It’s been fairly interesting to watch, and I’ve been doing some more digging around to better understand both cause and effect of Google Local Business Center listings appearing in the one box area on Irish SERPs.
Google adds Ireland to Local Business Center Local Results Arrive on Google.ie Variations of “One-Box” in Google Local Google OneBox “10 Pack” The “3 Pack” OneBox Entry The Holy Grail – Authoritative OneBox Entry Google Local Ranking Factors How To Get Into Google Local Some Local Experts’ Opinions Do Links Affect Local Rankings? Summary
In November 2007 I first noticed that Google had added Ireland to it’s Local Business Center. At the time I thought this was big news as it seemed to indicate the imminent release of Google Local listings in Irish SERPs. As per Google’s online docs:
You can check if it’s available for your country by looking through the drop-down menu in the Local Business Center.
Well imminent is certainly wasn’t, but last week we started seeing the first Google Local business listings for Irish searches.
It’s certainly early days, and Google will need to iron out plenty of teething issues, but I decided to take a look into some of the features of local listings, and some of the potential signals Google uses to rank the local businesses listed. I had some very good help from Michael Wall based on his experience with Google Local in Northern Ireland. Michael runs a web design company up North. I’ll come back to Michael’s observations a little later, but for now look focus on a little more background to how Local listings work.
First thing I noticed was that there is some variety of One Box Local displays – 3 that I’ve seen – and the type your business is displayed in can make quite a difference. (The “One Box” is a general purpose area directly above the organic listings in Google’s SERPs.)
The 10 Pack is a Google Map with 10 adjacent business listings. This type of one box takes up the most space, and ads quite a number of additional links for searchers to hit prior to getting to the organic SERP results. Here’s an example of some 10-pack results:
[hotel dublin] with 10 Pack local listing
The interesting thing about that particular SERP is that it is giving power back to the individual hotels over the aggregators that generally rule the organics. I wonder will the hotels cop onto this and push their local listings now? I’d say there’s quite a lot of fee revenue that the hotels can reclaim from affiliates/aggregators if they can crack Local Search. Here’s another example of local listings pushing power back to individual sites from another form of aggregator – the review site:
[restaurants dublin] with 10 Pack Local listing.
Now in this case MenuPages.ie has been pushed down by a local listing containing 10 Dublin restaurants. Here’s another interesting feature of Local listings – the inclusion of structured data, in this case reviews. It’s difficult to see in the small image, but beside each restaurant local listing there’s a link to reviews. The reviews are coming from a number of very large and trusted seed sites, such as TripAdvisor.com, and I don’t believe that Irish review sites data is used by Google. If you run a restaurant maybe you should prompt your clientelle to go create reviews if they are happy with your service?
Finally here’s a more regular example – without aggregator sites – of a local listing that’s going to hurt the previous king of the castle:
[pizza dublin] with 10 Pack local listing
This one is a good example of how previous dominance of the SERPs for your top keyword can really get hurt if you’re not in Local. Apache Pizza were sitting golden with their sitelinks. Those sitelinks are a pretty good indicator that the site is seen as authoritative for the generic search term [pizza dublin]. But now 10 of Apache’s competitors are sitting sweet above them, with both phone numbers and visual indication of location. This particualr local listing is going to hurt Apache, of that I’m sure.
In some cases Google will only show 3 local results, with extended listings. Seems most likely to occur when they either don’t know of enough local sites or no one site is seen as authoritative. Here’s a topical example for me personally:
[seo dublin] with 3 Pack local listing
In this case each local listing takes up 3 lines – the business name and URL, address and link to more info. I registered for Google Local back when it was launched. I did so to see how the system worked so that I could write my blog post all those months ago, and not particularly for any ranking advantage (I travel a lot, so I added my Dublin home address to my listing back then).
When local listings went live last week I wasn’t in the top 3 local sites. So I ‘tweaked’ my company name and categories to see what would happen (take care the guidelines though – I might be breaking them). Lo-and-behold there I am now, so there’s a small tip to one of the factors used to rank sites for local. Also note the the distance from the median point in Dublin city seems less relevant than my business name and categories. There’s a very interesting post by Bill Slawski over at seobythesea.com discussing location sensitivity – basically some queries may respond with a larger geographical spread of businesses then others.
