Ranking Higher in Local Business Results – Local Search Optimization

by on Feb 4, 2013

The process of ranking higher in local listings involves a lot of work. It is a process that requires working on both the listing and the website. It requires keeping track of several variables at the same time and it requires continues and careful examination of the competing listings.

Search engines do not make what makes their algorithms tick public and the same goes for local search. So ranking higher in result pages involves some guess work and a lot of testing. Because local listing algorithms have not been around for as long as regular search algorithms have been around, the knowledge of why some sites rank higher than others is limited aside from what we can figure out from the trail of patent applications.

Recent results of an ongoing survey on the opinions of the world’s experts in local search marketing shows that there is some consensus building regarding what factors can have negative and which can influence a business listing’s ranking.  So what are the factors that determine whether your business will be in the top 7 listings?


Local Search Ranking Factors

The factors that influence rankings are separated into two categories, changes on a place page and changes on a website. According to the latest results of the survey the top positive factors for ranking a Google Plus business page are the following:

Top Positive Factors

  1. Physical Address in City of Search (PLACE PAGE)
  2. Proper Category Associations (PLACE PAGE)
  3. Proximity of Address to Centroid (PLACE PAGE)
  4. Domain Authority of Website (WEBSITE)
  5. Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators) (OFF-SITE)
  6. City in Places Landing Page Title (WEBSITE)
  7. Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews (w/text) (REVIEWS)
  8. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations (OFF-SITE)
  9. Local Area Code on Place Page (PLACE PAGE)
  10. HTML NAP Matching Place Page NAP

Source: Local Search Ranking Factors by David MIHM, June 2012

Physical Address in City of Search

Most business do well in satisfying the most important factor is to some extent. This becomes a problem with businesses that serve multiple cities and locations. This factor has to do only with the listing itself and not the business website.

Proper Category Associations

Categorizing the listing properly helps in associating it with the term a searcher is using to find a business. Correct categorization of the place page results in higher rankings.

Proximity of Address to Centroid

Rankings are impacted by how close the address of the city is to the centre of the city. This factor is not alas influential as it once used to be, but still plays an important role.

Domain Authority of Website

Now this is a big one. In a nutshell, domain authority is a measure of the credibility of a site. This is a factor of the site’s size, quality, popularity and age. If a site has been around for a few months, has a couple of pages and is not referenced anywhere, it won’t rank well in neither local or regular search. This factor has to do with the website itself and not the listing.

Quantity of Structured Citations

Structured citations are mentions of the business’s name, address and phone number on Internet Yellow Pages or a regular directory type website. Businesses that are submitted in more such directories are treated preferentially and ranked higher. This factor does not have anything to do with the business Google plus page nor the business website. Itis clearly a matter of how many mentions a business has in Canadian business directories such as canada411.ca, yellowpages.ca, 411.ca or, canpages.ca, bbb.org and others.

City, State in Places Landing Page Title

For a business listing to have the highest chances of ranking better the listings pages should have the city name in the title. Keep in mind that longer titles can be perceived as attempts to game the algorithm and have a negative impact on rankings.

Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews

While all reviews are syndicated,  reviews on the actual Google places or plus page have a much greater impact on rankings than reviews on other websites.

Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

The greater the number of citations the better. Business listings with more citations will rank higher than others. If two listings have the same number of citations, the listings with citations form higher quality websites will rank higher.

Local Area Code on Place Page

While local listings with 1800 numbers can rank well, if a listing satisfies the above factors, listings with local numbers will rank higher. Listings with 416, 647 and 905 numbers rank higher for all Toronto keywords. Just look at the screenshopt of the “toronto locksmith ” 7-pack above.

HTML NAP((Name, Address, Phone)  Matching Place Page NAP

The Name, Address, Phone number of a listing must be exactly the same as the ones on the business listing. While this factor is less important than the others it still can make a difference.

While by satisfying the above factors it can and will rank higher in local business results. The whole process takes some time to set up.

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