Why Visual Assets > Infographics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish The marketing industry seems to have a love-hate relationship with infographics. When they’re really done well, they can be effective ways of conveying a lot of complex information in a way that’s easier to digest. The problem is that relatively few of today’s infographics are really done well, and many are simply created for shallow SEO benefit. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about the differences between infographics and visual assets, and why the latter are far more effective in our efforts. Whiteboard Friday – Visual Assets better than Infographics_1 For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard: Video Transcription Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition to of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to take a stance. It’s a little bit of a strong and contrarian stance. I’m going to say that I really, really dislike most infographics. In fact, not even most. The vast majority of infographics I strongly dislike. And that said, I really like visual assets. Today I’m going to try and explain the difference to you and show you why I’m a huge believer in one and such a disrespecter of the other. So the typical infographic and the thing that frustrates me about it so much is that it’s really designed primarily to get embeds, to get links, potentially to get some traffic and build some branding. But it’s actually not optimized for a lot of these things. In fact, because the medium has both become so overused and because the execution on many of them is such poor quality, I find that they often hurt more than they help. Because of that, I’m not a fan. So here is your typical infographic. How obsessed are Facebook users with celebrities? Oh my gosh, look, 35% have liked a celebrity’s page, and look, more and more people have liked more and more celebrity pages over time. Here’s a picture of some people, and here are words in some graphic format that’s really hard to read and unnecessary illustrations on the side just to ornament this thing up. Then they hope that someone is going to pick it up and embed it on their news site, and occasionally this stuff does work. In fact, for a few years now it has worked. The challenge is it keeps going down and down and down. It’s reaching a point of diminishing returns, and I think that’s because audiences are really tired of the infographic format or are getting very tired, especially more sophisticated and savvy audiences, which for a lot of B2B and even many B2C marketers, let’s face it, we are reaching those areas. Also, these things can be tremendously burdensome to try and put on a web page. They’re hard to read a lot of the time. So it makes it challenging even when someone does embed it. Google has said specifically that they’re looking at algorithmic ways that they can work around infographics that get embedded that people didn’t really mean to or intend to link back, and they are merely doing a link to the infographic because of the embed itself. This kind of stuff, eh, I’m just not about that. I don’t think that most of us in the inbound marketing field should be about that, despite the potentially positive impact that something very similar can have. So these are visual assets. There are many different kinds of visual assets. In fact, I would say infographics, traditional infographics are just one type of visual asset and possibly not the best one. In fact, probably not the best one in my opinion. Photos, just a collection of pictures from relevant and interesting people, events, places, even concepts that are illustrated, these get picked up. They get shared around the web. They’re useful for social media networks. But they’re also useful to have in a photo library that people might take and use for all kinds of different reasons. Charts and graphs that illustrate or explain the numbers behind a story or a phenomenon, these can be incredibly useful, and they get picked up and used all the time by sources that want to quote the numbers and even by sources that originated the numbers that are looking for visual ways to represent them. This is a phenomenal way to build value through visual assets. Visual representations, I do stuff like this all the time. Think of the SEO Pyramid . It starts at the base with accessibility, and then we talk about keywords and links, social, user and usage signals, and all that kind of stuff. I’ve done some visuals like that on Whiteboard Friday, things like the ranking factors by distribution through the pie chart explaining those different things. I’ve done stuff like the T-shaped web marketer , talking about going deep in a particular niche, but having a lot of cross domain expertise. These are not high-quality graphics. They’re made by me. I use Flash 6 to make these things, because I learned Flash way back in my days as a web designer. I’m lazy and have not learned to get good at Illustrator or Photoshop in particular. Yet, they get picked up and sent all over the place, and you can see visual assets doing the same thing in all sorts of niches. Comics, illustrations, or storyboards that tell a narrative visually, incredibly popular and get picked up all the time. Screen shots; even just a simple screen shot with some annotation and explanation, examples of what to do, how to use it, how to interpret that information, layering on top some data, these types of visual assets have huge caché and value. You get a lot more opportunity from these kinds of visual assets, in my opinion and experience, for links, for referencing, being referenced by media outlets, by industry resources, by third parties, by people in your professional or personal sphere. You have more of an opportunity for embeds because they’re much simpler to embed, and they can be useful in so many more places than an infographic, which really needs to take up an entire post about it if it’s going to get referenced at all. They give a lot more value to people. They’re simple to consume, to understand, and they’re useful and usable in ways that infographics often are not. And, a lot of the time they’re far simpler to execute. It doesn’t take a graphic designer to produce a ton of these different types of resources. It often doesn’t cost very much, if anything at all, to make them, and that means you can produce a far greater quantity of visual assets than you could of infographics and have potential there to get links, to get references, to build your brand in really authentic ways. So I’m sure there will be some vigorous debate and discussion in the comments, and I look forward to it. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care. Video transcription by Speechpad.com Sign up for The Moz Top 10 , a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Why Visual Assets > Infographics – Whiteboard Friday

