Google Maps – Local Search Ranking Factors 2011 Report Summary

The Google Maps algorithm takes a different approach as to how it determines rankings - discover the most important factors for local search in 2011

Find out what’s new in Google Maps local search strategies from a panel of local SEO experts.

Local SEO expert David Mihm has released the Local Search Ranking Factors 2011 report whereby Google Places optimization experts were surveyed about what they thought were the most critical Place Page, website and off-site factors in Google Maps local search algorithms to influence Google Place Pages rankings – here are the highlights of the research.

The most recommended factors to focus on in the Local Search Ranking Factors 2011 report were the following:

  1. Physical address in city of search (place page)
  2. Manually owner-verified place page (place page)
  3. 3. Proper category associations (place page)
  4. Volume of traditional structured citations (iyps, data aggregators) (off-place/off-site)
  5. Crawlable address matching place page address (website)
  6. Pagerank / authority of website homepage / highest ranked page (website)
  7. Quality of inbound links to website (off-place/off-site)
  8. Crawlable phone number matching place page phone number (website)
  9. 9. Local area code on place page (place page)
  10. 10. City, state in places landing page title (website)

1. Physical address in city of search

A physical business location rather than a PO Box was the number #1 recommended factor to focus on and was considered to be very important for Google Maps local search not only on the Place Page but across all Web properties. “No crawlable physical address on website” was also ranked at number 5 as one of the Negative Ranking Factors.

“NEVER only list a [1800 or 1300 number] without a local number, and NEVER only list a PO without a physical address.”

–Lisa Kolb

2. Manually owner-verified Place Pages

One of the most important factors was to manually verify each Google Place Page for local SEO rather than doing a bulk upload. This ensures that each address for the location is checked by the owner and confirmed to be correct. This is particularly relevant for businesses with more than one location. It is also important to remove duplicate listings.

“Manual claim submission trumps bulk feeds.”

–Gregg Stewart

3. Proper Category Associations

Proper category associations were ranked as the third most important “On Place Page” factor to improve Google Place Pages’ rankings and were considered by some experts to be even more relevant than the business title when following Google’s guidelines. Categories linked to relevant keywords were thought to strongly influence search results.

“… After this [claiming your Places Page], nail your categories. Keywords tend to be tied to particular categories, especially for competitive keywords, so getting this right is very important. Unrelated categories can send very confusing signals to Google.”

–Brian Combs

4. Volume of Traditional Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)

Citations are still considered an important trust point for local search by many SEO experts but some local SEO specialists like David Mihm believe that “citations have very little weight anymore”. There seems to be a consensus though that mismatching of NAP (name, address and phone number) across the Web is a negative ranking factor.

“Citations including brand, phone number and address mentions are an important part of Off-place/Off-site factors for PURE Place Search results.”

–James Svoboda

5. Crawlable phone number matching Place Page phone number

The local SEO strategists placed a lot of weight on the need for your NAP details to be consistent on your Google Place Page and website but also on other trusted sources across the Web. It was strongly recommended that if information was incorrect on these websites, to ask that the information be corrected.

“Any confusion about your business name, address and/or phone number coming from trusted sources can suppress your rankings and should be corrected ASAP.”

–Mary Bowling

6. PageRank / Authority of Website Homepage / Highest Ranked Page

A strong consensus amongst the Google Maps optimization experts was that optimizing your website with ‘location+product/service terms’ plays a much larger role in blended Place Search rankings. Domain authority and strength ie PageRank was also suggested to play a large part in driving up your Google Place’s Pages ranking.

“A blended listing is part organic, part local. Your website provides the On-Page SEO for location search phrases. Your website’s organic placement will dictate part of the blended listing placement. Thus, quality links, content, off-page SEO and all the things that support your organic placement will impact your overall blended listing.”

–Lisa Kolb

7. Quality of inbound links to website

Again, the local search professionals agree that SEO best practices still apply for your traditional website and a website with a strong and natural link-building profile will continue to rank highly in blended search results. The same SEO rules apply and backlinks must be from websites that are trusted, credible and have high authority.

“Even though the Panda update mitigated some of the influence that Google’s domain authority signal has, we continue to see business websites with strong overall link profiles having a distinct advantage when it comes to ranking highly for blended search results.”

–Adam Dorfman

8. Crawlable Phone Number Matching Place Page Phone Number

As with factor number #1, the local SEO experts agree that the phone number of the business must be the same across the Web whether it is your Google Places Page, your website or other online properties. Ideally you should have a local business number. As aforementioned, inconsistency of phone numbers is a strong negative ranking factor.

“Consistency is key, in terms of finding the same data on a website as is found on a Place Page. We’re talking phone numbers, addresses, and multimedia. It seems that landing pages that share the same imagery as a Place Page tend to rank higher. I’m sure landing page authority plays into rankings as well.”

–Jeff Gold

9. Local Area Code on Place Page

There is also a strong emphasis by the local search specialists on having a local number listed on your Google Place Page to help Google recognize that the Web references are referring to a local listing. It is also mentioned in Google guidelines for Google Places to “Use a local phone number instead of a call center number whenever possible.”

“Correct address, zip, local phone, correct category and adding additional keywords [is all important].”

–Larry Sullivan

10. City, State in Places Landing Page Title

The keyword of the report is ‘consistency’. For optimum local SEO, the Google Places’ landing page should have the matching city and state in the page title. This again should match the city and state listed on the Places Page, on your website and on other Web references.

“This is critical for search queries that include the location. Not as important for generic search queries that trigger local results.”

–Adam Dorfman

Read more the full Local Search Ranking Factors 2011 report and the other local SEO insights offered by the panel and David Mihm’s own summary of the report.

Our Google Maps optimization SEO experts keep abreast of constant changes in local SEO as Google continually strives to improve the integrity of search results. Check out our Google Maps SEO Packages and learn more about we focus on optimizing your Google Place Page, your website and off-page activities to improve your local search results.