Do you ever wonder how search engines think? How Google decides where to rank your store/location on Google Maps? It’s a kind of “artificial intelligence” that attempts to mimic the way humans think! Search engines are designed to give the best results to the user among a dynamic digital world where things are changing at lightning speed. It is rumored that there are over 3,000 signals that go into a local ranking algorithm (i.e. Google Maps). Nobody knows the real story, but we know that listing accuracy and reviews each play a key role.
How listing accuracy affects rankings:
Accurate and consistent listing information, including NAP (store name, address, phone number), website, pictures, hours, citations… all help establish you as a credible business in the eyes of local search engines. Consistency of your NAP across all data sources is one of the most important factors for ranking well in local search. For example, if your business calls itself “Joe’s Pizza” in one place and “Joes Chicago-Style Pizza” in another place or “Canary Villas” and “Canary Villas Apartments” or “Manny’s Car Wash” and “Manny’s Car Wash Chicago,” there is a chance that the search engine might see these as separate businesses, causing duplicate entries. (Geomodifiers, which are location–specific keywords, are even flagged as a form of cheating). This is true for each aspect of your listings. The consistency of data published about your business across the web influences the trust search engines have in the validity of your business.
A few months ago, Moz posted the results of a survey they conducted on local search ranking factors for 2014. In one section, Moz asked participants to assign a percentage of influence to each of eight thematic clusters of ranking factors. Listing management signals combined received an influence of 69.5%.
The world of business listings is a complex one due to the variety of sources involved in the process. It can be illustrated by a recent survey from Inside Local, seen below, where they asked agencies about the cause of ranking issues. Listing inaccuracy and duplicates make up 68% of the issues affecting local retailers.
Source: Search Engine Land
On the topic of Off-Page Factor Commentary, Caleb Donegan of Balihoo remarks, “NAP accuracy and consistency should be the primary focus of every local company, now like never before. The mis-management of NAP will be detrimental to companies with citation sources being relied on so heavily, and it would only seem logical that new markup will be introduced in order to better represent and organize this data.”
For tips on claiming and managing your listings, click here.
How reviews affect rankings:
Search engines use reviews to assess the activity levels of physical locations. It acknowledges how “popular” a business is offline. First quantity is assessed, being the dominant factor, and then quality determines your likeability.
In Moz’s local search ranking factor survey, Review Signals contribute to 10% of the ranking algorithm. That means review quality and review quantity play a big factor in determining where each location shows up in search results.
On the topic of Review Commentary, Thomas Ballantyne of Bulwark Exterminating remarks, “[W]hen it comes to conversions online, having a positive sentiment [in reviews] is a must. What would a business profit to rank 1st if they have a 1 star rating? Further, if a business focuses on their reviews and improving and acquiring more reviews, conversions will happen on those 3rd party sites, outside of the search realm. And so long as a competent effort has been put into monitoring and managing those profiles and the reviews that go with them, then the citations and in-bound links should occur naturally.”
How to manage all of this activity:
Managing all of this data and activity can be overwhelming. If you have as few as 50 locations, then managing listings across even 10 sites is 500 pages to manage and monitor! Instead of taking this on as a full time job, there are platforms like chatmeter that can report inaccurate listings, duplicate listings, picture monitoring, and the reputation for each store. In addition, the chatmeter platform reports on rankings so that you can see improvement over time and directly measure the results of your efforts. To schedule a demo, click here!