Future SERP: A Glimpse at Google 2014

Posted by Dr-Pete Watching Google change can quickly become an obsession, and it’s easy to jump at every shadow when they test thousands of ideas per year (and roll out hundreds). This post is an attempt to take all of the things I’ve seen in the past six months and tell a story driven by real data. This is the story of how I think Google will look by the end of 2014, and what that implies about their direction and core philosophy. Two data sources (1) MozCast Feature Alert In April of 2012, I launched “Project Algo Alert”, a prototype that would later become MozCast . What was originally one “weather” station, designed to measure daily fluctuations in top 10 rankings across 1000 keywords, has evolved into 11 stations and three unique systems. One of those systems is Feature Alert, which was based on a simple idea – how could we detect when Google launched new SERP features, without any prior knowledge of what those features would be? Feature Alert solves this problem by cataloging the basic building blocks of Google’s source code, the container names and IDs in CSS. Let’s say for example, that Feature Alert sees the following chunk of HTML/CSS code: The system checks each building block against an archive, and if “ads-container c mnr-c” is a new object, it’s captured and I’m alerted that something new happened. When I built Feature Alert, I thought something new might pop up a couple of times a month. As of writing this post, the system has captured 2,441 unique building blocks. A side effect of the system is that, at large scale, it frequently catches Google in the act of testing new features and UI changes. Keep in mind that Google ran 7,018 “live traffic experiments” in 2012 – while we probably capture only a small number of them, these tests allow us to get a glimpse into what’s coming next. While any given change may be rejected (Google launched just over 9% of the changes they tested last year), some changes appear repeatedly in testing and in different formats over time, strongly suggesting that Google is intent on launch. (2) Mobile feature launches Google is terrified of mobile – the ad landscape that drove 84% of Google’s revenue in Q3 is a completely different animal on mobile, and consumer behavior is evolving rapidly. One clear pattern in 2013 is that many major UI changes hit mobile before they hit desktop. Google is designing for tomorrow’s devices and is desperate to make sure that ad CTR and CPC don’t fall as mobile search volume increases and new devices (like Google Glass) come onto the scene. When we see a new feature in testing and then realize it already exists on mobile, odds are good that that change is coming to desktop soon. By combining these two data sources, we’ve been able to paint a picture of Google’s near future. Based on the past few months, I’m going to make six predictions for 2014 and turn those six predictions into two conceptual screenshots. Six predictions For each of the six predictions below, I’ll provide evidence from MozCast and/or mobile search, along with my confidence in the prediction. These predictions are grouped to tell a story, but are otherwise in no particular order: (1) New Knowledge Graph – 98% Since its launch, the vast majority of Google’s Knowledge Graph has been built on a very few data sources (including Wikipedia, Freebase, and the CIA Factbook). The core problem is that these sources are limited and only work well for highly structured data. To expand, Google needs to extract answers from their entire index of the web. Put simply, Google needs to be able to create answers from content. Over the past few months, we’ve seen extensive testing of Knowledge Graph entries like this one: Notice the “In context” section, which is the bulk of the informational content – this is entirely driven by third-party websites. All of the blue links are links to additional Google searches, but the light-gray links show the original sources. Put simply, Google will soon be building their Knowledge Graph on your data. It’s interesting to note that the queries we’re seeing this on seem to be fairly broad and/or have a generic intent. When Google launched “in-depth articles” , they made the following statement: To understand a broad topic, sometimes you need more than a quick answer. Our research indicates perhaps 10% of people’s daily information needs fit this category. It’s very likely that this new Knowledge Graph approach is an attempt to solve the same problem, and that these entries will appear on searches that previously had no Knowledge Graph data. Long story short, this isn’t just a change – it’s an expansion. Knowledge Graph drives many variations of answer boxes , and so it’s not surprising that we’re also seeing new answer boxes in testing. This answer box was captured from a search for “is pneumonia contagious”: Unlike traditional answer boxes, this information is being extracted from the index (in this case, kidshealth.org) and treated more like an organic search result. Given that we’ve seen multiple variations of new answer boxes and multiple tests of these new Knowledge Graph entries, my confidence is very high that some version of these features will roll out in the next few months. (2) Revamped advertising format – 95% Recently, we’ve seen Google aggressively testing a new and somewhat surprising advertising format (and outside sources have confirmed these tests). It looks something like this (the search was “paella recipe”): I’ve added the (…) in the middle section, which is more organic results, but the divider marks the top and bottom AdWords blocks. Essentially, Google has added the marker [Ad] to each advertisement, but they’ve removed the current background color and have formatted everything else to be nearly identical to an organic listing. It may seem surprising that Google would visibly mark ads in this way. I suspect that this isn’t entirely by choice, but is related to Google’s ongoing battle with regulators and their pending settlement with the European Union . If this