How to Rank in Google Place Results
With the recent launch of Google Place Search on October 27, 2010, the SEO community has been uneasy on how their sites would perform. I’ve seen few of our client sites dropping from Position 1 to Page 3 results, while some have retained its first page rankings.
We have done some few research and found out that Place search do still use some major Google Organic Ranking signals in its algorithm — still factoring in the number of inbound links, anchor text, link authority and some basic onpage factors such as title tag. Without official confirmation from Google, this is nothing but pure speculations –no different from “bounce rate” conjecture as a ranking signal.
Good thing that Product Manager Jeremy Sussman takes time in explaining on video on how local search ranking works. These insights are very helpful and provides some clear picture on how to optimize sites specifically for Google Place Results. He mentioned that Google uses three primary signals in providing the best local search results:
1. Relevance: The On-Page Factor
Search results would only be limited on the user’s query, which means that only relevant business are shown in results and not unrelated businesses. If a user searches for “Restaurant in New York City”, only businesses related to “restaurants” will be shown and not “coffee shops” or “dental clinics”.
Google will rate sites’ relevance based on its on-page factors such as “title tags”, “header tags” and overall site content.
2. Prominence: The Off-Page Factor
This is determined on how well-known or prominent the certain business are based on the sources across the web. This is where the traditional link building come into play. Quantity, quality and use of anchor text in links are significant factors in weighing business prominince in the web.
Customer review is a new added bonus on this scoring, which should obviously have more weight in Place results per compared to ordinary organic listings. The quantity of reviews might have the most effect on this bearing, since Google has still have some difficutly in quantifying the moral aspect in reviews. This is also in accordance to the low agreement of local search experts per compared to volume of associated customer reviews .
As a strategy, start inviting regular customers to write honest reviews –give them a link to your Google Place Page.
3. Distance: The Place Page Factor
Google calculates how far your business is based on user’s query location. A query on “coffee shops in Union Square NYC” will show the nearest shops as the best results in Place Search. After rating several sites in the “relevance” and “prominince” factor, G will then rank these pages in accordance to the nearest Google Place listing.
Therefore, it is very important to be careful in listing out your business in complete detail. Add landmarks, street address, Cities, zip codes and states. Most of the ranking drops of our client sites are because the “City” is not included in the listing, apparently, the listings were just taken by Google through the Yellow pages. This is why it is important to, claim ownership to your business and add as much detail as you can.
Google Hotpot: The Social Recommendation Engine
You could further optimize your site by being familiar with the new system which was introduced by Google recently, the Google Hotpot. Google Hotpot is recommendation engine which enables any user to easily rate places using desktop or mobile android version. This also list other places that your friends have reviewed, these recommendations will then appear whenever you search business listing in Google results. Much of this functionality is based on Facebook Search, which largely depends on friends’ “Likes” to show relevant results.
Hotpot ratings and reviews largely impact the ranking of local business you see on Google, which may stir some spamming issues in Google accounts in attempt to manipulate rankings. To protect your business reputation online and rankings, never engaged in these spamming tactics. It is best to get involved in local communities online. Start with forums, interact with individuals showing keen interest on your business niche and give helpful advice to earn more trust on your business locally. It would be no time that that your business will spread through word of mouth, then potentially, back online.
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