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The Science Behind Google Places Rankings

google_placesHave you ever wondered how Google Places rankings were determined and if that one-star review had a negative impact on your ranking? Bizible, recently produced the conclusions of a Google Places Ranking Factors study that that had conducted studying 30 potential ranking factors in 22 cities and 22 local categories and how local search optimization impacted the rankings. Although their research methodology might not be perfect, their discoveries do answer a few interesting questions about Google Places rankings.

Here are a few key takeaways, directly from the Local Ranking Factors Study.

Key Factors to Improve Google Places Ranking (Integrated in main SERP)

  1. Having the primary category match a broader category of the search category. For example, primary category is set to “restaurant” and the search category was “pizza.”
  2. Having the search category or a synonym in the business name.
  3. Having the search category or a synonym in “at a glance.”
  4. Having five or more Google reviews. Five is the key number, any more than that did not seem to impact the ranking.
  5. Having at least one photo.

Listings with all of these signals showed an improvement in ranking of about three positions, which is fairly 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.

Key Factors to Improve Google Places Ranking (Pure Local Results)

  1. Having five or more Google reviews.
  2. Having the search city in “at a glance.”
  3. Having the search category or a synonym in in review content.
  4. Having the search category or a synonym in the business description.
  5. Having the search category or a synonym in “at a glance.”
  6. Having the primary category match the search category.
  7. Having the search category or a synonym in the business name.
  8. Having a secondary business category that was a broader category than the search category was associated with. i.e. secondary category is “restaurant” when searching for “Seattle pizza.”
  9. Having at least one photo.
  10. Google Places Page is owner verified.

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

Although this study is a helpful insight into what factors may impact your local search ranking, it is important to remember that Google’s ranking algorithm is constantly changing, quite complex and not every data point could be taken into consideration during this study. However, it does clearly make the case that having a complete and well-optimized Google Places Page does significantly impact your chances of being found within local and universal search.

For additional insight into local search optimization, you can view Bizible’s Local Ranking Factors Study in its entirety or contact KEO Marketing today.

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    About Sheila Kloefkorn
With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.

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