The start of June was very exciting and not just because SEOMoz’s 2011 search ranking factors survey was released. The lesser known fourth addition of the local search ranking factors was also compiled and released by David Mihms a few days earlier. It is a great survey and the most comprehensive completed in the area to date with 32 people from North America and a Dutch guy taking part.
The survey contains a lot of information that I agree with, especially the importance of the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). I also agree with how these citations across the web have similar importance to hyperlinks within traditional search results. But, and there usually is one, I have an issue with one of the listed ranking factors. This post is broken down into two separate gripes that I simply don’t agree with………
The survey makes the distinction between owner and manually-verified pages, which in reality doesn’t exist. They aren’t separate ranking factor thus shouldn’t be viewed independently. The distinction they may be trying to make between owner and manually-verified listings comes from the process in which users have to go through to add their listings to Google Places. Users who manually upload and verify add their businesses go through a page that prompts them to add a lot more accurate information, such as correcting their map marker locations, payment options, opening hours and additional categories. Where as users who upload via an Excel file and bulk verify are only prompted to add the most basic information that is provided within the template that Google supplies. You can still add more information such as opening hours, fix your marker locations, add opening hours and additional categories, but there is no prompt to do so. There is no inherent disadvantage that go with bulk verification other than the ones which a user creates in not taking the time to add more than the required details to their listings. Thus, distinctions shouldn’t be made between them as individual ranking factors.
Bulk and manually-verified pages to me just come under ‘verified listing.’ In all honesty, this doesn’t appear to be the limiting factor in the UK that it was 12 months ago. If you weren’t verified and you had local competitors that were verified, you’d rank below them. The experts within the survey rank (manually) verified pages as the second most important ranking factor as a whole, but relegate it to third within ‘pure’ local search results and knock it down to fifth for ‘blended’ local search results. It is still important to claim your listing in regards to protecting your business and stopping fraud, but not in the sense of being a ranking factor. I’ll show you why…. If I search for ‘restaurants in manchester’ in Google UK, I get the above seven pack of which the first, fourth, fifth and seventh listings are unverified. If I search for ‘night clubs in London’ we find that the second, fourth, fifth and sixth listings are unverified. If I do a search for ‘restaurants on cross street in Manchester’ I get a first page that pulls back seven blended local results with all but the fourth listing being unverified.
Out of three random searches in big British cities, we have just pulled back 21 local listings across pure and blended search results with only seven being verified. Now we may be getting our wires crossed and the North American Places algorithm could be completely different from the UK's with regards to verified listings. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case through the proxies I’ve been looking through today. Which begs the question…..are (manually) verified listings really the second most important ranking factor when you consider I haven’t pulled back a single listing in the above three searches without a user review? As a ranking factor, it doesn’t appear in the overall top ten within the survey. Please leave your comments either here or on Twitter - @GavinSmithLeeds