Now if I were Apache Pizza (or their SEO) right now this is what I’d be aiming for. This is a local One Box listing where only one business is listed – otherwise referred to as the Authority Listing. I’m still digging into this to find out how difficult it is to achieve, and what factors trigger it’s appearance, but regardless of how you get the Authoritative Local One Box it certainly looks nice, and I imagine works very well:
[sat nav dublin] with Authoritative One Box Local Listing
The One Box, the #1 in organic with site links, plus number #2 in organic for deep page. Augmented with an Adwords ad and you have a SERP dominated in every way by a single website. It’s important to note that many SERPs are going to be far more competitive making this difficult if not impossible to achieve, but there’s no harm in setting your goals high.
If you’re still reading this now then it’s about time I mentioned some of the signals I’ve found that can help to get your site ranked in Local Search…
Obviously the first step is to get yourself listed – you need to sign up at www.google.com/localbusinesscenter, and then:
Here’s the bit most people will be interested in. It seems that ranking signals include many of the primary signals used for organic ranking – links seem to have a large impact (especially in the case of Authoritative Listings). But the actual listing and business location are strong factors also. An interesting survey compiled by David Mihn that I came across lists the following factors as most important (score out of 5 in brackets):
I doubt number 5 above is used for Irish listings, or maybe I should say that I hope Google wont use GoldenPages.ie or similar, as I feel that their (GP) business practices are sharp to say the least. Number 4 above may also be query-dependent as per the Bill Slawski reference previously. But certainly 1-3 are very much in your own control, and as such you should consider these items carefully when creating your Local Business Listing.
In a separate blog post titled “10 Likely Elements of Google’s Local Search Algorithm” Mike Magee mentions amongst others [my notes in square brackets]:
Matt has some other interesting items in his post also, and it’s worth a read.
Another good post I found was titled “Extreme Local Search Optimization Tactics” by Chris Silver Smith of KeyRelevance. One or two of the more interesting tactics he mentions [again my notes in square brackets]:
I do think that links will be a strong signal for local results, and it might be useful to research the backlinks of sites listed in local search with a view to replicating their strategy. This has long been one of the more useful tactics for organic SEO, and I feel it will also be useful for local rankings. I’d also imagine that anchor text may be the primary factor in achieving the Authority One Box Local listing mentioned above.
Wow. If you’re still here then well done. This was a rather mammoth post, but I feel Local Search is the biggest change to happen to Irish SEO in a long time.
To summarise: You need to get your business listed asap, giving due consideration to the profile you create as it will impact how you rank. Then you need to consider citations (links) to your site – they need to include references to your address and location where possible. Anchor text may also be very useful for ranking and getting that Authority Listing.
The very last thing I’ll mention is that Google have a pretty good Local Business Center User Guide. It’s buried in Google’s help center (which is fast becoming a mess IMO), but very well worth a read/watch.
I’d love to hear any experience people are having with Google Local Search here in Ireland, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment below!
Cheers Richard – done for the consultancy. Nice simple guidelines above.
Comment by keith bohanna — May 25, 2009 @ 5:09 pm
[...] I would highly recommend that you visit his website for more information on Google Local Business Center and how you can get your business listed – Click here read the article >> [...]
Pingback by Google Local Business Search for Ireland « Tom Doyle — May 26, 2009 @ 9:21 am
Glad it was helpful Keith.
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 26, 2009 @ 10:00 am
Hi Richard, Great post, i also noticed this a few days ago. I had been playing around with a web design website I had built for SEO training about a year ago and had added it to the business center around then.
So I dusted off the analytics for the site and found it sitting comfy at the top for a hugely competitive keyword. Im sure this is a step backwards in terms of Google returning the best search results possible for searchers.
Comment by Stuart Chaney — May 26, 2009 @ 3:18 pm
Great post Richard. Lots of opportunity here for the early adopters as always.
Comment by Mark Stanley — May 26, 2009 @ 4:52 pm
@Stuart – I think Google balance things generally, and if they find that the user experience is damaged they tend to roll back changes. That said Local search is the “wild west” currently, and there is lots of spam.
@Mark – Ta. So I presume all locations are verified
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 27, 2009 @ 6:32 am
I recently wrote a little blurb about Google local search as well. I’ve noticed one thing… I could be completely wrong on this but it seems the local search docks you points for not using your company name. I’m currently testing: company name – keywords to see how that works out.
