Local SEO Citations: Reponse to SBSM

Local SEO is a pain.

So I just read Matt’s impressive post on ‘why local SEO is harder than SEOs think‘, (if you haven’t read it, go do that now – and then come back here) and I had to laugh, because I can’t seem to make it through a week anymore without one of my clients calling or emailing me to find out why they’re not popping up on maps.  Although I did have one super excited client tell me last week that whatever I did for him a few days earlier, it seems to be working – because now he’s popping up as the 1st listing on maps for his ultra-competitive industry.

Sadly, that’s not what I’m going to discuss today. Maybe in a few weeks, depending on whether further tests prove that the tactic I used actually works – or its just an insane coincidence. :)

What I am going to do is provide a more in-depth look at what is going on with those bakery listings in San Francisco. Not that Matt didn’t do an excellent job as-is, it’s just that there is so much to look at it’s almost impossible to pin it all down in one post.

While Matt gave a nice 5000 foot view of the various possible ranking factors, I focused ONLY on the details section. By that, I’m meaning the # of photos, importance of review categories, and those citation sites that provided reviews for the bakeries in question, or at least had some type of information on the restaurant, such as pricing or hours information.

Let’s get started.

First off, I saw no data to support a claim that the more citations* you have from different sites, the better you’ll rank. Having said that, all of the bakeries appearing in the map box had at least 7 different citations from popular review or data sites.  See chart below:
*(when I say citations, I mean data providers or review sites, like yelp, superpages, etc.)

Now, one thing I did notice with the Tartine listing (which had a sick amount of reviews :222)  - a significant number of the reviews from Zagat occurred over a relatively short period of time during Feb and March.  Could this flag the listing for possible manipulation, and prevent it from taking #1 spot? Also, the Zagat site shows 389 member reviews for Tartine Bakery;  I guess this means that Google doesn’t pull in all the reviews….

Which Sites Matter

Now let’s take a look at which of those citation sites pull the most weight, shall we?

Honestly, I was pretty surprised that Yelp only had information on 2 of these businesses. I had thought they were pretty important, but I guess I should be focusing more on Urbanspoon, yellowbot and citysearch instead.

Now this is some pretty nifty info, but we need to look at in comparison to the actual listings (click image below to open in new window)…

google local seo map citation comparison chart

green=listing, yellow=no listing

Ok, if we just look at the top 3 listings – citysearch, judysbook and urbanspoon are the only sites all 3 listings have in common.

But those are not the only citation sites linking in to these businesses – just the most popular. Here are the rest of the sites that had review or restaurant data for each business listed in the 7 pack:

Other Citation Sites

…so, not really sure what to make of this – other than it might be helpful to get listed on tastyr, tripadvisor, and maybe menutopia? At least before going after superpages, which doesn’t seem to matter one bit in the grand scheme of things – at least not in these results.

Which brings us to the review categories:

multiple review categories for local SEO

The review categories seem to occur when multiple reviews contain the same keyword or keyword phrase, as evidenced in the image above. There never seems to be more than 7 reviews under any one category, and apparently, they don’t discriminate based on the reviewing site. Perhaps THIS is the deciding factor?

…sigh…I guess not.

Well, I’m down to one last thing here: photos -
Does the number of business photos matter at all? Lets look and see…

AAARRRGHH!!! Almost, but not quite.

The Wrap Up.

So what have we learned here? In my humble opinion, I think it might be worthwhile to target Urbanspoon, Citysearch and Yellowbot – and it certainly appears that it’s equally important to make sure you have a multitude of citations (at least 7 in this case), as well as a decent number of reviews.

I don’t know how important having photos is, but all of these listings had at least 5 or more, so why take a chance and not include any…beyond that….who the hell knows.

One thing I haven’t seen anyone discuss is the impact of actual actions taken on the places listings – does a site in the 7th position that gets more clicks for directions begin to climb in ranking because of it?  Also, what effect- if any, do on-page factors play, such as your site’s homepage title tag, or headings, or image alt attributes?

Know of any tips or have any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them.