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Do Directories Really Matter for Local Search Rankings in Google?

By Max Thomas

One or two years ago, I stood on my soap box and explained the utter importance of consistent listings of a company’s Name, Address and Phone Number (“NAP”) in high-authority directories to rank in Google Map results (also known as “citations”). Nowadays, with the blending of local search and organic listings in Google’s “local search” results, the question of directories becomes intriguing (and plausible) because it seems that a directory-strategy alone will not achieve the map rankings a business might desire.

In light of the traditional focus on citations, I wanted to see if I “dug deeply” into local search results in Google if there’s any identifiable patterns among directories, what Google shows in a company’s Places’ page, and a site’s inbound link footprint.

So, with some time on my hands and a spreadsheet ready, I decided to look at every item that Google Places shows in a Places’ page among Page 1 ranking and non-Page 1 ranking results. Out of this came a long catalog of online sources where Google Places pulls information, along with SEO metrics such as unique inbound linking domains, anchor text of inbound links, keyword relevancy of inbound linking URL’s and others.

If you’re short on time, here’s the summary: SEO metrics (particularly anchor text of inbound links and local/industry relevancy of inbound linking URL’s) matter a great deal in regard to which listings rank in Google’s blended local search results; directories and reviews are still very important (the more the merrier) but there are instances where high quality inbound links trump citations altogether.

To illustrate the path to these findings, I focused on the dental vertical in Los Angeles, CA, looking specifically at results for “dentist los angeles”. Following are the findings, observations and assumptions.

Note: Are these findings 100% accurate? Absolutely not! First, these observations and conclusions are made on a relatively small data set. Second, Google’s ranking results (and underlying algorithm) continually change so these observations and findings come with an inherent expiration date. Third, these are anecdotal conclusions made from observations (there’s no numeric modeling going on here). And, fourth, analysis relies upon Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder tool and OpenSiteExplorer.org (the accuracy of findings from these tools carry through to this analysis).

Step 1 - Goal

Determine what distinguishes the listings that rank on Page 1 Google for “dentist los angeles” from those that don’t.

Step 2 - Analysis Process

Catalog and evaluate the following parameters:

  • Google Places Listing: Is the listing “Owner Verified”?
  • Google Places Listing: Does listing show “Details” from owner website?
  • Google Places Listing: Does listing show “Details” from other sources? If so, how many?
  • Google Places Listing: Does listing show “Details” from dental/medical related directories? If so, how many?
  • Google Places Listing: Does listing show “Photos”? If so, how many from owner?
  • Google Places Listing: Does listing show “Videos”?
  • Google Places Listing: Does listing show “Coupons”? If so, how many from owner and other sources?
  • Google Places Listing: What is the total number of reviews?
  • Google Places Listing: What is the number of review sources (e.g., Yelp, Insiderpages, etc.)?
  • Google Places Listing: Are there reviews on Google Maps?
  • Google Places Listing: Does the listing show reviews from dental directories?
  • Google Places Listing: What’s the total “More About” URLs?
  • Whitespark: What is the total number of citations for the listing?
  • Whitespark: What is the total number of domains for the listing?
  • OpenSiteExplorer (OSE): What is the “Page Authority” of the listing’s URL?
  • OSE: What is the number of “Unique Linking Domains” to the listing’s URL?
  • OSE: What is the “Domain Authority” of the listing’s URL?
  • OSE: What is the number of “Unique Linking Domains” to the listing’s domain?
  • OSE: What is the number of linking domains and URL’s (to the listing URL) with the anchor text “dentist los angeles”?
  • OSE: How many of the top 25 inbound linking URL’s use “los angeles” in the title? How many use “dentist/medical/health” in the title?

Step 3 - Establish Sample Set and Parameters

This analysis looks at the following groups of listings: the first are those that ranked on Page 1 Google as of 3/4/11 for “dentist los angeles”; the second are those that did not rank.

Few observations:

  • All non-Page 1 ranking listings are in the same zip codes as the listings that do rank.
  • There is a unusual outlier with the Westin Bonaventure Hotel that has no relevancy for “dentists” but very high relevancy for “los angeles” (we’ll look at this in more detail).

Step 4 – Analysis

A) What does the Google Places information reveal?

Summary: Not too much. In general, Google Places is known not to show all of a business’s citations, listings, etc., so these data points don’t reveal trends that are predictive of rankings. Even so, here’s the run-down of findings.

Details from owner and other sources.

