Catalyst - 11:09 pm on May 13, 2010 (gmt 0)
The Google LOCAL algo has been changing a little it seems.
More and more it seems the 7 pack listings are also companies that have 1st page organic rankings.
I just took a Chiropractor in a very large competitive city from #44 to #1. In spite of all the different local SEO techniques I used, I don't think I could have gotten him that high, that fast if he didn't already have a good organic ranking too.
However many companies you'll find in the 7 pack don't even have a site so that tells you there's a lot more to the algo than traditional link building and organic ranking.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when doing local SEO is data integrity. Google looks on other sites for an EXACT match of business name, address and phone.
A lot of medical practices for instance may have directory or yellow page listings with fractured data. Some of the listings are for ABC Medical, some are for DR. Smith and some are for John Smith M.D. Some listings are for 4220 Frost Avenue North and some are for 4220 Frost Ave. N.
Any tiny variance in the data means that the citations and reviews probably won't be credited to the company's Google Places page and won't help them move up in the rankings.
Many companies, especially medical/dental offices also have multiple Places pages and those all have to be merged into one so everything adds up and can be counted toward the main listing.
So anyway, just like traditional SEO the algo changes, people find new ways to game the system, then the algo changes again. I was doing some reverse engineering today and discovered a new trick a company is using that's complete spam and leapfrogged them right to the top. I reported it as it's totally cheating. But Google is so busy trying to keep up with all the other Places support issues that I'm not sure how much attention spam reports get at this point.