According to local search marketing experts like David Mihm, there are dozens of factors that effect local search rankings. For many small business owners, this may sound overwhelming. Don’t fret. We’ve outlined the most important factors that determine your local search rankings in the Google 7-pack, Yahoo’s local business listings, and Bing’s local business listings. The Most Important Local Search Ranking Factors:
- Claiming your business listing
- Having your business address within the city being searched
- Proper categorizing of your business listing
- Off-Page citations
- Number of citations from official data providers and yellow page sites
Many local business owners and managers already know that they must create their business listings on sites such as Google Places, Yelp, Online Yellow Pages, Local.com, and CitySearch. However, many people do not realize that after you create your local business listing, you must also CLAIM it. These are two completely different steps in the process of optimizing your local search rankings. This extra step is imperative if you are competing in a large city with lots of competitors.
Your distance from the city center can play an enormous part of the ranking on the local search sites. Ranking on map sites takes many features into account, but location is perhaps the biggest influencer on this as a starting point. In order to rank for a keyword in a specific city, then you must have a physical address within that city. It is ideal for your address to be located as close the city centroid as possible. So what exactly does that mean? The city centroid is the geographical "center" of the city - usually it is your city's "downtown". For example, here in San Diego, the city centroid is downtown San Diego in the 92101 zip code. This also means that if your business serves a large metropolitan area, but is actually physically located on the city outskirts on or in a suburb, the local search algorithm may be penalizing you. It is important to keep this in mind, because commercial real estate is currently at rock-bottom lows in many cities across America. It may make more sense now than ever before to open up a new office location in your downtown.
Picking the right categories in the Local Business Center is one of the keys to success in Google Maps. Categorizing each business listing accurately and appropriately can certainly improve your local rankings. Categories are critical to being considered relevant on any given search and should be chosen carefully. 90% of the listings found on local sites have only 1 category. That is the default. However you can pick up to 5 different categories even if you offer multiple services. Select the categories that you think are most relevant to your business and have a high local search volume. Utilizing Google's custom categories are great for keyword rankings. First, make sure you use at least one of Google's default categories or you will be penalized. Then determine if the other 4 categories should come from Google’s pre-chosen list or if they should be custom. Also, do not put geographical references in your categories as you may be penalized for this.
Off-page citations are one of the most important factors in ranking well. Third party citations from well-known, trusted directories and data providers, vertical directories and local directories (such as kudzu.com) are highly recommended. Having a totally optimized profile is not enough if you don't have citations to back up your business information. Search engines like Google look to trusted third parties to validate the information in your business listings. Because citations are what 3rd parties say about you, rather than what you say about yourself in a business listing, Google places a lot of weight on this information. It cannot be emphasized enough that you must be consistent or you will be penalized. If Google sees inconsistencies in your information, they simply will not risk listing you over a business with consistent details across the web. One of the best ways to ensure that your business listing is accurate across the web is to sign up for Universal Business Listing.com. Their service is affordable (only $30) and it will get your business listed on hundreds of local search sites quickly and accurately.
Citations (along with geographic location) are the primary means Google uses to select the businesses that will appear in local search results. The major data providers are infoUSA, Localeze, and Acxiom. These 3 companies have an explicit contract to supply local search engines with underlying business information. Once you claim your local business listings and submit your business to the data providers you can watch your information propagate. While citations on may good 3rd party websites are free, you should be aware that maintaining many paid yellow page programs can get pretty expensive so be sure to take your budget into consideration. If money is tight, consider listing only in the most popular online yellow page sites rather than each and every one you find.
For further information on Local Search Ranking Factors, visit: http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml
Here is a list of the some of the Best Local Citation Sources:
- Directories of local businesses such as Chamber of Commerce and Local Tourism sites
- Social Media Profiles (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)