• http://www.mijnbuitenspeelgoed.nl/ Buitenspeelgoed

    Verry interesting! I’am going to test some of these tips, thanks for sharing!

  • Peter_Brown

    Google recently mentioned that they’re now using considerations from the main link index when looking to rank a places page, would be interesting to see this study expended to see any correlation between the top ranking places page against their on-page & off-page.

  • ericmobley34

     Very interesting. I’m happy to see some analysis on this subject using a more scientific approach. This is a nice summary, I think it will be worth it to read the entire report from Bizible as well.

    It is kind of weird to see having 5 or more reviews is one of the top ranking factors since that can be so easily manipulated. Would think that there will come a day where reviews only help conversions but have low effect on rankings (think description meta tag).

  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    these factors or correlated, not proven to be causing higher rankings. that said it was an interesting study and one i’ll be sure to bring up at this weeks DFWSEM meeting on Local SEO.

  • http://twitter.com/davidmihm davidmihm

    Interesting study, thanks for sharing, Andrew.  Couple comments on your high-level take (unfortunately I’m crazy busy today so I’ll have to dive into the actual study later in the week):

    1) Given what we all know about category specificity and exact-match custom categories, I find it amazing that this study indicates a higher ranking for those businesses who use a generic category like “restaurant” ahead of “pizza.”
    2) Given that the “at a glance” content is largely pulled from either traditional reviews or non-traditional reviews, seems like they found a much higher correlation for keywords in reviews than even your take lets on.  This is probably the most interesting data point for me.
    3) Location in city of search is still hugely important, from what I’ve seen (some of this is likely due to inbound anchor text) and I have a feeling that their data-driven approach is not “getting” this due to location-sensitivity on Google’s part.  What have others seen in their client analyses?
    4) From what I’ve seen, review volume as a ranking factor is completely relative to your competitors.  There’s no magic # of 5 reviews if you are a restaurant in San Francisco, for example.  That would be ridiculous.  The benefit of getting 5 reviews is that your star rating becomes visible and it’s a click-through improver, however.

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland


    I agree there are a number of potential flaws/questions in the data/methodology – as there would be with any study like this.  I thought the approach was interesting enough to be worth sharing here.  I’ll leave it to others smarter than myself to pick it apart.  Your point re the # of reviews is spot on.  Seems like this one falls more into the “correlation v. causation” bucket.

  • http://twitter.com/davidmihm davidmihm

    I think it’s an important study & am not trying to pick apart methodological flaws (esp since I’m not a statistician nor have I had time to read the full study yet).  It’s just getting harder to get a “standard” set of results to compare anymore.

    As I said I found the keywords-in-reviews / non-traditional-reviews data point extremely interesting and that in and of itself is worthy of follow-up analysis.

    Interested to hear what others think!

  • http://twitter.com/BirdsTweets Aaron Bird

    Re the # of reviews:   Remember that this an average result for 22 cities and 22 categories.  The average Places page has very few reviews and if you are one of the only businesses in the results that shows a star rating, this will likely drive clicks, which will help your ranking.  Obviously, hotels and restaurants in larger cities will be an exception, but this study focused the average.

    I’d be happy to do a deep dive with you on some of the data if you want to better understand how we came to these conclusions or if you are interested in a follow-up analysis (like the keywords in reviews, etc).

    We are happy to work with experts in the Local SEO space to get the possible data and conclusions for the community.  We’d love to have you (and others) participate in the next parts of our studies (reviews, citations, on-site, links/offsite) if you are interested in helping.

