The panelists at last week’s “HardCore Local SEO” panel at SMX Advanced, Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing, Will Scott of Search Influence and David Mihm of GetListed, presented some excellent data on various tactical approaches to improving Google Place Page rankings. For today’s column, I thought it would be helpful to excerpt some of the more interesting ideas they presented.

I was particularly intrigued by Mike Ramsey’s presentation on research he had done where he compared 28 listings that ranked in the top 7 results for some local queries to 28 listings that did not rank as well. Mike started things off by warning the audience that “correlation does not equal causation“.

In other words, this data is interesting, but that doesn’t mean if you use it for SEO that you are going to rank #1.

First, Mike compared the high-ranking listings to the low-ranking listings for some of the factors mentioned in this year’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey:

 

As you can see, both the high- and low-ranked listings had about the same number of claimed listings and exact categorizations on their Place Pages – two factors that were given high importance in this year’s survey. The most striking difference is that many more, but not all, high ranking listings had reviews on IYP sites.

While many of the listings had relatively few citations (references to the business on other supposedly relevant sites), searching for information about the business in Google Web Search told a different story:

 

High ranking listings appear to have significantly more “offsite data”.  A similar gap appeared when checking Open Site Explorer for links to each business’ website:

 

Similar patterns showed up when checking for exact match keywords in anchor text to the listing websites:

 

and keywords in the anchor text:

 

Another great point was how making simple tweaks to the landing page URL like adding the address and phone number to the title tag can result in quick results:

 

Will Scott spoke about how you really have to work the system to to improve your Google Places rankings such as making sure you clean up listings that might be causing you problems, such as a Place Page for someone who used to work in the same location as yours.

One case study on a Place Page that had duplication and location problems showed how it took seven edits to the Place Page over three months before Google fixed the issues and started ranking the listing on page 1 for target queries. Local SEO does indeed take patience and endurance.

Will also showed off a variety of citation sources including Article Engines (be sure to include all of your location information on any articles you syndicate out about your business), Facebook and “Other” (a.k.a. SPAM).

In my experience, these relatively low value links do indeed seem to do the trick, but in the long run, you’ll want to supplement these kind of tactics with more solid citation sources, which of course are much harder to get.

David Mihm’s presentation had all sorts of good information with a focus on how to maintain a “geographic scent” for your website with the #1 recommendation being having a consistent name, address and phone number appear for your business across the Web.

Since much has been written in these pages about how to do this, I thought I’d focus on a couple of David’s points that were “extra credit”:

  1. Submit a KML sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools. This helps send Google the “I am really located here” signal. Here’s an easy tool to help you do it GeoSitemapGenerator.
  2. For multiple locations, claim all of your Google Place listings in a corporate Google account. If you are submitting a bulk feed, get it verified. Your Google Account must match the URLs of the Places you are submitting. Each location must have its own unique phone number or it won’t get approved.
  3. If you want to generate reviews, find customers with Google and Yahoo email addresses. Since you know they have accounts with these sites, you can send them links asking them to write a review for you on them and they’ll likely already be signed in.

All in all, it was an awesome session. I encourage you to check out the panelists’ sites as they all share a lot of great information:

 

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Place Pages | Local Search Column | SEO: Local

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About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • http://www.optilocal.org Nyagoslav

    Mike’s presentation was really interesting, but I think something very important worth mentioning is the fact that the case study he presented included ONLY O-pack search results (a.k.a. Blended or Merged Search). I think if there was a similar research conducted for “pure” 7-pack search results, the statistics could have been a little different.

    Another interesting revelation is that claiming the Place page DO NOT have influence on the ranking. At the same time for blended search landing page is a major factor. Here I want to refer to the Local Search Ranking Factors and express my opinion that the landing page’s authority is more important factor than the authority of the website homepage. That’s just a personal opinion of course.

    And last thing – regarding the third mentioned advice by David Mihm, I think in similar way Facebook could be used for getting reviews on citysearch, insiderpages and judysbook, as they are accessible via Facebook account, which makes it much easier for the customers that are Facebook fans, to use.

