Local SEO Ranking Game - Why Ranks High?


Linda Buquet

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Let's reverse engineer the algo and do some group analysis, shall we?

Play with me! This is going to be fun!
:p (and informative!)

If you find a competitor's listing that consistently ranks high and you can't figure out why. Post it here and let us tear it apart and help you look for clues.

OR if you find just an odd search result that does not seem to make sense, post it here and we'll try to figure it out.

OR if you find a listing WAY outside the proximity radius or from the next town over ranking... let's figure out how they are doing it.

OR if you just find a #1 ranking site that seems to be doing lots of things RIGHT and THAT's why it ranks, post it here too - so we can all evaluate, learn and grow.

If everyone chips in and either shares an example for the group to analyze OR shares your insights on the examples that are posted, I bet we can uncover lots of gold nugget ranking tips.

To add your own "Why Ranks High" game piece to the mix - use this format.
Just copy and fill in blanks to add a listing you want us to dig in and do some detective work on.

Key phrase:
Rank: (Specify organic rank or A spot blended, etc.)
G+ Local link:
Domain: (Please don't use a live link, only domain.com)

Then add your analysis, questions or concerns about this listing and why it ranks.

TWIST MY ARM... OK I'll START THE GAME! :p

I have a couple in mind, but have a great one to start off with...
See next post...
 

Linda Buquet

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Why Ranks High? Game #1

OK here's our 1st Local SEO game piece to dig into...

Back story
- I did consulting for a Seattle Chiropractor 2 years ago and we've stayed in touch so I know what a lot of his local competitors have done to try to rank and I know this is a dog-eat-dog competitive market. Some of these Chiros are pretty gray hat too. So I know how hard it is to get and stay on page one in this market.

So Seattle Chiropractor is one of the main search results I watch when analyzing the algo.

About a year ago a site came up from nowhere and it's ranked #1 pretty consistently ever since. AND it's the farthest from city center than any other page 1 maps listings. (Which I know is no longer a factor in blended, but still interesting to note.)

Key phrase: Seattle Chiropractor
Rank: A blended
G+ Local link: Fremont Spine and Wellness - About - Google+
Domain: fremontchiropractic.com
Location: FAR from city center

<a href='http://www.UploadScreenshot.com/image/1338463/1049972' target='_blank'><img src='http://img1.UploadScreenshot.com/images/main/8/23304195241.png' alt='Click here to view full size' /></a> They are marker A - the farthest from Seattle - as far north as you can get.

GAME ON - WHY RANKS HIGH???

G+ Local - no obvious violations or KW stuffing (unlike some competitors in this market)
Reviews - 0 (Pretty sure they used to have a bunch - must have gotten whacked)
Citations - very few (3 - 5 depending on how you count)

So we know this is the blended algo for this KW, so citations and # of reviews should not play a part. And just to prove that to anyone that still doubts that blended is all about organic. This G+ Local page has ZERO reviews and only a handful of citations.

So let's analyze on-site SEO.

Seattle Chiropractor in title tag and description - check.

Seattle Chiropractor in LOTS of H1, H2, H3s (Way more than that average SMB site. Maybe G really likes this???)

No time to do thorough analysis right now but seems to be decent KW density.

ODD? image alt alt="Seattle Chiropractor – Chiropractic -chiropractors" (Why negative for plural???)

ODD? KW anchor link in top paragraph goes to wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiropractor

Footer: Hcard

Footer: KW anchor Link to Old Place page link and other review sites.

Footer: All those social buttons have broken links - bad, G does not like borked links.

I'm suspecting part of the success of this site is due to backlinks. I did a backlink comparison several months ago though and if I remember right they did not have the most and others on page one had more. I'll try to do a BL comparison later.

NOTE: I need to stop here for now and take care of other biz. I'm sure there is more to analyze and learn from this one.

COME PLAY WITH ME!

What else do you see that's noteworthy, odd or just plain wrong?

Why does Google love this listing so much?
 

Sharon

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I like this game! :D

Any chance that having the official google photography of the inside of their facility could be boosting them? Has it been officially denied as a possible ranking factor for +Local?

I'll play more later!
 

Linda Buquet

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I like this game! :D

Any chance that having the official google photography of the inside of their facility could be boosting them? Has it been officially denied as a possible ranking factor for +Local?

I'll play more later!
EWWW! GOOD ONE Sharon!

I only had time to spot check a few things and have to admit I didn't have time to be thorough. And I didn't even think of that right now. BUT back when I was 1st looking at this listing I remember wondering about that too. Hmmm...

So GOOD ONE! Glad you like the game and thanks for playing!
Come back and play some more when you get a chance.
I'm sure others will be adding to this thread over time.
 