move seems unlikely to you, consider a second piece of evidence. This is a current search for “paella pans” via my mobile phone (all mobile screenshots come from Safari/iOS7 on an iPhone 5S): This new format has been running on mobile browsers for a while now, and Google’s widespread testing makes it look like a foregone conclusion for desktop search. This change will have huge implications on both organic and paid CTR in 2014, regardless of the final form. Expect Google to also test and iterate quickly when the new ad format launches. (3) Ads outside of three blocks – 33% This prediction is much more speculative and I have no clear evidence to support it, but the potential impact is big enough that I’m going to say it out loud. Once Google is individually labeling ads in the left-hand column (right-hand column ads only get one [Ads] marker at the top, at least in testing), ads will become stand-alone units. In other words, Google will no longer be constrained by fixed blocks at the top and bottom. So, what’s to keep the test above from turning into something more like this (the next image is conceptual, not a captured test): Individual ads could be interspersed in organic results, impacting the overall effectiveness of any given position in those results. Once Google has the flexibility to move ads, I see no compelling reason to believe that they won’t test new options to improve ad effectiveness. I’ll conservatively put the odds of this change at one in three. (4) Loss of result count/stats – 80% This one has serious implications for SEOs, but I think it’s a move that makes sense for Google. Let’s look at the entire screenshot for the “paella recipe” search we dug into previously: Notice something missing? There’s no light-gray result count at the top of this page (“About 3,270,000 results…”). Google has entirely removed that line of text in this test screen. Truthfully, as much as we rely on these numbers for SEO research (especially with search operators like “site:”), I suspect the additional data has almost no value for everyday search users. It’s taking up prime real estate, and Google could very likely get rid of it. Scroll back up to the mobile search for “paella pans” and you’ll see that result count data is already gone from mobile. On a mobile phone, that data simply takes up too much valuable space. It’s possible that Google could preserve the data for operators and certain searches, but I have no clear evidence either way. If you’re a search marketer, I would be prepared to lose this data in 2014. (5) Boxed design for #1 result – 90% The current incarnation of an expanded #1 organic result has been around for a while – it has an indented set of site-links (up to six, on a normal search, or ten on domain searches) that each have links and short snippets. Google has been testing a number of variations on boxed designs for expanded #1 results, such as the following: Notice that the entire entry is boxes, as are the individual site-links. The main link is in a larger-than-normal font, and some of the site-links have arrows that pull up related links. Google has been testing many variations on this theme for a couple of months now, but consider that one variation already exists in mobile search (this is a search for our own brand, as Ra Sushi generates local results on mobile): While the mobile result is constrained to a single column, the overall listing is boxed, with clear dividers between the main result and site-links. Google has been testing variations on this one for a while, and they seem to be worried about getting it right, but by the end of 2014, I’m almost certain that some variation on boxed results for the #1 organic position will launch. (6) Boxed design for entire page – 50% It’s easy to assume that this boxed design is purely cosmetic, but I believe it goes much deeper than that. Consider the look of another Google product, Google Now (via my iPhone 5S): Google Now is divided into what Google calls “cards”, distinct units of information that are individually boxed and can be mixed, matched, and sorted as Google sees fit. Notice how similar this format looks to Google’s mobile search results. As Google expands into new formats, including wearable technology like Google Glass, and as screen sizes diverge – from phones to tablets to desktop and everything in between – it’s going to be increasingly important that they can escape the constraints of a single, fixed-format display. Cards are a natural transition to a flexible and dynamic SERP, allowing Google to mix and match depending on the device you’re using. Google Now has already started appearing in personalized search results. Consider the following Knowledge Graph entry, produced when I do a brand search for “amazon” while being logged into my Google account: Google has inserted a personalized card into the Knowledge Graph entry that indicates I have recent orders. Clicking on details produces an answer box containing yet more personalized information. Even the Knowledge Graph entry itself and current answer boxes are card-like, with clear outlines and separation from organic results. Answer boxes are tailor-made for mobile search, and so are Google Now cards. So, what if Google took this idea to its logical conclusion and created an entire SERP that was divided into individual card-like units? This is how mobile search already looks, as you can see from multiple examples above. This would be a big change for desktop, and I have not seen an entirely card-based SERP in testing, but I’ll put the odds of that development at about even (50/50). Two SERP concepts So, what might Google look like by the end of 2014? I’ve come up with two artist’s conceptions (I created them, so take the phrase “artist” loosely). While some aspects of these concepts are based in reality, these are not real Google results (live or in testing). The first is based on my recent flight on Virgin America and a fictional brand search for “virgin america” (click on the image for a full-sized version): Here we have a completely boxed (card-style) SERP, with the new ad format, Google Now in the Knowledge Graph, and the redesigned #1 organic result with site-links. I’ve added the mobile background color and removed result count data. While I don’t think Google will adopt this exact look and feel, it combines many of the data-driven predictions in this post. Just for fun, let’s look at a second variation. Here we have a Knowledge Graph result using “In