The 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors Report Is In

It’s that time again! It’s the time when David Mihm and his crew release a brand new edition of the annual Local Search Ranking Factors report, causing all of us to go over it with a fine toothed comb to understand which tactics hurt, help or don’t even affect our site’s ranking. It’s a year’s worth of local search education packed into one document!

This year David brought together more than 40 local search experts and got their take on what they think are the most important ranking factors in local search, what’s changed, and where small business owners should be focusing their attention.

While the survey was completed before the colossal Google+ Local Pages update, there are still a lot of important takeaways here and is more than worth of a look.

If you’re not familiar with the report, David explains that participants were asked to rank 90 possible positive factors and 18 possible negative factors that drive Google’s Local Search algorithms. Positive factors were ranked based on the following question:

“When Google ranks a business in its Local Search results, I believe this is the ____ overall most important factor in those rankings.”

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring and were weighted to create a comprehensive look at the relative importance for each factor, based on the participants’ responses. Regardless of where you are in your local search optimization, if you’re still mastering the basics or are expanding in social/mobile, this report is still packed with gems that can help you create a smarter, more targeted campaign.

This year’s Ranking Factors report analyzes the most important factors as related to:

  • Overall Ranking
  • General Signals
  • Place Page Factors
  • Off-Site Factors
  • On-Site Factors
  • Review Factors
  • Social/Mobile Factors

While there are insights to be gleaned from each category, I thought it was particularly interested that even as the local search ecosystem is in constant flux, many of the basics have not changed. Participants all agreed that factors like having your physical address in the city of search, proximately of address to the centroid, consistency of information, and proper category association are all in the top ten for specific factors for overall ranking.

For me (and I’d think for many small business owners), there’s a small degree in comfort in that and something SMBs can take to the bank. Even though we all need to adjust to the always-changing Google algorithm and incorporate things like Google+ and Google+ Local Pages into our strategies, many of the fundamentals are still present. Get those down and you set yourself up on the right foot.

Something else worth noting – make sure to pay special attention to the section that looks at Place Page Factors. As we all move from Google Places to Google+ Local Pages, knowing the factors that are important to ranking in Google Place Pages will help ensure that you set your new page up correctly and that you’re focusing on the metrics that Google is most interested in.

If you haven’t yet looked over the 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors report, I’d highly recommend you dedicate some time today to doing so. It’s not often you’ll be able to benefit from the combined experience of more than 40 local search experts. Take advantage! If you don’t have time to take in the full report, at least read David Mihm’s recap.


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.

6 Reactions
  1. Thanks, Lisa. This is a very informative read.

  2. seo is becoming more of a holistic approach, with social signals playing a bigger and bigger role. It’s going to be harder to game the system in the future

  3. I really hope Google gets it’s local act together this year and tightens controls. I have clients in some really competitive local spaces and it’s frustrating to see the Places results still getting gamed so easily.

    Unfortunately, most of my clients are in Canada and Google is really the only local player around. It would be nice to see Bing get serious up here instead of just grabbing local data from the Yellowpages

  4. Mike@TownandCountrySheetMetal

    Does anyone know why Google will sometimes verify a business via post card and sometimes via phone?