If David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors left you longing for more local fare, Mike Blumenthal takes the cake by Cracking Google's Local Algo. Visit Mike's site for the presentation he just gave at SMX Local, and stay tuned there for a more in-depth report on our findings.
Have We Cracked The Code?
No, not yet. But we're working on it.
Over the past couple of months, my husband and I have been working with Mike, David, Dave Oremland, Will Scott and Tim Coleman on a project which basically involved collecting and analyzing oodles of data about local businesses and their standings within Google Maps.
Our purpose in this work has been to improve our understanding of the multiple factors that influence Maps rankings. By increasing our knowledge, we increase our ability to offer the very best local search advice to our clients. It's helpful for our own private projects as well, of course!
Local Search is still relatively new, but with experts opining that some 40% of searches are local in intent, the importance of understanding local search best practices is clear. This is truly the most exciting collaborative project I've had the pleasure of participating in, and through the course of the work, a picture is beginning to come clear.
As Mike's slideshow illustrates, we are dealing with a variety of apparent factors in Google's Local Algo, including:
We feel that there are many unknown factors pulling rankings this way and that, as well, but we've made what I believe is a very good start in identifying some of the most important signals here. There is still so much to study and learn, but we've begun to crack the code.
Local Search - Wagons, Ho!
Back in the day, it took a bunch of SEOs working independently and together to realize just how much title tags count in Google's organic algorithm. Meta tags became the subject of heated debate, and forum wars were waged over pagerank. The permanent documentation of these fascinating discussions and findings is available for all to see - the fruits of ingenious labor that now enable a new SEO to progress quickly from total novice to reasonably educated, if he or she has a taste for reading.
An oft-voiced refrain one encounters these days wherever SEOs congregate is that the pioneer days are over. No one really needs to have another discussion about links or content being king, queen or what have you. SEOs have grown with the evolution of the Internet - in fact, I don't think it's putting it too strongly to say that they have pulled the Internet their way in some cases.
There's a little bit of irony somewhere in the fact that while the need for SEO basics is far from over, (yes, scary websites continue to multiply unabated) the SEOs themselves seem to have discovered they need more. Search Marketing has expanded to encompass a tremendous variety of areas of specialization from social media to video production.
Take a glance at Sphinn any day of the week and it quickly becomes apparent that so many of the hot topics have nothing to do with the optimization of web pages. The bright ones are talking about marketing - traditional marketing sprouting in new, interesting ways in the 'new' medium of the web. It's engrossing, it's au courant, but I don't think it can really be called SEO, and I sense a sort of repetitive motion fatigue in the industry whenever someone new shows up to ask about meta tags, don't you?
And then, there's Local Search. No one is yawning here. I sense in my Local colleagues an enthusiasm, a hunger for information, a yearning to experiment, test and study. There is the kind of camaraderie and generosity that has always been the hallmark of the best SEO circles. It's the kind of frontier living that the first SEOs throve on and there is still so much to be learned. Right now, I'm finding that I literally can't wait for my Local colleagues to post on their blogs. I get really excited when they send me emails. Working with them is stimulating, rewarding.
If it's been awhile since you've felt like that about the industry you work in, maybe now is the time to expand your interests. Maybe you'll get really into Social Media, or maybe offline conversions hold special charms for you. Or, maybe, Local Search is just waiting for you to discover it. With groundbreaking documents like Mihm's and Blumenthal's hot off the presses in this virtually uncharted new territory of SEO, it's getting pretty exciting around here.
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.
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