more "stuff" like reviews, photos, longer descriptions, etc.). But can easily be bad if, by participating, you generate duplicate listings (by, for example, using tracking phone numbers).

"Can be positive if you are able to generate enhanced listings. But can easily be bad if, by participating, you generate duplicate listings (by, for example, using tracking phone numbers)."
--John Biundo

Ian Lurie - No search engine would be that stupid/suicidal.

Erik Whaley - This can't be proven either way, but it's hard to ignore some of the search results.

Steve Hatcher - Google repeatedly says over and over again that paid ads have no bearing on rankings of non paid search results.

Tom Crandall - I haven't seen much to consider this a factor, but I always recommend my clients take advantage of local ad extensions when using AdWords.

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

Shagun Vatsa - This factor doesn't seem to affect local rankings in any way.

Ed Reese - It doesn't.


Customer Reviews

6
General Importance of Customer Reviews
3.35
high importance
(↑0.08)
1.03
high agreement

Dave Oremland - The only impact I've seen to date is where a substantial volume of reviews exists for one or more sites versus competitive sites. Pure difference in volume seems to make some difference though it appears that the impact has diminished in Google from months ago.

"The only impact I've seen to date is where a substantial volume of reviews exists for one or more sites versus competitive sites."
--Dave Oremland

Chris Silver Smith - Google Engineers have repeatedly stated that positive reviews will not affect rankings. However, we all continue to see a close correlation between ratings/reviews and better-ranking sites. It's possible that the fact of reviews about a business may impact rankings while the actuall collective rating average may not. It's also possible that ratings might indirectly affect rankings – perhaps companies with more/higher ratings may get more views/clickthroughs, and those user clickthroughs in of themselves might be impacting the ratings. Regardless of the actual mechanism involved, it's clear that ratings/reviews are associated with rankings and must therefore be considered an important component for local search marketing.

Mike Blumenthal - Reviews, while critical in creating credibility with clients, are sometimes overrated as a ranking factor.

Miriam Ellis - I think it's important to state that we are still at point when Google is valuing quantity over quality or ratings (stars, etc.).

Brian Combs - Reviews are important, but seem to have been devalued over the last year.

Tom Crandall - There is no doubt ratings and reviews impact rankings. Reviews aren't given weight by the number of stars they are awarded, but rather, based on the websites they emanate from. I also believe reviews that are keyword-rich have an impact as well.

PureSheer - However in Yahoo this is closer to 4 (it and geotargeting are the 2 most important ranking factors in Yahoo)

Shagun Vatsa - Once a local profile is optimized to be a 100% complete and has substantial citation sources, the number of reviews can highly influence local rankings.

Larry Sullivan - Reviews are a good thing to have, positive or negative, especially if they are local.

Mike Ramsey - Reviews have a very positive effect on rankings whether the review is a 5 star or 1 star

Dev Basu - After claiming and number of citations, reviews are 3rd most important ranking factor.

Don Campbell - Reviews are getting more and more important for good local rankings, and positive reviews helps your listing stand out from the other results

Matt McGee - I know some disagree, but I still see reviews being very important in the industries/towns I follow. Businesses with no/few reviews are getting no visibility.

Ash Nallawalla - I think they help a little but I see many well-ranking sites without any reviews

Steve Hatcher - Regardless of its ranking benefits reviews can greatly influence customer behavior. More imprortant for some industries than others.

Martijn Beijk - Work very well, but might be a difficult job getting them depending on your business

John Biundo - Maybe. More reputation mgmt/click through than rankings though. You *should* do this, just like you *should* have good meta descriptions for web search click through, but not a major ranking factor.

Ed Reese - I believe they are helpful for long-tail search queries but not for broad keyword rankings. I've seen serveral instances where a Google Maps result is produced where the only mention of the niche business service in question is in a review.

Mary Bowling - Reviews are exactly what people searching for local business information want to see, so reviews make local business listings more valuable to searchers. However, the proliferation of less than legitimate reviews may be causing their influence on rankings to decline. I believe trust factors are now becoming associated with reviews and that these will influence the impact of individual reviews in the future.

9
Volume of Customer Reviews associated with Your Business
2.89
high importance
(↓0.45)
1.12
high agreement

Mike Blumenthal - You need as many as others in your industry but having more doesn't continue to help.

