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How to Optimize for Local Search With Post-Venice Citation-Building Strategies

by Zach Thompson  |  
July 25, 2012

In this article you'll learn...

  • The Top 5 factors for local search ranking
  • Seven strategies for building citations

The importance of local search has been growing steadily for some time now. Google pointed out in 2010 that location-related searches make up over 20% of all desktop searches, and that number was closer to 40% for mobile users. And with the much-talked-about recent release of Google's Venice update, which sought to improve local search results, those figures have surely increased.

All of which means one thing: If you don't have a strategy for local search optimization, you're doing it wrong.

The Breakdown

Based on David Mihm's most recent survey of local search ranking factors, the following are the Top 5 factors that impact local search results:

  1. Physical address of the business
  2. Manually owner-verified Google Place page
  3. Proper category assignments on the Place page
  4. Volume of traditional structured citations
  5. Crawlable address matching Place page address

Notice that nowhere in the Top 5 do "inbound links" or "website homepage authority" appear (though they are No. 6 and No. 7, respectively). Local search optimization, then, is not the same game as regular SEO.

Some of you are already raising your hands, calling out that this survey data comes from last year—before Google's Venice update, which according to Google "improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of [Google's] main search results as a signal." So, you argue, doesn't that mean those first five factors will now be less important as Google gets closer to mirroring its main SERPs in local search?

My annoying response: Maybe, maybe not. It's complicated.

Because in the more talked-about part of the Venice update, Google has also started regularly presenting local search results, even from location-agnostic queries, any time it finds it relevant to do so. Which is quite often.

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Zach Thompson is a partner in RYP Marketing, which specializes in white label link building. Reach him via Facebook ( and Twitter (@RYPMarketing).

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  • by Barbara Fowler Wed Jul 25, 2012 via web

    This is an excellent review, especially for a couple of relatively small, local businesses I am working with. Thank you!

  • by Luci Erisman Wed Jul 25, 2012 via web

    Any suggestion on how to reconcile call tracking? Many businesses use call tracking to track the success of their campaigns, and I don't see another good option to replace it. How badly will call tracking effect rankings if the rest of the business information is consistent? (We have this discussion a lot at the office and have never come to a good conclusion.)

  • by Rishi Wed Jul 25, 2012 via web

    One of the things I do is create a separate page for each city I serve. In that page, I add key phrases like "widget shop in toronto" or "new york widgets" so it gets picked up by Google. Here are some tips for Local SEO:

    - Make each page's title tag "Widgets in #CityName" so search can pick it up
    - Name your page depending on the city you serve eg: boston-widgets.html so search can pick it up.

    Get access to all of our Online Marketing cheat sheets including "Top 8 Local SEO Mistakes to Avoid" at

  • by Michael Wed Jul 25, 2012 via web

    Some good points in #7 Google Queries. Not only does that help you find good sources for links and citations, but it helps identify what sources Google determines as the most valuable in your city or region for the keyword combinations you choose to use.

  • by Zach Thompson Thu Jul 26, 2012 via web

    Great question. In situations where call-tracking is not used, I usually suggest the client train their staff to inquire how the caller found them. If the caller says, "Online", then a followup question such as, "Great, where online did you find us?" will often get a helpful answer.

  • by Johan Mason Wed Aug 8, 2012 via web

    Since from the starting we have been searching for the best formats of optimizing to place our websites in the local search engines, here we got another formats of fair and quality points over the subject on building citations which directs targeting Google maps and local search engines. Therefore I was just wondering about the facts presents in these building strategies really these are remarkable.

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