One of the few data points that are consistent for all Page 1 ranking listings is the inclusion of “Details” from owner’s website, which is expected given the importance to Google of finding the business Name, Address and Phone on the business website. However, the majority of non-ranking listings show the same data points, so this in itself is not a conclusive predictor of rankings.

In addition, it seems intuitive that details from multiple directories, including dental directories, would have a positive impact on rankings, but Beverly Hills Family Dentist has neither and ranks on Page 1, while all non-ranking listings have both.

Photos, Videos and Coupons.

As the chart shows, both ranking and non-ranking listings include circumstances with or without photos, videos and/or coupons. Again, not a conclusively predictive indicator.

Reviews.

While every ranking listing DOES include a review in Google Maps, the number of reviews and the number of review sources are across the board. For example, Esthetic Dentistry Dental Group: Mirzayan Armen DDS has only 1 review (and 1 review source) and ranks in the top A position. As for sentiment, this chart does not show that data point, but all of these have above average ratings. As for reviews from dental directories, this data point doesn’t provide any conclusive insights to ranking as there are more non-ranking listings with reviews from dental directories than there are among ranking listings.

More About.

Again, data points are across the board for ranking and non-ranking listings.

UGC – User Supplied Content.

An interesting side note is that more than half of the Page 1 ranking listings in August 2010 included some form of user supplied content, mostly from sources like finddentists.biz, maps.google.com, healthprofs.com and finder.geocommons.com. The March 2011 listings include no USC references.

In summary, the Google Places data is not surprising and also not very conclusive in regard to predicting rankings. Again, much of this is due most likely to the fact that Google Places doesn’t show all citations and online references in the Google Places listings. That’s why looking at a third-party citation analysis tool, like Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder tool, is helpful.

B) What does the number of citations reveal?

Using results from Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder tool, following shows the number of citations (e.g., NAP) for each listing, as well as the number of domains. (If you’re not familiar with Whitespark.ca, I highly suggest checking them out and their Local Citation Finder  tool set.)

First observation is that Google Places indeed does NOT include all citations and online references for a business listing. Second observation is that citations alone do not predict rankings. For example, Beverly Hills Family Dentist has only two citations and domains and ranks on Page 1 Google. In addition, there are non-Page 1 ranking listings that have more citations and domains that some of the ranking listings.

Note: Darren Shaw (of Whitespark.ca) points out below that the reason Beverly Hills Family Dentist has so few citations via Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder tool is that the phone number on their Google Place Page is different from the number on their website. When using their website phone number on Whitespark, there are 87 URLs and 56 domains. As we know Google places enormous significance on the consistent use of a business’s Name, Address and Phone (NAP) in every instance (from business website to listing on another site), it’s not surprising that the Google Place Page shows no sources of additional information in the “Details” section. As for Beverly Hills Family Dentist, even though they’re ranking on Page 1, it would still benefit them to change their Google Place phone number to the one being used in their directory listings.

C) What do Page Authority and inbound links reveal?

Using OpenSiteExplorer.org (from SEOmoz.org), following shows the Page Authority and Domain Authority for each listing, along with the number of unique inbound linking domains to each listing’s URL (that shows in Google Places) and to the entire domain.

With these metrics we are now looking directly at the quality of inbound links (Page/Domain Authority is a good indicator of overall inbound link footprint quality) and quantity (via the number of inbound linking domains). In contrast to citations, these are pure SEO metrics.

Now we’re starting to see a little light. In particular, the Page Authorities for the ranking listings range from a low of 44 to a high of 61, while the non-ranking listings range from 16 to 30 with the exception of Los Angeles Dental Clinic which has a Page Authority of 66.

Domain Authority shows a similar pattern. The Domain Authorities for the ranking listings range from 33 to 86, while the non-ranking listings range from 0 to 20, with (again) the exception of Los Angeles Dental Clinic which has a Domain Authority of 59.

The number of unique inbound linking domains to the listing’s page and overall domain show the same pattern, including the exception.

This metric shows promise in predicting rankings: the higher the quantity and quality of inbound links, the higher the likelihood of a listing ranking on Page 1 map results in Google.

Still…what about Los Angeles Dental Clinic? Is it truly an outlier, or is there another metric at play? With that in mind, let’s look at the anchor text of the inbound links.

D) What does the anchor text of inbound links reveal?

Using OpenSiteExplorer, following shows the number of inbound linking URL’s and domains that use “los angeles dentist” as the anchor text.

Clearly, anchor text matters. So far, this is the most conclusive datapoint with the strongest potential to predict rankings, especially when coupled with Page/Domain Authority and Unique Inbound Linking Domains (above).

