Recently, a friend of mine who works in SEO called to pick my brain about why a particular business wasn’t showing up well online. The business, a Family Dollar Store franchise in Albuquerque, received an 8% customer reach score.

When he searched on Google for “dollar store” in Albuquerque, the business did not show up on the first results page. The business also did not appear for the following relevant keywords that their competitors did:

missing keywords dollar store

To better understand why this franchise had a low visibility, we compared them to another franchise – in the same city – that did appear on the first page of Google.

This second Family Dollar Store ranked much higher, receiving a customer reach score of 58%. They came up for many of the same keywords as their competitors:

keywords dollar store

And they appear on many relevant sites:

dollar store listings

Given that these are two out of 23 Family Dollar Store franchises in Albuquerque (not to mention the dozens of other local dollar stores), what was making one more visible than another?

all dollar stores ALB

So we started looking for the usual suspects.

  • Does the higher-ranking business have a more relevant name? No, all the franchises have the exact same name.
  • Does the business have a better optimized website? No, they all share the exact same website.
  • Does the business have better products or services? No, they all sell the same products for a dollar.
  • Does the business have more online citations? No – in fact the low-ranking business has more online citations than the higher-ranking business.

Faced with this puzzle, I couldn’t help but think that there’s always a way to differentiate seemingly identical entities:

sixtuplets2

This is a problem many franchises face. When you’re selling the same product, with the same name, same website, in the same city, and with dozens of competitors, how can you stand out from the rest?

As we were trying to understand this discrepancy, sitting in front of a Google maps of New Mexico, it dawned on us -

blabla

Location, location, location. The business that scored 58% is 1.5 miles from what Google considers the city center and the business that scored 8% is 7 miles away. As Matt McGee reported, proximity of address to city centroid is the twelfth most important factor in one’s online visibility ranking.

What do you think – is that the whole story, or is there more to this picture?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Small Is Beautiful

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About The Author: is CEO at Palore, a provider of local businesses' advertising data and information on their online activity. He also blogs at The Palore Blog. This column is researched and written by the marketing department at Palore, which is led by Hanan.

Connect with the author via: Email



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  • http://www.moxby.org.uk moxby-design

    Firstly, thanks for this article – I’ve been having “fun” with our site and some of our clients’ businesses actually. It has seemed inconsistent in terms of the centrality of the city. So, for example a few weeks ago when I entered the two specific key phrases that Google Places now automatically show by default for Web Designers in our city… it showed one or two central to the city and then proceeded to add more from further away.

    When I look it to google.co.uk/local and entered the keyphrase, it seemed to arbitrarily rank businesses (in terms of their location relative to the city centre) and then when I went to page 2 and 3, some again were very close and some further out.

    I think centrality may be a useful factor, but there’s so much more to Google Places ‘optimisation’ (if I may use such a term) because a business is almost never going to physically set itself up right in the centre of a city just for high Places rankings. You set up where you can afford and commute to.

    I would be intrigued to see the tool you used for the top couple of screenshots, however.

    So, as with most things in terms of SEO, this may be ‘a’ factor and maybe is ‘the’ factor when you have identical businesses but people should be careful to distinguish between identical and ‘similar’ businesses before relying solely on geographical location for their Places rankings.

    But I will be interested to see what others have to say on this to further form my opinions.

  • @garydrinksd

    I definitely think in this case proximity to centroid can be a factor in the difference in rankings. However, there are so many other factors to consider as well. I know that Reviews and User Content play a big role in the Google Places rankings for certain keywords. Additionally, sometimes it is not about the sheer # of citations, but also the quality of those citations, similar to link building. Also, there are some on-site factors that may play into this as well. For franchise owners looking to rank in maps, having a specific location page that is optimized for local search on their website can help with this tremendously.

  • http://www.bighitmedia.co.uk BigHitMedia

    Nice blog, however I might point out one thing. There are lots of blogs around the internet explaining theory on what makes Google Maps tick. We have put in over 18 months extensive research to conclude, its all very simple. The rumours of the fact your business must be present in other directories , or the fact you must have an optimised business name ect..all false. We have found an ethical way of ensuring your map is given authority, therefore will shoot up the ranking within 3-4 days. It’s literally a matter of a few clicks and sit back. Just wanted to point this out, so people are not always relying on the same old methods, everyone seems to be blogging about. It’s really not as sophisticated as people think . :-)

  • wordswordsseowords

    “The business that scored 58% is 1.5 miles from what Google considers the city center and the business that scored 8% is 7 miles away. As Matt McGee reported, proximity of address to city centroid is the twelfth most important factor in one’s online visibility ranking.”

    Ah — OK, so do we now recommend our clients to move their business to the center of the centroid? :). Seriously, this seems bizarre. is it the case the centroid is a function of where google thinks the searcher is (assuming they don’t specify a location in the search) and then business that are closest to “you” get ranked higher or does google fix the centroid at a pre-defined physical locaiton. In either case, there’s absolutely nothing a business owner can do (with this factor). Am I understanding the conclusion of the article?

  • http://Vladimir Vladimir

    Well, obviously, all other things being equal, the most important factor which is different will be the limiting/deciding factor of rankings.

    So it seems to me that if location is the 12th most important factor and the analysis of the author is correct, then obviously the first 11 factors are identical?

 

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