No. 1533
June 11th, 2012

Local Search Ranking Factors, Vol. 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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