Ranking Tactics For Local Search

October 5, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hey, hey, we’re back from lunch. It was warm and delicious and everything box lunches wish they were. Many thanks to SMX for that.  We’re short on banter because I spent a whopping 30 minutes trying to get my Internet to work. Ah, fun. How long til Outspoken provides me with a traveling IT boy?  I think it should be tomorrow.

Up on stage we have Greg Sterling moderating Mike Blumenthal, Mary Bowling, David Mihm, Will Scott, and Andrew Shotland. It’s like the greatest local search panel of all-time.  Ready?


Greg starts off saying that local helps connect the Internet with the real world – where most transactions take place.

David Mihm is up first.  He’s probably one of my favorite people in search. Definitely top ten.

What does local search look like? It’s the 10 Pack mostly driven by the maps.google.com and local.yahoo.com algorithms. When you’re talking local, it’s not just about Google. “Other” is the third largest local search engine. He says that local search is a bit more complex than traditional search where it’s just Google and Bing/Yahoo.

Stay with me…this next part gets a bit confusing.

There are THREE major local search engines – Bing, Google Maps and Yahoo Local.  They collect their data from business owners, AS WELL as other sources like Localeze, InfoUSA and Acxiom.  In turn, the big three feed a whole bunch of other providers. That’s the danger of not controlling your information. If you let incorrect information stay on Google, it can be fed into a whole number of different providers and be wrong everywhere.

Local search does have its own set of ranking factors and requires a different mindset than SEO.


  • Verified Local Business Listing
  • Off Page Criteria
  • Reviews
  • Traditional On Page SEO

Consistency: Name, Address, and Phone Number are absolutely crucial. Don’t use tracking phone numbers or try to stuff keywords into your business name. Think of your local business listings as a thumbprint for your business, not as a place to advertise. With traditional SEO you’re focused on optimizing Web site content. Things like Title tags, architecture, social media, etc. With local search you want to talk about verification, making sure you claimed your listings, getting citations and off-site references, reviews, etc.

Your mindset with local is a lot closer to PPC. It requires a specialist to be done well. It can be up and running in less than 24 hour. There are highly trackable clickthroughs. You should be using A/B testing of landing pages.

[I was having some technical issues through a bit of David’s presentation. For clarification on the above, you may want to check out A Closer Look At The Local Search Data Providers. It’s a great resource provided by the folks at GetListed.]

Up next is Mike.

Ranking factors in Google Local:

  • Web page title in Maps
  • Business Title
  • Reviews
  • Categories

Ranking was NOT dependent on inbound links or other traditional SEO metrics. They knew Google was using Web references, they just didn’t know what.  He went back and pulled out their patent on location prominence and they layered the patent over their research.  It matched up pretty well.  Location prominence  is the new PageRank.

How Google Scores Your Website

  1. In-bound links from documents that mention the business with full or partial name or address
  2. In-bound links with business name  in the anchor text
  3. Business name in your title tag
  4. All or part of your business name in your domain name

They’re more about ranking the location than ranking the Web site.


  • Choose your business name and domain carefully for use in Local
  • Think about gaining inbound links with your business name as the anchor text
  • Be sure your Title tags reflect your name
  • Strike a balance in optimizing your site for both organic and Google Maps.

Mary Bowling is next.  She’s addicted to it and works on it every day. She’s going to talk about how to rank in the Google 10 pack.

Her clients are obsessed with the Google 10-pack. Even if they rank well organically, they still want to be in the 10-pack because it pushes everything down.  Sometimes the 10-pack is a 3-pack. If you can get in there, it’s even better because you have the same real estate but there’s less competition.

The local and regular algorithms are very different.   She shows a color-coded chart of how sites ranks differently based on if its a Map, 10-pack or Universal search.  Because those are all different too. [Geez, no wonder SEO is a recession-proof career.]   You can’t be in the 10 Pack if you don’t have a Google Maps Local Business Listing. That’s where you start. And even if you didn’t create one yourself, you may still have one if a customer created it for you.  You need to check it and optimize it.

