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earlpearl 18th July 2006 12:24 PM

How to rank well in Google Maps (local)
As I use google maps (google local) to search for my business I take a variety of locations around my geo area (washington dc).

Initially I thought that local applications list businesses in order subject to their distance from the starting point. But that is not the case. There is some sort of internal serps/rankings methodology that will give certain businesses higher rankings over others regardless of distance from a site. I wonder if any of you have a feel for those elements.


Localmn 18th July 2006 09:18 PM

Dave, I appreciate your insight on local search. I've seen your input here and at WMW, and am glad to see you here. Please continue to give your thoughts! :)

I've seen similar results that you have, and hope this turns into a really nice thread. Some say that locally optimized sites helps, simply having your physical address in the pages' footers help... couldn't say how much that does or does not help in G maps/local.

I do like the relationships that G maps/local has with outside sources like SuperPages, DexOnline, CitySearch, the BBB, Restaurant Row, etc... They really seem to give a lot of weight to that, and to me makes sense that they would consider these relationships valuable.

The both exciting and frustrating part for me is, it always seems to change. But what the heck. I like change.

Any thoughts from anyone?


Matt McGee 20th July 2006 12:18 AM

It's a great question, Dave -- and I've neither seen nor done any research on it.

Logic would suggest the traditional ranking factors also come into play in the local search, but the rankings are sufficiently different that there must be something else in the mix.

Would also be curious to learn more on this.....

earlpearl 21st July 2006 08:31 AM

I'm not sure if this is the right route, but Bill Slawski, Bragadocio, recently blogged on this at SEW and his blog, SEObythesea with reference to some new SE patents.

We pm'd a bit on the issue. He suggested there may be answers in this patent that he wrote about at this entry:

I admittedly haven't read it in depth yet. I'm going to take a shot at it this weekend and see if I can get a grasp of the concepts and its application.

BTW: Bills entries on patents are the best.

Looking only at my own business in my urban area, I see two sites that tend to "outrank" the distance from a site than other competitors; mine and another.

We seem to be equally "strong" as we rank 1 and 2 when everywhere and when we approach a point that is equidistant from our two locations.

Of course finding out what works here would be like a mini- find in uncoverting how G's algo's work. I think it would take a lot of observation and comments. Those guys are SMART ;)

earlpearl 21st July 2006 06:28 PM

Bill Slawski mentioned he is going to blog some more on these issues.

We discussed this a bit in this thread earlier at seo refugee:

We posed some ideas on it and Bill has made further insights.

I'm going to try and getter better understanding of the patents Bill reads about and I'm inviting people over to refugee to see if we can get an understanding of this.


A.N.Onym 21st July 2006 06:53 PM

Not sure if ranking in Google Maps is different from ranking for your local searches. You will use the same set of locality identifiers anyway.

As a matter of fact, Bill [Slawski] has already posted about Relevancy, Google Local, and Local Results in Organic Searches. An interesting read if you want intricately detailed information or if you do need to rank on local searches.

I suspect that the only difference between local searches and Google Map searches is the exact location of your office. Google will detect your address and the IP address of the searcher and provide the nearest, best quality opportunity of the searchers choice. In essence, you can't control where your searchers live, but you can put your office where the most of your customers live.

To rank well in local searches, you'll need to present as much local information as you can:
- have pages, mentioning your area of service
- your phone number
- your physical address
- directions on how to reach your office
- use landmarks ("after you pass the Street A and Street B intersection, you'll see the Eiffel Tower" that's three landmarks altogether)

You'll also need to get more local, too:
- have links pointing to you from local websites and directories
- have a domain hosted locally (if locality is your primary concern)
- have ccTLD (country-specific domain -, for instance)

This kind of stuff, which should be natural for any local business, will help Google understand where you are coming from (literally).


P.S. Why oh why would you need to invite visitors from one forum to another? ;) You don't invite your speakers, such as Bill, to post here, right? (That'd be great, though).

SoKyBiz 21st July 2006 06:53 PM

This is a great thread!!!

Localmn 21st July 2006 07:51 PM

I think Bill posts here quite a bit so hopefully he'll stop by and give input.

I've used this example a few times before... For at least a year and a half, this Minneapolis Pizza joint has basically owned the #1 local spot for that term.

It includes references from a number of local portals, and a DexOnline listing. The references include hours of operations, reviews, payments accepted, etc... The site doesn't have any optimization, although seems to have a bunch of natural incoming links. For this local business anyway, their local/maps results are a lot less of optimization and more of just good marketing... and a really fun anniversary block party every summer.


earlpearl 22nd July 2006 09:17 AM

A N:

The latest reference you made to Bill's blogs on patents and the issues is one he feels might be most relevant; as it deals with relevancy within a region rather than for an address.

