More Helpful than Last Year

  1. PageRank / Authority of Website Homepage or Highest Ranked Page (+34 Overall, +38 Blended)
  2. Product/Service Keyword in Website URL (+29 Blended)
  3. City, State in Places Landing Page Title (+22 Overall, + 28 Blended)
  4. Volume of Third-Party Unstructured Reviews (+27 Pure)
  5. Location Keywords in Place Page Custom Fields (+26 Pure)

Less Helpful than Last Year

  1. Velocity of Third-Party Reviews (-44 Pure, -39 Blended)
  2. City, State in Most/All Title Tags of Website (-32 Pure)
  3. Velocity of Native Google Places Reviews (-30 Pure)
  4. Volume of Third-Party Structured Reviews (-26 Pure, -25 Blended)
  5. Marginal Category Associations (-22 Pure, -29 Blended)

The Local Search Ranking Factors

Volume 4 | Published June 3, 2011 SKIP TO RESULTS » 

Introduction

It's been another remarkable year in Local Search. The space continues to evolve at a frenetic pace, and as I wrote in December, the number of digital marketing opportunities that small business owners must try to make sense of has become truly overwhelming. If your head spins as much as mine does even trying to conceptualize how all of the pieces fit together, I suggest digesting this infographic recently created by Mike Blumenthal.

This survey remains an attempt to make sense of at least one small sliver of the digital marketing space: how to improve your ranking in Google Places. While Yahoo Local and Bing Local remain important areas of visibility for any business owner, based on responses from previous surveys, none of the experts felt there were any specific techniques to rank in either of these two search engines that differed from those used to rank in Google's Local results.

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.

And boy, did Google's Local results get complex this year-- specifically in October 2010 with the launch of "Blended" Place Search, which shows a hybrid of Place-related and website-related snippets on the search engine result page. Based on the responses from this year's survey, it appears that beyond just the difference in interface, the weighting of signals Google uses for these Blended results differs significantly from the that of it more traditional Local results (the so-called "7-Pack" or "3-Pack"). For more on why Google might choose to show a Blended vs. a Pure Result, see this addendum.

Other key developments at Google this year include the rollout of its "Hotpot" rating and review system (now formally a part of Places), the continued increase in the influence of social and personalized signals in its organic results, and the public announcement of the time it takes your website to load as a ranking factor. Do the local search experts feel these signals have been incorporated into the Place Search algorithms yet? You'll have to read on to find out.

This year's edition of the LSRF contains responses from 33 prominent bloggers and practitioners. It differs from previous years in two key ways:

1) Rather than rating the importance of particular criteria on a sliding scale of -5 → 0 → +5, this year featured a drag-and-drop numerical ranking system in an effort to make the survey results both more precise and easier for the participants to complete.
2) With the introduction of Blended Place Search since last year's survey, I felt it was essential to ask participants about any possible differences they perceived between the two algorithms. Thus, responses are presented in a "split-screen" format below to allow for an easy comparison.

As a result of these two changes, while it's still possible to compare the relative change in the importance of individual factors from year-to-year, there are no longer any absolute values to assign to each factor.

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

Helpful Background Articles on Local Search:
+ Chris Silver Smith's Anatomy of a Local Search Listing
+ Bill Slawski's Local Search Glossary
+ My own version of a Local Search Glossary
+ Mike Blumenthal's Digital Equity Infographic
+ 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 Ecosystem
+ The Local Search SEMMYs

The Survey

A Pure Local Result
Above: A "Pure" Local Result


A Blended Local Result
Above: A "Blended" Local Result


Participants were asked to rank 79 possible positive factors and 18 possible negative factors that drive Google's Local Search algorithms. Participants were asked to rank the positive factors for Google's "pure" Local Search search algorithm (the one that drives the 7-pack, 3-pack, and authoritative onebox search results) as well as its Blended Local Search algorithm, independently of one another.

Participants had the option to:
1) state whether they thought the two algorithms were identical (none felt this way)
2) ignore factors which they deemed irrelevant to either algorithm

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the #1 ranked factor received the most "points" for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. Thus, the more factors deemed irrelevant by a particular respondent, the heavier the weight given to the factors that they did rank.

They were then asked to rate negative factors inversely (from most harmful to most benign), and provide their overall "top ten list" of factors which they would recommend for businesses trying to rank across any of Google's Local results (whether pure or blended).

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

The first number listed to the right of each factor indicates the relative change in importance as compared to last year's position. A positive number means the factor became more important this year; a negative number means it became less important.

The second number listed is the average position of that factor in respondents' rankings. The higher the number, the more important it was considered.

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.

Overall results for both algorithms are presented below, as well as results within each grouping of factors (i.e. on-page, website, off-place/off-page, and reviews).

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 3 2011


The Results

MAX POSSIBLE SCORE → MIN POSSIBLE SCORE LOWEST STD DEV → HIGHEST STD DEV +/- CHANGE FROM 2010

OVERALL TOP TEN

MOST RECOMMENDED FACTORS TO FOCUS ON

79 → 1 34.44 → 37.61
  1. Physical Address in City of Search (PLACE PAGE)
    56.1534.44↑1
  2. Manually Owner-verified Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    51.4836.46↓1
  3. Proper Category Associations (PLACE PAGE)
    46.6337.61--
  4. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators) (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    33.2136.41--
  5. Crawlable Address Matching Place Page Address (WEBSITE)
    31.5436.77↑25
  6. PageRank / Authority of Website Homepage / Highest Ranked Page (WEBSITE)
    29.9637.22↑34
  7. Quality of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    29.0336.02↑9
  8. Crawlable Phone Number Matching Place Page Phone Number (WEBSITE)
    28.9635.95n/a
  9. Local Area Code on Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    28.8135.79↑18
  10. City, State in Places Landing Page Title (WEBSITE)
    25.2735.77↑22

EXPERT COMMENTS

1. Optimize your website for location+products/services, including building good links to your pages.
2. Choose the proper categories in Places.
3. Make sure Google can associate your website and your Places page together.
4. Eliminate data confusion.
5. Solicit reviews from happy customers.
6. Work on everything else as time and budget permit.
--Mary Bowling

I'd repeat, quality links, links links!!!
--Dave Oremland

Put together your profile page and website with your potential customer in mind. Use the words they would use and reasons to choose you as the business of choice. Then think about Google and title tags and the rest of the stuff in this survey. Sometimes the details can be overwhelming, When that happens just get back to thinking about your reputation and your customers.
--Tim Coleman

NAP consistency is missing from the list [of factors asked about] and is a CRITICAL ranking factor. Sara Tweedy (Search Influence) says NAP consistency is THE most critical.
--Will Scott and Team

One of the most effective ways to create more unstructured citations is to work in NAP data into traditional link building methods such a guest posting, press releases, and even rich media such as Slideshare and DocStoc. These not only help you rank better in 7 pack and blended results, but organically too.
--Dev Basu

My #1 would be NAP and core data integrity. But that's primarily because I specialize in professions that have all types of core data problems that affect rankings and create duplicate problems.

Example: DBA is ABC Medical but med license & Dr. name is John L. Smith MD, but there are lots of citations for Dr. John Smith too (which is not correct). There are dupes for all 3 names PLUS dupes for 2 different versions of the address. Before you do anything you need to do research to figure out the absolute best NAP to use on Place page. THEN need to decide which is the most advantageous Place page to keep.

If you deal with professionals like Drs and lawyers, this is especially important for 2 reasons: 1) To attribute as many existing citations and reviews as possible to the Place you decide to optimize. 2) To help clean up the dupe mess. Then after determining best NAP, be sure site NAP matches Place page NAP, then try to correct the most important data sources.

