One Local Search Ranking Factor I Disagree With

Filed in Featured, Local Search by Matt McGee on June 7, 2011 11 Comments

I’m betting you’ve already seen — and hopefully had time to digest — this year’s edition of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey (LSRF). As always, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in local search rankings.

For the most part, I think the survey participants (disclaimer: I’m one of them, though I was unable to contribute to the same level I have in past years) got it right this year. But there’s one particular item I think they got wrong.


My Only Beef With The LSRF

One of the highest-scoring factors in the survey is Manually Owner-verified Place Page. It was ranked as the number two overall factor and the number three factor affecting “pure” (7-pack) listings.

In my opinion, claiming/verifying your Place Page has almost no impact on your Google local search ranking.

To be clear, let me clarify:

I don’t believe that the simple act of claiming a Place Page makes you rank higher — and that’s what the survey suggests. I do believe that claiming a Place Page opens the door that lets you do other things that do very heavily influence local rankings, such as list your business in correct categories, update/fix the business name, address, and/or phone number, and so forth. But the act of claiming a Place Page itself doesn’t make you rank better.

Google has very specifically explained that local rankings are based on location, relevance and prominence. Aside from the confirmation of a business address or phone number (one of which is required to claim a Place Page), I don’t believe that the act of claiming tells Google anything that helps your rankings.

It was just about a year ago that I examined the pure results for the search phrase “san francisco bakery.” Only one of the seven businesses listed had a claimed Place Page, and that business ranked in the “C” (third) spot.

My suggestion: This will be obvious to many readers, I hope, but the point here is to say that you can’t expect a huge boost in local search rankings just because you claimed your Place Page. You should definitely claim it, but don’t stop there: Build it out as much as possible with proper categorization, accurate business information, extra content like photos/videos and, if possible, reviews/ratings from happy customers.

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  1. Don Campbell says:

    Good point Matt. I’m one of the contributors who ranked that factor pretty high, but technically what you’re saying is true.

    When you compare non-claimed listings, or batch submitted listings to manually claimed listings, the manually claimed listings tend to have more complete information, which is why I think they rank better, not just because they were claimed.

    So I agree with your point that if you just claim it manually but don’t fill it out properly, then it won’t help your rankings much.

  2. Linda Buquet says:

    I agree Matt. I was a contributor this year too and don’t think I ranked that factor at all, or if so, ranked it very low. I think we all see unclaimed Place pages rank high pretty often.

    However I think it could be said an unclaimed listing, limits Google exposure and the NUMBER of top rankings you could get.

    An unclaimed listing is typically assigned only 1 category by Google and usually it’s the core keyword. So even if an unclaimed Place page ranks on page 1 for Dentist for example, it probably won’t rank for Cosmetic Dentistry, Family Dentist, Teeth Whitening, Dental Implants or other related keywords. (So therefore maybe you could call it a ranking factor in that you could rank for MORE KW w/ a claimed listing.)

    Plus it’s important to claim and optimize listings for other reasons too, such as correcting core data and improving clickthroughs with images and a well crafted description, ect.

    So those reasons as well as others, mean listings SHOULD be claimed but I agree claiming in and of itself is not much of a ranking factor.

  3. Robert says:

    I agree Matt. It’s always frustrating when an unclaimed Places page is ranking higher than one I’ve worked on (and claimed) because it has other factors going for it – I wish it WAS a factor, but I don’t agree that it is one.

  4. Matt

    There used to be a “bump” due to claiming that disappeared within weeks…. but the issue really has to do with the structure of the survey not making a distinction between factors of trust, relevance and rank.


  5. Nyagoslav says:

    I completely agree with this! I’ve always been saying that claiming your Place page doesn’t give you anything else except the advantage of having control over it and being able to add/remove information (sometimes you don’t even have that privilege).
    There are a couple more factors that rank very high and I think their value is somehow overestimated:
    – Product / Service Keyword in Place Page Description (10 Pure, 35 Blended) – I have seen so many listings doing just fine without having any keywords in their description and at the same time so many with keyword stuffed descriptions that I am sometimes even considering if Google “checks” the GP description field at all
    – Volume of Native Google Places Reviews (16, 28) – I honestly think it’s value is a bit overestimated, even only because of the fact that it is ranked higher than third-party reviews (which in my view are one of the top 10 ranking factors)

    Just a personal opinion.

  6. Maciej Fita says:

    I think the most important thing when it comes to the place page is keeping it 100% up to date and robust. If it allows for ten images try and utilize all ten. Fill in “brands carried” and anything relevant you can. You never want to leave blank fields.

  7. Jim Rudnick says:

    @Mike…like Linda, I too ranked this very low as a contributor to the latest LSRF report…it’s just the first step of many that need to be done to claim, but then move your SMB up in the rankings….

    and my only comment on the whole LSRF survey was that as it was my first time this year as a contributor, it wasn’t till the very end that I suddenly realized that all of my own answers/rankings could not be captured and saved for my later referral…even a Prnt/Scrn would’a helped…but I didn’t know….and I guess those answers are now gone….sigh…



  8. Linda Buquet says:


    “I suddenly realized that all of my own answers/rankings could not be captured and saved for my later referral”

    My 1st year too and I almost had that happen. When I hit the last screen I realized I should maybe have saved as I went, so I used back in my browser and copied text from each screen I’d taken time to type a long comment in.

    Have had requests to just share all my answers, so may blog it. BUT I only copied my answer not the associated question, so will take some work to put it together if I decide to do it.

    However it would seem that the survey software may let you retrieve answers by each person. May be worth asking David if he can give us a copy.

  9. Paul Flyer says:

    I am curious if anyone has had trouble with clients receiving their verification postcard from Google Places?

  10. Kim S says:

    You’re absolutely right. I believe this is the first post I’ve read that actually said it this way. Almost everything in the SEO blogosphere suggests claiming a Place page. That’s it. I believe that making everything updated as well as keeping in step with search engine updates are key. Like now, Google just dumped Places and brought Plus Local.

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