This week in Local Search, Google has made a small change to the pin number process in the Local Business Center which will slightly alter the way SEOs need to manage assisting clients with the all-important verification process. And, just today, Google has added a new favoriting feature to Maps.

The Pin Number Is Out Of Your Hands Now

Like most of the Local SEOs I know, I handle the key practice of Local Business Center profile verification by creating my client's listing for him, getting his pin number at the end of that process and then phoning him with the pin so that he can verify his listing when Google calls. Google is now simply providing the pin number within the phone call. So, it's out of your hands and up to your clients to receive and enter the pin when Google calls. It's not a major change in the way you serve your clients, but it's one you should know about.

Seeing Stars In Google Maps

*NOTA BENE: You must be logged into a Google account in order to see this new feature. Go do a search for something in Google Maps and you will notice the ghostly outline of a star next to the business listings displayed. Click that star and Google gilds it for you. What does that do? It adds the listing as a favorite to your MyMaps page. Looky here:

What might this be good for?

- Well, if you're an SEO, it might be a way to add all of your clients' profiles to a single page to make it fast and easy to check if they've gotten any new reviews or citations on a periodic basis.

- It might also be a way to put all of your competitors' listings in one place to follow what they are doing, especially if they are spamming. On the other hand, we have no idea yet whether having people gild the stars will increase rankings in any way, so maybe hold off on showing favoritism to your competition.

- On a user level, people might use the favorites star to bookmark businesses they want to remember. I can see this as useful to people who travel frequently and want to keep track of the restaurants, hotels and other businesses where they've had a good experience in diverse cities. Was it Moe's Country Inn where there were mice living in the chandelier or was it Joe's? If you travel a lot, keeping track of data like that could make for a better trip.

- Finally, if you have an odd sense of humor (like me) and you find atrocious reviews of scary businesses entertaining, you might like to favorite the worst businesses you've ever come across for a serial-like continuing saga of drama and mayhem at your favorite bad businesses. A sort of TV Guide of local business channels, if you will. I know I'm not alone in this now, as Yelp sent me an email this week about users' hotel horror stories. Actually, I didn't think their choices were really that horrid, although the roof blew off of a hotel during one man's visit. This really can't compare to a review I once read that ended with a patron being thrown through a plate glass window in a bar fight (no one died). I'm not sure that this is a use of Google's new Maps stars that they intended, but I think it has potential. Can you think of other uses for this new feature?

Hat tip to Mike Blumenthal for being the first to see stars and to Steve Hatcher for figuring out what the stars do.

And that's the two bit news in Local Search for the week. Something to play with over your 3 day weekend!

May 22, 2009

Miriam Ellis is the co-owner of Solas Web Design and CopyLocal, providing SEO-based website design, Local SEO and professional copywriting for small-to-medium North American businesses. She is the Local SEO Associate in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz, a moderator at Cre8asite Forums and an annual participant in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report. When she and her husband are not working on the web, they're farming organically and working on increased sustainability or roaming about in nature having the time of their lives.


I keep seeing more and more about local search I guess this is becoming the new internet ... more local. I thought the whole catch with the internet was that it was the world wide web can't we just go to our regular hangouts for local.


I have also noticed in some locales that Google Local will display only one result when several are available. Doing a search for "Denver Lasik" fo instance displays only one local result, when there are obviously other Lasik centers with Google local listings.

Sean -
You bring up an interesting point about the World Wide Web! Yes, you are right in that the Internet was originally viewed as a way to connect people with others around the world. It's still a great tool for that, but as we've discovered, it's also a fantastic way to connect people to their neighbors. In many ways, the web becomes what we make of it. That's really one of the most inspiring and valuable things about it, eh?

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

What you are seeing is called an Authoritative One Box.

The pin issue can be a real pain in the butt if you are handling the Google Maps submission for your client, as often the client will get the letter with the pin and do God knows what with it, or they will get the phone call and have no clue what is going on...

It can be very frustrating, however a good way to supplement this is to create and submit a mass data file and submit that (you'll need at least 10 clients). This method helps you get around entering and verifying a pin (for now).

Informative post thanks. Localized SEO is becoming more and more prominent in SEO chat rooms, I suppose it's time to do something about it! Thanks, Fleur


I entered my company different works in google local listing 5 times.For these 5 times the phone options (ie, SMS and call) came.But after that only mailing option came.I think now google stopped the SMS option in local business listing during submission.Is it true?

Hi Miriam,

Claiming your business listing likely helps move your business into the Google Local 10-pack and collecting customer reviews seems to have a beneficial impact. Has Google disclosed the specific factors it uses to determine which businesses make it into the 10-pack -- if there are more than 10 local businesses in a category?

Love these posts!

@Vijay: There is a limit to how many times a phone number can be used in business listings. After that the pin can only be mailed to the client's office.

@MikeG: Two months ago, ten listings were showing up for "copiers raleigh". When I started the local search campaign for a Raleigh based client, I was able to make their listing the only listing :) There are several factors involved. I might be able to write an article on it.

The Google Business Directory is not prefect by any means, but it DOES greatly increase your chances of being seen in search results. A tip that I learned early on for my clients is fill the business profile with as much content as possible. Upload pics, link to YouTube videos, etc. It will and does make a difference.

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