"You need as many as others in your industry but having more doesn't continue to help."
--Mike Blumenthal

Dave Oremland - If a single site has immensely more reviews than competitors it makes a difference.

Brian Combs - You can hit points of diminishing returns. I believe if you have reviews well in excess of your competitors, the benefit is limited.

Don Campbell - Volume of reviews is valuable up to a point. Once you've reached a good level for your industry then velocity becomes important.

Aleyda Solis - It is the volume (not necessarily the kind) of reviews what gives the signal of importance of your listing.

Tom Crandall - Review volume is a factor, but decidedly depending on the quality of sites the reviews emanate from.

Dev Basu - The magic number seems to be once you hit 5 reviews, and then it is all dependent on the number of reviews a listing has in relation to its competition.

Shagun Vatsa - Sometimes a couple of reviews are enough to achieve high rankings in local results. However, in competitive niches such as restaurants, the more reviews a restaurant can accumulate, the more chances it has to improve its local rankings.

Mary Bowling - It's relative to other businesses in your industry and location and the trustworthiness of the sites where reviews are made.

Steve Hatcher - I think Google may have toned down the influence of this factor a bit in response to review spam. I often see listings with few reviews outranking those with more reviews.

13
Customer Reviews Left on Third-Party Websites
2.50
high importance
(↑0.20)
1.36
moderate agreement

Ed Reese - This is absolutely a factor for certain verticals. Find out which 3rd party review websites matter for your industry and make sure to get some reviews there (in addition to Google and the other search engines).

"This is absolutely a factor for certain verticals. Find out which 3rd party review websites matter for your industry and make sure to get some reviews there."
--Ed Reese

Tom Crandall - I believe these types of reviews do have some weight. Often, locally-focused directories appear as web citations in the "More about this place" section of Places pages. Why wouldn't the reviews on these directories also factor in?

Brian Combs - 3rd party reviews can be syndicated and help in multiple places, although they can take a while to be brought into the engins.

Dev Basu - If it is a trusted website such as TripAdvisor, then this can be a powerful ranking factor.

John Biundo - Reviews is reviews.

Mary Bowling - The impact depends on the trustworthiness of the reviews on that particular website. Those with strict rules have more impact than those without any rules.

Aaron Weiche - Being reviewed on other sites like Yelp give you twice the review when it appears in the Google places review as well. Encourage it!

Don Campbell - Unless Google considers them a review source for your industry, then they are treated as citations.

Martijn Beijk - Locally focussed websites mentioning your business are in most cases contextually relevant. Any mention or link from these sources will help your business' listing.

Shagun Vatsa - Google Place Pages pick up reviews from various trusted 3rd party review sites and place them in the reviews tab of a profile. These reviews contribute towards determining consumer sentiment and overall volume of reviews which are definitely an important local ranking factor. Certain industry specific 3rd party sites are more powerful than others. For example, TripAdvisor reviews have a lot of influence in the hotel industry.

Mike Ramsey - These are great as they usually help to build the site as a citation source as well as a review source.

17
Velocity of Customer Reviews Associated with Your Business
2.13
high importance
(--)
1.30
moderate agreement

Miriam Ellis - Too many at once can apparently set off red flags for Google. A steady stream of new reviews appears to be the preferred scenario.

"Too many at once can apparently set off red flags for Google. A steady stream of new reviews appears to be the preferred scenario."
--Miriam Ellis

Tom Crandall - Generally speaking, I don't believe review velocity is a factor. On the other hand, if there is a suspicious pattern of reviews, along with other suspicious attributes, they may appear contrived to Google and yield a penalty.

Brian Combs - Critical for Yahoo, and becoming more important Google and Bing.

Mike Blumenthal - It appears to play a factor in keeping your standing

Paul Jahn - This is great, but have seen it overdone often in the legal field.

Dev Basu - Listings that have reviews being placed all at once rather than being spread out may get dinged easily. Spreading out reviews over time and having a review program in place is a best practice.

John Biundo - This one I believe might matter, but I think it's hard to test (we're trying!) Theory is that velocity of reviews may correlate well with "likelihood that this is a real business".

Aaron Weiche - Consistency over time is a plus.

Will Scott - It's more about momentum than velocity. In other words, keeping a steady pace.

