No matter how much a self-proclaimed local search expert preaches citation building or review seeking there is always that one business that is out on the fringes of the city that has one review, two citations, and no pictures that ranks #1 for every phrase despite the fact that your business is located near the center of town, you have 22 some odd citations, and 45 glowing reviews from all over the internet. This is quite possibly because not even Google knows what it is doing when it comes to local search.
There are a few consistencies however, and from my observations these are just a few of the biggest local search ranking factors:
- Categories – Your categories are critical. The nice thing about Google Maps is that after you’ve chosen one of their built in categories you are free to create your own categories for the other four that are available. Use this opportunity to fill your category boxes with keywords. Don’t put city names and other local terms in the categories though. That will get you punished for sure.
- Reviews – Google seems to be putting an increasing amount of value on reviews as a local search ranking factor because people are putting an increasing amount of value on reviews. The more positive reviews you get the more attractive you are to future customers and to Google’s algorithm. Always encourage customers who had a positive experience to review you on Google, Yelp, Yahoo, Judysbook, Angies List, and all those other review sites that Google likes to show.
- Citations – The more frequently your business address and phone number appear across the web, the more legitimate you seem to Google. At the bottom of every place page is a section titled “More About This Place.” These are vairous places around the web where Google has found your address associated with your Business. This is why its important to list on more sites than just Google Places.
- A Complete Profile – Of course your page must be claimed to rank well, but if your profile is claimed and completely filled out you have a better chance of ranking. This includes not only filling in all of the information you can but also including a logo and pictures. Pictures and video on your place page make your business more attractive to potential customers and therefore Google and can help boost your ranking.
- Offers – I’m not as sure about this one because this is something I’ve only been noticing recently. Google has added the ability to attach deals and coupons to your places page. Businesses with offers generally appear close to the top of the results. It makes sense that Google would push these to the top, because lets face it, who isn’t going to want to take advantage of a good deal?
Of course, these aren’t the only ranking factors, but from repeated observation theses seem to be the biggest local search ranking factors in Google and other local search engines. Have you noticed any other Local Search Engine Optimization techniques pushing your business to the top?