Marketing startup Bizible recently attempted to discover the most influential local ranking factors for improving a business' Google Places page ranking.
Its motivation was as follows:
"We looked across the local search industry for a data-driven analysis of what drives ranking changes in Google Local. Although there is some great information out there about local SEO, no one had answered this question holistically with a data-driven approach."
Thus, the team studied 30 potential ranking factors by querying about 20 cities across 20 local categories, creating around 400 search items. They stretched their results to 30 links in and found some differences between improving rankings for pages in integrated search results compared to rankings for those not integrated.
For instance, having the primary category match a broader category for the search category (i.e. "pizza" in a sample search term "Seattle pizza") was associated with a 1.42 improvement in rank. What's more, including the search category or a synonym improved rank by 0.64, having five or more Google reviews resulted in a 0.31 improvement while having at least one photo created a 0.25 improvement.
Having five or more Google reviews was also a key factor in enhancing ranking for non-integrated results, although it took breaking the 100-review barrier to see any significant impact in ranking position beyond the fifth. In that same vein, while an average Google Review score of one or less obviously hurt ranking, a score between two and five was found to be "negligible."
"For the integrated results, we found that on average, implementing all of these factors showed an increase in rank by about two positions, which is fairly significant for a 3/5/7 pack," said Aaron Bird, CEO at Bizible, as quoted by Search Engine Land. "For the non-integrated results, we found that on average, implementing all of these factors showed an increase in rank by about nine positions, which was good as well, given that we only went 30 results deep."
One other factor to consider when creating a Places page is that a business description was found to have no effect on ranking - unless the search category was listed somewhere inside. Without including the search category, the business description does a company no good on search engine results pages.