Let’s look at the outliers.

Beverly Hills Family Dentist (no citations and Page 1 ranking) has the second highest number of inbound linking domains with the anchor text “los angeles dentist” at 72 (and 108 URL’s). Does this indicate that anchor text and inbound links trump citations?

As for Los Angeles Dental Clinic (91 citations and high Page/Domain Authority, and no Page 1 ranking), it has no exact-match anchor text links for “los angeles dentist”. It DOES have 21 domains with the anchor text “los angeles ca dentist”, which is very close to the target phrase but not an exact match. With 712 unique inbound linking domains, LADC has many anchor text links that include the keywords “los angeles” and “dentist”, but none for the exact phrase “los angeles dentist”.

It seems the listing would rank for “los angeles dentist” given the prevalence of the target phrase in the anchor text results (especially so given the site’s high authority). There must be another factor at play. Okay, let’s look at the how relevant are the inbound linking URL’s for “dentist los angeles”.

E) What does the relevancy of inbound linking URL’s reveal?

Following shows the number of times “los angeles” and “dentist, health or medical” appear in the title tags of the Top 25 inbound linking followed URL’s (from OpenSiteExplorer).

With the exception of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, all Page 1 ranking listings have links from multiple URL’s with “los angeles” and/or “dentist, health, medical” keywords in the titles.

As for the Westin Bonaventure, the majority of it’s inbound links have the anchor-text “Westin Bonaventure” which is a very strong “los angeles” signifier AND they are from URL’s which include the hotel’s Los Angeles address. Coupled with the site’s extremely strong Authority, the page most likely ranks for this search because of its very strong “los angeles” relevance.

Of the metrics analyzed here, this is the most conclusive in predicting rankings. This also indicates how increasingly important it is for a site to have as many local (e.g., city) and industry-specific signifiers as possible to be considered relevant and authoritative in Google.

F) Are there Citations lurking among the Top 25 Inbound Links?

As Darren White (of Whitespark.ca) points out below, if the top inbound links are indeed citations, then perhaps it’s still the presence of high-authority citations that are driving the rankings. In response to this poignant question, following shows how many of the Top 25 inbound linking URLs include Name, Phone and Address (NAP) and which are (targeted) anchor-text driven links.

With the exception of Beverly HIlls Family Dentist, all the Page-1 ranking listings have at least 1 inbound linking URL that includes the full Name, Phone and Address (NAP). Only the Westin Bonaventure shows NAPs on all inbound linking URLs, which is attributable to the sites referencing the hotel’s name, contact information and location. Aside from the Westin outlier, no listing has more than three inbound linking URLs with NAPs, while one of the non-ranking listings shows the highest number with 5 URLs that include NAPs.

As for Beverly Hills Family Dentist, it shows zero inbound linking URLs with NAP information, and 25 URLs with targest keyword anchor text. In fact, nearly all of the Page-1 ranking listings have at least 19 URLs with target keyword anchor text. The exceptions are Westin Bonaventure (which has the highest “Los Angeles” relevancy of inbound linking URLs) and USC School of Dentistry (which has the highest “denist” relevancy of inbound linking URLs).

Again, this seems to indicate that exact-match anchor text and highly relevant inbound linking URLs trump citations as a predictor of rankings.

Step 5. What’s the best recipe for local search results?

Based on this analysis, the best combination is:

  1. Inbound links from URL’s that reference “los angeles” and “dentist” in the title tags, and on-page as well.
  2. Inbound links from as many domains and URL’s as possible with the exact-match anchor text “los angeles dentist” or “dentist los angeles”.
  3. Strong footprint of highly relevant and authority inbound links (as seen via the Page and Domain Authority metrics).
  4. Owner-verified Google Places listing that indexes business information from the business owner website and shows reviews from Google Maps and other review sources.
  5. A healthy number of URL’s and domains that list the business Name, Address and Phone (NAP). While this analysis might indicate it’s possible to rank WITHOUTH a strong citation footprint, the majority of listings have consistent citations so it’s highly recommended to include this as part of a local search strategy (BUT it seems clear that citations alone won’t result in high rankings).

Using the above receipe, how can Los Angeles Dental Clinic secure it’s place on Page 1 Google for “dentist los angeles”?

