A recent survey from the blog of web designer David Mihm asked respondents to rank the positive and negative factors that drive Google's Local Search algorithms.
You may already be familiar with many of the algorithm changes Google has rolled out in recent years, including "Penguin," "Panda" and "Venice."
With all these changes, how certain ranking factors are determined may have become muddled. So, those polled were tasked with completing the following sentence:
"When Google ranks a business in its Local Search results, I believe this is the ____ overall most important factor in those rankings."
Specific categories in which importance factors were ranked included general signals, Place Page, off-site, on-site, reviews, social/mobile and overall rankings.
When it came to overall factors, respondents listed three Place Page features - physical address in city of search, proper category associations and proximity of address to centroid. Also of importance were domain authority of a business' website and quantity of structured citations, such as internet Yellow Pages and data aggregators.
These results largely matched the overall factors for 2011, although the latter three were replaced with manually owner-verified Place Page, volume of traditional structured citations and having your crawlable address match your Place Page address.
Back to 2012: Place Page-specific factors included the first three listed overall, as well as having your local area code on your page and having it be individually owner-verified.
The top off-site factor was viewed as the quantity of structured citations (as seen in the overall rankings), as well as quality/authority of said citations, consistency of citations, quality/authority of unstructured citations (newspaper articles, blog posts, etc.) and quality/authority of inbound links to domain.
"Citations will always be a major factor and can help or seriously hurt a listing if the data is incorrect across the ecosystem. If your citations have bad information, you have set yourself up for duplicate listings and will ultimately divide your ranking power substantially," said Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing.
The most important on-site factors include the domain authority of your website (as seen in overall rankings), as well as having your city and state in your Places landing page title and assuring that your HTML name, address and phone number (NAP) matches your Place Page NAP.
Review factors that affect local search included quantity of native Google Places reviews, including product/service keywords in reviews, quantity of third-party traditional reviews and location keywords in reviews.
Finally, leading the way for social factors was, not surprisingly, the number of +1's your website receives.