Linda Buquet

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Uses AT&T yellow pages both PRINT & ONLINE. And maybe its me but most of the Chicago Locksmiths who rank on-line all have a YELLOW PAGE BOOK ad. I refuse to. but maube thats what Iam gonna have to do
Jose don't have time to dig into that one today. Hopefully one of our other members can.

Just one quick thought. Not suggesting you get a Yellow Page site, but their advantage could be that they may have a bigger marketing budget than an indiv business owner would and likely have a sharp SEO/design team right on staff. Also have the added advantage of scale in that they do so many listings to test and see what works. Maybe just eval what they are doing and do it better on your own site?

But again that's not looking at anything. I'll try to look later.

THANKS FOR PLAYING and submitting an example!
 

Jo Shaer

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Is there a way that a paid listing on a major site like Yahoo maps can be used to influence the ranking of the Google Places page?
 
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Sure, I'll play

Key phrase: nashua hvac
Rank: #2 blended
G+ Local link: none for Nashua but I can quickly find 7 other company locations that have one and I don't think any of them have been claimed. Very few reviews.
Domain: heritagephc.com

"hvac" not even listed anywhere on home page, "nashua" only once. Nothing in title, h'tags, not seeing other local hooks. Majestic shows 106 referring domains, 540 backlinks.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks for playing Don. Sounds like a good one!

I'm really tied up today/nite but hopefully some other members will jump in and play on this one.
I'll circle back around when I can too.
 
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RE: amazinglockservice.com

Jose,

This certainly is a head-scratcher...
  • the site isn't anything to write home about (well, except of course for its current placement in Google. I'd write home every day for that position :) )
  • MajesticSEO shows only 1 backlink,
  • only a single h-tag with "Chicago, IL Locksmith,
  • the first [in content] hyperlink goes to another page but I think is a dup of the home page but navigates to a page that has "chicago-il-locksmith-services" in the page name,
  • yet the other three hyperlinks all go to pages that have an h1 tag that includes the words Chicago Locksmith,
  • two "zero" reviews,
  • cats and desc on GP pages really not using best practices,
  • really no on-page SEO to speak of,
  • I can't imagine the GP page is completely filled out (Perhaps an example of when it doesn't matter anyway?),
  • the only images with any alt / title tags with any merit are angie's list and coupon (now I've seen someone locally here rank unexpectedly and the only reason I could see was an alt/title tag with their angie's list image),
  • the video is hosted at YellowBook but I would hate to think that's part of the reason it's ranking where it is.
  • and... why do I try to help my clients have better than this?

Anyone else? Sheer luck or a cunning Google mind with practices we should all adopt?
 

Linda Buquet

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Hey Jacek. Wow, thanks for doing that extra work.

But actually I think a citation usually is an exact match of name, address and phone exactly as it is on the Place page. I think you only searched by phone which I don't think counts as a full citation, because many of those are for other variations of the name or the Dr. name.

Also they don't really count unless Google finds them. So for a quickie I just do a Google search like this: "Fremont Spine and Wellness" "3514 Fremont Avenue North" "(206) 634-1300" -fremontchiropractic.com (minus their site to cut out multiple matches that usually show up on several pages.) Only 3 matches. With their own site, only 9.

But in checking without address there are 6,160 for "Fremont Spine and Wellness" "(206) 634-1300" -fremontchiropractic.com so I guess the format of address on their Place page was throwing it off.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Linda - would there not be situations where you WOULD want to count citations that are not an exact match. We know that Google is fairly clever when it comes to being able to match a "Suite" with a "Ste" for example.

So how do we know that some of the citations that aren't EXACT are contributing to the overall ranking as well?
 

Linda Buquet

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Oh ya, she will pick up lots that are just standard address variations and match them. That's why I took out the address and then just checked name and phone because there are different address variations that could be out there.

However even tho we know to some degree she can match minor standard variations, we also know she does not ALWAYS get it right or she would not create dupes of the exact same listing and the only diff is Suite vs #. Right?
 

katandmouse

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Hi Linda, What fun! Please tell me who defined citation to be an exact match of the Google Place NAP and has it been scientifically proven or spoken by Google itself that that's what you need to be counted? Reason I ask is that I often see businesses cited on other sites where there might be an address or a suite or a phone number missing, but yet the citation is very much legitimate. If I were Google I'm not so sure I'd be so exacting. Take this listing for example: Long's Cabinet Shop Inc in Felton, 95018 There is no street or street number, yet you and I would know that that is the same cabinet shop listed here: Long's Cabinet Shop Inc, Felton CA 95018 and here Santa Cruz custom cabinets, Los Gatos custom cabinets, Saratoga, San Jose cabinet maker Monterey - Longs Cabinet Shop where we do see their address.

So what does Google want? Isn't it just verification that you really are at that location and that your business does in fact exist? Multiple references (citations) of your business verify that pretty well with Google and with the human audience, and in the example given above, even if a street address is missing. So, why not count it as a citation? Is the fact that the address is missing make that business any less of one? Your thoughts?
 