Also be sure to include Product/service KWs in site title tags and H1 or H3 on home page and Places landing page.
--Linda Buquet

I'll include Places business name including location and/or service keywords in the name as a ranking factor but only if the business can legitimately use it, as in it is actually part of their official name. Otherwise it can cause a penalty.
--Steve Hatcher

Places SEO is not for the faint of heart. It is a spammer's paradise and I wouldn't be surprised if the internal code names for new Places algo updates all started with "FUBAR".
--Andrew Shotland


PURE LOCAL FACTORS

GENERAL SIGNALS

1 → 4 0.58 → 0.86
  1. Place Page Criteria
    1.39 0.58 NC
  2. Off-PlacePage/Off-Site Criteria
    2.45 0.86 NC
  3. Review Criteria
    3.03 0.72 NC
  4. Website Criteria
    3.77 0.86 NC

SPECIFIC FACTORS

79 → 1 3.11 → 32.34
  1. Proper Category Associations (PLACE PAGE)
    69.6915.63↑ 2
  2. Physical Address in City of Search (PLACE PAGE)
    69.5722.69--
  3. Manually Owner-verified Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    64.0317.99↓ 2
  4. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    62.2423.67--
  5. Volume of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    56.9622.39↑ 6
  6. Overall Volume of Reviews of Place(REVIEWS)
    54.6924.2↑ 3
  7. Local Area Code on Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    52.5427.2↑13
  8. Proximity of Address to Centroid (PLACE PAGE)
    51.8730.74↑4
  9. Product / Service Keyword in Business Title (PLACE PAGE)
    49.5431.69↓ 9
  10. Product / Service Keyword in Place Page Description (PLACE PAGE)
    47.627.17↑4
  11. Crawlable Address Matching Place Page Address(WEBSITE)
    47.1828.61↑19
  12. Location Keyword in Business Title (PLACE PAGE)
    46.3632.29↑17
  13. Crawlable Phone Number Matching Place Page Phone Number(WEBSITE)
    45.8126.24↑24
  14. Product/Service Keywords in Reviews(REVIEWS)
    44.5126.28↑9
  15. Location Keywords in Reviews(REVIEWS)
    44.0628.07↑21
  16. Volume of Native Google Places Reviews (w/text)(REVIEWS)
    43.7530.39↑8
  17. Product / Service Keywords in Place Page Custom Fields (PLACE PAGE)
    43.6926.66↑16
  18. Association of Photos with Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    41.3925.58↑1
  19. Location Keyword in Place Page Description (PLACE PAGE)
    40.6630.56↑12
  20. Volume of Third-Party Unstructured Reviews(REVIEWS)
    37.929.95↑27
  21. Association of Videos with Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    35.7226.6↑14
  22. Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    35.6930.26↑2
  23. Quality of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    34.8730.04↓ 7
  24. Volume of GeoTagged Media Associated with Your Business (e.g. Panoramio, Flickr, YouTube)(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    34.329.62↑4
  25. City, State in Places Landing Page Title(WEBSITE)
    33.7830.53↑7
  26. Volume of Native Google Places Ratings (no text)(REVIEWS)
    32.2727.64n/a
  27. Product / Service Keyword in Website URL(WEBSITE)
    32.2128.01↑11
  28. Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native + Third-Party)(REVIEWS)
    3230.9↓11
  29. Age of Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    31.9629.66↑14
  30. PageRank / Authority of Landing Page Specified in Places(WEBSITE)
    31.9630.25↑18
  31. Numerical Percentage of Place Page Completeness (PLACE PAGE)
    31.9331.16n/a
  32. Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    31.929.42↓ 6
  33. PageRank / Authority of(WEBSITE) Homepage / Highest Ranked Page(WEBSITE)
    31.6930.04↑10
  34. Volume of MyMaps / MapMaker References to Your Business(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    30.0626.8↓16
  35. Volume of Third-Party Structured / hReview Formatted Reviews(REVIEWS)
    29.932.34↓26
  36. Quantity of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    28.9327.01↓9
  37. Location Keywords in Place Page Custom Fields (PLACE PAGE)
    28.928.81↑26
  38. Geographic Keyword in Website URL(WEBSITE)
    28.1528.48↑1
  39. Matching Google Account Domain to Places Landing Page Domain (PLACE PAGE)
    27.8726.02↑ 7
  40. Places Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    27.5430.89↓ 6
  41. Bulk Owner-verified Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    26.631.3n/a
  42. Quantity of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    25.927.83n/a
  43. Marginal Category Associations (PLACE PAGE)
    25.4530.03↓ 22
  44. Quality of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    24.7831.03n/a
  45. High Numerical Ratings of Place by Google Users (e.g. 4-5)(REVIEWS)
    24.7228.1↓ 3
  46. Number of Actions Taken by Searchers on a Place Page (e.g. Driving Directions, Mobile Phone Calls) (PLACE PAGE)
    24.5126.91n/a
  47. Velocity of Native Google Places Reviews(REVIEWS)
    24.0928.24↓30
  48. Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    23.4827.61n/a
  49. High Numerical Third-Party Ratings (e.g. 4-5)(REVIEWS)
    23.1528.91↓7
  50. Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    22.625.12n/a
  51. Domain Diversity of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    22.4828.15n/a
  52. Verified KML File on Domain Name(WEBSITE)
    22.1826.35↓7
  53. Places Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    21.2727.75n/a
  54. Domain Diversity of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    20.8126.42n/a
  55. Positive Sentiment in Reviews(REVIEWS)
    20.5727.27↓11
  56. Velocity of New Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    20.0926.5n/a
  57. City, State in Most/All Title Tags(WEBSITE)
    19.8728.28↓32
  58. Specifying Service Areas in a List for Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    19.4525.01↓1
  59. Popularity (# of Views) of MyMaps References to Your Business(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    18.6324.63↓18
  60. City, State in Places Landing Page H1/H2 Tags(WEBSITE)
    17.926.44n/a
  61. Velocity of Third-Party Reviews(REVIEWS)
    17.2127.37↓44
  62. Crawlable Contact Information in hCard Microformat(WEBSITE)
    15.1524.13↓12
  63. Matching, Public WHOIS Information(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    1422.97↓7
  64. Specifying a Service Area via Polygon for Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    13.7821.46↓7
  65. City, State in Most/All H1/H2 Tags(WEBSITE)
    13.6921.49n/a
  66. Inclusion of Coupon on Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    13.3622.73↓14
  67. Velocity of New Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    1221.99n/a
  68. Loadtime of Places Landing Page(WEBSITE)
    11.6619.02n/a
  69. Volume of Check-Ins on Popular Services (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Twitter)(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    10.617.38↓ 15
  70. Volume of Crawlable Testimonials(WEBSITE)
    10.1217.8n/a
  71. Volume of hReview Testimonials(WEBSITE)
    7.4516.2520
  72. Velocity of Check-Ins on Popular Services (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Twitter)(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    6.2414.83↓17
  73. Number of Likes on Matching Facebook Page(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    4.4211.31n/a
  74. OTHER (Please specify in comments)
    3.9315.88n/a
  75. Number of Followers on Matching Twitter Account(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    3.8411.3n/a
  76. Authority of Followers on Matching Twitter Account(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    3.6312.1n/a
  77. Velocity of New Facebook Likes(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    2.610.92n/a
  78. Participation in Boost or Adwords(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    1.548.74↓20
  79. Velocity of New Followers on Matching Twitter Account(OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    0.723.11n/a

BLENDED LOCAL FACTORS

GENERAL SIGNALS

1 → 4 0.75 → 1.08
  1. Website Criteria
    1.90 0.94 ↑3
  2. Place Page Criteria
    2.32 0.84 ↓1
  3. Off-PlacePage/Off-Site Criteria
    2.65 1.08 ↓1
  4. Review Criteria
    3.65 0.75 ↓1