Optimize Your Maps Listing

  • Use your main keyword phrase and complementary terms in your profile description
  • Grab the long tail by including your products or services, the brands you carry, the locations you serve and anything else that is important in your niche.
  • Choose or create the right category. Google lets you pick 5. For the first one or two use pre-established categories that they let you choose from.  With the other ones try using your best location or product keywords. But you have to keep an eye on this. You should look at it several times a week.
  • Create attributes: Don’t keyword stuff. You want a human to want to do business with you after they’ve read this. You can find things that will work for you when the bots crawl your profile.
  • Create Citations: Look at competitors and see where they’re getting citations. Citations are Web mentions that include your business or Web site. They don’t have to contain a link.  Look at this information with a critical eye.
  • Get Reviews: Reviews are exactly what people are looking for when looking for a local business.  Google pulls reviews from all across the Web.  It doesn’t matter where customers are leaving reviews for you, as long as you’re getting lots of them. According to Yahoo, once you start getting lots of reviews, they start figuring out if the reviews are good reviews or bad reviews.  [Interesting]  You should come up with a system to encourage happy customers to leave reviews for you.

Use your Web site to build trust and reinforce your LBL listing by linking to your Maps listing, getting links from your local trust sites and using location terms in your on-page optimization.

Use on-page optimization to make your location clear. Place your full street address and local phone number on all pages of your Web site. Optimize your Contact or About page for your business name and location. Use the hcard microformat to make your location unmistakeable.

Use the same name, address and phone number everywhere online. Go to the source of business data and standardize there. Use a local database directory – check out UniversalBusinessListing.org and GetListed.org.

Check For Location Trust

  • Check the data providers first
  • Search for your biz name
  • Search for your biz address
  • Search for your biz phone number
  • Look at citations

Will Scott is up next.  He’s adorable.

Barnacle SEO is attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for customers to float by in the current. The most important thing in business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. [insert giggle here] Even the most trusted can be bought. Yahoo and Best of the Web both have local-specific directories and you can buy into them. Local Web references equal trust. You don’t need to have a Web site to rank locally. You can’t ship a lube job.

Local Listing/Review Sites

  • Yahoo Local
  • CitySearch
  • SuperPages
  • InsiderPages
  • Yelp
  • YellowPages
  • BrownBook
  • Merchanct Circle (though you’ll get cold called for the rest of your life}

A good starting point is GetListed.org.


  • Maximize local listings with SEO.  Using keywords in your title and copy. Link to local profiles.
  • Local Search isn’t always about the map. Out of major cities states + service works.
  • Examples show “citations” can rank unto themselves.
  • Great for franchise and weak sites.

Andrew Shotland is finishing things up for us.  He has no presentation and claims his dog ate it. I don’t believe him. I don’t think you should either.

The Top SEO’d IYPs (in order)

  1. SuperPages
  2. CitySearch
  3. Yelp
  4. Yahoo Local
  5. Insider Pages
  6. YellowPages
  7. BizJournals
  8. AreaConnect
  9. Magic Yellow
  10. Switchboard

A lot of the big branded IYPs are nowhere to be found.  Biz Journal and Match Yellow are his favorites on the list.  There are a lot of companies doing local search SEO/directory search SEO very well.

He looked at the different type of sites types to see what kinds of sites ranked for different queries.  Local business sites showed up more frequently (32 percent). IYP followed with 27 percent, vertical sites 17 percent and article sites got 6 percent. Come up with your keyword set for your client, do the queries and see what types of sites show up for that query. Those are the sites to go after if you’re looking to buy a site or get an ad.

Pick one: Optimize a site for local or regular SEO?

Mary: If she had a truly local business and other drew customers in from one area – local

Andrew: Why do you have to choose? Do whatever you want.

Will:  Google’s actually carrying your location data into non local queries.  If you’re previously typed in “New Orleans dentist”, “New Orleans plumber”, when you type “chiropractor” you’re going to get New Orleans results.

Chris Winfield is in the audience and asks what social networks are best for local search?

Will: If it’s a low-dollar business? Twitter. You can own Twitter on a local level. If it’s a relationship-type business? Facebook. If it’s a professional-type service it’s LinkedIn.

Andrew: He thinks Facebook pages rank fantastically well. So do YouTube pages.

avid: If you’re in restaurants, Yelp and Urban Spoon are critical. If it’s travel, TripAdvisor is critical.  It depends on the niche.

How will Google Pages affect business listings?

Mike: It’s going to be a useful landing page for many uses.

David: Agrees.

Final Thoughts:

  • Mary: Location trust. Build it.
  • Andrew:  People are lucky to be doing local search marketing right now.
  • Will: Anywhere you can get listed is worth being in.
  • David: Get your data straight at the major data providers or it will go out wrong everywhere.
  • Mike: Don’t necessarily believe us. Test, test, test.

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