A Fresh Look At Local Search Ranking Factors

Todd Mintz

“Oh cheeky cheeky
Oh naughty sneaky
You’re so perceptive
And I wonder how you knew.”
…Brian Eno ‘Dead Finks Don’t Talk’

I admire the Trailblazers of Local Search Marketing…people like David Mihm, Michael Jensen, and Andrew Shotland who are offering interesting, perceptive insights into this most important aspect of SEO. Now, I’m not close enough to the topic to offer any groundbreaking new information about Local Search, but I have read and studied the area and I need to say that I have questions and concerns about what I’m reading. Are their conclusions actually correct, and if yes, are they offering the best possible advice to the reader to take advantage of their knowledge? So, I wanted to review some aspects of Local SEO and offer my thoughts about what I see:

1) Citation Is The New Link is David Mihm’s groundbreaking Local SEO article where he argues that the volume of “cites” of a local business that appear in the SERPS helps get it higher local search rankings even if the citations aren’t accompanied by a link to the website. Now, I agree with David’s premise…however, I think his advice at the end of the post as to how businesses can increase their citations (obscure directory submissions & mining competitor citations) is pretty ineffectual compared to the most obvious solution.

Remember the guestbook signing software that you probably haven’t used for 5 years (since it hasn’t been effective for that long)? Time to fire it up again since the easiest way to generate these local citations is to sign 10,000+ guestbooks with your complete business contact information. Now, since it’s a known fact that spammy links to your site will get it penalized in the SERPS, when you are “citing your site” in each guestbook, you are also linking to your competition, damaging their link profile at the same time you’re elevating your local SEO. I’m amazed that a smart guy like David didn’t think of this.

2) City Centroid Correlation to Local Search Rankings: In David’s comprehensive study of Local Search Ranking factors, one of the strongest factors that predicted local search ranking success was the proximity of the business to the “center” of the city. Smart people like Matt McGee and Gab Goldenberg chimed in with comments on this factor and on the surface, the evidence overwhelmingly supports this. However, I’d like to offer a slightly different take on the same information which allows the local business owner who isn’t located in the center of the city an opportunity to grab a top local search ranking:

“The Correlating Factor isn’t actually ‘City Centroid’ but the geo-targeted location of the person as he/she claimed the local business listing.”

In other words, how close to the center of the city was the person when they claimed and confirmed their local business with Google?” Most people are physically located at their business when they make their claim…and since they are already at the ‘City Centroid’, that’s why their businesses rank so well. However, this loophole here can be exploited to your advantage…

Get a map of the Top 10 local businesses for your targeted local query. Plot a point that seems to be in the center of those top 10 listings. Drive to that spot, fire up your laptop, and claim your Google local listing from there. Google will assign the location of your registration to your business (even if your business is actually located a long way away) and the chance of your getting a higher local search ranking for your targeted term will exponentially increase.

3) How to knock your competitor(s) off the top of the Local Search Listings and replace their listings with yours even if they’ve already claimed their listing.

Here’s a fun one. First, you go to Google’s Local Business Center and attempt to claim the listings of your competition. Google will let you go through the process but without confirmation, all your work is moot. At the end, you get the option of choosing whether to “confirm” your information via telephone or postcard. Choose postcard. When you input the information that’s used to generate the mailing label, make sure you get the label to say “Attn: xxxxxx” and use a name that people will most certainly remember.

You wait a few days and then send your spouse / significant other to each location with the following story:

“My husband was here a few days ago. He lost his wallet and he thinks this is where he lost it. Has anybody turned in a missing wallet?”
“I don’t think so. What was your husband’s name?”
“John Holmes.”
“Yeah, sure it is. Really?”
“Really. His name is John Holmes. You have a problem with that?”
“Well, nobody has turned in a missing wallet.”
“May I leave you my card and if you find his wallet, will you call me?”
“Sure thing.”

Now, you’ve spent $5 at VistaPrint to get a bunch of cards printed up with her name (Katie Holmes), address and phone number (best to use a disposable Google Voice number). She leaves her card and gets a card from the person at the business. It’s unlikely that she’ll get a call back…but leaving the card gets them to remember her for when she calls back in a few days…

“This is Katie Holmes and I’m calling to see if you’ve found my husband’s wallet.”
“Nobody’s turned in the wallet. But the darnedest happened. We got a postcard here addressed to him from Google?”
“Really. Can you read to me what it says?”
“Sure…”

You’re now in control of your competitor’s local business listing to do with as you wish :.)

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    25 Responses to A Fresh Look At Local Search Ranking Factors

    1. Are you coming to #IMSB? – local has a lot of impact on SERPs..

      @steveplunketts last blog post..steveplunkett: Check this video out — Nelly ft. Fergie – Party People [Science Remix] http://tinyurl.com/dnfoul

    2. Hey Todd,

      Your suggested tactics… seem…shady :P Maybe I’m just naive..but Local search is the playground of Small Business, and it would seem counterproductive to take actions that would reflect poorly on your local business.

      I don’t know.. Don’t you think that these Local tactics are all..kosher?

      Jeremy Riveras last blog post..Google Update Expands Context and Snippets

    3. Todd Mintz says:

      Steve, I will not be able to attend IMSB unfortunately…it’s a little far from Portland :.)

    4. TheMadHat says:

      Sneaky bastard. I love it.

    5. phaithful says:

      Ahhh… good ole “social engineering”. But I guess it doesn’t really “scale”… interesting tactic none the less.

    6. crazy4mud says:

      there is a much easier way to run off with your competitors local listing.

      1- enter the same company name, sightly different address, the true web address, and a unique telephone number (it has to be a local number) but these are eay to acquire for $14-15.00 a month per listing. Much cheaper than driving around and hoping that the post card technique works. It is better if the “new” listing is entered from one of Google’s feeders rather than Google itself.