In fact we don't know specifically why some businesses/sites found in Google Local/Maps rank higher than sites that are closer.

We investigated this a bit back at the refugee thread and recently Bill and I started discussing it again.

I apologize for the sound of my invitation. Certainly don't want to steal members....maybe only borrow members for a discussion on a single aspect of local seo.

Frankly I'm frustrated within forums with regard to discussions on local seo. I'd like to see strong examples of actual practice and experience. Mostly local discussions on local seo go on about what the Internet YP's are doing and other discussions of large scale investments rather than actual practices and experiences. In fact I've participated at SEW, WMW, and others and find relatively few discussions of active experience.

I'd love to see one forum...and it could be any one where actual practices and experiences are described and discussed. It would be a help to many.

As it regards this effort, after reading throught the referenced patents and Bill's comments I'm in the process of reviewing a number of different examples of localized searches with G Maps/Local to review the references and other data and will try and provide some results for further discussion.

My own experience is that I have a strongly optimized site which represents a regional business in the Washington DC area. The site is optimized for both the generic business terms for the industry and for regionalized terms. Its ranked high in all 3 engines for over 2 years now.

We've owned the business for over 20 years. We have seen the business evolve from no impact via the web to currently over 60% of revenues resulting from the web. We speak with every customer and many many prospective customers and get some added perspective on how customers react to web site information beyond automated responses.

The web driven business derives primarily from SE queries. We currently run about 3,000 queries/month. I categorize them into 3 types:

Generic business terms without a geo description: about 1/3
Business terms/with a relevant geo description: about 1/3
Other topics (either from the web site/for non relevant geo areas/or irrelevant)

By far the terms that convert most frequently are the geo/business term phrases. They are dramatically more effective than the industry phrases alone.

The scope of long tail phrases is enormous. It is dramatically long tail. We are optimized to cover 2 adjacent states and a major city. We pick up additional relevant visitors by referencing towns and counties throughout the region.

The only reason I mention all this is to establish at least my own perspective for pursuing further understanding of the local issue.

In that my visitors and conversions reflect a tremendous long tail which combines many variations on both relevant business terms and geo terms THERE IS NO ONE or even a few DOMINANT BUSINESS TERMS to optimize for. I've found this both for my own site, for some other small local businesses that I assist and in conversation with some other webmasters who do similar work.

With that in mind LOCAL is one more important opportunity; similar and equal in importance to optimizing for any term. It gives the small business operator opportunities and advantages with regard to its web site visibility.

Moreover, LOCAL in all 3 major engines has seen enhancements and improvements. One can add descriptions ont the business that the operator controls and can be better than the "snippets" the engines may provide for efforts for long tail optimizing.

I only caught some of that through both reading Matt McGee's comments at and seeing competitors taking advantage of these enhancements that I had missed.

What I suspect we don't know is if the characteristics of local references that may enhance placement in Google local/maps are different in character from the characteristics that work for general serps.

I think they could be.

I mention this because I noted in other threads that Google seemed to implement its initial applications for Local Serps back in February 2005. During the Google Dance that occurred at that time, (and corresponded to the Super Bowl date) local sites that might have showed for local quiries in Y and MSN suddenly started showing for those similar combinations of business service/geo description in Google, where previously they hadn't.

A number of webmasters noted this but none of us could apply rhyme or reason to this. I only surmised that the impact might have occurred through application of the Google patent on local search that was published in August '05 and which Bill wrote about immediately thereafter.

In a different example I referenced how a new site with a single anchor text bl that referenced a non-competitive phrase vaulted that site to a #1 serps ranking in G for the phrase as it applied to the state in which the site was located (and had address information within its site). While the anchor text referenced mentioned a second state and city it was buried in google serps for the other two jurisdictions for the anchor text phrase. On the other hand it ranked 1st in both Y and MSN for a combination of the phrase and any of the jurisdictions. Another example of the importance of 'local references" as it applies to G rankings. I referenced this in a number of different forums.

I suspect that there are unique characteristics to identifying local "relevance" and importance, that differ from general SEO rankings. They may be additional and/or might have more importance and/or weight as it applies to ranking locally or regionally.

If we could investigate this further it could be of big help to local businesses and webmasters that pursue this area.

Whether we work to uncover these characteristics here or in a different forum is not important to me.

Hope to see some interesting perspectives.


earlpearl 22nd July 2006 09:58 AM

Don't mean to sound huffy.

A N: I'm going to count and characterize references and look through anchor text bls to try and find any trends. Hope some others do also.

Also here is another interesting observation and some of Bill's commentary on the issue:


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