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How to rank top on local business search in Google

 6:14 pm on Oct 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Imagine you are in London, IP from London, you need a "widget", this widget being a service you search "Widget in London". What happens? Normally a map comes up with various options of local businesses in London offering this service. My question, is there a way to optimise for this as most of the sites that are top are pretty poor to say the least?

I've tried changing the title in Local Business in WMT to include the keyword, i've tried placing the business in different areas on the map, i've tried multiple listings... Can not seem to get top? Anyone have any experience with this?

[edited by: anallawalla at 11:35 pm (utc) on Oct. 1, 2009]
[edit reason] Changed � to apostrophes [/edit]



 11:36 pm on Oct 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Does the website show a clearly formatted street (not PO Box) address? That is a minimum.


 11:42 pm on Oct 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Do you need the street address on each page or is a contact us page suitable for this?

Would a footer address like: building 1, example street, example town, postcode be ok?


 2:54 am on Oct 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

A contact us page is sufficient. Ideally the page or the anchor text to it is called something like Contact Us


 7:01 am on Oct 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes the site shows a clearly formatted street in the footer, however the competitors of this site do not show this and they are top.

Im wondering if that the so called "paper business directories" with their online listings (think yellow and your are on the right track) boast or even have some influence on this local ranking?


 3:05 pm on Oct 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

Showing up well next to the map on Google is roughly as complicated as traditional SEO. And it's much newer so there's less discussion/research/info about Local SEO compared to traditional organic SEO.

Oversimplified, there's about 5 categories of factors that contribute to ranking well on Google Maps:

1) GLBC Listing - verified & optimized
2) Customer Reviews - quantity, quality & velocity of reviews on trusted sites
3) Physical Address - more local is better than less local ;)
4) Citations - quantity & consistency
5) Traditional SEO Factors - (some light reading available on this topic at a site called webmasterworld)

If your competitors are beating you, it's likely that they get more points for one or more of those 5 categories.

The paper business directories you mention would fall under Citations. They're not a magic bullet but as with all seo, everything works together.


 8:57 pm on Oct 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have a hotel client who doesn't appear opposite the local map in a very competitive resort area. I would like to get them to at least appear.
Rmjvol, Can you expound on the following?
1) GLBC Listing - verified & optimized
2) Customer Reviews - quantity, quality & velocity of reviews on trusted sites
3) Physical Address - more local is better than less local ;)
4) Citations - quantity & consistency


 9:03 pm on Oct 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

How do you rank in the organic results in relation to the listings that are at the top of the LBR map listing?

Are you ahead of them?


 9:33 pm on Oct 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

They all do better in the organic for the main search term. Do you believe there is a connection between the organic and the local? I just took over this account.


 8:34 am on Oct 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

In my case my site ranks a lot better in organic search than my competitor. Infact I am sure their site does not get any organic searches as they are impossible to find. However when you type location with the keyword "Widget in London" they appear infront of mine. I personally do not see a connection organic and local as a result of this.

Strangely I have been top for the past 3 years or more in local search, and this new site (3 month old) comes along and has knocked me off the top spot. The only thing I can see different is that they have a review by their business. Could this play a part in topping the local?


 4:22 pm on Oct 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

The organic results & the Local results use different algorythms. Some factors overlap but most don't. A business with no website can rank 1st next to the map so that ought to demonstrate that we're dealing with different factors here.

There's indirect relationships but not direct relationships between ranking for organic SERPs & Local SERPs.

On each of the 5 categories I mentioned, there's a huge amount of details. Just like when you started learning organic SEO, I'd recommend that you start reading & observing. Here's some good places to get started:
Business Listing Quality Guidelines [maps.google.com]
Tips to help Google users find and connect with your business [maps.google.com]
Creating a great listing [maps.google.com]
How To Get My Business To Show Up As A Map In Google SERPs [webmasterworld.com]

A little more on the categories I mentioned:
1) GLBC Listing - follow the suggested guidelines in the Google links above
2) Customer Reviews - get *real* reviews from *real* customers, check where Google recognized reviews for your competitors & get reviews there
3) Physical Address - don't have a physical address in the city in the search? ranking well is much more difficult
4) Citations - mentions of your business (with or without links) at various websites; best if the contact info all matches

Good luck, rmjvol


 2:49 am on Oct 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

My employer supplies the primary business data to Google Maps in Australia but Google does not always display our data. The rest of the data for a business is collected through a web crawl. It uses the "best" information it can find and sometimes this algorithmic approach causes some glitches we have heard about in this forum. Usually, a claimed listing uses the owner's data and not that from a data aggregator.

The supplier of the data does not influence the rankings. For example, I have a privately submitted listing that isn't in my employer's data set, yet it ranks #1 in the onebox for a local search term. I have no reviews, videos, images. Obviously (ahem) my SEO is pretty good, but I don't think that matters much. :) In the same onebox, another business has three entries for the same URL (three different phone numbers), but they are not in sequence. They have tons more pages than my site does and do a lot of active link building. Hence you can't read too much into why a result has a particular ranking. It is not cut and dried.