SPECIFIC FACTORS

79 → 1 11.13 → 33.51
  1. Physical Address in City of Search (PLACE PAGE)
    61.2429.31↑ 1
  2. PageRank / Authority of Website Homepage / Highest Ranked Page (WEBSITE)
    53.3627.61↑38
  3. Proper Category Associations (PLACE PAGE)
    52.3331.01--
  4. City, State in Places Landing Page Title (WEBSITE)
    51.1829.33↑28
  5. Manually Owner-verified Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    49.7231.32↓4
  6. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators) (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    48.4228.17↓2
  7. Quality of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    48.1528.68↑9
  8. Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    46.1528.65↑18
  9. Product / Service Keyword in Website URL (WEBSITE)
    46.0926.81↑29
  10. PageRank / Authority of Landing Page Specified in Places (WEBSITE)
    45.9630.43↑38
  11. Quantity of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    45.8730.2↑16
  12. Overall Volume of Reviews of Place (REVIEWS)
    43.5127.86↓ 3
  13. Quality of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    42.6930.1n/a
  14. Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    42.2729.01↑10
  15. Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    42.1829.26n/a
  16. Crawlable Phone Number Matching Place Page Phone Number (WEBSITE)
    41.6629.76n/a
  17. Volume of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts) (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    39.8129.38↓6
  18. Domain Diversity of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    39.5428.66n/a
  19. Product / Service Keyword in Business Title (PLACE PAGE)
    38.5731.13↓12
  20. Geographic Keyword in Website URL (WEBSITE)
    38.0929.64↑19
  21. Domain Diversity of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    38.0630.43n/a
  22. Places Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    36.8730.05↓12
  23. Proximity of Address to Centroid (PLACE PAGE)
    36.7533.51↓11
  24. Crawlable Address Matching Place Page Address (WEBSITE)
    35.9630.9↑6
  25. Places Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    35.7228.12n/a
  26. Local Area Code on Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    35.5431.24↑11
  27. City, State in Places Landing Page H1/H2 Tags (WEBSITE)
    35.4830.04n/a
  28. Volume of Native Google Places Reviews (w/text) (REVIEWS)
    33.1229.85↓6
  29. City, State in Most/All Title Tags (WEBSITE)
    32.7231.88↓4
  30. Volume of Third-Party Unstructured Reviews (REVIEWS)
    32.629.1817
  31. Quantity of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    32.4831.66n/a
  32. Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    31.4230.75n/a
  33. Location Keywords in Reviews (REVIEWS)
    31.1528.84↑3
  34. Association of Photos with Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    30.2727.25↓15
  35. Product / Service Keyword in Place Page Description (PLACE PAGE)
    29.6929.71↓21
  36. Product/Service Keywords in Reviews (REVIEWS)
    2927.62↓13
  37. Location Keyword in Business Title (PLACE PAGE)
    28.5431.61↓8
  38. City, State in Most/All H1/H2 Tags (WEBSITE)
    28.0931.57n/a
  39. Location Keyword in Place Page Description (PLACE PAGE)
    26.9628.98↓8
  40. Volume of GeoTagged Media Associated with Your Business (e.g. Panoramio, Flickr, YouTube) (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    26.5126.64↓12
  41. Verified KML File on Domain Name (WEBSITE)
    26.4527.39↑4
  42. Velocity of New Inbound Links to Website (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    24.1226.92n/a
  43. Velocity of New Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    23.6927.23n/a
  44. Volume of Native Google Places Ratings (no text) (REVIEWS)
    23.3928.59n/a
  45. Bulk Owner-verified Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    22.4530.2n/a
  46. Location Keywords in Place Page Custom Fields (PLACE PAGE)
    22.2426.85↑7
  47. Product / Service Keywords in Place Page Custom Fields (PLACE PAGE)
    22.1825.57↓14
  48. Volume of Third-Party Structured / hReview Formatted Reviews (REVIEWS)
    21.0927.92↓35
  49. Matching Google Account Domain to Places Landing Page Domain (PLACE PAGE)
    20.9328.77↓3
  50. Marginal Category Associations (PLACE PAGE)
    20.8426.93↓29
  51. Number of Actions Taken by Searchers on a Place Page (e.g. Driving Directions, Mobile Phone Calls) (PLACE PAGE)
    19.5125.1n/a
  52. Crawlable Contact Information in hCard Microformat (WEBSITE)
    19.1525.46↓2
  53. High Numerical Ratings of Place by Google Users (e.g. 4-5) (REVIEWS)
    18.926.25↓11
  54. Loadtime of Places Landing Page (WEBSITE)
    18.2421.46n/a
  55. Matching, Public WHOIS Information (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    17.8725.83↑1
  56. Volume of MyMaps / MapMaker References to Your Business (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    17.7823.85↓39
  57. Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native + Third-Party) (REVIEWS)
    17.7526.71↓39
  58. Popularity (# of Views) of MyMaps References to Your Business (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    17.1823.18↓17
  59. Numerical Percentage of Place Page Completeness (PLACE PAGE)
    16.9624.02n/a
  60. Association of Videos with Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    16.8721.65↓25
  61. Velocity of Third-Party Reviews (REVIEWS)
    16.8425.82n/a
  62. Age of Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    16.6622.17↓19
  63. High Numerical Third-Party Ratings (e.g. 4-5) (REVIEWS)
    15.1226.36↓21
  64. Velocity of Native Google Places Reviews (REVIEWS)
    13.8724.76n/a
  65. Positive Sentiment in Reviews (REVIEWS)
    13.2123.73↓21
  66. Volume of Check-Ins on Popular Services (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Twitter) (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    11.6320.53↓12
  67. Specifying Service Areas in a List for Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    9.7520.9↓10
  68. Volume of hReview Testimonials (WEBSITE)
    9.4818.06↓17
  69. Number of Likes on Matching Facebook Page (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    9.4219.88n/a
  70. Inclusion of Coupon on Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    9.2718.84↓18
  71. Volume of Crawlable Testimonials (WEBSITE)
    8.5418.02n/a
  72. Specifying a Service Area via Polygon for Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
    7.6617.87↓15
  73. OTHER (Please specify in comments)
    6.6621.19n/a
  74. Velocity of Check-Ins on Popular Services (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Twitter) (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    5.0913.01↓ 19
  75. Authority of Followers on Matching Twitter Account (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    4.8714.41n/a
  76. Participation in Boost or Adwords (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    4.2114.58↓16
  77. Velocity of New Facebook Likes (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    4.0911.78n/a
  78. Number of Followers on Matching Twitter Account (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    3.5111.31n/a
  79. Velocity of New Followers on Matching Twitter Account (OFF-PLACE/OFF-SITE)
    2.0311.13n/a

PURE RANKING FACTORS: COMMENTS FROM THE EXPERTS

PLACE PAGE ADVICE FOR PURE LOCAL RANKINGS

Place Page details and Maps algorithms appears to be more important for the PURE results rankings. Mentions of appropriate business category and keyword coupled with presence within the searched geography are particularly influential here. So, Proximity and Categorization remain very strong factors for this results set.
--Chris Silver Smith

Claiming your listing is the first step in being able to provide accurate Local information about your business. We have found that if you have not yet claimed your listing, it's good idea to review your Trusted Providers NAP + W (Name + Address + Phone / Website) information and correct any errors before you claim, which may reduce issues with placement once the listing is claimed.
--Lisa Kolb

Make sure your name, address, and phone (NAP) is accurate. Also, be sure and track all history of NAP and make sure it's consistent. This factor has not changed. In fact, the engines are getting much better at detecting bogus listings and errors. Dot your "i's" and cross your "t's" when it comes to NAP.
--Ed Reese

