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Positive Local Search Ranking Factors – 2012 Edition

David Mihm’s annual local search ranking factors were released last week. Every year he sends a survey about local ranking factors to local search experts. The timing for this year’s report is interesting because the results came in just before Google switched to the new Google +Local layout. Expect next year’s results to be a bit different.

It’s a long and dull read for anyone that doesn’t live and breath this stuff so I’ll just give you the best bits instead. I’m only going to go in to the positive factors today. Next week we’ll take a look at the negative ranking factors.

Positive Local Ranking Factors

Having a physical address in city of search

Some of these may seem like no-brainers, but if you aren’t located where you’re trying to rank then you’re just not going to show up. If you have an address out of town but service a particular city then you can get away with that by using the service area feature, but you’ll have to make up for not having a centrally located address in other ways.

Using relevant categories in Google Places listing

Google lets you use custom categories, but it’s a good idea to use their provided categories first. After that, you can go crazy with your own categories.

PRO TIP: Naturally use a category or two in your business description for added relevance

The domain authority of the website

What is domain authority? An authoritative domain would be an updated 12 year old website with hundreds of natural links pointing to it. This is probably the only ranking factor that can’t be faked. Don’t worry about it, just do a good job and provide great content that people will want to link to.

Quantity of citations on 3rd party sites

A citation on a 3rd party site could be your listing on Hotfrog, or it could be a mention of your business in a local news story. Google sometimes counts citations even if there isn’t a link so don’t sweat it if you don’t get a great link from an interview, your name is out there and it still has value.

PRO TIP: Local listing sites like Manta, Hotfrog, True Local, etc. are definitely still worth bothering with. Get your listing on as many relevant sites as you can. If you’re a tradie, don’t forget about tradie directories; same if you’re a lawyer, doctor, etc.

PRO TIP 2: Bing and Apple have teamed up with Yelp to power local business searches. Yelp is just starting out in Australia so now is a great time to get in early.

Quantity of Google reviews

Notice it’s the quantity and not quality or sentiment. Machines can’t tell good old sarcasm from sincerity. Ratings are still tricky so if you have 100 negative reviews you have just as good a chance as someone with 100 positive reviews.

But then there’s the story of Vitaly Borker who harassed customers just so he’d get negative reviews, thus boosting rankings. He’s facing jail time now.

PRO TIP: Getting 10 reviews will expand your listing and show the new Zagat score

Thai Restaurant zagat reviews

PRO TIP 2: The quantity of reviews on 3rd party sites are a ranking factor too, don’t concentrate on Google reviews only

Using a local phone number

Having a local phone number is a big trust factor for Google. A 1300 number doesn’t look as good to searchers as a local landline number either.

Owner-verified Google Places listing

Google doesn’t show whether a listing is owner verified or not anymore, but claiming your listing is still important. It shows that the business is real and allows you to add nice information like a sweet keyword rich description and business hours.

Now go out there and get your listings optimised!

What do you think? Have any of these ranking factors been surprising? Have you already optimised everything? Do you have some work to do?

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