In general, LADC might increase the “los angeles” and “dentist” signifiers, including exact-match anchor text on its inbound links:

  1. Increase the number of quality links that use “los angeles” and “dentist” in the title tags
  2. Increase the number of links that use anchor text “los angeles dentist” or “dentist los angeles”

Cynthia Cheung Los Angeles Dentist has inbound links from sites about “los angeles” and “health/dentist”. What would help push this listing to Page 1 Google for “dentist los angeles”?

In general, CCLAD might increase its overall inbound link footprint and targeted anchor text:

  1. Increase the number of links from quality and relevant domains (which will help push up the Page/Domain Authority)
  2. Increase the number of links that use anchor text “los angeles dentist” or “dentist los angeles”

In conclusion, while this analysis and these findings are not definitive for predicting local search rankings, they do help illustrate the clear importance high quality and relevant inbound linking URL’s AND anchor text have on local search rankings. Does this mark the end of citations? Probably not BUT it does indicate how citations alone probably won’t do the trick.

If you’re seeing similar or conflicting findings, please share them! It’d be great to see other examples.

I’d like to give a special “thanks” to Gary Magnone for his great insight and his suggestion to explore the anchor text of inbound links and the “local signifiers” of the inbound linking URL’s. I’d also like to say “thanks” to Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca for his additional insights and suggestions to this analysis. Thanks Guys!

Max Thomas

Max Thomas is ThunderActive’s founder. He loves new ideas, laughing, shoes, personal style, and art.

Wanna connect? See you on Twitter or Foursquare.

  • http://www.greatlegalmarketing.co.uk Boyd Butler

    Thank you for doing this research.
    There isn’t much I can add to it for the UK
    as I believe things are exactly the same.
    Am I missing something with regards to this research?
    Don’t on page factors come into play on ranking even if
    it’s Google Places that are being ranked?

    • http://www.thunderseo.com/team/max-thomas/ Max Thomas

      Hi Boyd,

      Thank you for your comments. That’s interesting it’s basically the same scenario in the UK. That makes sense…I’ve just never had reason to explore UK local search (something I’d like to do :-)

      As for your question regarding on-page factors, that’s a very good point. This analysis does not dig deeply into the on-page elements to confirm they are there either way. The fact that Google pulls information from the website seems to be an indicator of whether the NAP information is there and searchable. In fact, Darren Shaw points out that Beverly Hills Family Denist actually uses a different phone number on their Google Place Page than in the directory listings (of which there are 87 using the phone number on their website). While it makes sense they should change their website number to match the one in their citations, it’s interesting that they still rank in the maps on Page 1. I revised the post to address this point.

      Lastly, we talked about looking at on-page factors too as part of this analysis. In particular, see if a link from the business website to its Google Maps listing has an impact on rankings, as well as whether there is a Google Earth file on the website server. Thanks for bringing this up. We’ll add it to the list of variables to consider.

      Thanks again.
      Max

  • http://www.whitespark.ca Darren Shaw

    Hi Max,

    WOW. Awesome job on this research! I’ve been thinking about doing some very similar research, but just haven’t found the time.

    I was surprised to see that my tool reported zero citations for Beverly Hills Family Dentist. It’s possible that the tool just happened to hiccup (maybe a google captcha page) when you ran your search. I just ran their place page number through the tool and got 8 citation sources, 6 of which appear to be reverse phone lookups, but still, 2 valid citations.

    The phone number on their place page is different from the one on their website. I ran a search for the one on their website and got 87 URLs and 56 unique domains. They really should update the number on their place page!

    I don’t think that their citation count make any difference to the conclusions in this piece, but thought I should mention it.

    I think it’s quite revealing that the listing with the #1 ranking is the only one with the anchor text ‘dentist los angeles’ in that specific order. I have certainly noticed with my clients that ‘cityname keyword’ is totally different than ‘keyword cityname’. You have to optimize for both, and anchor text is the best way to do that.

    Where you get into the discussion about the relevancy of inbound linking, I’d be curious to know how many of those links are also citations. How many of the relevant linking pages have phone numbers or addresses listed as well? If the majority of them are citations as well as links, then it might make think that the citations carry more weight than this post indicates.

    I’ve actually been in talks with Majestic about using their Enterprise API to pull in detailed link and anchor text data into my Local Citation Finder tool. It’s funny that this post came out when it did. Gives me some great ideas on how I can make the local citation finder more useful. So, thanks!

    Darren

    • http://www.thunderseo.com/team/max-thomas/ Max Thomas

      Hi Darren,

      Thanks for your comments! Thanks too for the poignant suggestions and insights.