Any confusion about your business name, address and/or phone number coming from trusted sources can suppress your rankings and should be corrected ASAP.
--Mary Bowling

All of this assumes you have claimed the listing--correct address- no PO boxes, zip code, local phone
--Larry Sullivan

Proper Category Associations - We continue to find that not having proper categories associated with a business is the number one signal in whether a business will appear at all for search queries related to that category.
Proximity of Address to Centroid - We often see businesses rank higher for search queries in the city that they are closest to the centroid for, even if it isn't the city that their business is located in.
Location Keyword in Business Title - This is critical for search queries that include the location. Not as important for generic search queries that trigger local results.
Product / Service Keyword in Business Title - This is critical for search queries that include the specific product or service keyword. Not as important for tail end search queries that trigger local results.
--Adam Dorfman

For pure 3 pack or 7 pack results, the three pillars of local search still hold true: i) N.A.P consistency ii) Overall volume of structured, 3rd party, and unstructured citations. iii) Overall volume of native Google and 3rd party reviews from authority sites. It's also important the basics such as having a 100% complete place page. For more competitive industries such as Travel or Medical, association of sites such as TripAdvisor, Panoramio, or RateMD's is critically important to gain rankings.
--Dev Basu

Plain and simple, claiming your profile and properly completing every option is your best base to marketing locally online.
--Aaron Weiche

Manual claim submission trumps bulk feeds.
--Gregg Stewart

Claim the listing, use the categories effectively, complete the place page. (Re-locate your business :)
--Tim Coleman

A claimed listing still carries a lot of weight which isnt anything new, but just claiming the listing won't get you the visibility it did a year ago.Take full advantage of the custom content opportunities Google Places allows by adding social media links, industry specific (menu, room rates) hyperlinks and categories to reinforce the product/service theme.
--Erik Whaley

As to putting local city name or service in a places page, it could either help or cause a penalty. To the extent that doing so escapes Google's review it helps in rankings. In a different competitive situation, sites with enormous volumes of reviews as compared to competitors w/ scarce numbers of reviews do very well. Of interest in some of those cases with lots of reveiws, the same information shows as citations--so the generators of those reviews give the places page a double dose of value.
--Dave Oremland

When it comes to the place page. Category choice is everything. Custom Categories are the fast way to rank in Places.
--Mike Ramsey

Categories appear more important than business title (when following Google Guidelines..)
--Martijn Beijk

Most important is to manually claim your Place Pages listing. If you've got hundreds of listings, bulk upload will work, but try to get into the white label program. After this, nail your categories. Keywords tend to be tied to particular categories, especially for competitive keywords, so getting this right is very important. Unrelated categories can send very confusing signals to Google.
--Brian Combs

Helpful: - keywords without geo-modifier as categories - photos and videos - utilizing description for additional "categories" and secondary service locations - custom attributes for additional "categories"
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

Title's and Categories seem to be the most important "On Place Page" factors driving keyword relevancy. The results also tend to skew towards more robust Place Pages - mostly Pages with images, but also video assets.
--Jeff Gold

I just want to add here that items like service and geographic keywords in Place Pages' business titles can be good, if they accurately reflect the DBA. If not in the DBA, they are obviously spam.
--Miriam Ellis

Physical location & links are basically the only factors that really matter. Reviews, citations and keywords in text associated with the queries can make a difference, but I have seen too much evidence that fake addresses, UPS mailboxes, temp office space in the right location, etc. and a couple of links can get you a #1 ranking every time to think that the other factors are even remotely as powerful.
--Andrew Shotland

Having product, service and location keywords in the your Google Places business title are still a very effective and strong factors for PURE Place Search rankings. This is great if they are part of your official business name, but will eventually cause you issues if they do not belong there.
--James Svoboda

Try putting a different thinking hat on when it comes to adding enhanced data, images, videos, links and more details. Think more about 'data' and relevance and trust factors that help prove to Google that this business is legit. Think outside the box. There are many optimization techniques that go beyond traditional keyword research that can help boost trust, which I think can also help boost rankings.
--Linda Buquet

We've found that for many clients in narrow channels, the results are not mirrored as they are for much larger channels...say 'stapping machine service' versus 'running shoes' -- the difference is notable as well as confusing when it comes to gauging factors that work for Place specific rankings....so as yet, we continue to be analyzing the data...
--Jim Rudnick

Keywords in the Places Page name and in the reviews + freshness of native Google reviews is giving noticeable bumps to newly-claimed listings with virtually no citations.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

There's a rising importance of Google's own Places reviews as a factor.
--Aleyda Solis

It's all about velocity: Acquiring lots of reviews is great. But acquiring them all in one day is not. Steady, accelerating growth is ideal.
--Ian Lurie


WEBSITE ADVICE FOR PURE LOCAL RANKINGS

A business' website is usually considered to be the most authoritative document on the web about that business. Make certain your address and phone number on your website are visible to the search engines and match up with what is in published in your Places listing. Optimizing your website for location+product/service terms strengthens Google's trust in where you are and what you do.
--Mary Bowling

Consistency is key, in terms of finding the same data on a website as is found on a Place Page. We're talking phone numbers, addresses, and multimedia. It seems that landing pages that share the same imagery as a Place Page tend to rank higher. I'm sure landing page authority plays into rankings as well.
--Jeff Gold

Consistency of NAP important. Avoid linking dynamic number inserted pages with listing identity/place pages.
--Gregg Stewart

Your NAP (Name + Address + Phone) needs to be in text on your website and it must match your places, other Trusted Provider and citation listings. Often times we see a business website being listed as a citation to that business when the NAP is included properly. NEVER only list an 800 # without a local number, and NEVER only list a PO without a physical address.
--Lisa Kolb

Name, address, phone number and the right keywords on your site make a difference. Duh.
--Andrew Shotland

Full address in footer and header of pages local keywords in text.
--Larry Sullivan

hCard: we're just not convinced, yet. Local Landing Pages: yes. NAP in traditional on-site factors: heck yes.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

Having a physical address connection between your web site and your Places page is increasingly beneficial. The use of microformats/rich snippits should be best practice to tie the two efforts together.
--Erik Whaley

Website signals need to sing harmoniously with the desired keyword search combinations in order to effectively rank for them. So, insuring that your website is properly associated with your claimed business Place Page, including product/service names on the webpages in visible text, particularly in the titles, and inclusion of your city name and address on the site -- these help insure your chances of ranking for the search combos. Following this, the other classic SEO ranking factors are used by Google to determine relative popularity.
--Chris Silver Smith

Include as much relevant information on your website that would prove to the engines that you are, in fact, who you say you are. Make sure this is indexed, accurate, and consistent.
--Ed Reese

From its earliest days and continuing till today I've always been struck by sites with 1boxes or outstanding Places Rankings due to extraordinary SEO factors relative to the local competition. I believe that even in pure results seo factors have had enormous significance and where they significantly outweigh the competition they always prevail. Which factor on pure website impact ranks highest??? I've always leaned toward quality of links as number 1 impact factor. High quality of links IMHO equates with website/web page authority. Then volume from different urls. Total quantity also gives value unless the volume is a factor of multiple links coming from a single source. After those factors..I'd say anchor text, anchor text anchor text.
--Dave Oremland

Standard on-page works, plus a few extras. You need to send locational signals, as well as keywords signals. hCard and KML helps, but is not crucial.
--Brian Combs

Keywords for your products, services and target location that are contained within your website domain name seem to be impacting PURE Place Search rankings. This is probably a combination of contributing factors in various degrees associated with links to the website containing keywords, the ranking weight that Google gives keyword domains because they are a visual signal to searchers and one that is difficult to change just to chase an algorithm, as well as an increase in clicks, interactions and actions taken on these listings due to the fact that visitors can see queried keywords bolded within the listing domain, be visually drawn to them, and have an additional signal that matches their initial query.
--James Svoboda