 11:40 am on Oct 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Apart from reviews that are really helpful in local rankings, images and CTR (long term) also matters.

Generally you will observe better (more logical) ranking structure when searching the same keyphrase in maps.google.com than compared with one box listing in www.google.com (where the latest entries also find the top places just on the basis of keywords in title without much consideration on reviews and other aspects). I have particularly noticed this in my niche.

Note: The results of one box would not match (80% times IMO) to that of maps.google.com


 7:28 pm on Oct 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

with citations, are these from "reviews" websites or from any, say, smaller forums for example. In my space the reviews google displays are for extremely large websites, I don't see any smaller, unknown sites.


 11:19 pm on Oct 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Citations are not reviews. They're generally mentions of the business on other websites. They might be a listing on an IYP site, a mention in a blog, a listing on a niche directory....

Under the GLBC listing pages, these show up on the "Web Pages" tab. Under Place Pages, they're under the "Web Pages" subheading.


 9:12 am on Oct 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I wonder how sophisticated G locals spam filters are for citations...as in if it looks for sudden increases in citations or citations added to websites with the same whois info, etc.

Think I may dip my toe in this one.


 12:15 am on Nov 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think rmjvol hit most of the important points. I'd add a couple of things:

1. A url with the name of the city and service seems to help a lot
2. A Meta title with the name of the city and service seems to help a lot
3. Anchor text links with the name of the city and service seem to help a lot.

One last thing. Pay very close attention to google's guidelines in the Local Business Center. They have made quite a few subtle changes in the last few weeks. In a competitive environment if you break those rules you are subjec to being the recipient of a spam attack.


 6:59 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

@anallawalla: When you mention that your "SEO is pretty good". What are you referring to? Do you do SEO to the site you are submitting to Google maps or the places page.


 2:47 am on Dec 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

Showing up well next to the map on Google is roughly as complicated as traditional SEO.

Ummm... arguably, it's more complicated. There are quite a few more variables at play. (I'm not really trying to tweak rmjvol's nose by saying this, since it's apparent he is fairly thoroughly familiar with Local SEO.)

rmjvol lists quite a number of the top, broad areas which appear to influence local, but there are likely more. As I believe I've seen Mike Blumenthal mention, there are some unknown factors at play, too, since there are some things influencing rankings which we have yet to identify.

One thing I thought worthy of expanding upon in rmjvol's list was where he mentions that local street address and how "the more local, the better".

Early in Google Maps evolution, proximity was a greater influence. If a user searched for "widgets in boston, ma", then the map results appeared to give a lot of preference for businesses which were closer to the Boston city centroid (geographical centerpoint).

Proximity is still highly influential, although Google damped down the influence a bit in an effort to try to display an area's "better" or more-popular businesses first.


 3:25 am on Dec 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

@anallawalla: When you mention that your "SEO is pretty good". What are you referring to?

I was joking there, but since it's my occupation I suppose I do have some expertise. However, I was saying that my great SEO didn't help me rise in the organic SERP on that page; however, my URL is at the top of the onebox. Thus I feel that old-fashioned on-page SEO in itself doesn't help with the onebox appearance.


 5:58 pm on Dec 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

@ Silvery: We're in agreement... mostly :)

The original question & title of thread was pretty general so my intial response was general. (just like "How do I rank better on Google?" > "Get more links.")

re traditional SEO vs Local SEO comparison. Anyone past newbie status knows there's alot of room for disagreement/debate/discussion about the details of each factor category. (Everybody knows you need more links. Lot of debate on the details of how to get them.) Same goes for Local factors... actually more so since we don't have as much info/research/experience as we do w/traditional seo.

We may be mincing words but proximity still seems to get *some* extra weight vs the other factors. Yes, it gets less juice than originally but it's hard to fake well so I think Google rightly gives it *some* extra weight.

Google seems to do a pretty good job of limiting/expanding the scope of geography based on different widgets/services. (I think Bill Slawski coined the term Location Sensitivity.) If you're a pizza joint, it's gonna be pretty dang hard to rank if you're 20 miles from my zip code. There may be a factor that says something like:
pizza: anything within .3 miles of centroid gets 100% proximity score
widget repair: anything within 2 miles of centroid gets 100% proximity score
used widget dealer: anything within 5 miles of centroid gets 100% proximity score
new widget dealer: anything within 9 miles of centroid gets 100% proximity score

Further, if I search on a geo location that's large, Google probably adjusts the location sensitivity.

My metro area is about 20 miles diameter. My suburb is about 5 miles diameter. If I search "(metro area) repair" I'd expect to see a wider geography so maybe:
(suburb area) repair: anything within 1 mile of centroid gets 100% proximity score (normal location sensitivity of 2 miles * 0.5 due to small area)
(metro area) repair: anything within 4 miles of centroid gets 100% proximity score (location sensitivity *2 due to large area)

If I'm looking for a widget in Big City, I don't want one that's 100 miles away but 15 miles might be ok.

If I'm looking for a widget in Small City, I don't want one that's 15 miles away but 3 miles might be ok.

Which brings us back to...
"the more local, the better" ;)

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