      I’ve looked further at the inbound linking URLs to see if there are any citations “lurking” amongst them. It was intriguing to see that there are relatively few. In fact, this data point seems to further confirm that the relevancy of the inbound linking URLs and the anchor text trump citations as a predictor of rankings. Again, the caveat is that this is a limited data set.

      Also, thanks for the update on Beverly Hills Family Dentist citations using the phone number from their website (vs. their Google Place Page). The fact that the numbers are different makes perfect sense, especially given that Google Place shows zero “other sources” for information under “Details”. I updated the number of citations in the post using the website phone number.

      That’s great to hear Local Citation Finder will be pulling in link and anchor text data. It’s very helpful information.

      Thank again!
      Max

  • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com Matthew Hunt

    Max,

    Great job here! I been finding the same things for a while. I did a different kind of test several months back.

    I took a whack of brand new sites and choose not to build any citations whatsoever. We did simple link building to the site via normal regular white seo strategies and dripped in reviews and each site made it into both the old 7-pack and ranked well with the integrated SERPs.

    I am not saying to don’t build citations, but I am very uncertain of their value too. Maybe go get the top 50 or so and then focus on links from as many different urls as possible. And of course if you can the links from content that is related to keyword term and/or location well even better!

    In my opinion … whatever that it’s worth much :)… the most important thing with the new integrated is rank the website via regular well rounded SEO strategies, b/c I believe the Places page is just being tagged with your website rankings. So my thoughts are there are very little Google Places (or map) algorithm factors determining the new integrated SERPs. Regular SEO determines the rankings, and if Google can find the appropriate Places Page then it will tag your website with it.

    One of the reasons I believe this be true is recently we had one of our clients Google Places account got suspended status (for God knows what, b/c they don’t tell exactly what the problem is), but all the sites we built where SEO’d well and they all remained in their positions and just the place page disappeared. There was no change in rankings. It certainly doesn’t look as good (mind you), however no changes.

    Now when it comes to ranking well in the Maps section, I still believe the main off page ranking factors are based on citations & reviews with a stronger weight being on reviews. Again we did another test in mid 2010 and found we could get brand new businesses that had strong on-page Places page optimization and only dripped in reviews, we built no citations, and guess what they getting rankings in the 7 pack simply with a optimized places page & reviews.

    Anyone, enjoyed this post. Got you on my RSS reader now. Please share more of your findings.

    • http://www.thunderseo.com/team/max-thomas/ Max Thomas

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for your post. Thanks too for sharing your experiences with Google Map rankings, with and without citations. That’s very interesting. I think your experiences continue to build the case for SEO trumping basic citations for predicting map rankings.

      That’s interesting that you were able to get rankings with just reviews and an optimized Google Place Page. While I think every vertical varies in terms of challenges to ranking, I’m suspicious that some directories (aka review sites) carry more weight with Google than others. Even so, I was surprised to see any consistent patterns regarding review sites and the map rankings (for dentists in LA).

      Again, thanks for your input. We plan to keep updating our analysis.

      Thanks again.
      Max

  • http://www.strategic-online-marketing.com Glynn

    Great research and findings. Really interesting and helpful, nice work!

  • http://niftymarketing.com Mike Ramsey

    Great research…Along with you and Matt, I did a similar project when the O-Pack showed up and found the same thing. Over time though, I have came full circle on my opinion of the importance of citations….

    In dealing with the integrated/blended results the SEO factors tend to dominate….other than in one area.

    While citations might not hold as much “rank juice” as inbound links, having your NAP data exactly correct on all channels is the only way to guarantee a placing listing is matched with the organic listing. So, with the new results I don’t look as much at citations power for ranking as for their power in making sure the two results are tied together.

    I am working on a listing now that will not match with the places account in the integrated results and it “breaks the pack”. It is positioned after the A pin, and before the B pin in the 2nd position. I came to find that there was a duplicate listing and for some reason, Places seems to have a hard time matching results if there are dups.

    Other benefit for citations is based on the fact that we are still dealing with multiple local algo’s .

    If you don’t get the integrated results on a phrase I am still finding that “old local” ranking factors are playing the heavy roll. And since google can’t make their mind up about which results/algo to show on a given SERP you have to basically optimize for Organic/Old Local/New Local factors which all have different tipping points. The new key is local is as followed… “Authority in Domain, Exactness in Location, and Dependability in Reviews.” I truly believe that is the best way to view local in its current state of constant change.

    Great research, great findings, but make sure that citations still find there place as a must for local businesses or else they might gain authority, but miss the opportunity of a joined listing that leads to a better CTR and even a higher ranking.

