Love: unraveling local search ranking factors. So you’re a small business (or a large one for that matter), and after doing some reading on SEO, you’ve gone to Google Local Business Center and claimed your business’ listing. You’ve read about PageRank and the importance of attracting high quality incoming links with your sparkling content. But what other factors go into the ranking algorithms for local search? How do you climb up that 10-pack? How do you improve your “Location Prominence” score–the equivalent of PageRank? In this post, Mike Blumenthal takes a look at a Google patent to help provide insight into the factors that explicitly help determine this Location Prominence.
Potential Factors in Ranking a Website Highly for Location Specific Searches:
- Incoming links – not simply directory links, but links from other authoritative sites; sites with a high PageRank or Location Prominence score.
- Reviews – I’m particularly interested in how Google uses reviews as a factor in local search rankings. There are the metrics that are already quantified–the actual number of reviews a business has received on a site like Yelp for example and rating itself, 3 stars, 4 stars or 5 stars. But how do you quantify the content of the review? How do you turn “good”, “bad”, “efficient”, “okay”, “disgusting”, “spicy” or “pusillanimous” (maybe you rented a guard dog, alright) into a number? What’s the scale for all negative words? What’s the most negative word you can give a restaurant? Does that mean that word passes along a -100 score?
- Citations – it’s not merely about links, but how many times your business and its accompanying address appear on a website, not as a link.
- Information about the business – search engines want information. It helps them develop a rich tapestry of search results. They’re machines, not humans. They can’t decipher meaning like you and me. Providing the search engines with little information about your business is like the difference between a picture from an inexpensive camera versus a professional camera. If you don’t participate in sites like Yelp, Google Local Business Center, comment on industry blogs, add your business to Best of the Web, then you’re taking a picture of your business with a cheap camera. Google wants you to use that Nikon D3X! What’s the business’ annual revenue? How many employees does the business have? How long has the business been in existence and how long have they been present in listings across the web?
Link: Page Speed
Love: the need for speed! Recently, Google announced they were open sourcing a nifty Firefox add-in, integrated with another superb tool called Firebug, called Page Speed. Page load time is a factor in quality score on the PPC side of life and there have been rumblings about whether or not page load time plays a role or will play a role in natural search rankings for some time now. Let’s assume it doesn’t play a role in natural search rankings, though. Does that mean I should compress the images on my site, enable gzip compression or remove unused CSS from my site anyway? If you happen to have a site that takes a bit longer than usual to load, I’d vote yes. Users find pages that take too long to load annoying, which translates into users bouncing away. The thinking behind improving page load, and as a corollary the user experience, is driven by five best practices:
- Optimizing caching – keeping your application’s data and logic off the network entirely
- Minimizing round-trip times – reducing the number of serial request-response cycles
- Minimizing request size – reducing upload size
- Minimizing payload size – reducing the size of responses, downloads and cached pages
- Optimizing browser rendering – improving the browser’s layout of a page
Aside: “…reducing…cached pages.” Hmm, interesting. Nofollow links to your About Us page, AND robots.txt them out?
Love: data, but don’t allow imperfect data to cause you to freeze and not act. One of my favorite lines from this post says there is no limit to the amount of data to you can collect and store on the Internet, and it’s headache-inducingly correct. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the importance of collecting data, analyzing data and then providing an interpretation of that data for insight into what action should be taken, and I of course still feel that way, but I’m not a Quant. There’s a point where granular becomes so microscopic that the difference in dataset A and dataset B will not cause your client to change his or her decision. Therefore, you need to accept imperfection and act. I know we’re big into models and science and equations, but so was Wall Street, and we saw what happened there. Certainly collect your data, but don’t allow it to bog you down into indecision, and don’t allow incomplete data to bolster that indecision. After all, it’s all incomplete (esoteric alert!).
“How do you measure the effectiveness of your magazine ad? Now compare that to the data you have from DoubleClick. How about measuring the ability of your TV ad to reach the right audience? Compare that with measuring reach through Paid Search (or Affiliate Marketing, or …). Do you think you get more useful data from Neilsen’s TV panel of between 15k – 30k US residents to represent the diversity of TV content consumption of 200 million American television viewers?”
Love: social media for something other than retweeting, posting pictures or helping you acquire links. Social media websites work because they facilitate communication and sharing amongst users (and they allow us to talk about ourselves, of course). The good ones also work on a different level–user interface. Thinking about your website in this way, and incorporating these features, can help drastically improve your conversion rate. Remember, it’s all about the user, not you!
Love: scientifically proven ways to do anything. Who doesn’t want to be persuasive? You’re a business, right? You’re trying to tell your story in order to persuade the potential client to help you write the next chapter, right? A few favorites from the post:
- Too many options necessitate selection, and hence frustration…
- How restaurant mints are a personalized affair
- Asking people to substantiate their decision will lead to higher commitment
(Thanks to @ifss who tweeted this post)