Those involved in online Local Search marketing anxiously await the release of David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey each summer. If you’re not familiar with project, David has conducted the survey every year since 2008. It includes the expert opinions of dozens of respected SEO’s who specialize in Local Search and compiles the results in an effort to determine which factors have the most impact in ranking in the Local Search results at Google.
As Local Search becomes more and more complex, so does the survey. This year, we were asked to give our opinions on the factors that influence a local business’ rankings in both desktop and mobile devices for 3 distinctly different types of Local Search results:
Google Maps results – found for searches made at Google Maps and at apps based on Google Maps
Google Local Pack results (which includes the new Local Carousel) that appear clustered together within the organic results and are accompanied by Map pins
Google Localized organic results, which appear in the organic results personalized for the searcher’s location and do not include a Map pin
Fortunately, most of you don’t need to worry about the esoteric distinctions between the types of local results because the algorithms are all based on the same foundational factors. In most markets, getting these right will push you along the way towards decent local rankings. They are:
Choosing the correct categories for your business in your Google Places listing. Google has years of data to show it which search terms fit with which business categories. Ensuring that your business is in the most targeted categories let’s Google associate your company with all of the terms it knows go with those categories.
Having a real physical location with an address that is within the city or town being searched. Local Search is by definition search made for something within a specific geographic area. Those businesses located within that area get a natural advantage in Google Local Searches. In some cases,trying to rank in Local Search for locations where you do not have a shop, store or office may not be realistic. So if being found within Denver, for example, is important to your business, but you are really located in Boulder, you may wish to consider opening another location within Denver proper.
Having the same name, address and phone number for your company published on multiple sites that Google trusts for accurate business information. If Google sees the same data about your enterprise on these sites, it has confidence in its accuracy. However, if what Google sees is there is inconsistent, it suppresses the company’s Google Maps listing, since it doesn’t really want to prominently display information it’s not certain of in its search results. Factors 3, 4 and 6 on the list are related to widespread citation consistency on trusted sites.
Having the same company name, address and phone number in your Google Places listing as is published on your own website. The name, address and phone number need to appear on your website in text form, so that the Search Engines can easily read them.
Having a website that can compete well in the Google organic results with sites representing similar businesses within your geographic area. Domain authority is a rough measure of a website’s ranking potential. While it’s still possible to rank well in some areas without even having a website, that’s becoming more difficult all the time. It’s wise to compare your site to those of your competitors using this free tool: http:opensiteexplorer.org . If you lag your competition, you may need to work on getting more quality links to your website in order to increase its domain authority.
The above factors will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on your local rankings at Google, so concentrate on getting the above factors right before you worry about the other 90+ factors discussed in the survey.
You can read the entire 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors survey here . Don’t miss the comments made by all of the contributors. They may be the most valuable part of the research.