The Complete Guide To Ranking Your Site In Local Search

What, are you looking for it here? Sorry, I didn’t write it. Local search expert David Mihm did with the newly updated edition of his Local Search Ranking Factors. If you’re a small business owner trying to get a handle on local search and what you need to get your site to rank, then I recommend you run, don’t walk, to that document and give it a few reads over. And when you’re done reading it, bookmark it. Because you’re going to want to refer to it again later.

There’s a lot of theory given on blogs about what is or is not important to local search ranking, but David’s document is compiled by 27 leading experts in the field, folks who do it every day. Together they ranked nearly 50 different criteria with respect to their influence in Yahoo and Google’s Universal results. The Universal local results are the the 10-pack, 3-pack or onebox results that appear when you perform a local query.

Some factors the SEOs looked at and rated the importance of were:

  • Having complete local listings
  • The proximately of your storefront to the searcher’s location
  • Having product keywords in your business listing title
  • Having the location keyword in the local business listing
  • Associating video with your local business listing
  • Associating photos with your listing
  • Age of listing
  • Having your full address on your contact page

and more than 40 others. Each criteria was then evaluated on its overall importance to ranking, as well as if that importance had increased or decreased in the past last year.

Even if you’re not interested in running a large SEO campaign for your Web site, there’s still a lot of knowledge to be gained from this report. As a small business owner, there’s a lot to do. You want to know which factors are most important so that you can focus on those. Information like this gives you the insight you need to prioritize what should be done immediately, what can wait a month, and what you’re better off putting on the back burner.

One of the most interesting things I got from David’s guide was the growing importance of getting local citations for your Web site. Citations are mentions of your business name and address on other Web pages. That means in order to rank well in local search you should be reaching out to the many local organizations around you and letting them know your business exists. Get a mention from your Chamber of Commerce, from local blogs, local directories and resource sites, your school board association and anywhere else local business information is found. These citations are relatively easy to get (small businesses owners love helping one another out) and they’re very powerful to the local search algorithms.

If you’re a small business owner, I really do recommended you give David’s updated Local Search Ranking Factors a read to give yourself a leg up in local search. He created an incredible resource to help SMB owners understand how Google and Yahoo rank Web sites in their local search results.  Don’t miss out.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

19 Reactions
  1. Hey Lisa, thanks so much for the mention. I hope your readers get something out of the survey :). They can feel free to email me with any questions if they find any of it confusing.

    One *small* clarification I wanted to make is that citations don’t necessarily even have to include your address, though that is by far the most common form. I have seen some of them work with just a business name and phone number–especially if the citing website carries enough authority (like a school board, as you suggest) and the Local profile Google is attaching it to is sufficiently trusted.

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the great post. This article will really help small businesses especially my SMB clients who target exposure on their local market.

  3. @David Mihm – Great writeup from a great group of experts. Thanks for putting it together.

    PS Why are they all out of order?

  4. Robert, the results are actually in order here:

    and then in order within each type of factor: (i.e. on-listing, on-page, off-listing/off-page, reviews)

  5. Amazing study/survey/report on Local Search. Hats off to David Mihm. And to you Lisa for motivating us to go read the whole thing.

  6. @David Mihm – I see it now. Thanks. And for those of you who may find the post a little long, there is a great list at the bottom of the top 10 sites to consider (should give you a starting point)

  7. Wow, there is a lot of information there. This one will take me a bit to get through. I’m sure I’ll pick up on a few new things so thank you in advance.

  8. Hi Lisa , thanks for pointing this report to us. I will check this out.

  9. Martin Lindeskog

    Lisa: Another great report!

    David Mihm: Do you have experience from local search in other countries, e.g. European countries? Here in Sweden we have special listings, e.g. map of different sushi places, coffee places, establishments with WiFi, etc. The old white & yellow pages companies here in Sweden is strong on local search, traffic directions, mash-up with “pinpointed” stuff on a map, etc.

  10. I agree with the SEO value of links from local sources. The key is finding local sources for your industry or area of interest. There are lots of tricks to doing this, such as using the location: operator with news alerts. I’ve written up a complete tutorial on finding local Web sources that your readers may find useful:

  11. Martin,

    The two best European Local SEOs that I know of both participated in this study – Martijn Beijk ( and Aleyda Solis ( Martijn in particular is quite familiar with Google’s main data sources across a variety of countries.

  12. Martin Lindeskog


    Thanks for information. I will check out their sites.

  13. Cobb Business Guide

    Thanks for the heads up! The most important factor in getting quality web traffic is to optimize your web pages for the correct keyword phrase. Getting the most sales is often a balance between search volume for key words and level of competition. Use the Overture keyword tool and Google Adwords tool to research and identify your best keyword phrases. Look for keyword phrases that have high search volume, but low competition. It also pays to see what key words your successful competitors are optimising for.

    Cobb County

  14. Cobb Business Guide

    Thanks for the heads up! The more outbound links the site that’s linking to you has, the more they could be considered a “categorical hub” on the web. And the better off you are for getting noticed on their site for its high rank and popularity in the local search.

    Cobb County

  15. Hi Lisa
    I’ve checked out and forwarded the links to David’s work to a bunch of people. Great stuff! Thanks.

    On a semi-related note, I’d love to get your input and insights about LotusJump, the DIY Online Marketing service we just reviewed.

  16. Great article David. Definitely bookmarked. Thanks for sharing.

  17. RedHotFranchises

    It’s all about finding the best local deals online and empowering small businesses. Most important are the key words that will drive customers to your site. I’ve came across some very easy ideas to get high ranking sites to provide backlinks to blogs and sites.