No. 614
June 7th, 2010

Local Search Ranking Factors, Vol. 3

Earlier this morning, I published the results of the 2010 Local Search Ranking Factors survey.  Some of you may recognize the 2008 and 2009 editions, and as I said in my intro to this year’s version, it’s getting harder and harder even for the Local SEO experts, to keep up with all the developments in our industry.  I actually added 20 questions to this year’s survey to try to assess some of these new considerations–a daunting 30% increase in the workload for our panelists.

We had 34 experts take part, including a handful of gurus from Canada and Europe and one from Australia.  Their insights are truly remarkable, and although it’s a lengthy piece, I’d recommend getting into the full depth of the responses as soon as you have time.

I was particularly struck by the following responses this year:

  • Two practices which explicitly violate Google Places’ guidelines (or at least CAN violate them–thanks, Matt) received opposite responses from panelists–keywords in business title still came in as the #8 overall positive factor–though this was down almost half a point from last year.  Many folks thought this practice clearly still worked well, however, but hoped that it would further decrease in importance in the coming year.  The other particularly interesting question for me was use of location keywords in categories.  This was a major factor for ranking well a year ago, in my opinion, but many panelists reported seeing listings drop from the index altogether as a result of this practice today.  Google seems to be enforcing this guideline quite strictly.
  • The effectiveness of MyMaps received a noticeable boost according to the panel this year, and similar to reviews, quantity seems to be more important than quality.
  • The new-for-2010 questions about location service check-ins yielded a lot of discussion, but on the whole, the panel didn’t feel they were a strong ranking factor (at least yet).
  • Despite the dramatic increase in the number of searches for coupons–and the popularity of new social discount sites like Groupon and Yipit, the panel felt that adding coupons to your local listings only yielded a very slight increase in rankings.  I happen to agree with the wisdom of the crowd, which seems a bit strange that Google would not reward behavior that searchers are clearly interested in.  Adding photos and videos garnered a largely similar ho-hum response from panelists.
  • While KML files and microformatted addresses and reviews are certainly a “best practice,” none seems to be a major ranking factor, at least yet.
  • Overall, the panel was fairly nonplussed about Google Places’ new service area features but felt that the option to hide address would signficantly, and adversely, affect rankings.

Thanks again to all the experts for participating & I look forward to the upcoming discussion.