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    Totally agree re the “standard” set.  Ultimately the only way to figure this out for every time of SERP is to be Google :)

  • Coach Cijaye

    Thanx for sharing Andrew.  I have definitely seen the correlation between reviews and the places listings being ranked. In fact I have also seen in the case where there are MANY listings, those with reviews often get top rank (regardless). I do agree with Eric it is sad that these reviews can be bought / manipulated and therefore they may not be quite so valuable – yet they are a still a reason that others are not seen. I am sure we will see this shift as more abuse occurs… Oh well – I still found the article valuable and have shared the link and top tips with my Online Marketers Club (hope you don’t mind).  Thank you again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CloudBoomers Julie Larson

    Good article, Andrew! My 2 biggest take-a-ways were to get that 5th Google review and to be sure to include the search category in the business description.

    Thank you for sharing!!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/localoptimizer Dave

    Some years ago I was fortunate to participate in a study organized by Mike Blumenthal which was a little similar in methodology, was reviewed by a statistician,  but smaller in scope.  I think  we reviewed 3 categories, had less cities and we went 100 deep into Places (then G Maps) results.   Even now there is some overlap with regard to findings though Bizable’s is larger, more thorough and detailed.   

    I tend to believe in things like this in general, though my other efforts indicate some other factors that have impact.  I see where Bizible will be looking at other factors…and I believe they will show other important criterion.

    In my experience location from where you are searching within a metropolitan region has very very significant impact.   This is mitigated by the type of product/service and the number of competitors within the region.   Lots of pizza restaurants spread throughout a metropolitan region…lots less technology classes within a region.   

    Lots of factors to be considered.    

    Here is one little personal finding on what pretty important keyword phrase for one client.  Over a couple of months I managed to move them from out of the PAC to into the PAC to the top of the PAC at #1 w/ over 5 G reviews for possibly the 2nd or 3rd most active search phrase w/ appropriate geo modifier.   Additionally the client tends to rank #1 in PPC for that phrase.

    Biggest take away so far–>   Instead of traffic being roughly 50/50 organic/PPC   we are now running about 75% organic//25% PPC.    LOL   take that Google you big $$ machine.

    (gulp)  probably shouldn’t have said that  ;) 

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    Dave, just forwarded your comment over to Sergey.  He’s going to put in some 20% time just for you.

  • GoogleGuy1

    Maybe these guys can put their money where their mouth is. If you search ‘local seo seattle’ or ‘local search marketing seattle’ in Google Places – they don’t show up. In fact, you can’t even find a listing for the company!

  • http://www.ehlinelaw.com/ Injury Lawyer

    I have not found that reviews have any effect on ranking in Places.

  • http://twitter.com/WaterGlassPipe Water Glass Pipe

    This is good article but all of the above we have to maintain our content very fresh and updated to get good result.
    glass water pipes

  • http://dagmarmarketing.com/ Chris Gregory

    I always appreciate anyone putting in the time to do data analysis and share their findings.  Having done my share of statistical analysis I would add the following – The data set of 20 listings and 30 ranking factors might be too small to draw conclusions from given the hundreds of factors Google takes into account.  This certainly can be a starting point though.  

    For instance…in my experience I have seen gaining reviews in an “over time” pattern has significant impact on rank – everything else constant.  It is possible that analyzing 20 accounts that all 20 could have had their reviews for months with no movement.  I’m sure Bizable would agree with this but thought I would take that one point and give my take because I definitely think adding reviews over 5 in an ongoing way is a very significant factor.

  • http://gyitsakalakis.com/ Gyi Tsakalakis

    Hi Michael,

    Really? We have. I’m w/ David above though, it’s relative to competitors. Although, upon a cursory review, doesn’t look like a ton of PI firms in San Fran are sending clients to Places.

    This may prove an interesting case study.

  • http://twitter.com/BirdsTweets Aaron Bird


    The “over time” pattern is one I have also seen (anecdotally) and when we do our study of reviews, we are considering adding this as a signal, as well as “review velocity” for having many recent reviews.  Thanks for the input.

    As for the data set, we analyzed a a little over 14,300 Places pages (22 cities x 22 categories x 30 results deep), and 30 ranking factors, so it was a statistically significant sample size.