      2- Request removal of the orginal true listing as an incorrect duplicate.

      3- Claim the new and improved listing as yours with the phone confirmation. It will ring to your temporary and new number.

      4- Once you have ownbership, cancel the paid for local phone number, and wait for the original local listing to be de-listed.

      5- Change the web address on the listing to your website and now you are rolling!

      This is more straight forward and it works.

    7. Dev Basu says:

      I lol’ed on this post – Nice one Todd. Jeremy, I’m pretty sure this is an April Fool’s joke in the making ;).

      Dev Basus last blog post..All About Canadian SEO Eh!

    8. Robert says:

      Awesome… I believe many underestimate the sneakiness that is!

      Ever tried the tip 3 and actually gotten away with it? ;)

      Roberts last blog post..Social Media

    9. George says:

      I love #2. Makes a lot of sense.

      Georges last blog post..Google Rolls Out Longer Meta Description Snippets

    10. MiriamEllis says:

      This is hysterical. Very funny, Mr. Mintz. Happy April Fool’s Day

      Miriam

      MiriamElliss last blog post..Google Local Is What’s For Dinner

    11. “Plot a point that seems to be in the center of those top 10 listings. Drive to that spot, fire up your laptop, and claim your Google local listing from there. Google will assign the location of your registration to your business (even if your business is actually located a long way away) and the chance of your getting a higher local search ranking for your targeted term will exponentially increase”

      Are I.P’s that precise, I would rather think they aren’t, I already tried to check this using analytics on an unvisited website, I visited the site and when I viewed my location in analytics it told me I was in Zurich (about 300km from my place).

      Am I missing some new geolocation technology that doesn’t use I.P and is available on every laptop?

    12. “In other words, how close to the center of the city was the person when they claimed and confirmed their local business with Google?” Most people are physically located at their business when they make their claim…and since they are already at the ‘City Centroid’, that’s why their businesses rank so well. However, this loophole here can be exploited to your advantage…

      Get a map of the Top 10 local businesses for your targeted local query. Plot a point that seems to be in the center of those top 10 listings. Drive to that spot, fire up your laptop, and claim your Google local listing from there. Google will assign the location of your registration to your business (even if your business is actually located a long way away) and the chance of your getting a higher local search ranking for your targeted term will exponentially increase.”

      If you have time to test, I have an interesting theory on how the centroid is evolving. Nice linkbait if you want to establish yourself in the local arena.

      Gab Goldenbergs last blog post..Can You Make Money Off Google Hot Trends Domaining?

    13. oh I get it April fools. Because on any other day this would be a horrible path to take.

      Nick Stamouliss last blog post..When is Launching A Yelp Profile the Right Time

    14. Many people think it’s funny and interesting that you can take over these local listings so easily. That’s because you’re inexperienced, and have never seen what happens to a local business when this actually happens.

      The local listings are far more important than most SEOs realize. Most people are dramatically naive about the power of them.

      I only mention this to caution those wanting to permanently damage businesses that have come to rely on a good local listing.

      Some businesses are already talking lawsuits because of these tactics.

      Be warned, be smart, and please… be nice.

      Regards
      Nathan

      Creative Enterprises last blog post..Twitter, TweetDeck, TwitClicks, Twitter Tools, And Yes… More

    15. These are pretty awesome tips thanks.

      outsource seos last blog post..Link Building Tool Review – Buzzstream

    16. Joel says:

      I find it unfortunate that the tip you shared on #3 was blatantly stolen from someone else without you giving credit. I have read this exact account elsewhere and you copy and pasted it and left no mention of who you stole this from. Pretty sad that you flop around with other people’s information as your own and steal the traffic. The blackhat strategies are cool but your respectability is pathetic to me if you continue to steal content.

      Joels last blog post..“Retweet is stupid” – Think again fellow social media citizens

      • Joel, as the site admin, I approved this comment only to tell you that you should back up your claim with a link. Ylou can’t just throw around baseless accusations – AND I’ll also tell you that your claim is completely false.

        If you really believe that Todd copy / pasted this tip, then you’re sadly misguided. I do know that OTHERS stole it from him and posted though, as a quoted snippet search would show you, with dates and all.

        Finally, I’d point out that Todd’s “tip” was an April Fools post, and SEMpdx wouldn’t seriously be recommending this sort of black hat stuff…

    17. Todd Mintz says:

      Joel, I find it unfortunate that people steal my stuff and repost it without giving me credit…however, I realize that’s the way of the web and I don’t lose sleep about it.

      Though your comment wasn’t remotely humorous, I will take it in good humor even if it wasn’t intended :.)

    18. Art says:

      I didn’t really know any of that about the rank of pages. Thanks for the post!
      .-= Art´s last blog ..What are some fun truth or dare questions or dares =-.

    19. Citation huh. Sounds a lot different from what I thought it was, I guess you learn something new every day.

    20. Art says:

      Citation huh. Sounds a lot different from what I thought it was, I guess you learn something new every day.
      .-= Art´s last blog ..Community Health Network =-.

    21. Mike Ramsey says:

      I wonder if anyone actually drove to the city center to claim their listing? Dick’s burgars would be the busiest place ever…Nice april fools joke. To bad I’m reading about it 6 months after the fact
      .-= Mike Ramsey´s last blog ..Adwords and Local Search – A Happy Marriage =-.

    22. KickZip says:

      I know this post probably isn’t serious, but you make an interesting topic about the citations on local search. Time and again you see that the ones ranking on the top are close in proximity to the city/town and have a boatload of citations. How you go about getting those citations though… ;)
      .-= KickZip´s last blog ..Dentist Joliet IL =-.

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