Local SEOs Analyze Current Google Ranking Factors

local-search-mapAlthough the local search landscape has changed pretty significantly, the fundamental elements of ranking well in Google’s local search results haven’t strayed dramatically from past years. That’s one of the main takeaways from the 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors report that’s just out today.

Organized (as always) by David Mihm, this year’s survey includes contributions from more than 40 local search marketers around the world. It looks at general Google signals such as Place Page vs. Website vs. Reviews (and more), as well the weight that specific factors may have on local rankings. The top five specific factors in this year’s survey are:

  1. Physical Address in City of Search (i.e., it’s hard to rank for “seattle real estate” if you’re based in Bellevue)
  2. Proper Category Associations
  3. Proximity of Address to Centroid (“centroid” is the geographic center of a city/town)
  4. Domain Authority of Website
  5. Quantity of Structured Citations

The survey goes on to separate positive ranking factors and negative ranking factors (i.e., having mismatched phone numbers can hurt local ranking visibility).

Not included is Google’s recent switch from Place Pages to Google+ Local Pages, which was announced right at the end of the survey period and — so far — doesn’t appear to have had much impact, if any, on local ranking factors.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Maps & Local | Google: SEO | SEO: Local


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://pestcontrolseo.wordpress.com/ Thos003

    Yes. The core factors in Local Rank have remained the same from the beginning.  In fact, many people may not realize how much weight those core factors really have. When we get down to asking if Facebook Likes are a factor, we’ve strayed too far. Not to say that some of the outlying factors aren’t fun to discuss, and in competitive niches they can make all the difference. But the original core is still there.

    Having said that, the mixed local results did change some of the original weight and traditional SEO has crossed over into local rankings. But if you get the core right, and couple that with good SEO then you are doing it right.

  • http://twitter.com/ProNetworkBuild Lonny Dunn

    Switching to Google + Social Network as a fundamental requirement into the club most definitely has an impact.  First of all, if the business owner didn’t open his/her own eMail on May 30th, and the Google + membership was filled out by an administrative assistant, that is a big issue.  Second, these businesses have nobody in their “circles”  just one more issue.  Third is the weight given to “posts” and to the quantity and quality of them.  Also to consider is that some local person in our circles may rate a business highly, and we’d see that in our search, as opposed to 40 strangers negative rankings.  Therefore if the business owner logs in and sees his business at the top of search, he’s pleased only to find out when he goes in blind, without logging into Google first, he finds himself on page 10. 

    To state that it has not yet had any impact, was to go ahead with this article, and not waiting, or just admit that the findings are irrelevant, and wait to do a mulligan.  We can’t be working on yesterday’s theories or assumptions with today’s facts.

    It is not anyone’s fault that Google unleashed this chaos without training or preamble.  It is up to use to deal with it factually however, and report reality.   There are a few entrenched “Places” accounts that converted nicely.  Many of them did not have a Google + account, and quickly adapted.  Those appear pretty much as normal.  But they can be displaced by a shrewd marketer, who cares little for Google’s games.  We can turn these problems into profits, and ignore those businesses with their old places accounts.  It’s up to the SEO person to see these opportunities and take advantage of them.  The risk in thinking there is no big deal, is that those older accounts can be knocked off the page. 

    But the biggest factor is that posts should not be spammy.  Now more than ever businesses are forced to become engaging, informative, and overall decent members of the community, and post quality content which appeals to the largest swath of the audience.  They can’t just put out specials, hours and deals, or nobody will + them, and their positions will be hurt.  And that my friends is something to ponder and consider mightily.

    I Tweet at @ProNetworkBuild:disqus

  • Matt McGee

    Lonny, as soon as Google got rid of Place Pages and replaced them with Google+ Local Pages, there were several analyses done of local search rankings. In each case, the rankings were the same. Ergo, so far, there’s been no impact on local rankings from the change.

  • http://twitter.com/PDurczak Przemysław Durczak

    I disagree- on my local market, all top positions in serp for certain phrase have their own g+ local pages and that wasn’t true so time ago

  • http://www.online-marketing.ch/ mateo meier

    Matt, do you know how many Categories can be added to one domain ? 

  • Matt McGee

    One domain? Do you mean one business listing? In the Google Places dashboard, I believe the max is five categories. At least it was the last time I was in there. :-)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/M5LJ2QSRLLCBZNLT3IV4ATEHSA Patrick Carter

    Okay, all of this is soo new to me. I am a visual artist trying to promote my prints online as opposed to going to galleries and shows. I have to do this due to my full-time job, so what I have been doing is diving into an area of SEO’s, tags, keywords, etc., etc. that I have no idea about. I am trying my best to learn more, but the difficulty of grasping current up to date information trickles through my fingers as there always seems to be something bigger and better on the horizon. I work on a tight budget, so I cannot afford to hire anyone which leaves me the GO-TO guy. I want to target 18-25 year olds, which is my target audience. Facebook seems to be losing it’s shine, and google+ isn’t generating traffic. Albeit, I haven’t focused as much with google+. Any information that anyone could provide to help me expand my site to others would be great. Like I said, I am a visual artist who doesn’t have time to create anymore due to job, trying to learn about all mentioned above, and a family I want to be around. Any suggestions or books/articles/blogs I could read on how to really make a difference with the time I have would be great. You can also check out my site at http://www.patrickjcarter.com to see what I have and maybe some ideas will pop up from someone. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I wish everyone the best.


  • http://www.monicawright.com Monica Wright

    Hey Patrick,
    My first recommendation is to start with the basics: http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo. SEO can be hard to digest because of so many nuances and details many search marketers get into these days – but the basics remain the same – good site structure, good content, and make sure the search engines can find you. Next I would recommend posting your comment on the SEL LinkedIn group page – there are many helpful and supportive SEOs over there, they can help you prioritize what you may need to get done first. http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=53266
    Good luck!

  • Javier_NSS

    I am a Start up business that offers SEO Services
    to SmB’s. Do you recommend I do the SEO myself or out source it? As a start up business I need to cut down on cost as much as possible. On that note do you have any SEO companies that I could talk to about out sourcing.

  • william meers

    Google local is already be dominated…this is what I use: http://commandermarketing.com/googlelocal

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