  • http://www.yolkrecruitment.com/ Yolk Recruitment

    One thing that doesn’t help your Google place ranking is verifying it. Since we verified ours we dropped off the map and everytime we make a small change to listing it requires us to verify it again. It’s getting very frustrating and Google has no really support line for these things.

  • ReynoldsPest

    This is the first post I have seen on Google Places that has ever given me an useful insight, thank you for the post.

  • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com Matthew Hunt

    Some good stuff in this study that supports most of what any decent local seo’er has been preaching for a while. 

    interesting that no description made no ranking change, but having a category in description did. 

    and review 5 makes a ranking difference, but not again until past 100.  interesting stuff.

  • http://dagmarmarketing.com/ Chris Gregory

    Aaron,  I missed that number and would agree that 14,300 would be a valid sample data set.  Thanks for clarifying.

  • http://twitter.com/EdmontonSEO Darren Shaw

    Aaron, looking at the full report over on the Bizible site, you write:
    “Having the primary category match a broader category of the search category was associated with a 1.42 improvement in rank. For example, primary category is set to “restaurant” and the search category was “pizza.”Just to clarify, is the search category ALSO one of the categories in the listing? For example, listings with ‘restaurant’ as their first category AND ‘pizza’ as an additional category were associated with a 1.42 improvement in ranking, or are you saying that listings with just ‘restaurant’ and NOT ‘pizza’ saw the 1.42 improvement in ranking? 

  • http://twitter.com/BirdsTweets Aaron Bird

    We did not run the analysis with both signals tied together (like you are asking for), but looked at them in isolation.  The statement “Having the primary category match a broader category of the search category was associated with a 1.42 improvement in rank.” is when all other signals are held constant, so it does not make a claim about the secondary categories (or any other signal for that matter.)

  • local SEO dude

    Andrew, you mentioned this data is pre-Venice. Have you (or any else) noticed any difference due to Venice? (or maybe bizible will share in as they release their other findings)

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    I believe Bizible is going to do a post-Venice run of the data soon

  • http://www.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    Excellent information Andrew. I always prefer a data-driven approach to Local SEO, global SEO or any Internet marketing tasks in general. The key issue to applying the stated findings becomes how can one influence the composition of the “at a glance” section of the Google Places local listing as this influential section is generated algorithmically according to Google Support (http://support.google.com/maps/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1344353). The information and findings you present would have greater value if accompanied by any insights into how the Google Places algorithm populates the “at a glance” section, otherwise the information, it’s value and ability to act on it is limited. If what David Mihm. said is true, namely that “the Given that the “at a glance” content is largely pulled from either traditional reviews or non-traditional reviews, seems like they found a much higher correlation for keywords in reviews than even your take lets on.” If David’s theory is true, one might try to influence reviews, but based on my experience, this observation seems to be only a small part of the “at a glance” population equation. I would be interested to know if anyone else has theories on how the “at a glance” population info gets sourced from besides reviews, which we arguable have limited influence on in many cases any? Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/bizible Bizible

    Updated for Venice: http://blog.bizible.com/google-places-page-optimization-4-12-update/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcos-Maiero/26708309 Marcos Maiero

    I don’t even know where to begin.  The “findings” in this article are so wrong and misdirected, I am truly at a loss for words.  The fact that this comes from someone who regards himself as a Local SEO consultant is shocking, to say the least.  The author ought to be ashamed of himself, and how he can sleep at night having taken money from businesses for consultation and “help” with their Google Place Pages, I simply do not know.  At least he manages to reiterate a few points that are common knowledge to those heavily involved with Local SEO, but that only adds to the comedy of the overall piece.  I’m guessing this being the “PHD” version signifies that it’s Pretty Hard to Digest. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcos-Maiero/26708309 Marcos Maiero

    Contact me and I will get your situation straightened out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcos-Maiero/26708309 Marcos Maiero

    Let me guess, are you paying Findlaw?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcos-Maiero/26708309 Marcos Maiero

    Judging from the article above, that would make perfect sense.