context” data from 3rd-party sources, plus an answer box parsing information from a 3rd-party source. The first ad is placed after the answer box, and a second ad has been inserted after the top two organic results. Again, this is purely conjecture: While I don’t expect Google to look exactly like either of these concepts by the end of 2014, I think the data strongly suggests that many of these concepts will be in play, and Google will have shifted strongly toward a more card-based design. Add in the expansion of Knowledge Graph and Google’s rush to get mobile right, and I expect significant changes to SEO in the next year. The best we can do is keep our eyes open. This post was adapted from a presentation at ThenSome San Francisco, called ” Future SERP: The Face of Google in 2014 ” (available on SlideShare). Thanks to SEOGadget for hosting the event and to the audience for a great discussion that helped me vet and develop some of these ideas. Sign up for The Moz Top 10 , a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Future SERP: A Glimpse at Google 2014

Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors: An Illustrated Guide

Posted by MiriamEllis First published in 2008 by David Mihm , the Local Search Ranking Factors survey of Local SEOs around the globe has become a high point in the year in local search. If you eagerly await this yearly report and comb through it for new insight, then the information in this guide may not come as news to you. I wrote this guide for marketers who are new to the field of local SEO and for local business owners who are flying solo in their efforts to market their companies on the web. Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 identified 83 foundational ranking factors . This guide takes the top 20 most important factors and offers a succinct, illustrated example of each. By reading this guide, you will understand both the lingo and the concept of each local search ranking factor. Use this information and you will be on the road to promoting local businesses on the web from a firm and educated foundation. Sound good? Start reading! 1. Proper category associations 2. Physical address in city of search 3. Consistency of structured citations 4. Quality/authority of structured citations 5. HTML NAP matching place page NAP 6. Quantity of structured citations 7. Domain authority of website 8. Individually owner-verified local plus page 9. City, state in Places landing page title 10. Proximity of address to centroid 11. Quality/authority of inbound links to domain 12. Quantity of native Google Places reviews (w/text) 13. Product/service keyword in business title 14. Quantity of citations from locally relevant domains 15. Proximity of physical location to the point of search 16. Quantity of citations from industry-relevant domains 17. Local area code on local Plus page 18. City, state in most/all website title tags 19. Quantity of third-party traditional reviews 20. Page authority of Places landing page URL 1. Proper category associations Proper category associations are important enough to be ranked #1 in the survey. During the process of creating your Google+ Local page, you will be choosing categories at two distinct points. When you enter your initial details, you will be selecting a primary category for the business. This is the most important category you will choose. Then, once inside the dashboard, you will be allowed to select up to nine other categories for your business. All categories must be chosen from Google’s pre-set category taxonomy. Earlier versions of Google’s dashboard allowed the business owner to custom create categories, but this feature is being phased out. The concept here is simple. If you wish to appear in the local results for a search like “dentists in denver”, your business must be categorized as a dentist . If it is categorized as a certified public accountant, you have no hope of appearing for your important search terms. To help you determine which categories are available to describe your business, you can use Mike Blumenthal’s free Google Places for Business category tool . Type in keywords that you feel best describe what your business is and the tool will show you which categories are available. Your choice of categories will often be obvious. A dentist will want to choose “dentist” as his primary category. But, he may wish to perform keyword research and combine that with use of the above tool to discover additional important categories such as “dental clinic” or “cosmetic dentist”. You will be building listings for your business in a variety of other local business directories and indexes. These platforms will not necessarily offer categories that are identical to those in Google’s system. You must take time to discover the most relevant categories on each platform as you build each listing. 2. Physical address in city of search Your business is most likely to appear in Google’s pack of local results for searches that either: Contain the name of the city in which it is physically located, or Stem from devices based in that city If you are a chiropractor in San Francisco, you are most likely to appear in the local pack of results for a search like “san francisco chiropractor”, or if someone searches for “chiropractor” from a computer or cell phone based in San Francisco. This search for “chirporactors san francisco” illustrates this phenomenon, in that all of the results Google is returning in its local pack are for practitioners physically located in that city: In the above screenshot, you will note that there are no chiropractors in neighboring cities included in these results. It’s safe to say that Google has a very definite bias towards physical location in the city of search. This is a simple concept, but it represents a major stumbling block for two distinct business models. A) Service area businesses (SABs) with employees who might travel to a city like San Francisco to do plumbing, management consulting, or dog walking, but who are physically based in another city or town. In other words, the SAB does not have a physical address in San Francisco. B) Brick-and-mortar businesses located just outside the borders of a major city like San Francisco, Dallas, or Denver. An example of this might be a locally-heralded acupuncturist who is located in Mill Valley, California, but who has numerous clients who are happy to travel a few miles outside of San Francisco to visit him. In both cases, the business