Ed Reese - Make sure your reviews are generated at a consistant pace. If you think Google doesn't notice that you jumped from zero reviews to 20 reviews in a single month you're in for a big surprise. Learn to incorporate natural, organic reviews into your business practice to grow their numbers at a natural pace.

Shagun Vatsa - It is important for a business listing to gather reviews gradually over time rather than all at once. The latter shows unnatural growth which can be penalized.

22
Customer Reviews Left Directly at the Search Engine (Google/Bing/Yahoo)
1.96
high importance
(↓0.69)
1.25
moderate agreement

Brian Combs - Reviews placed directly with the engines have the advantage of going live immediately.

"Reviews placed directly with the engines have the advantage of going live immediately."
--Brian Combs

Miriam Ellis - It's tempting to put a negative number for this when thinking of Google who continues to treat their own reviews like second class citizens.

John Biundo - Reviews is reviews.

Mary Bowling - The impact depends on the trustworthiness of the reviewer – is the reviewers account new or old, is account information complete or minimal, how many reviews and other UGC has that account holder contributed, etc?

Martijn Beijk - Considered important but also misused for spam.

Shagun Vatsa - Search engine reviews are definitely given a lot of trust because they come from registered users who have a profile and an account history.

Mike Ramsey - Easiest to direct people to and you know they will find the places page.

PureSheer - In yahoo this is 4.3 (This is the only way to get reviews and as seen above an extremely important factor in yahoo's ranking algo).

Tom Crandall - There is an impact in correlation with other review sources. If just one search engine is the sole source of reviews, it may appear unnatural.

23
Inclusion of Product/Service Keywords in Reviews Associated with Your Business
1.90
high importance
(--)
1.29
moderate agreement

Erik Whaley - The fact that most search engines highlight or bold the used search query in the review illustrates its importance. Unfortunately, review spammers have also taken on this tactic.

"The fact that most search engines highlight or bold the used search query in the review illustrates its importance. Unfortunately, review spammers have also taken on this tactic."
--Erik Whaley

Tom Crandall - I believe reviews that are keyword-rich have an impact on rankings.

Mike Ramsey - This will become a very important thing as semantic results become more common.

Brian Combs - The "real estate" of reviews is virtually limitless, so they are great for long tail keywords as well as the big ones.

Steve Hatcher - You see this often in the fake reviews left in the more spammy industries of locksmiths and escorts, as well as in non-spam industries where the business owner hired a spammy SEO to manage their listing. So I suspect it may influence rankings some.

Tom Critchlow - This can be good to help you rank for a broader set of terms.

Dev Basu - This definitely seems to tweak rankings positively.

Don Campbell - Product, service or location keywords in your reviews can helps you show up in more searches.

Andrew Shotland - Have seen this have a big impact when you are on the edge of moving up.

Shagun Vatsa - Having product/service related keywords in reviews have slightly helped in improving local rankings.

36
Inclusion of Location Keywords in Reviews Associated with Your Business
1.55
moderate importance
(--)
1.19
high agreement

Brian Combs - Definitely helps. Great for neighboring cites and neighborhoods.

"Definitely helps. Great for neighboring cites and neighborhoods."
--Brian Combs

Erik Whaley - Seems to be more prevalent with neighborhood mentions than metropolitan mentions.

Dev Basu - This definitely seems to tweak rankings positively.

Shagun Vatsa - Having location based keywords in reviews have slightly helped in improving local rankings.

Andrew Shotland - Have seen this have a big impact when you are on the edge of moving up.

Don Campbell - Product, service or location keywords in your reviews can helps you show up in more searches.

Steve Hatcher - Same as for product/service keywords, it may have a small efffect.

Tom Crandall - I believe reviews that reference location have an impact on rankings.

42
Positive Ratings associated with Reviews of Your Business
1.35
moderate importance
(↑0.16)
1.40
low agreement

Ian Lurie - Seems to help a little, but any review appears to help...

"Seems to help a little, but any review appears to help..."
--Ian Lurie

Tom Crandall - I don't see any impact and for good reason-—this would be a ridiculously easy way for black-hatters to spam results.

Shagun Vatsa - I haven't seen any impact on local rankings due to positive ratings.

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

John Biundo - Maybe. Really more the reputation/click through factor I mention above.

Don Campbell - I don't see an effect on ranking, but they definitely affect click through by providing some "social proof."

Erik Whaley - Any review, positive or negative seems to contribute in the overall ranking of a listing.