Comment by Guy — May 27, 2009 @ 8:03 am
The only reason why I doubt they penalise for not using your business name is that they have no way to know what the correct business name is. And algorithmically it would be very difficult to detect. Also have a look at [escorts london] and you’ll see that none of those sites seem to be suffering
I did get called out by Google for the business name I originally used. I changed it back to my limited company name and this didn’t seem to hurt much.
Thanks for dropping by, rgds Richard
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 27, 2009 @ 10:50 am
I put a lot of effort into getting reviews, including writing to many of my clients but the nature of the maps listing seems to be very heavily weighted towards geographic centre, which makes it tricky if your postcode is not city centre. So now I see that all I have to do is move premises
I had previously got the impression that payment options might affect ranking, as they are considered a sign of professionalism or trust. I could be wrong.
I have noticed that some companies will place 2 maps listings, thus forcing off 1 or more competitor from the box. I wonder if Google will clamp down on this?
Keep up the good work. It’s a bit foggy out there in Google Maps land.
Comment by David — May 29, 2009 @ 1:43 am
Your signature pushed my boundaries a bit so I updated. Hey, you still get the link. There’s a lot of spam for sure on local maps, but if you report spam I think they will remove it. I doubt payment options are considered with ranking, and as you say location seems to be a big factor.
Thanks for dropping by Richard
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 29, 2009 @ 9:57 am
hey richard, great post, if you wanna see how spammy this can get, check out “lock smith new york” in google.com. Not sure if it’s been cleaned up but an SEO guy had the same place ranking in all 10 listings …
Comment by Kieran — June 1, 2009 @ 8:40 pm
Thanks for dropping by again. Check out [locksmith london] or [escort london] for some nice spam also
I think that they do respond to the map spam reports quickly enough.
Comment by Richard Hearne — June 3, 2009 @ 7:45 am
Excellent post – will revisit again a few times as there is a lot of info to digest and learn from.
Just finished following these steps for my own site. I will deffo keep handy for future sites I design.
One thing I do not understand, what actually drives the local listing to appear. I think it appears sometimes and other times it doesn’t for the same search times – Am I right?. I guess to add to my question if you were already ranking for your keywords on first page of Google (which I am today (could all change tomorrow of course) would setting up the local directory option push me up to top of the page?
Comment by Kieran Daly — June 8, 2009 @ 2:58 pm
I answered my onw question above sorry. I was looking on google.com instead of google.ie. I am now showing up nicely on the loca listing for certain search terms in my niche so very pleased with that. I suspect Google will become more stringent with how they ad people to it soon however.
But overall nice gain for a relatively small effort. I have done if for one customer as well and they are jumping in the air with happiness at the result.
Comment by Kieran Daly — June 9, 2009 @ 9:03 am
Glad you found the answer to your question. I’ve found that the correlation between ranking well for a term in regular SERPs and local results is a little tenuous. For some search terms it seems that anchor text plays a big role, while for others it does not.
Glad you’re getting some use from local business listings!
Rgds, and thanks for dropping by, Richard
Comment by Richard Hearne — June 9, 2009 @ 12:18 pm
I have uploaded 9 of our branches (different locations across australia) to the local business search. I put our 1300 Number as the main number and then entered a mobile/cell number also.
When viewing these in the local business search, it sometimes only shows the mobile/cell number and not our main 1300 number.
Do you have any idea about how to fix this?
Comment by Alyce Jones — June 11, 2009 @ 6:25 am
I’m not sure, but they may require a different phone number for each location. How did you verify these listings? I presume by SMS?
When you say “it sometimes only shows the mobile/cell number and not our main 1300 number” do you mean that some locations show mobile, some main number, or that this varies across searches for the same location?
Comment by Richard Hearne — June 12, 2009 @ 10:43 am
A great post. I agree THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING. My aggregators are going to be very upset with me
Comment by robert coyle — June 12, 2009 @ 11:03 am
Each listing has a different mobile number but due our business being 1300TempFence we want our main 1300 number to be displayed.
Yes, some of our listings show the main number, some show the mobile number but they all have the 1300 number as the main.
It’s quite strange.
