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Key takeaways from Local Search Ranking factors 2012 report

Although the landscape of local search has changed quite significantly over time, the fundamental aspects of getting ranked higher in local search results as far as Google is concerned  have not really dramatically strayed from past years. That sure is one of the key takeaways from the just released report on Local Search Ranking factors.

Organized by David Mihm, survey for the year 2012 includes insightful contributions from over than 40 local search experts and marketers across the globe. It takes a look at general Google signals like Place Page versus Website versus Reviews and other elements, apart from the impact specific factors are likely to have on local search rankings. The top factors in the latest survey are as follows:

1.    Physical Address in specific City of Search (which means it is tough to rank for ‘Seattle property and real estate” in case you are located in Bellevue)

2.    Correct Category Associations

3.    Proximity of particular Address to Centroid or a city/town’s geographic center

4.    A website’s Domain Authority

5.    Quantity of Structured Citations

Elaborating on the findings, an introductory note states:

“Over the course of the past year, we’ve seen the search engine result pages that Google returns for Local Intent searches get more and more complex. Just over a year-and-a-half ago, Google introduced Blended Place Search, merging its traditional organic algorithm with its index of Local businesses from Google Places. But this was just the beginning. Google Plus was formally launched in late June of last year, but for most of the year, its release only seemed to affect a few results visually, rather than algorithmically.”

In fact, as the report points out, the ‘Panda’, ‘Venice’, as well as ‘Penguin’ algorithm updates were much more important, which happened to take down a whole lot of inferior quality sites (though hardly any of them traditional smaller business websites). From the point of view Local Search connotations, the former updates appeared to be the far more vital of the three mentioned above, as it was noticed that the ‘pure’ Local results’ number (or those denoting traditional ‘7-pack’ formats) tend to go to a consistent minority from a consistent majority. And it was also observed that local organic results begin to percolate into prominence.

It needs to be noted that Google’s switch  to Google+ Local Pages from Place Pages has not been included, since it was officially announced right at the very end of the 2012 survey period. As a result, the findings preceded the colossal change represented and effected by the Google +Local release on May 30. It actually came even as the responses for the latest survey started coming in. What it means is that though this year’s version is likely to get outdated faster than the earlier years.  And it remains to be seen how much of impact, if any, the switchover will have on local ranking factors.

The survey separates several positive ranking factors and also mentions of impeding negative ranking factors such as carrying mismatched telephone numbers that can severely hurt local ranking visibility of a business site.