Mike Ramsey - Positive is great. But having all 5 stars all the time might raise a concern or two.

Brian Combs - Any impact this has is negligible.

44
Positive Sentiment associated with Reviews of Your Business
1.25
moderate importance
(--)
1.36
low agreement

John Biundo - Can't believe this is being used yet, as it's a) too easy to game (sabotage competitors/fake your own reviews), b) too hard to measure algorithmically.

"Can't believe this is being used yet, as it's a) too easy to game (sabotage competitors/fake your own reviews), b) too hard to measure algorithmically."
--John Biundo

Dev Basu - May affect rankings in the restaurant and hotel industry.

Mike Ramsey - This becomes important if you have a quantity of reviews that justifies rankings of comments.

Ed Reese - Not a factor as far as I can tell.

Aaron Weiche - Others citing you as a good or great resource in their reviews adds strong credibility.

Ian Lurie - Overwhelmingly positive sentiment can help a little...

Shagun Vatsa - Positive sentiment does seem to affect local rankings. I've seen examples where restaurants with a negative overall rating but a positive sentiment rank higher than restaurants that have an overall positive rating but mixed sentiment.

Brian Combs - Any impact this has is negligible.

Tom Crandall - I don't see any impact and for good reason--this would be a ridiculously easy way for black-hatters to spam results.

47
Unstructured Reviews of Your Business
1.04
moderate importance
(--)
1.12
high agreement

Mike Ramsey - I have not seen a big change with picking up these reviews for blogs and elsewhere.

"I have not seen a big change with picking up these reviews for blogs and elsewhere."
--Mike Ramsey

Dev Basu - The review is less likely to get picked up without proper NAP naming.

Aaron Weiche - Having your business talked about will always have benefit.

Don Campbell - Unless Google considers them a review source for your industry, then they are treated as citations.

Shagun Vatsa - Unstructured reviews can act like citations is some cases making them a minor local ranking factor.

Brian Combs - Not seeing much, if any, impact yet.

51
hReview-Formatted Reviews of your Business
0.92
low importance
(--)
1.16
high agreement

Tom Crandall - I don't believe hReview-formatted reviews provide any additional weight at this time.

"I don't believe hReview-formatted reviews provide any additional weight at this time."
--Tom Crandall

Dev Basu - The review is more likely to get picked up as an unstructured review source.

Steve Espinosa - This makes it easier for crawlers to find them, so if your citations/reviews are easier to find the quicker they impact your ranking.

Shagun Vatsa - This improves the probability of them being picked up as review sources which can positively impact local rankings.

Brian Combs - Not seeing much, if any, impact yet.

Martijn Beijk - Google puts great effort in making the web smarter and they need it too!

-1
Negative Sentiment associated with Reviews of Your Business
0.03
low importance
(--)
1.40
low agreement

Aaron Weiche - I think it would take a strong amount of negative reviews to affect your ranking. Nobody is perfect, so negative reviews at will happen at some point. I think having your business talked about (reviewed) is more important to the engines than the tone.

"I think it would take a strong amount of negative reviews to affect your ranking."
--Aaron Weiche

Ian Lurie - Overwhelmingly negative sentiment can hurt. But it must be absolutely overwhelming, such as 50 negative reviews and 2 positive.

Mike Ramsey - This becomes important if you have a quantity of reviews that justifies rankings of comments.

Tom Crandall - I don't see any impact and for good reason—this would be a ridiculously easy way for black-hatters to destroy competitors.

Steve Espinosa - It definitely affects it for long tail queries, but you are fine as the overwhelming majority are not negative.

Dev Basu - May affect rankings in the restaurant and hotel industry.

Brian Combs - Any impact this has is negligible.

Ed Reese - Not a factor as far as I can tell.

Shagun Vatsa - Negative sentiment does seem to affect local rankings. I've seen examples where restaurants with a positive overall rating but a mixed or negative sentiment rank lower than restaurants that have an overall positive sentiment.

-2
Negative Ratings associated with Reviews of Your Business
-0.12
low importance
(↑0.17)
1.39
low agreement

Larry Sullivan - Negative reviews can hurt your business popularity--which you will have to deal with but this really should not hurt your local rankings.