The website primarily serves as a citation and 3rd party review source for Google Places Pure search results. Key factors include microformat inclusion, location and category keywords in Titles, Headers, and Body Content. Additional tips include adding location and category keywords to URL slugs. While Google has been sluggish to pick up hReview formatted reviews from small business websites, it's finally starting to do so. It's definitely important to have your testimonials page coded in hReview and hReview aggregate. Then, go ahead and tell Google about it by enrolling in their Rich Snippet program.
--Dev Basu

For Website specific factors we again note that inclusion of keywords and insertions of same in as many areas as is possible, plays a major role in advancing our client rankings....
--Jim Rudnick

At a minimum, make sure you home page META title, H1 and content include your main services/products and main location area(s). These are the clearest and easiest signals to provide to Google.
--Aaron Weiche

Site title with appropriate keywords is a strong influencer even when those keywords are not part of the business name.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

Don't over-optimize! If you stuff city/state into every title on your site, you could get dinged.
--Ian Lurie

Use a domain with keywords if possible and make sure your address is on the site.
--Tim Coleman

Relevancy of the website landing page for the place result for the specific location is taken more in consideraion.
--Aleyda Solis

Even without a website you should be able to appear in the pure results. Having a website however strengthens legitimacy and authority of domain involved.
--Martijn Beijk


OFF-PLACEPAGE/OFF-SITE ADVICE FOR PURE LOCAL RANKINGS

Citations, Citations, Citations.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

#1 Other factor - NAP integrity. Researching to find the best/most correct version of core data, when there is fractured upstream data. Otherwise all the existing trust points (reviews, citations,etc.) the company has accumulated may not be attributed to the Place page. Note: more so an issue with Drs., lawyers and other professionals who often have multiple variations of their name on YPs and directories or heavy marketers that have lots of different phone #s all over the web.
--Linda Buquet

Consistency of the NAP (name, address, and phone number across citations around the web is a very strong factor.
--Mike Belasco

If NAP is corrupted by a major data provider, it can negatively effect an otherwise strong listing.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

Build Citations and keep consistent information across the web for your name, address and phone number
--Tim Coleman

Citations including brand, phone number and address mentions are an important part of Off-place/Off-site factors for PURE Place Search results.
--James Svoboda

Diversity and quality of external sources creates certain amount of trust that will help boost pure place rankings. Sources with high quality are more likely to get aggregated by Google's search algoritms
--Martijn Beijk

Links to your website are key. No linky, no ranky, at least for competitive queries.
--Andrew Shotland

Great Links....they are the winner!!!
--Dave Oremland

Inbound links to your website that reinforce your location and products/services strengthens Google's trust in where you are and what you do.
--Mary Bowling

PageRank has been, and continues to be, a primary ranking factor within Maps and by extension, in the PURE Place Search rankings.
--Chris Silver Smith

Local directories, an area that we've always been sceptical on, have in the past year, become more important to our client rankings -- enough that we now feature our own select group of same and actively pursue same for our client roster...citations DO work....and we think that the list of available citation spots is growing....and is listened to by all search engines as well!
--Jim Rudnick

Links from other key directories important
--Larry Sullivan

Trust is important, especially in competitive spaces, so get quality links. You should at least have some links that are have the company name as the anchor text. This tells Google that the company is important.
--Brian Combs

Off-site references to the businesses' name, address, phone number, or business url in full are often picked up as unstructured citation sources. Link anchor text that specifically mentions primary category + city keywords can be beneficial as well, but not as much as they are in blended results.
--Dev Basu

We're still seeing lots of leverage from the basics: Getting into the major local directories, building links from relevant local sites. As things get more competitive, I expect to see social 'check in' services gaining importance.
--Ian Lurie

The Old Algo is still dominated by three things off site
1. Citations
2. Reviews
3. User Generated Data
--Mike Ramsey

Building citations has always been the most important off-site factor for local rankings...now it seems citations AND reviews are equally important...and its not just review volume. Google's first actions seems to be "rank businesses with the most reviews first", and then order those results by positive sentiment.
--Jeff Gold

Ratings and reviews are critical. First primarily volume of reviews, now quality of reviews.
--Gregg Stewart

Taking the time to network via Social Media often results in quality links, mentions and citations to your business that all support rankings.
--Lisa Kolb

The inclusion of social media is being noticed, but the potential ranking signals are still evolving. With the addition of Google +1, improved Google Latitude functionality and Foursquare implementation, it's clear social media will need to be included in current and future local SEO strategies.
--Erik Whaley


REVIEW ADVICE FOR PURE LOCAL RANKINGS

It appears that a huge volume of reviews relative to competition with virtually no reviews or relatively few reviews makes a significant difference.
--Dave Oremland

Having an above average number of reviews for your industry or vertical seems to affect place search rankings positively.
--Don Campbell

Business reviews are still one of the most important PURE Place Search ranking factors. And now that Hotpot has been integrated with Google Places, they have an even larger volume of review data from which to incorporate into their local search algorithms. Their data also contains more information about each individual reviewer. Data points on reviewers can be everything from how many reviews this person have placed (think power reviewers and Yelp's elite), search history and social connections that might influence reviews and ratings, to common business types that could indicate a deeper understanding of that business type (think of a someone who reviews 12 sushi restaurants and rates some better than others, this persons ratings might carry more weight than someone who has only reviewed 1 sushi restaurant).
--James Svoboda

Its not only about review volume anymore, its review sentiment. The results skew towards the more positively reviewed businesses first, although they are not always in direct order of review sentiment. Also, all reviews are not created equally. The sentiment and volume of reviews from the powerhouse sites, i.e. Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Google Places itself, seem to be weighted more heavily.
--Jeff Gold

More reviews = better rankings. Better rating reviews = More customers clicking on your listing.
--Mike Ramsey

As review volume might be of some ranking help (after many other factors) it can be a huge key to conversion. Stand out in the rankings from the others with the number of quality reviews of your business.
--Aaron Weiche

Ask that reviewers provide as many details as possible if you have the opportunity to coach them. Don't ask for higher ratings or bogus praise, but asking them to describe what you provided for them in detail in their review really helps when it comes to informing Google of long-tail search relevancy.
--Ed Reese

Overall Volume of Reviews of Place - At this point Google appears to see reviews as a stronger signal to the legitimacy of a business when compared to traditional citations. As reviews are easier to create illegitimately, we do not believe this will necessarily be the case moving forward. Product/Service Keywords in Reviews - The appearance of additional reviews with consistent use of keywords can have a very positive impact on rankings for those keywords.
--Adam Dorfman

Keywords in reviews are making a strong impact, especially on long-tail searches.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

Don't stuff the reviews, either. A natural distribution of positive and negative is your best bet.
--Ian Lurie

Quality reviews are important for both placement and customer sales. They should NOT be contrived, NOT keyword stuffed and NOT received in bulk or too quickly. Authentic, quality reviews are best!
--Lisa Kolb

One little tip that can make a big difference. The customer's use of certain keywords and also how they use the business name can help or hurt you, so guide customers when asking for reviews, when appropriate. Example: A Dental office has problems with an unclaimed duplicate in the Drs. name outranking the main practice Place page. Patients keep leaving reviews saying Dr. Smith was great, which just makes the unclaimed, ugly plain dupe stronger. Even if you link to the practice Place page, G will often pull the review if it says Dr. Smith and add it to the Dr. Place page. A carefully worded request when you ask for reviews can help.
--Linda Buquet