owner understandably wants these major city audiences to know his services are available, but because of Google’s bias toward physical location, these businesses are unlikely to ever appear in the local pack of results. As things presently stand with Google, the best hope for these types of business owners is to begin developing city landing pages that showcase their professional association with these other cities, whether this involves windows they wash on the skyscrapers of Dallas or lectures they give at a Denver hospital. The goal here is to gain additional visibility in the organic results for these other geographic terms. There are some exceptions that may overcome Google’s bias. If you search for a niche business model in or around a major city, or search for any business model in a rural location, you may see listings in the local pack of results that stem from several cities. For example, if there is only one gas station serving a large radius in a rural area , it may pop up as a local result for any of the towns in that region. This scenario, however, tends to be the exception rather than the rule. In sum, it is generally wise for local business owners to set the goal of earning local pack rankings for searches related to their city of location, and organic rankings for any other geographic terms they feel are important. 3. Consistency of structured citations A citation is any web-based mention of your company’s partial or complete name, address, and phone number (NAP) . A “structured citation” refers to a listing of your business in an online local business directory such as YP.com, HotFrog, or Best of the Web. Inconsistent citations might involve: A difference in the business name (i.e. Smile Dentistry vs. Smile Dental Clinic) A wrong street address, a typo in street address numbers, or a missing suite number A wrong or different phone number, a toll free or call tracking number A different or wrong website URL Citation inconsistencies may arise from simple carelessness during the citation-building process and these mistakes may then be duplicated across the local search ecosystem . Inconsistencies also commonly arise if a business has moved at any time in the past decade or so. Apart from causing confusion for humans, these discrepancies hinder Google’s ability to trust the data they have gathered from around the web about a given business. A lack of trust on Google’s part can spell ranking difficulties for the business. Here is an illustration of a randomly-chosen dental practice in Sacramento, California which recently moved. The new location of the practice is on Riverside Blvd., but a search in Google reveals that many structured citations for the business still list its old location on Freeport Blvd. As can be seen in the Google+ Local area of the results, the business currently has two listings that reflect this inconsistency, meaning that their authority is being split up instead of consolidated into one correct listing . If you have to move locations, it’s a given that you’ll need to put in some hours editing your old citations so that they reflect your new address. You’ll see this being referred to as “citation cleanup.” However, many businesses that haven’t moved will discover that they have inconsistent NAP data out there on the web, too. An easy way to begin searching for this is to simply type your business name into Google’s main search engine and see what comes up. Go through the results by hand and make sure that each part of your NAP is identical across all listings of your business. Edit where necessary. 4. Quality/authority of structured citations It’s just good horse sense that having your business listed on high-quality websites is going to help you more than being listed on sites of low quality. As a rule of thumb, businesses should initially concentrate on getting listed on a handful of really authoritative local business indexes and directories . Use the tool at GetListed.org to be sure that you have a listing in the dozen or so basic, authoritative directories highlighted there. Once you have all your ducks in a row with these basic citations, you want to continue down the citation building path to further enhance your company’s visibility and authority. Perform searches for category terms , service terms, and geographic terms to see what comes up in the search engine results. The websites that come up may be places you would like to list your business, if possible. There is no standard process for judging the quality of a citation source. Metrics you might consider could include domain authority, domain age, link profile quality, and even simpler quality signals such as whether the website looks fresh or neglected. Darren Shaw of Whitespark has written a good blog post entitled ” How to Identify Quality Citation Sources “. If you are in a competitive market, you may need to build numerous citations to compete and may find that using a paid tool like Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder makes your work both easier and more effective. 5. HTML NAP matching place page NAP Google will be looking at the website page you’ve linked to from your Google Places/Google+ Local page to cross reference the name, address and phone number of your business. If all elements match, as shown in this screenshot, you’re good to go: However, if there is a discrepancy in the NAP you have on your +Local page and the NAP on the website page your +Local page links to, then Google will become “confused” about the data they have about your business. Small discrepancies like Ste. vs Suite or Hwy. vs Highway do not matter. Reference Point 3 in this guide for a list of discrepancies that do matter. Your task is to ensure that your NAP is cohesive in both places. There is a specific scenario in which Google may not be able to cross reference the complete NAP in the +Local Page dashboard with the NAP published on a website. This relates to home-based businesses which, for reasons of privacy, do not publish their street address on their website. It is speculated that this decision may put the business at some disadvantage, given what an authoritative source the website is, but to date, I am unaware of any in-depth studies that have been conducted surrounding this interesting topic. One might guess that if there are five home-based seamstresses in a town and only one of them publishes her home address on her website, she might have an edge over the other four, because Google is able to confirm that the Google+ Local page dashboard address matches the one found on the website. This is a subject that is deserved of further study! 