Local Internet marketing junkies will today be enjoying their most recent data fix with the release of the 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors Report from David Mihm the online marketing researchers over at Moz. Since 2008, the Local Search Ranking Report has been trying to give new tools to “small business owners confused by Local Search, or those strapped for time, to prioritize their marketing efforts.”
Law firm marketing managers, that’s you.
The report tries to untangle the method behind the apparent madness of Google Local search results. Mihm polled 35 experts in local online marketing and asked them to rank the impact of 104 different factors on a local business’s ranking success for two different types of firms: A) traditional businesses with a physical city presence who were just starting to build their local online presence, and B) businesses that already had a reasonably strong local ranking but were seeking the edge over their competition to improve their ranking.
Mihm revised the Ranking Report’s methodology this year to account for the fact that Google apparently doesn’t have one single “local ranking algorithm,” since rankings vary depending on how they are being displayed, including the following:
- Localized organic, a mesh of its organic rankings with local ones
- Pack/carousel, the visual carousel that allows users to shuffle through photos of each place, and
- Google Maps, with a ranked list of places next to a local map
Users respond differently to each of these different ranking interfaces, and hence the factors influencing ranking vary accordingly. The report also ranked the top 30 negative ranking factors—those that made local businesses lose ranking ground, and new clients along with it.
Reading the full report is definitely worth your time, but until then we’ve compressed the most important tidbits for local online marketers to take away into a nifty Top-4 for you below:
1. The factors that most impact rankings for businesses just starting out in Google Local aren’t rocket science.
These include basics like:
- Having the correct place category associations
- Tour business’s correct name, address, and phone number clearly and consistently listed on both your site and your place page
- Consistent listings across reputable directories like yelp.com, yellowpages.com, etc., and
- An actual, physical address in the city being searched. (Actually, this one is a bit of a bugger for online-only companies, but all is not lost. See point #4 below.)
2. The factors of greatest impact for firms looking for a competitive advantage in their local marketplace are all about reputation-by-association.
Mihms calls these “Competitive Difference Makers.” The top five make clear that a good reputation comes by association, and that quality means more than quantity in local markets:
- Having listings in high-quality, authoritative directories and indexes
- Have high-quality, authoritative inbound links to your site
- Have a good number of reviews by local opinion-makers (e.g., Yelp Elite Squad)
- Have consistent listings across directories
- Have lots of citations on other websites in your industry
3. The best way to lose your place page ranking is by not keeping your info up-to-date and correct.
These should be simple, but some companies are just too lazy or overworked to properly maintain their web presence—or think it’s a good idea to use multiple call-tracking numbers to find out where their leads are coming from. But consistency across listings on the web is key. Don’t list an address, premises, or phone number that no longer exists. Don’t list your law firm in the “Entertainment” category. Oh, and please don’t stuff keywords in your business name. Consumers really don’t like that.
4. Traditional SEO tacks don’t really have as much impact on Local ranking as you’d imagine—unless your company is online-only.
The traditional territory of SEO—inbound links and on-page optimization—may still do wonders for your organic Google listing, but they add up to only 25% of the impact on your overall Local rankings. But Google still gives a heavy emphasis to these factors for its localized organic results (about 50% of the ranking weight). So while online-only companies are at a bit of a disadvantage over their brick-and-mortar local competitors when it comes to Maps and carousel listings, a traditional SEO campaign might do wonders for both your organic and localized organic results. Just what you need to bring traffic pouring onto your site.