To date, I have not seen much evidence of Google sorting rankings based on review sentiment. Overall volume of reviews is still a leading factor, with native Google reviews being as important if not more important than reviews from structured 3rd party sites. hReview formatted reviews from the business' website are also being picked up but it is yet to be seen whether they carry the same trust as reviews from sites such as Yelp, Kudzu, InsiderPages etc.
--Dev Basu

Reviews aren't what they used to be, but they're still important. Not convinced that reviews on your own site do much. This is so easy to game. On the other hand, they're easy to set up, quality content for users, and, if it does help, every little bit is important.
--Brian Combs

Again consistency of NAP important so that Google can link third party reviews to Place Page. Additionally, there appears to be a correlation of owner responded/commented reviews scoring higher that non text reviews and simple.text reviews.
--Gregg Stewart

Again, for our clients it appears to be the inclusion of keywords and category and channel titles that appear to be gaining ground for them...we continue to see that positive reviews, with 5 star ratings, seem to bring in better, quicker and more lasting rankings too...
--Jim Rudnick

There is a common link between user generated content and reviews and increased visibility. Finding a way to organically gain new customer reviews is very important.
--Erik Whaley

There continues to be a close correlation between reviews and rankings. However, it's not clear whether this is a direct or indirect correlation. As such, good overall promotion work for your business should be done and should include some encouragement of review activity among clients in order for your business to fit in the popular demographic which will rank well.
--Chris Silver Smith

Forget about ranking. Do a good job and create a great reputation and this will take of itself. If you have a customer who is unsatisfied, call them back and try and satisfy them and this will have a way of working itself out.
--Tim Coleman

Reviews may not matter much if you are in an industry where review volume is traditionally low.
--Mike Belasco

Velocity trumps volume. Sentiment appears to be more of a human factor than a ranking factor.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

In certain verticals where reviews are commonplace, it appears that the volume and velocity can make a difference.
--Andrew Shotland


BLENDED RANKING FACTORS: COMMENTS FROM THE EXPERTS

PLACE PAGE ADVICE FOR BLENDED LOCAL RANKINGS

Blended listings are just that, a blend of both Organic and Places listings. Before October 2010 business owners could concentrate on one or the other or both and they would have an opportunity for page one placement in a variety of ways. After October 2010 this is no longer the case. Business owners must now concentrate on both quality organic placement and at the same time establish and maintain local placement in order to achieve a high blended listing. Authority is the key.
--Lisa Kolb

Overall, it's traditional organic SEO factors influencing rankings in Blended results. A Places listing only needs marginal optimization as long as the website landing page (for that query) can rank well organically.
--Steve Hatcher

If Google can't associate your website with your Place page, you won't get a blended listing. This puts you at a disadvantage when your competitors have blended listings and you do not, since blended listings contain more information and take up more space on the page.
--Mary Bowling

Place Page details appear to have become mildly weaker under blended Place Search, but the important details which must be focused upon to help insure higher rankings involve items which validate the association between the location, the website, and the basic business listing data (name, address, phone, URL, category/keywords). The factors on the website need to sing in unison with the factors on the Place Page. The location settings for the Place Page also need to be geographically relevant to the user's location search. So, the geolocation, the city, the zip, and any service area settings should match with what consumers are searching upon for your area.
--Chris Silver Smith

With the new search results pages it appears that traditional SEO is more important than ever.
--Martijn Beijk

Place Page-specific factors are similar for Blended Place Search rankings as they are for Place Search rankings, however they are either reduced slightly or other website-specific factors are weighted more.
--James Svoboda

Optimizing the Place Page specific factors is the same for pure results, but with added impact from Website and Off-Page factors.
--Brian Combs

The biggest problem businesses face is getting an otherwise optimized place page to associate with their website to create a blended result. In my opinion blended results rely more upon website signals that tie it to the place page than the place page to the website. Nonetheless, key place page factors I've observed include having the place page landing URL set to the home page of the website, and for the business name, address, and phone number to match the same fields on the website.
--Dev Basu

One of the biggest changes with the new blended SERPS was the addition of the logo as featured part of the listing. This image can be controlled if you have a Places account, if not it's pulled in from 3rd party data (scary thought). This image can also be 'optimized' to increase CTR and resulting web site traffic.
--Erik Whaley

Same approach on the place page side for either pure or blended.
--Tim Coleman

These are roughly the same as pure Place listings.
--Ian Lurie

Similar to PURE results, though Place page factors less important in blended.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

We've found that for many clients in narrow channels, the results are not mirrored as they are for much larger channels...say 'stapping machine service' versus 'running shoes' -- the difference is notable as well as confusing when it comes to gauging factors that work for Place specific rankings....so as yet, we continue to be analyzing the data...
--Jim Rudnick

Correct Category choices are still majorly important. Now, the landing page you direct traffic to is eqaully (if not more) important.
--Mike Ramsey

Proper Category Associations - Selecting categories that match up with the Places Landing Page content is critical to ensure that a business appears in the blended results. Choosing a category that is unrelated to the content will almost always trigger a flag in Google that excludes the business from being included in the blended results.

Proximity of Address to Centroid - Less important than in pure local results but a good location is still required for ranking well for blended results.

Marginal Category Associations - Choosing proper secondary categories is something we spend a lot of time on. We have repeatedly seen secondary categories influence the rankings for keywords that fall under the primary category. We see this as being an extension of Latent Dirichlet Allocation and make sure that any secondary categories we choose have related content on the landing page to ensure overall consistency.
--Adam Dorfman

Organic listings that have relevant Place Pages have a 1 + 1 = 3 effect. The presence of both in, or near, the top 10 of their respective SERP's lift each other up in organic results. Review volume doesn't seem to hurt either...
--Jeff Gold

1. You virtually have to be within the city to get high rankings. That isn't always the case....and a site outside of a metro border with a relatively very strong website can displace sites within the borders...wherein the difference in site strength is dramatic.
--Dave Oremland

Physical location is the #1 factor
--Andrew Shotland

Correct address, zip, local phone correct category adding additional keywords
--Larry Sullivan

Quantity and location of third party reviews. Hierarchy starts with Yelp, Insiderpages, citisearch. Tripadvisor and open table, zagats increased importance for travel and restaurant verticals.
--Gregg Stewart


WEBSITE ADVICE FOR BLENDED LOCAL RANKINGS

In traditional SEO, you want your website to tell Google that it is about X. With blended local SEO, you need the website to tell Google it's about X, the company name is Y, and the company is located in Z.
--Brian Combs

Website-specific factors play a much larger role in Blended Place Search rankings. Once Google launched the blended SERPs, it became apparent that they were more akin to an organic ranking search that had been majorly enhanced with Places data. If you were doing good for organic keywords, you would likely rank well in the blended results. I have even seen listings for businesses that have such an inferior Places profile as to not show up in a 7-pack, but are ranking in the first spot (listing A) for a blended SERP due to their organic optimization and solid backlink profile.
--James Svoboda

Traditional SEO best practices seem very key to ranking well in Blended results.
--Mike Belasco

Website optimization is the most powerful force in ranking well in the blended listings. Be certain to optimize your entire website for location+product/service terms for the best results. Then, build links that reinforce that optimization.
--Mary Bowling

Proper SEO optimization to a site is no longer an option. Good on-going content optimization and link building can boost the overall rankings of a place page in blended search results
--John Shehata

The advent of Google Place Search appears to have increased the influence of PageRank and PageRank-related factors for ranking in the BLENDED Place Search rankings. For instance, you will not find listings without associated websites in the blended results as we have historically found in the "pure" 7box/1box results. This makes some sense when you consider that they have worked very hard to merge classic web search listings with business listings in the blended results. Keyword relevancy also appears to be a stronger factor now, in the blended results, and particularly the keywords found in prominent/visible text on the business website homepage.
--Chris Silver Smith