  • http://www.bartendingschoolpittsburgh.com Dave Oremland

    Great analysis. I’ve done some similar work, though not to that detail, and found similar results. I tend to believe that basic organic seo outweighs. local/places in pushing blended local/organic results higher.

    I don’t think its cut and dried. I continue to experiment with efforts to push some sites to better rankings/more expanded maps coverage, more examples where a blended result with the eye catching blended result can be seen in an organic search.

    Some of my efforts include trying to use more geo referenced “signals” that relate to local businesses. One is with maps that are geo coded. Some are with the sources of links, etc. I rely a bit on some of the studies that Bill Slawski provided on essentially how local works via his analyses of various patents from the search engines.

    Its experimental so far.

    I’m better known in Local under some other names; earlpearl on a lot of forums and in Blumenthal’s blog, and localoptimizer on twitter. I’ve also participated in Mihm’s research for the last 3 years and in Blumenthals measured study on ranking impacts in Local (which preceded the blended results.

    In any case this is a great study…and Darren if you could blend Majestic’s data with your data…that would be deeply powerful. Moreover, is there a way to find all the MyMaps that have been created that show yours or other businesses?

    Thanks for the study. Great work.

    Dave

  • http://webzter.net George Manlangit

    This is a great study.

    From what I’ve learned before, citations played a ‘significant’ role in Google Places. It’s enlightening to learn that a balance of inbound links with targeted anchor text plays an important role in the serps as well as having domain authority for the website.

    I’m just curious if linking to the place page would have any result on the serps.

    • http://www.thunderseo.com/team/max-thomas/ Max Thomas

      Thanks George!

      Interesting question if linking to the Place Page would have an impact on SERPs. I was at the “Up Close With Google Place Pages” session at SMX West last week with Carter Maslan (Google Place engineer). Someone from the audience asked that question. Carter responded that it would NOT help with SERPs. He further offered that he couldn’t imagine why anyone would link to the Place Page.

      We didn’t get to elaborate on it, but my feeling is that the Place Page is more of a blended search result, which is in contrast to a map listing (on maps.google.com) URL. I’m guessing you’ve had the same experience as us that linking to a business’s map listing seems to be a strong “local search” signal.

      Even so Carter didn’t say linking to a Place Page helps SERP rankings, it would be interesting to do a study to see the impact.

  • http://www.VisOnTheNet.com Bob Sommers

    Great article Max:

    We tried something with respect to generating back links and citations using article marketing that I think your readers will find very interesting. Our rental car customer is 11 miles from the city center. There was virtually no chance that he was going to show up on the first page of results based on his location … but he did … and he is currently in the top position.

    We used article marketing to generate both keyword rich anchor text links and citations. After 5 articles, he jumped to the first page of results. He is now in the #1 position for Car Rental + Location in a very competitive market.

    I fully agree that the (keyword + location)and the (location + keyword) anchor text plus adding a citation whenever possible is the key to rankings.

    Thanks again for the great article.

    • http://www.thunderseo.com/team/max-thomas/ Max Thomas

      Thanks Bob! Glad you liked the article. Also, thanks for sharing your experience with local search results and leveraging anchor-text rich links via articles. I’m curious, was that before or after the Panda/Farmer update? Also, have you seen a difference since the update?

      Thanks again!

  • http://stensworx.com Michael

    Max,
    Your work here is spot on and offers great insight for local rankings. I’m currently reading everything I can find on local mobile social search. These dentists want to be displayed when any person, let’s say within 5 mi is looking for service. I’m reading Dentist A will get ranked high with all the stuff you have written here. But, Dentist B will be displayed to the viewer at the time of the search if the viewer has more friends, followers or likes on the social nets from people who say they buy services from Dentist B. Does this make sense?

    Great work,
    Michael

  • http://cityseoconsultants.com Norm

    Useful article! Thank You! I also observed that the top business has dentistry, dental, and dds in the title. You can tell it’s actually in the business name. Looking at the page 2 businesses, some of them it’s hard to even tell that they are dentists, looking at the name of their business. That indicates to me that branding, and the frequency of what words businesses tend to use in their name if they represent a certain type of business, could have some significance to Google. Just another tid-bit to add to the hypothesis.

  • http://www.sterlingseoservices.com Sheryl

    This is invaluable evidence for me when citation postings just don’t bump a client’s rank enough…and it’s scientific enough to convince me that as with other ranking, it’s the all-round authority that Google looks at. Of course, we had to know that posting citations was just too easy to be the main influence on rank.