Comment by Alyce — June 14, 2009 @ 10:47 pm
I’m not sure if the results will be as you desire when you use the same main number for each location (due to anti-spam measures). But I’m not 100% sure about this. I’d advise you head over to the Google Maps Support Group and see if you can find out more there.
The only other thing you could try is to update one or two of the main numbers to see if this has the desired effect. Sorry I cant help more with this.
Comment by Richard Hearne — June 15, 2009 @ 11:03 am
[...] Richard Hearne of Red Cardinal has authoured a very comprehensive post on Google’s local business listings. [...]
Pingback by Irish Internet Marketing Blogs Round Up | Online Advertising — June 22, 2009 @ 10:12 am
Thanks a million for this it has being a difficult process to follow and these tips are making it a lot easier much appreciated from myself and TravelHQR. Cheers!
Comment by Mary — June 24, 2009 @ 7:03 pm
Excellent and informative article there. I just have a quick question. How soon are people getting listed once they have signed up? Are results more immediate than tinkering with organic serch rankings? All the best.
Comment by Chris — June 29, 2009 @ 11:17 am
Glad this helped you.
You’ll get results from this far quicker than you would organic search. Although competition in your niche will determine how easy or not it is to rank for your desired keywords.
Hope this helps Richard
Comment by Richard Hearne — June 29, 2009 @ 4:03 pm
Awesome post! I am trying to rank for “web design mumbai”. What I noticed in the LBL, was that nearly 7 to 8 of the companies on the listings had a large number of reviews.
Comment by Tanay Jaipuria — July 22, 2009 @ 2:52 pm
I believe that reviews can come into the rankings, but it’s a bit of a black-box sadly, so no one really knows how reviews affect rankings. Good luck with your quest.
Comment by admin — July 23, 2009 @ 5:40 pm
Great post, im having the problem with local bussines map position and still digging how to get there. Your clues are very usefull though, thx
Comment by matiseo — August 7, 2009 @ 1:26 pm
Reviews- They will boost your listing based on the number of them (have a lot), not your actual star rating. Having a good reviews simply helps CTR.
Have you found more info on the authoritative one-box?
Comment by Mike Ramsey — August 31, 2009 @ 9:43 pm
Thanks for your comment, and good to know. I’ve heard that there is a threshold for number of reviews before they show the stars, but not much about negative/positive reviews (as you mention). I know they are doing a lot of work on sentiment analysis, but that’s a long way off.
Authoritative one-box seems to be more related to brands (or the signals Google relies on to determine “brands”). From what I’ve seen you have to be authoritative for the keyword searched, or at least authoritative relevant to any geographic modifiers (as in the case I gave above).
Thanks for dropping by and giving your time to comment. Rgds Richard
Comment by Richard Hearne — August 31, 2009 @ 10:29 pm
I think you are very right. It seems that organic seo matters really come in for determining a onebox. For instance…Location+Keyword external links pointing to your site associated with the LBC. I think that is about the only way google and really brand you for a location based keyword.
What I am trying to figure out is how to knock a onebox down after it is established…
Comment by Mike Ramsey — August 31, 2009 @ 10:43 pm
[...] above SERP showed an authoritative local OneBox (learn about local OneBox in my Google Local rankings post), followed by a site at #1 and again indented at #2, and then a thread from http://www.boards.ie holding [...]
Pingback by New Google Sitelinks for Related Forum Threads, for Site Ranked #3 - Red Cardinal — September 14, 2009 @ 3:31 pm
Sorry for not responding sooner. It does seem that Auth OneBox is heavily connected to ranking for the related keyword in regular search. Don’t see too many of these however, and it’s difficult to gauge.
Comment by Richard Hearne — September 15, 2009 @ 5:01 am
Thanks for this clear article! I was just wondering how to rank better in the local results block, since it was recently added for my main target keyword.
Comment by Thomas — September 30, 2009 @ 11:04 am
[...] wrote about the various Google local display types in my post How To Rank in Google Local, and I also looked at the result for [pizza dublin] at that time. Interesting to see that Apache [...]
Pingback by Google Local Introduces the 7 Pack – 7 Local Results Instead of the 10 Pack - Red Cardinal — October 8, 2009 @ 7:27 am
I noticed your post from last year and find it excellent. Not sure how much you’ve done since on it but we’re reasonably confident we’ve cracked how to do this and are guaranteeing Page 1 rankings for local businesses within 30 days. We have a strike rate of around 95% and we simply refund the 5%. We charge for the optimization at €250 p.a. + VAT.
