B2B Marketing Blog

Google Places Optimization

By Aaron Bird
Mar 19, 2012

Today we published the first of five articles on Local Search Ranking Factors, Google Places Optimization. Here is the summary:

Factors in Integrated Results

For those pages in the integrated results, the top local ranking factors while holding all other variables constant are:

  1. Having a secondary category match a broader category of the search category was associated with a 0.85 improvement in rank. For example, secondary category is set to “restaurant” and the search category was “pizza.”
  2. Having the search category or a synonym in the business name was associated with a 0.67 improvement in rank.
  3. Having a coupon on the listing was associated with a .46 improvement in rank.
  4. Having the search category or a synonym in “at a glance” was associated with a 0.28 improvement in rank.
  5. Having five or more Google reviews was associated with a 0.27 improvement in rank.
  6. Having photos (atleast 1) was associated with a 0.21 improvement in rank.

Listings with all of these signals showed an improvement in ranking of about three positions, which is pretty high considering that on average there were five integrated local results in the main search page. Moving up three out of five positions is significant.

Factors in Pure Local Results

For those pages not in the integrated results, the top local ranking factors while holding all other variables constant are:

  1. Having five or more Google reviews was associated with a 1.85 improvement in rank.
  2. Having the search category or a synonym in “at a glance” was associated with a 1.1 improvement in rank.
  3. Having an address in the city of the search was associated with a 1.0 improvement in rank.
  4. Having the search category or a synonym in the business name was associated with a 0.95 improvement in rank.
  5. Having the search category or a synonym in the business description was associated with a 0.94 improvement in rank.
  6. Having the search category or a synonym in review content was associated with a 0.91 improvement in rank.
  7. Having a secondary business category that was a broader category than the search category was associated with a 0.85 improvement in rank. i.e. secondary category is “restaurant” when searching for “Seattle pizza.”
  8. Having at least one photo was associated with a 0.59 improvement in rank.
  9. Having the primary category match the search category was associated with a 0.49 improvement in rank.
  10. Having the search city in the business name was associated with a 0.47 improvement in rank.

Listings with all of these signals showed an improvement in ranking of about 9 positions. Given that they were in the top 30, an improvement of 9 is significant.

Surprising Takeaways

During our analysis, we also uncovered the following:

  • Not having any Google reviews or having an average review score of one hurt ranking (as expected), although the incremental increase in ranking as the review score increased from two through five was negligible.
  • The presence of a business description alone did not help ranking, but having the search category in the business description did help.
  • As expected, getting your fifth Google review significantly helped ranking, although incremental reviews between one and four and above five had a very small impact on ranking. You have to get 100+ reviews to again have a significant impact on ranking.
  • On average, for every mile away from the centroid, ranking dropped by 0.34 of a position. Note that this is the average across all 22 cities. In very dense cities like New York, this number was higher and in sprawling cities it was lower.
  • Twenty of the 484 queries did not have local results on the main page (we removed those twenty from our analysis). On average, there were five local results on the main page.

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Topics: SEO, Local SEO, Google Maps

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