Google recently released a video discussing how they rank local businesses as well as introducing some of their new local products including Hotpot, Boost, and Tags. The video does a nice job of explaining some of the factors they use to determine who shows up in the local results and why:
As usual, Google doesn't tell the whole story here as far as what the specific ranking factors are. However, they do hit on a number of interesting points. The three factors Google addresses for how they rank the businesses include:
Relevance - They want to show results of businesses that are relevant to the specific search performed
Prominence - This is described as showing businesses that are "prominent" or "well-known" across the web. More on this below.
Distance - How far the business is located from the geographic area included in the search (this can also be calculated using your IP address or your GPS positioning if searching from a mobile phone)
Here are a few of my takeaways from the video
Google also tells us that claiming a profile does not give any sort of preferential treatment or boost in the rankings. However, it's important to keep in mind that claiming a profile enables you to specify categories, update descriptions, add photos, videos, hours of operation, services, and more. Adding this information to your profile will help Google better identify your law firm's services which can have a positive effect on your ranking. In short, just claiming your profile may not effect your visibility but claiming your profile and adding information about your firm to it will. The bottom line is that it is still important, and good strategy, to claim and complete your Places profile.
Google also notes that running Boost ads or Google tags does not effect your Places rankings. This seems to be consistent with the results we've seen. While these products help your Places listing stand out, they don't seem to effect where the listings show up in the organic results.
Finally, Google addresses "prominence" as a ranking factor but doesn't give a lot of information regarding what makes a business "prominent" on the web. In truth, this is dipping into the secret sauce of how Google is ranking the businesses so they will never give a clear picture on the factors involved. That being said, the listings we see performing the best are ones that pay attention to traditional SEO on their firm's website (ie: link building, content production, on-page optimization) as well as local factors (ie: building citations, consistency with the firm name, address, and phone number, reviews).
Jeff Berman, is co-founder of AttorneySync. "Properly marketing a law firm online is about producing relevant content that helps a prospective client understand your expertise and how you are able to help them. Finally, it’s about getting that content found by the people you are trying to help."
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