Linda Buquet

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Hey Kathy, thanks for joining and posting. Good to see you over here.

G does not tell us anything about ranking or citations or how they are counted so I don't think anyone knows for sure. All anyone can do is speculate.

Expanding a little on what I said above, we know to some degree she can match minor standard variations and will HOPEFULLY count those as citations. HOWEVER we also know she does not ALWAYS get it right or she would not create dupes of the exact same listing where the only diff is Suite vs # or Ave vs Avenue. So that says to me, she can't always match things up right.

So what does Google want? Isn't it just verification that you really are at that location and that your business does in fact exist? Multiple references (citations) of your business verify that pretty well with Google and with the human audience, and in the example given above, even if a street address is missing. So, why not count it as a citation? Is the fact that the address is missing make that business any less of one? Your thoughts?
I don't think it's so much what Google wants, or Google being picky, as much it is the fact that the scraping algo is NOT a human with reasoning power. (Like you were reasoning above.) It's a very simple algo that's easily confused and OFTEN gets it wrong. That's why we have so many problems with dupes and merges.

So my feeling, and I could be wrong, is the only way to ensure you get credit for citations is if they are an exact match. If they are a close match will they count too? Probably but she's easily confused so no guarantees. Of course there are no guarantees about anything with Google. :p
 

katandmouse

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Ok here's one:

Key phrase: Santa Cruz Chiropractor
Rank: A spot blended
G+ Local link:
Sawyer Chiropractic: Sawyer Scott DC - About - Google+
Domain:
docsawyer.com

This site was created by a chiropractor marketing firm. It appears to have a lot of content, but it's duplicate, canned content shared by other chiropractors. I've seen this time and again with chiropractors and veterinarians. Search on "Spinal joints that aren?t moving right can choke or irritate nearby nerves. Chiropractic adjustments add motion to these stuck joints, reducing nervous system disruption." to see for yourself.

It has a total of 24 inbound links from 3 domains. Only two of those links come from domains other than itself. It has one Google+1, 0 Facebook Likes, and 5 Facebook shares. Domain authority is 11 and page authority is 24. He has 0 Google reviews and has not claimed his Google Plus page.

Now compare that to Dr. Katie Griffin - Santa Cruz Chiropractor, Santa Cruz CA non-force chiropractic which has 127 inbound links, 9 domains linking to it, 8 Facebook shares, 3 Google+1, and 2 Facebook Likes. Domain Authority is 18 and page authority is 30. She has 3 Google reviews and an active Google Plus page.

Now note that Santa Cruz Chiropractor, Santa Cruz CA | Dr. Steven Stewart is in position 3 in organic ahead of the rest of the Google Place pack. That site is also site with duplicate content placed there by the same chiro marketing firm. If you do a site: query on the site, Google only shows 8 pages. The exact same number as Doc Sawyer. Dr. Griffin pulls up 107. She is actively blogging and involved in social media.

Dr. Griffin has 61 citations. Doc Sawyer has 22.

So, what's up?
 

katandmouse

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Ah, interesting. I just found a 2nd Google Plus page for Dr. Sawyer here Sawyer Chiropractic Group - About - Google+ Same address, different phone numbers but the phone number on this one matches the website, the other that is linked to his site in the blended results, doesn't. I found it at the bottom of the position A Google Plus page where google says, "Similar places."

Google doesn't appear to be linking it with the website, or is it?
 
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That's strange with 2 places. I typed "sawyer chiropractic santa cruz" in google.com/mapmaker and it shows "a" and "b" under the same address but with 2 different domains.

They have 2 different phone numbers. I always thought you need to have correct number in contact page.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks for playing Jacek - good catch!

Kathy - is Katie your client? I researched this a little last night.

But I always think too that those template sites should not rank so well. BUT often they do. I think probably in part to economies of scale. They have SO many clients that they have an advantage in trying lots of strategies to see what works.

Both the other sites are a little better optimized for Santa Cruz Chiropractor and have it at front of title tag and in H1. In fact they both that this title tag; title: Santa Cruz Chiropractor, Santa Cruz CA | Practice Name

But interesting trick both have an extra H1. In the link title of the header. In fact the keywords are ALSO in bold. In header image. Hmmm...

HTML:
<div id="container"><div id='chiropractic-header'><div class='left'>
		
<h1><a href='/' title='Santa Cruz Chiropractor'>The <b>Santa Cruz Chiropractor</b> to see - <B>Chiropractor Santa Cruz</B></a></h1>
</div>
(Scroll to see all code)

(Again the sites that both have the above code and both rank high are docsawyer.com and stewartchiropractic.net)

Not saying that in and of itself gave them a boost, but it's interesting, no?
 

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