6. Quantity of structured citations Again, a structured citation is a listing of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) on an online local business directory. While the quality of these structured citations counts most, quantity is definitely important, too. Each unique local business owner will find he needs to build a different number of citations in order to be competitive. Typically, the more competitive your market is, the more citations you will need to build. A simple way to find new structured citations for your business is to type your business category terms into Google’s main search engine to see what comes up. For example, a Boston-based search for “doctors” highlights these two directories where it may be smart for any doctor to get listed. For a more sophisticated approach, you might use a tool like Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder ( Moz members get a 20% discount !) which will not only help you find new citations to build, but will also keep track of the numeric quantity of citations you have earned: For businesses in less competitive markets, an initial session of citation building followed up by a very modest, occasional effort to build new citations may be all that’s needed to become dominant in the search engine results. If you’re in a tough market, however, ongoing citation building will likely need to be an integral part of your local search marketing strategy. 7. Domain authority of website At present, the overall strength of a local business’ website plays a major role in how it ranks both locally and organically. Simply stated, ” Domain Authority ” is a metric used to predict how well a website may perform in search results compared to other websites. Moz offers a Domain Authority toolbar called the MozBar that makes it easy to see the DA of any website in the search engine results. See the bottom of this screenshot, below: There are many factors that make up the domain authority of a website. Some of these include the age of a website and the number and quality of links pointing to it. For a great explanation of DA, read this blog post by Matt Peters . In general, every local business will want to publish the strongest possible website. This means having a user-friendly, optimized site with excellent content that earns links and social mentions over time. You will always be working to build your domain authority, and the higher it is, the better your chances of ranking well for your most important terms. 8. Individually owner-verified local Plus page Creating your Google+ Local page for your local business is your first step to being included in Google’s index. Your second step is to verify your ownership of the listing. These days, this typically involves receiving a postcard/letter from Google containing a pin number which you must enter in order to complete verification. Avoid letting anyone else act as a go-between for your company, putting your Google+ Local page into some master Google account of their own. It’s fine to have a Local SEO help you with the steps of verification, but this should be done with your own Google account and not the account of any third party. You need to be in direct control of your Google+ Local page , and while you will find unverified listings managing to rank in some local packs, it is always wiser for any local business owner to take the time to verify his or her listing. It’s easy to do! 9. City, state in Places landing page title Your Google+ Local page should link to a page on your website. This page on your site will have an element in its code called a ” Title Tag .” This is typically located in the section of the code and the words contained in it send a very important signal to both search engine bots and human users regarding the topic of the page in question. The title tag of a page typically displays in the upper left hand corner of your browser window: In the above screenshot, you can see that the title tag of the page contains both the city and state name. Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 cites the inclusion of these geographic terms as being especially important on the landing page to which your Google+ Local page links. For many local businesses, the landing page will simply be the homepage of the website. However, for multi-location or multi-practitioner business models, specific landing pages may have been developed on the website to reflect this diversity, and the Google+ Local pages created for these locations or practitioners will often link to these landing pages instead of the homepage. By including your city and state names in your landing page title tag, you will be letting both search engine bots and human visitors know that your business is local to a specific geographic locale. 10. Proximity of address to centroid Traditionally, the centroid in Local Search has been defined as the city center identified by Google in its Maps product. You can go to maps.google.com , type in a city and state and get a result that looks like this, with Google putting a red pin on the presumed city centroid: However, expert Local SEO Mike Blumenthal has recently pointed out that the centroid can change position relative to different industries and may often have nothing to do with the the designated center of a city . In other words, Google can decide that the center of business for auto dealers is different than the center of business for chiropractors. This is a somewhat complex topic and I recommend you read Linda Buquet’s forum thread, Google+ Local Centroid – Not City Center! to see illustrations of this concept of the shifting center of business. Proximity of address to centroid is one of those factors over which your business will have little control. Some businesses located outside this centroid/center of business radius may discover that they are at a disadvantage in comparison to competitors who are within the radius. Short of moving to a new location, (not a realistic suggestion) your proximity to Google’s designated center of business for your industry isn’t something you can change. 