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Another great SLCSEM (Salt Lake City SEM professional organization) event has come and gone and left us with a ton of great information from one of the country’s leading experts in local search, David Mihm. The timing for a local search meetup and having David as a speaker couldn’t have been more perfect as the local search landscape is preparing for a major shakeup in the near future. With Apple dropping Google and launching its own maps product, Google Places changing to Google+ Local and Yelp making big moves to embed itself in major search platforms, there was a lot of great information and speculation on preparing for what’s coming next.

I was invited to speak following David to give the attendees an agency’s perspective on fulfilling local search campaigns for small businesses. Both presentations are available at the bottom of this post. However, I want to highlight what I thought were some of the most interesting takeaways from David’s presentation and the Q&A session that followed.

7 Local Search Takeaways From SLC|SEM

  1. Website Criteria – In David’ recently released 2012 Local Search Ranking Factors, he noted that Website criteria dropped from #1 to #3 in General signals. Place Page Criteria and Off-Place Page/Off-Site Criteria moved to #1 and #2 respectively. While still important, it’s been a common belief that on-site SEO may become less and less effective as it’s easier to game.
  2. Fundamentals Stay the Same – Even though we’re going through what could possibly be the biggest change to local search since Google offered a local product, the fundamentals have stayed the same for now. Having a physical location in the right city, using the right categories, building citations and building a good quantity of reviews still have a big impact on local search rankings.
  3. Get Familiar with Data Providers – if you’re suffering from poor rankings, a big part of that reason could be that your data is incorrect or not including with some of the major data providers. Make sure you’re properly listed with major data providers like Localeze, Infogroup, Axciom, Yelp, Google MapMaker and others. Use GetListed.org to check for missed opportunities or incorrect data.
  4. Blended Search & Big Business – Domain authority is a major factor for blended local search results which have quickly become the most prominent form of local search results. Because large corporations generally have strong domain authority, this gives them a big advantage.
  5. Keyword Anchor Text – With Google making strong efforts to cut down on spam and over-optimization, the panel of local experts that participated in the Local Search Ranking factors survey believe that using product, service or location keywords in your anchor text to your website or Places page is less helpful than it used to be.
  6. Social/Mobile – Social and mobile factors were added to the survey in anticipation of what is coming up for Google+ Local but the experts don’t believe that social/mobile factors play a big role in the ranking algorithm at this point in time.
  7. Bulk Upload vs. Manual Verification – The Ranking Factors survey also showed that some of the experts believe there is a ranking advantage for manually claiming a listing versus doing a bulk upload. With a major franchise or multi-location business, that could be very challenging. Tim Eyre from Extra Space Storage participated in the Q&A to inform us that they’ve done both forms of claiming and haven’t specifically tested it but didn’t feel there was much of a difference. He also gave us a great reminder to use multiple accounts and bulk upload files in case one gets put on hold or suspended to be reviewed.

Small Business SEO Announcement And Contest

Ash Buckles, President of SEO.com, also formally announced that we are offering affordable and effective services for local and other small businesses (see press release here). In conjunction with that announcement, Ash announced that we will be doing a 6-month free SEO services giveaway to 6 lucky small businesses. One winner will be announced each month.

Webinar: The Science of Local Search Made Simple

If you haven’t had enough talk about local search yet, sign up for our upcoming local search webinar. The webinar will be held June 28th, 2012 at 11 a.m. MST and yours truly will be the presenter. If you’re entering to win the local search giveaway, you’ll definitely want to tune into this webinar to see what you can expect if you are the lucky winner.