"Negative reviews can hurt your business popularity--which you will have to deal with but this really should not hurt your local rankings."
--Larry Sullivan

Shagun Vatsa - I haven't seen any impact on local rankings due to negative ratings.

Dev Basu - Doesn't seem to affect rankings.

Don Campbell - I don't see an effect on ranking, but if you have few reviews a negative one can discourage click throughs

Mike Ramsey - Depending on the industry. Some it has a negative, some has none

Ash Nallawalla - I can see businesses with only negative reviews ranking high.

Erik Whaley - We have seen listings with all negative reviews rank just as high if not higher than a listing with all positive reviews.

Tom Crandall - I don't see any impact and for good reason--this would be a ridiculously easy way for black-hatters to destroy competitors.

Brian Combs - Any impact this has is negligible.

Paul Jahn - As a consumer, I've made numerous purchases based on negative reviews. As a marketer, I say embrace it.


Most Important Data Providers + IYP Sites

  1. Superpages (↑ 1)
  2. infoUSA (↓ 1)
  3. Yellowpages/CanPages (↑ 1)
  4. Niche Industry Sites (↑ 3)
  5. Citysearch (↑ 4)
  6. Localeze (↓ 3)
  7. Yelp (↓ 2)
  8. Yahoo (↑ 1)
  9. Acxiom (↓ 1)
  10. InsiderPages (↓ 4)

Other sites receiving significant votes: Niche Civic/Municipal Sites (Chamber of Commerce, Local Directories), Merchant Circle, Kudzu, DexKnows, Angie's List.

Most Important Review Engines

  1. Yelp (--)
  2. Yahoo (↑ 1)
  3. Google (↑ 2)
  4. Citysearch (--)
  5. InsiderPages (↓ 3)
  6. Superpages (--)
  7. Niche Industry Sites (--)
  8. Judysbook (↑ 2)
  9. Yellowpages/CanPages (↑ 2)
  10. TripAdvisor (↓ 2)

Other sites receiving significant votes: Bing, Kudzu, Qype, Local.com, MerchantCircle.

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

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. Claiming Place Page / Local Listing (4.40) (↑ 0.55)
  2. Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria (3.35)(↓ 0.15)
  3. Customer Reviews (3.35) (↑ 0.08)
  4. On-Page Criteria (2.36) (↓ 0.62)

Most Positive Factors

  1. General Importance of Claiming Place Page / Local Listing (+4.40)
  2. Business Address in City of Search (+4.16)
  3. Associating Place Page with Proper Categories (+3.91)
  4. Volume of Citations from Major Data Providers + IYP Portals (+3.53)
  5. General Importance of Off-Page / Off-Listing Criteria (+3.35)

Most Harmful Factors

  1. Multiple Place Pages with Same Phone Number (-2.75)
  2. Not Showing Address on Your Place Page (-2.48)
  3. Multiple Place Pages with Same Address (-2.33)
  4. Listing PO Box on Website without a Physical Address (-1.61)
  5. Multiple Place Pages with Same Business Title (-1.35)

Highest Agreement

  1. Business Address in City of Search (+4.16)
  2. WHOIS Record Associated with Your Domain (+0.60)
  3. Volume of Location Service Check-ins (+0.75)
  4. General Importance of Claiming Place Page / Local Listing (+4.40)
  5. Participation in Local PPC or Place Page Advertising (+0.43)

Most Controversial

  1. Defining a Service Area for Your Place Page (+0.47)
  2. Including Location Keywords in Place Page Categories (-0.14)
  3. Location Keyword in Place Page Business Title (1.82)
  4. Choosing List of Areas Served for Your Place Page (1.00)
  5. Not Showing Address on Your Place Page (-2.48)

More Helpful Than in 2009

  1. Associating Photos with Your Place Page (0.56)
  2. General Importance of Claiming Place Page / Local Listing (0.55)
  3. Volume of MyMaps on which Your Business Is Included (0.54)
  4. Age of Place Page (0.49)
  5. Associating Local Area Code as Primary Place Page Phone Number (0.29)

Less Helpful Than in 2009

  1. Including Full Address on Places Landing Page (↓1.08)
  2. Location Keyword in Place Page Description (↓0.99)
  3. Listing Information for Multiple Locations on Places Landing Page (↓0.93)
  4. Multiple Place Pages with Same Phone Number (↓0.89)
  5. Location Keywords in Inbound Links to Website (↓0.83)