11. Quality/authority of inbound links to domain Because organic signals play a big part in local rankings, earning high quality links from authoritative sources will help your business to improve its visibility in the search engine results. A tool like the Open Site Explorer can help you to begin understanding both the number and quality of links currently pointing to your website: For a local business, high quality, authoritative links may come from a variety of places, including local and national newspapers, local business indexes, high profile bloggers and professional industry associations. These days, strategies surrounding the acquisition of links have evolved from link building (the process of actively seeking web pages on which links can be placed) to link earning (the process of generating links without having to build or request them due to some outstanding aspect of the website). Local businesses can both build links, as in the case of having their domain linked to from their local business listings, and earn links via forms of marketing like content development and social sharing. The more authoritative the sources that link to your website, the better your chances of gaining visibility for your important search terms. 12. Quantity of native Google Places reviews (w/text) This is a simple one! It is currently felt that the number of reviews your business earns on its Google+ Local page influences rank more than reviews you might earn on other review platforms. You can easily see how many reviews you have by clicking either on the “reviews” link on your Google+ Local link in the main search engine results, or by visiting your + Local page directly. You’ll see something that looks like this: No local business needs to earn a ton of Google-based reviews at once. In fact, if you earn reviews at too great a velocity, you may find that some of them get filtered out . Rather, best practices for this revolve around slowly acquiring positive reviews from happy customers, one by one, over time. You want to earn more reviews than your direct competitors have, but you don’t need 10 times as many reviews to see the benefits. In fact, if you’ve got many more reviews that your competitors, it may look suspicious to Google and human users. Google allows you to ask for reviews, but not to offer money or incentives in exchange for explicitly-required positive reviews . Reviews must come directly from your customers’ Google accounts. Never hire a third party marketer to pose as a customer and post fake reviews or post reviews on behalf of real customers. Create an internal process in your company for requesting reviews either at the time of service or shortly thereafter. Remember, a slow, steady acquisition of reviews is the goal here, so that you are gradually building a great online reputation, over time. You will note that this ranking factor relates to the quantity of Google Places reviews rather than the quality or rating of them. At this point in the evolution of Local Search, sheer numbers seem to matter most. 13. Product/service keyword in business title The business title of your business is its legal name or DBA. It is believed that having the name of a core product or service in your business name may give you some advantage over competitors who lack this. Here’s an example of some auto body shops in Boston with the full or partial keyword phase “auto body” in their business names: If your business name currently doesn’t contain a product or service term, don’t take a wrong turn by simply adding keywords to the business title field on your Google+ Local page or other citations. This is not allowed! Ostensibly, you could take the legal steps to change your business name so that it includes a keyword phrase, but be advised that if you do, you will be signing up for a mountain of work editing all web-based references to your old name, in addition to offline re-branding in your signage and marketing. Often, it is simply more realistic to concentrate on other promotional efforts. However, if you are starting a new business, it will be good to take note of this bias on Google’s part and consider including your core product/service term in the naming of your company. 14. Quantity of citations from locally relevant domains Having your business NAP (name, address, phone number) mentioned on a website that relates specifically to your geographic community acts as a locally-relevant citation. This type of citation reinforces Google’s trust in your relevance to your locale. Here’s an example of a locally-relevant citation for an accounting firm, listed on the Livermore, California Chamber of Commerce website: Apart from Chamber of Commerce websites, other locally-relevant domains on which you might earn citations could include local news sites, local professional association sites and local blogs that publish content about businesses or happenings in your community. Remember, a citation does not necessarily have to link to your website, but that’s always nice, too! 15. Proximity of physical location to the point of search (searcher-business distance) For many searches, it is no longer necessary to include a geographic term in your search in order to be shown local results. If Google feels that your search term has a local intent, they will automatically detect your physical location and show you local results. For example, a user located in Laramie, Wyoming can simply search for “wood stoves” in order to be shown a local pack of results containing businesses near him. This phenomenon of proximity demonstrates Google’s bias towards businesses with a physical location within a specific geographic area. If your business is physically near to the searcher, your chances are good of showing up in the local results, but if it’s too far away, it is unlikely to be included in the results. For Google Maps app users looking for local businesses on their cell phones, this concept of proximity is especially sensitive. If you run a local auto body shop on the north side of your city, your chances are good that you will be shown to searches who are driving around that part of town, but if you are on the south side, there is a chance you won’t appear as a result for that specific searcher at that time. He’d need to drive or walk closer to you to see you as a result. Obviously, local business owners have no control over where a particular searcher is physically located at the time he performs a search, but it’s important to understand that the closer a searcher is to you, the better your chances of being shown as a result for his search. 