I think this is going to be huge over the next 3-5 years and will put Yellow/Golden Pages and all local directories out of business. Since last year, Google now have more Local searches than Yellow or Golden Pages and this trend will continue.
Any Web Designer is doing their customer a dis-service if they don’t know both how to set up their local listing and optimise it for Page 1.
Comment by Mark Bundschu — May 10, 2010 @ 11:11 am
Very very interesting. I’ve been doing some research and I think that having the post code or zip code near to the geographic centre is the primary determinant but also reviews are potentially very important. You can also see who is using this effectively and then look at their categories if they are in your industry, I’ve just found an extra 3. My gut feeling is that one or two of the review sources is going to be the primary driver for these listings.
Comment by Derby — May 17, 2010 @ 3:21 pm
I’m in 2 minds about your service. Yes, it does offer non-tech folk an easy route to traffic, but at the same time you mention that site owners really shouldn’t be paying for this: “Any Web Designer is doing their customer a dis-service if they don’t know both how to set up their local listing and optimise it for Page 1″.
I hope your service goes well, but if you go down the direct marketing route I feel you’ll end up just another “bad” search agency…
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 23, 2010 @ 9:33 am
Hi Richard, You’re right – in an ideal world all Web Designers would know how to do this and include it as part of any package they provide for their customers. However, there is a great opportunity to list today that won’t be there in a couple of years as the page 1 places will fill up. It will then go the route of National Search which will mean that the only way to list on Page 1 will be through PPC.
We only charge 250 p.a. and we offer a Money Back Guarantee. I think it’s a pretty nominal charge for the service being offered.
Comment by Mark Bundschu — May 24, 2010 @ 8:36 am
You do realise that local search is not based on first-come-first-served Mark?
You charge per annum? For what exactly?
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 24, 2010 @ 8:45 am
Yes, we are aware of this. However, local search today is similar to National Search 10 years ago. It was relatively easy to get Page 1 in google.ie for most search terms then as there was very little competition.
Dominating every technique that SEO technicians use is the basic objective of Google to ensure that the most relevant terms to the keyword search appear at the top. We set up businesses that are 100% relevant to the search term and then optimise them. One of Google’s metrics for relevance is how often the listing is clicked. This means that businesses that get up there today have a good chance of staying up there once they are relevant to the search term.
We charge for getting them on Page 1 initially and for staying up to date with Local Optimisation Strategies so that if their listing drops off Page 1 we can get them back again. And, as I said before, we offer a 30 day money-back guarantee.
Comment by Mark Bundschu — May 24, 2010 @ 9:42 am
30 days really means nothing when it comes to optimising for any search-related stuff Mark, and charging a recurring fee is flying very close to rip-off territory IMO. I can only hope you dont use “direct marketing”…
Comment by Richard Hearne — May 24, 2010 @ 10:29 am
30 days is generally the maximum time it takes us to get a Page 1 listing for the first couple of search terms. As time passes, they tend to get up there for more and more search terms. I would be happy to privately put you in touch with some of our customers and to show you their listings.
We started off charging a one-off fee for the service on the basis that we generally should have been able to set up the listing once and just leave it. However, we’ve discovered that we often do need to tweak listings as we find better strategies to optimize them.
I’m not really sure what your issue is here. If you feel you could offer this service at a lower cost why don’t you do it? As far as we are aware, we are the only company offering a money-back guarantee for Page 1 of Google locally.
Comment by Mark Bundschu — May 24, 2010 @ 11:30 am
Great post. I’m new to building and promoting websites, so this guide has certainly helped me.
I’ve just gone through the process of adding my business to the google local business center, and as an update, the only option I was given for verifying my listing was by post, which they say takes 2-3 weeks. I guess they now want to be sure that businesses do not lie about their address.
Comment by Michael Hart — February 7, 2011 @ 6:05 pm
Found this artical whilst looking for G+ local – amazing how har local search has come in 3 years
Comment by Tim — November 16, 2012 @ 1:10 am
I have also noticed that google favours business with g+ websites as far as local businesses go.
Comment by Ken — April 2, 2013 @ 9:18 pm
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