A blended listing is part organic, part local. Your website provides the On-Page SEO for location search phrases. Your website's organic placement will dictate part of the blended listing placement. Thus, quality links, content, off-page SEO and all the things that support your organic placement will impact your overall blended listing.
--Lisa Kolb

I've definitely noticed that businesses with a well optimized website in addition to a complete Places Page rank better than those without a well optimized website.
--Don Campbell

In my review, the most critical factor for any business being shown in the blended results is the overall strength of the website. Everything you ever knew about SEO + Local SEO with a strong, strong emphasis on rich, lengthy, optimized copy. This is where it's at!
--Miriam Ellis

With blended results we have seen the importance of organic SEO move ahead of local and map data points. A well trusted and optimized website for your offering and location is a must to move up the rankings.
--Aaron Weiche

Website-specific factors becomes more important in Blended Place Search rankings. Direct correlation of the NAP is critical.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

With good SEO strategy you should have all the basics covered which seems to be enough.
--Martijn Beijk

The usual suspects in on-page optimization translate into blended results. Domain strength seems to play a big role, as I've seen the homepage of competing hotel brand websites rank for a term like [boston hotels], attached with one of their Boston hotels Place Page. Unique domains linking to the landing page domain is HUGE.
--Jeff Gold

Domain authority matters in Blended place searches.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

PageRank / Authority of Landing Page Specified in Places - Our team went back and forth arguing over whether it was the factors that Google looks at to determine PageRank or whether it was the PageRank score itself that is most important. At the end of the day, we concluded that Google's algorithm for blended results uses both but feel at this point they are more likely to look at the overall score instead of the individual factors. City, State in Places Landing Page Title - This is critical for search queries that include the location. Not as important for generic search queries that trigger local results.
--Adam Dorfman

I have seen the power of Title Tags in Places listings and it is literally shocking. Say hello to the new custom categories.
--Mike Ramsey

Get appropriate meta titles, H1 tags and if possible url all on the correct path and it helps enormously.
--Dave Oremland

The title tag of the website became as big a factor for local as it has always been for traditional organic. You can expect ranking and ctr to be effected by how the title is written.
--Tim Coleman

Same as pure results. Microformating, ect.
--Erik Whaley

Highly relevant landing page, specific for the location and the authority (PageRank, volume of incoming links, anchor text relevancy of links, etc.) of the domain.
--Aleyda Solis

The single most important website-specific factor is to have location and category/product specific information included in the title tags, headers, and body content of the website. The next most important factor is to have hCard and hReview encoded NAP data and testimonial data. If a business has multiple locations, I suggest creating a unique landing page per location rather than aggregating 2 or more NAP data on a common 'locations' page.
--Dev Basu

Same as pure results full address in footer, local keywords.
--Larry Sullivan

Again, DO NOT over-optimize. This is the most common mistake we're seeing.
--Ian Lurie

#2 Other - Product/Service keyword in site title tag is missing. Also should probably be another 'other' for overall site theme matching primary product/service/

In most markets, plain old on-site SEO factors, especially a skillfully crafted title tag counts more than people realize. Tip - Phone in title tag can give a good boost. Making sure NAP matches on site and Place is a major key.
--Linda Buquet


OFF-PLACEPAGE / OFF-SITE ADVICE FOR BLENDED LOCAL RANKINGS

Link building is like making a stew. If you've got all of one ingredient, it doesn't taste very good. You need a blend. Same with link building. You need high quality links of various types. Some junky keyword-stuffed links can help, but you don't want to many. For local SEO, it's the same game, but you also must have links with the company name as the anchor text (to establish importance) and some that include location information (to establish place).
--Brian Combs

Citations and link building become that much more important. There still appears to be 2 seperate alogorithms going on here, but finding synergy between citation building and link building can be rewarding.
--Erik Whaley

Quality of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL - Traditional linkbuilding has proven to be very successful when trying to improve our rankings in blended search results. We anticipate this trend continuing.

Volume of Traditional Structured Citations - This is more important for blended results as the citations often double as quality links pointing back to the business' Places landing page URL.

Quality of Inbound Links to Website - Even though the Panda update mitigated some of the influence that Google's domain authority signal has, we continue to see business websites with strong overall link profiles having a distinct advantage when it comes to ranking highly for blended search results.
--Adam Dorfman

Links and link-text are obviously highly influential as part of the PageRank elements involved in blended Place Search results. In addition, non-link citations may be increasingly factoring into rankings, although they are more difficult to analyze and quantify in terms of impact.
--Chris Silver Smith

Quantity and quality of inbound links to the targeted landing page is big. Domain strength, and the number of unique linking domains is even Bigger.
--Jeff Gold

Quality links, diverse link sources, and anchor text are incredibly valuable.
--Dave Oremland

The quantity of inbound links seems to be in stasis, i.e. the value for same is constant for our client list...IP variables are needed but so far no movement for us...Again, local directories seem to help and a note that the strength of DMOZ, once a force we noted, has now drained away completely...i.e. we see no impetus to even try to acquire links there needed anymore...
--Jim Rudnick

Get quality links from sites that have location authority. Examples: Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitor's Bureau, City, State and regional sites.
--Mary Bowling

Linkbuilding becomes MUCH more important in Blended Place Search rankings. Really strong (SEO) sites can even beat Places.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

Location + Keyword links pointing at the landing pages and website associated with your places listing is now a must. Citations keep the places listing tied to the website. Links keep the Places listing moving up the list.
--Mike Ramsey

It is clear that "traditional" SEO best practices including building quality links paired with local SEO "traditional" best practices performed very well for our clients when the Blended results began appearing. Other practioners who were in the same boat have told me the same.
--Mike Belasco

As Blended Place results have some strong correlating factors with Google's organic rankings, and a major Off-place/Off-site element of ranking in them is a website's link profile. These link factors include domain diversity, quality of backlinks, unique number of linking C block IP addresses, keywords contained within inbound anchor text and image alt text.
--James Svoboda

Links to your website are the gas that makes the car go. You want a diversified set of anchor text - biz name, target keywords, geokeywords, etc.
--Andrew Shotland

Quality links can make all of the difference in ranking.
--Aaron Weiche

Links are as important here as they are for standard organic rankings. But social media is a far bigger factor than last year. Encourage customers to Tweet/Fb when they're in your establishment.
--Ian Lurie

Association and rankings in the blended search results is largely reliant on overall anchor text specific links which mention a variation of the 'category + city' keywords. In my opinion, quality of the inbound links is not nearly as important at this point in time as domain diversity of incoming anchor text optimized links. Social and Check-in signals are also gaining importance and may be picked up as citations.
--Dev Basu

Taking the time to network via Social Media often results in quality links, mentions and citations to your business that all support rankings.
--Lisa Kolb

Similar approach build citations and links using consistent information.
--Tim Coleman

Listing in specialized directories.
--Larry Sullivan


REVIEW ADVICE FOR BLENDED LOCAL RANKINGS

Reviews aren't as important with Blended as it is for Pure. They work the same, but are a smaller percentage of the algo.
--Brian Combs

Review-specific factors are similar for Blended Place Search rankings as they are for Place Search rankings, but they carry a little less weight.
--James Svoboda

Google engineers continue to state that review and rating values are not affecting rankings. It's possible that Volumes of reviews/ratings may indicate popularity, and thus be used to some degree. According to ideas implied by Google patent filings, not all reviews might be equally influential, however. Individual user popularity may affect whether a specific review/rating is used to influence ranking. As such, I think that sites which have sufficient signals to allow Google to assess how popular/realistic a reviewer may be more important, similar to how Google may now be assessing the popularity of social media users, such as in Twitter.
--Chris Silver Smith