16. Quantity of citations from industry-relevant domains Just as it can be helpful to earn to have your name, address and phone number listed on locally-relevant websites, being included on industry-relevant sites can improve your authority and rankings, too. An industry-relevant website can be defined as one that is widely recognized to be authoritative within a particularly category of industry, be that automobiles, hospitality or health care. GetListed.org partnered with Whitespark.ca to create a great data set highlighting The Best U.S. Citation Sources By Category . Here’s an example of the data you’ll find on this page: Definitely check that resource out if you are looking for citation sources that are relevant to your industry. You can also perform manual searches for your industry category and create a list of the authoritative websites that come up most frequently for your terms. Once you have created this list, you can visit each of the sites to see if they allow local businesses to be listed in a directory-type feature, or if there are other opportunities for earning a citation, such as guest blogging. 17. Local area code on local Plus page Using your local area code phone number as your primary phone number on your Google+ Local page is considered a best practice. The area code of the phone number should match the area code/codes traditionally associated with your city of location . This may seem obvious, but the local search engine results reveal that some businesses take a wrong turn here and publish a toll free number, instead. Alternatively, they might publish a cell phone number or call tracking number with a different area code. Here is a screenshot of a business which has done this correctly, publishing a 505 area code phone number consistent with the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico: Google allows you to enter a secondary number (such as a toll free number) when creating your listing. This is especially important for businesses like hotels who receive calls from all over the world and want their guests to be able to make a charge-free phone call to book a room. Just be sure that, when you create your listing, you are putting the local area code number in the primary number field. 18. City, state in most/all website title tags As referenced in point #9 of this guide, the title tag is an extremely important element of any website page. Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 posits that inclusion of your city/state name in most or all of your title tags can have a positive impact on how your local business ranks. Here’s a screenshot from Open Site Explorer showing how these geo terms have been included in many of the title tags for a carpet cleaning company in Livermore, California: While it isn’t necessary to include your city/state in every single title tag of your website, it makes sense to include it on major pages such as the home page, contact page, service description pages and bio pages. You want to send the clearest possible signals to search engine bots and human users that you are a local business and the title tag really helps transmit that message. 19. Quantity of third-party traditional reviews In point #12 of this guide, we discussed the importance of earning customer reviews on your Google+ Local page. Beyond this, there are many third-party platforms on which it can be useful to get reviews. In ranking your local business, Google takes into account the quantity of reviews you have earned around the web. Take a look at how the famed New Orleans restaurant, Antoine’s, is the recipient of reviews on a variety of sites: How do we know that Google takes this third party data into account? For one thing, they link out to third party review sites right on the Google+ Local page: In the above screenshot, you can immediately see that Google is aware that reviews exist for Antoine’s Restaurant at UrbanSpoon, TripAdvisor and Switchboard. Consider this a hint! When trying to decide where it would be best for your local business to win reviews, it can help to look at the +Local pages of your direct competitors to see which third party platforms, if any, are being highlighted, as in the above screenshot. You should also research which review sites appear to be most active in your locale. For example, in California, Yelp is an incredibly active website, but it may be less so in other parts of the country. Your state or city may even have locally-relevant review sites that your community is using. The idea is to get your business profiled anywhere that your potential customers might leave a review so that you are building a broad, web-based portfolio of positive reviews over time. 20. Page authority of Places landing page URL Similar to the concept of Domain Authority of a whole website described in point #7 of this guide, this ranking factor relates to the authority of the specific website page linked to from your Google+Local page. For many companies, this will simply be the homepage of the website, but for businesses with multiple locations or practitioners, other pages on the website may have been designated as the landing pages. You can get a sense of your landing page’s Page Authority using www.opensiteexplorer.org. Open Site Explorer uses Page Authority to predict a specific page’s ability to rank well, based on an algorithmic combination of link metrics, MozRank, MozTrust and other factors. For a detailed explanation of this concept, read What Is Page Authority . Because of the influence organic factors have on local rankings, the higher your landing page’s Page Authority, the better your chances of becoming dominant in the local search results. Whew, you made it! Now you’re off to a good start! You understand the top twenty most important local search ranking factors. Your next task is to move on to the rest of the eighty-three foundational factors , and from there to the competitive difference maker factors and then the negative factors. I consider the study of Local Search Ranking Factors to be essential and exciting homework for every Local SEO and local business owner on the planet. Taking the time to understand the concepts represented by each factor can spell success for any local business you own or market. The smartest Local SEOs I know are the ones who study hardest. I’m here to help you in the Moz Q&A Forum if you hit a stumbling block. In the meantime, let me wish you good luck in the learning process! Sign up for The Moz Top 10 , a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors: An Illustrated Guide