Google just Publicly Stated a 4th Local Ranking Factor


JoyHawkins

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I just posted this over at my blog but wanted to post it here as well since poor Linda hasn't been feeling well. Google has confirmed that CTR is a ranking factor in the 3-pack.

Many of us have speculated this and done tests to show that CTR can impact rankings but it's really great when Google confirms! Previously they always listed 3 factors in this help article.

However, on this thread posted yesterday, they added a 4th:

Search history: In the past how many times has the listing been clicked on by users searching with the keyword.
 

Phil Rozek

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Jul 26, 2012
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Great find, Joy!

It's nice to see the semi-"official" word on this, to semi-confirm what Darren and I (among others) have said for a long time now.
 

Phil Rozek

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Yeah. The trouble with that "study" was/is that it assumed we can recreate the kind of user-behavior that Google takes into consideration.
 
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Well spotted Joy - that is interesting indeed.

Looking at the profile of the guy who posted this (Rahul J - awesome tash!) he was only registered 3 weeks ago and has only posted twice on the forum. So he's not a long term support agent.

I wonder if he was meant to announce this fact publicly?

Or if he's new to the GMB support team maybe they've updated their training and included this fact.

Would be good to get a 2nd confirmation of the fact.
 

Linda Buquet

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Can't comment right now much except to say thanks for sharing Joy!

It's a catch 22. Whoever is in the 3 pack will get more clicks and other user interactions than someone buried on page 3 or even at #6 in the Local Finder.

So the top listings continue to get more play, reinforcing their ranking.

You need more clicks to move up, but to get more clicks you need to be visible.
You can't be visible and get more clicks if you are on page 3. Catch 22.
 

Phil Rozek

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Can't comment right now much except to say thanks for sharing Joy!

It's a catch 22. Whoever is in the 3 pack will get more clicks and other user interactions than someone buried on page 3 or even at #6 in the Local Finder.

So the top listings continue to get more play, reinforcing their ranking.

You need more clicks to move up, but to get more clicks you need to be visible.
You can't be visible and get more clicks if you are on page 3. Catch 22.
@Linda
To some extent. In my experience, though, Google rotates and tests the results a lot. That's one reason we see so much junk in there - businesses that should not be rankings. Google flies businesses up the flagpole to see who salutes them.

It's also why occasionally in the past I'd get a client with a new business, then we'd do basic optimization, see tip-top results for a month, call it Miller Time, and see a drop-off a month later and wonder what happened . We weren't doing anything wrong, but didn't quite "deserve" high rankings at that point. But if we regrouped and put in the hard work and got plenty of Google reviews (enough to make people click more), the rankings would more often stick the second time around.
 

CodyBaird

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Jan 4, 2013
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Nice catch @joyhawkins. Good point @mylesanderson. It would be good to know his official title before leaning on this info too much.

@philrozek is spot on about how G tests click through. I've experienced identical behavior many, many times.

Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
 

Eric Rohrback

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Solid catch. Would higher CTR's for other keywords be able to influence ranking on a more sought after head term? Say Google sees a long tailed query is getting a high CTR on a specific page, would that help influence the similar head term? Would that be part of Google's testing?
 

Linda Buquet

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Now I do believe click through is a ranking factor but...
I'm not so sure I believe that post was properly vetted and some of it does not make sense...

The important point he makes is:

"In the past how many times has the listing been clicked on by users searching with the keyword."

But then he says just giving people a link to the G+ L page works. That's not the same as clicking from search.

"Share your location link and the business page with your customers. This will help them find your listing without any hassle. This will also help in improving the search history and prominence for your business."

Then he suggests doing a bunch of things that are no longer even options in the new G+.

4. Share what’s new: People mostly follow the listings where business updates are regularly posted. Make the best of all the options available in post (Text, Photos, Videos, Links, Events and Polls).

Just making some observations about his advice in general, but again still think CTR from search is a factor.
 

mborgelt

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Jul 22, 2012
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Great find Joy. It seems like the edit now encompasses more engagement factors and CTR is just one element in that group. I definitely agree that it has weight. I forget who did the test, but even the real time results with everyone at the conference getting a listing to skyrocket was eye-opening to me. I will definitely be on the lookout for more correlation.
 

Linda Buquet

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Whoa, that is interesting! Nice catch Barry and thanks for sharing Eric!

Here is the before and after:

Search history: In the past how many times has the listing been clicked on by users searching with the keyword.

After:

Search history: The number of times it has been useful historically on the basis of relevance, prominence and distance.

BUT something that they left in that I didn't even key into before because search history just grabbed my attention.

Prominence: Traffic to your business listing. How established is the business online.

They've never described prominence that way before and traffic to your listing, still says clicks right?

Oh but hey Rahul, you took all the links to that page away so I don't think those pages will get much traffic any more. Oh and reviews are gone so another reason not to look at the page.

Oh but then there is this:
2. Share your business location and page with your customers: Share your location link and the business page with your customers. This will help them find your listing without any hassle. This will also help in improving the search history and prominence for your business.

So again he's saying traffic to the page (clicks) helps. :confused:
 

Linda Buquet

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Haha!

Love the comment at Barry's by Caleb Schmidt

They probably changed it after seeing hundreds of offers popping up on Fiverr for 10k clicks on your GMB listing, only $5 - the perfect Christmas gift for any local business owner. :D
 

katandmouse

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Aug 23, 2012
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Please tell me how a click on a GMB confirms prominence and relevance.

They get the click because 1) Google put them up front and center; 2) they have review stars (but how is that more relevant than others on page 2, page 3, etcetera who also have review stars); 3) they are lucky because their business name shows more relevance than someone else's (Google does not show the description in local like it does in the organic SERPS).

That reward system is flawed if, in fact, that is what they are doing.

I would agree with Google rewarding time on site, low bounce rate, etc. However, as Linda pointed out, most websites NEVER get the chance to even get a click from search.

I know Google shuffles sites around to test and see how they'd perform. I love that, but they can't get to statistical significance by pushing a site to position 1 once a month and then deduce that the site is not relevant because no one clicked on the link. The only way they can get to statistical significance is let a site sit there long enough to get enough clicks, and then track the behavior once the consumer gets there. Unfortunately, there are too many sites and too few spaces to make that work.

When I think about all the challenges in ranking local businesses in Maps, aside from the physical location ranking factor which is easy, I think the best way around the problem is to use organic on-site and off-site ranking factors more than they are now. That would make businesses work harder at getting known in their communities which they should be doing anyway.

And then maybe Google could shuffle all those equally deserving and give everyone a chance.

After all, in the real world, it's not the one who happens to be the first on the block. It's the one who meets the need of the consumer more effectively that should get the business. As it stands, consumers are most often never seeing their best choice. What a shame.
 

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