I look at reviews for more of a click-through-rate help than a ranking help in the new local algo.
--Mike Ramsey

It may just be that the results that naturally rank in the top 10, happen to be for bigger brands, thus their Place Pages have more reviews. But it sure seems like Blended results have a substantial number of reviews, positive reviews at that. Does having positive reviews influence ranking of Blended results...all signs point to yes.
--Jeff Gold

What I found striking was that sites that did exceptionally well in Pure rankings based on an overwhelming volume of reviews relative to the competition....just fell way down in the rankings if the site strength was weak or the business was outside or on the edge of the city border. That is a situation where blended and pure results can vary a lot.
--Dave Oremland

Keywords in reviews can make a difference on the margins. Reviewer authority seems to have some effect in the cases of categories with a lot of reviews, but I suspect this is just used as a proxy for links - authority reviewers have more URLs that link to the review.
--Andrew Shotland

We continue to measure social media site contributions to ranking factors but on the whole, it's still postive, 5 star rankings that seem to be taking the leads for our client rankings...tho we suspect that this will change soon...
--Jim Rudnick

Quality reviews are important for both placement and customer sales. They should NOT be contrived, NOT keyword stuffed and NOT received in bulk or too quickly. Authentic, quality reviews are best!
--Lisa Kolb

Again, I think of this more along the lines of reputation and conversion than ranking.
--Tim Coleman

Sentiment of reviews still appear to be more of a human factor than a ranking factor.
--Will Scott, Amy Arnold, Sara Tweedy, Paula Keller

Reviews are just as important for the blended results, but the diversity of those review sources seems to be a factor. Having all your reviews just on Google or Yelp alone won't be enough.
--Erik Whaley

Fresh native G reviews (negative or positive) = (at least temporary) bump in placement.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

Whitelist for rich snippets / microformats or work with a Google preferred supplier (e.g. Bazaarvoice)
--Martijn Beijk

hReview formatted testimonials and reviews crawled and scraped into Place Pages represent a great opportunity for businesses to add more reviews from their customers easily. Overall review volume and velocity are still the most important factors, with review sentiment being a minute factor. Review source diversity is also more important than sheer volume. For example, it's better to have 5 reviews each from 6 review sources, than to have 15 reviews from 2 sources.
--Dev Basu

Recent changes have opened the door to improve the number of reviews that filter into your Google Places page. Take advantage of hReview possibilities.
--Aaron Weiche

Positive reviews- lots of stars, helpful
--Larry Sullivan


NEGATIVE RANKING FACTORS

DON'T PUT THESE INTO PRACTICE

18 → 1 4.96 → 7.54
  1. Mis-match / Tracking Phone Numbers Across Data Ecosystem
    12.067.29n/a
  2. Multiple Place Pages with Same Phone Number
    11.96.61--
  3. Mis-match Address on Places Landing Page
    11.666.67n/a
  4. Mis-match / Tracking Phone Number on Places Landing Page
    10.517.54n/a
  5. No Crawlable Physical Address on Website
    10.37.04↓1
  6. Choosing to Hide Place Page Address
    8.967.39↓ 4
  7. Multiple Place Pages with Same/Similar Business Title
    8.667.45↓2
  8. No Local Area Code Phone Number on Website
    8.486.34--
  9. Multiple Categories in Same Input Field
    7.517.22n/a
  10. Non-Compliant Categories (those that do not fit "My Business Is a _____")
    7.037.29n/a
  11. Location Keyword in Categories
    6.787.36↓2
  12. 800 Number on Place Page
    6.516.6↓5
  13. Multiple Crawlable Phone Numbers on Places Landing Page
    6.396.46n/a
  14. Multiple Crawlable Addresses on Places Landing Page
    5.486.15n/a
  15. Low Numerical Ratings of Place by Google Users (e.g. 1-2)
    3.425.58↓4
  16. OTHER (If applicable, please indicate in comments)
    3.366.79n/a
  17. Low Numerical Ratings of Place by Third-Party Users (e.g. 1-2)
    2.365.05↓6
  18. Mis-Matched or Private WHOIS Information
    2.364.07n/a
  19. Negative Sentiment in Place Reviews
    2.34.96↓ 8

EXPERT COMMENTS

Avoid stuffing your Places Business Title with keywords.
--Mike Ramsey

Google wants to publish accurate information about businesses or no one will want to use Maps for a reference. When mismatched data is published by trusted sources (including your own website), it erodes Google's confidence in the information it sees about your business and can suppress rankings you might otherwise enjoy.
--Mary Bowling

The biggest problem is that issues such as these first create duplicate records, and in so doing the algo splits the link juice/citation juice, signal juice to the Pure Record resulting in lower rankings.
--Dave Oremland

Other items which can ding you: malware infection on website, paid links, cloaking, keyword hiding on webpage, keyword stuffing, etc.
--Chris Silver Smith

JUST SAY NO! Changing your business name, address or local number causes hours of work in order to get all your citations and trusted provider information updated. When the NAP + W is not uniquely accurate across the board, your placement will suffer! Also, if you advertise an 800 number, we have found it better to be used as an alternate number and not the main number in your Google Places Listing. The P in NAP is best as Local.
--Lisa Kolb

Also:
2 or more Place pages with the same address (unless it is one for the practice and one for individual doctor, lawyer, dentist, etc.)
Keyword Stuffed Business Title
--Will Scott and Team (Search Influence)

Stuffing the categories is a quick path to Google rejection. I've had several businesses come to me to ask why Google has rejected their their places listings, only to find they put multiple 'write-in' categories in the same input field, or tried to stuff location keywords in the categories...
--Don Campbell

Having an awful website, in general
--Miriam Ellis

Mismatched data of any kind is the biggest mistake you can make (other than spamming).
--Aaron Weiche

The rules are simple - Get a unique address, and phone number for every unique place page listing. Anything else will get your listing flagged.
--Dev Basu

Biggest negative factor is an unclaimed listing.
--Brian Combs

Adding keywords or city to title appears to help ranking (based on spammy Places that still rank high) but will eventually get you banned, so don't do it!
--Linda Buquet

Google Places is trying to tackle many of the issues listed. Your listing won't get verified if one of above is being detected. Your Place Page might also get suspended over time because of algorithm changes.
--Martijn Beijk

I put "OTHER" as the #1 negative factor because there are so many edge cases that in aggregate they add up to more negatives than any of the factors mentioned.
--Andrew Shotland


MOST IMPORTANT CITATION SOURCES (DATA PROVIDERS + IYP SITES; U.S. Specific)

  1. Yelp (↑ 6 spots from 2010)
  2. Superpages (↓ 1)
  3. Citysearch (↑ 2)
  4. Yellowpages (↓ 1)
  5. Infogroup (↓ 3)
  6. Yahoo Local (↑ 2)
  7. Localeze (↓ 2)
  8. InsiderPages (↑ 1)
  9. Niche Industry Sites (including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and DealerRater) (↓ 6)

Other sites receiving significant votes: Acxiom, Judy's Book, DexKnows, Best of the Web Local, Angie's List, BBB, Niche Geo-focused Sites.

MOST IMPORTANT REVIEW ENGINES (U.S. Specific)

  1. Yelp (-- from 2010)
  2. Google Places (↑ 1)
  3. Citysearch (↑ 1)
  4. Yahoo Local (↓ 2)
  5. Niche Industry Sites (including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and DealerRater) (↓ 2)
  6. InsiderPages (↓ 1)
  7. JudysBook (↑ 1)
  8. Superpages (↓ 6)
  9. YellowPages (--)
  10. Kudzu (↑ 2)

Other sites receiving significant votes: Niche Geo-focused Sites, Angie's List, Facebook, Merchant Circle.

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Portland, OR  97209
(503) 560-2755