  • CPrice

    Not sure if I’ve fully understood the last point – adding address and phone number to the landing page title tag.

    Surely the page you submit to Google Places would be your home page – http://www.you.com – and assuming your home page title is optimized for your subject matter, how would that leave room for address and phone number?

  • http://www.search-engine-academy-washington-dc.com Nancy E. Wigal

    thanks for the emphasis on the KML site map. I’ll be telling my attendees and clients to make this a priority. I also like that you mention putting local information in the title tag; often just adding zip code can help.

    Great article; thanks!

  • http://www.enklerevalg.no Vegar

    Nice tip!

    I kind of know that regular SEO also work with Google Places, but I always try to include the phone and adress on the page aswell.

  • http://www.LocalLasso.com L.L.

    I’m with Nancy above, I appreciate you mentioning the KML file and its growing importance in the local search landscape. That site you mentioned makes things a breeze, I think we’ll have to start officially using it as part of our services at Local Lasso!

    When doing massive manual business directory / citation submissions for our own clients and doing submissions for other Local SEO consultants around the U.S., we’ve noticed that backlinking the actual citation resources themselves (ie citysearch, merchantciricle, thumbtack, etc) can do WONDERS for enhancing a business’s local presence.

    When you use these citation websites as “link conduits” if you will, not only do they obviously pass some authority / link juice to your main website and thus influence your Places position, but they become SERP animals in and of themselves! Google ABSOLUTELY eats these citation resources up, and if you optimize the actual live business listing URLs correctly with geo-keywords, full descriptions, pictures, videos, business social media links, etc. you can potentially have several listings on the front page for your clients.

    Also, another tip we’ve discovered, try checking out your local media/tv station/local newspaper websites, they almost all have business directories/review sections of some kind. These seem to be pretty powerful in their own right and I know they’re mentioned a lot…but I wouldn’t recommend overlooking them.

    Not to mention, a lot of these citation websites allow you to USE CUSTOM BUSINESS LISTING URLs. It amazes me that more people do not take advantage of this to really target their client’s primary keyword.

    Just a related tidbit I thought I’d mention! Really informative blog BTW…I’ve been around these parts before but always seem to forget what an awesome resource you’ve got here! – Jim with Local Lasso

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/bhodaylynie Lynie Rose Tinguban

    Awesome concept about KML sitemap…Thanks :)

  • http://www.coinso.com Yam Regev

    Wonderful, detailed summary & article, Andrew! Seems like the Local SEO gurus did it again! & again, i wish i could be there to see the presos.

    My 2 cents:

    1. Hyper Local Directories: (e.g. http://www.sandiegobizmart.com/). Look for those directories at the city you are targeting & submit a free listing over there. Even if you can’t insert your URL into it. GOOG love those hyper local directories as they are super relevant. Easy & good citation.

    2. Hyper Service Directories: (http://www.towing.com/) Submit your listing in a directory that talk ONLY about your type of service. Again- it’s all about relevancy & GOOG loves it!

    3. Trusted Hyper Local Directories: (www.sdchamber.org/). No need to explain. Combination of both relevancy & trust.

    4. Reviews Push Citations: Try to manage your listing’s / biz’s reviews distribution. Meaning, try to have at least one review in each directory & platform your biz is listed with. Reviews are hot right now & GOOG might bring more citations from a certain directory ONLY after you manged to get some reviews to your biz listing over there. This is right mostly for a less know directories & not for the big guys like SuperPages, City Search, Yelp, etc..

    5. 1st SERPs Directories: Search your main keywords in your targeted city & look for the directories that are ranked on the 1st SERPs. Quickly submit a fat & detailed listing over there & in a matter of weeks, you might see that the the directory that was ranked in the 1st SERP is still there but when clicking on it result, it’ll link to the listing you created over there (directly). Example- See Paxton Towing listing organic result from City Search over here http://www.google.com/search?q=towing+chula+vista&pws=0&hl=en&gc=1014218

    Yam Regev

 

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