Polishing up on my local search knowledge recently, I came across a Local Search Ranking video from Google featuring product manager Jeremy Sussman. He explains in the video (embedded below) that three of the primary factors Google uses to rank your business in local search are relevance, prominence and distance.

Relevance is easy. If you’re searching for a coffee shop, Google will eliminate dry cleaners. They aren’t relevant to what you’re looking for.

Location is easy, too. If you’re looking for something near you geo-location or the address or area you’ve entered into the search, it’s a matter of measurement.

Prominence is not so easy. Unless you listen to Sussman’s explanation of it:

“Prominence is determined by how well-known or prominent certain coffee shops are, based on sources across the web.”

If you’re not talking with your customers online or giving them something to talk about online. You aren’t affecting prominence.


Three ways you can affect your prominence today:

  1. Offer some expertise in a blog post or Facebook post that is helpful to your audience.
  2. Run a special for your Twitter followers.
  3. Post a sign in your store that encourages users to check-in on Foursquare, Gowalla or Whrrl.

Yes, there’s claiming and optimization and all that to do, but those three will make you incrementally more prominent today.

What other ways can you think of to make you more prominent in sources across the web? Drop them in the comments and we’ll collect a nice arsenal for everyone.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri J

    I think sometimes people are soooo worried about other details, they do forget about their Google Directory Listing – making sure that is up to date. I’d recommend starting there! :)

    Anybody have documented results of Facebook Ads lending to prominence?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      In a private group discussion I recently had a friend tell me, “SEOmoz has been doing a lot of correlation testing that shows that shares on Facebook is ranking sites as well as links and other authority signals.Every share, every comment on the link, every like on the link adds a little tally to the URL and that’s all Google can see from Facebook.”

      So there’s some substance to it.

      • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri J

        Thanks!

        Would you mind if I put that quote in my bag of social media feathers to pull out later?

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Go for it!

          • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri J

            Thanks!! :)

          • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri J

            Thanks!! :)

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Go for it!

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Go for it!

      • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri J

        Thanks!

        Would you mind if I put that quote in my bag of social media feathers to pull out later?

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    Local search can be powerful if the owners know how to use it to their advantage..I help my clients do this all the time..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Figured as much. Good on ya.

  • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

    Great stuff, Jason. I’d add to #3 (Post a sign in your store that encourages users to check-in on Foursquare, Gowalla or Whrrl) with a somewhat obvious statement: Give your customers an incentive to check-in.

    A very grass-roots type of approach would be this: Post a sign saying “On Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare? Post an update that you’re here, show us, and get a free cup of coffee!” or something along those lines that would make sense to the business. (Maybe it’s just a percentage discount).

    The people already in your brick-and-mortar are the people to start with because they already know you exist, and are already spending money with you. Leverage that relationship to spread the news online, and you’ll be better off then trying to sway people from online to the real world.

    When I was at a breakfast a few weeks ago, the manager came up and asked if we’d ever been on TripAdvisor. I said “no” because I wanted to see how they explained it. The manager handed me a card with a “how to post a good review on TripAdvisor” instruction set.

    Was it a little forceful? Maybe. Does it work? Probably. It’s a slippery slope because you don’t want to annoy people, but it usually doesn’t hurt to ask. Plus, incentives have a funny way of making people less annoyed.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great additional thoughts, Andrew. Good on ya for the help there.

      And I applaud the store manager who asked you about TripAdvisor. Yelp threatens business owners who do that. I think pushing people to post reviews is a GOOD thing, even if they do strongly encourage good reviews.

  • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

    Great stuff, Jason. I’d add to #3 (Post a sign in your store that encourages users to check-in on Foursquare, Gowalla or Whrrl) with a somewhat obvious statement: Give your customers an incentive to check-in.

    A very grass-roots type of approach would be this: Post a sign saying “On Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare? Post an update that you’re here, show us, and get a free cup of coffee!” or something along those lines that would make sense to the business. (Maybe it’s just a percentage discount).

    The people already in your brick-and-mortar are the people to start with because they already know you exist, and are already spending money with you. Leverage that relationship to spread the news online, and you’ll be better off then trying to sway people from online to the real world.

    When I was at a breakfast a few weeks ago, the manager came up and asked if we’d ever been on TripAdvisor. I said “no” because I wanted to see how they explained it. The manager handed me a card with a “how to post a good review on TripAdvisor” instruction set.

    Was it a little forceful? Maybe. Does it work? Probably. It’s a slippery slope because you don’t want to annoy people, but it usually doesn’t hurt to ask. Plus, incentives have a funny way of making people less annoyed.

  • http://twitter.com/resultsrev Marianna H Chapman

    First, nice title – it totally works. Good simple, short amount of info that will make sense to the mom and pops out there. Very doable… Definitely passing this one along. Gracias.

  • http://twitter.com/resultsrev Marianna H Chapman

    First, nice title – it totally works. Good simple, short amount of info that will make sense to the mom and pops out there. Very doable… Definitely passing this one along. Gracias.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Marianna. Glad to be useful.

  • http://www.skedtime.com Peter Alberti

    Another way to get prominence – get your customers to talk about you with their own social networks. Find a tool (I like http://www.skedtime.com mainly because I created it) that makes it easy for customers to advocate on your behalf.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Clever. But appropriate. I’ll check it out. Thanks for the link.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Jason, a couple questions.

    1.) In the video Google was vague as to what exactly increased prominence. Did you have another source somewhere that confirmed that all or only some social media channels contribute to prominence? Essentially, what does Google consider “sources across the web” in this case?

    2.) How do the previously mentioned sources need to refer to your place? A direct link to your site? A mention of your full business name in a blog, Facebook, or Twitter post?

    This is a great video that reminds me of all the effort folks put into decoding Google pagerank.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Anything that’s publicly searched and indexable is all I can assume it is. I don’t believe they would look at web data any differently here than they do in any other search result. It’s just filtering the data by source, location, frequency, links, etc.

      As far as how do they need to refer to you? Links, business name, location indicators … they all are considered by Google. The strongest (link) is obvious, but Google is going to see a review on Facebook that doesn’t link but says “Joe’s Pool Hall” and “Louisville” or “near UofL” and make assumptions. No, those ties won’t be as strong to the business as a linked reference, but it all factors in the algorithm.

      All of this is my assumption, though. I assume and trust that Google is an impartial source looking at the array of data in the same way trying to find relevance for the keyword search. Until they show me results that indicate otherwise, I’m comfortable with that assumption.

      • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

        I think your assumption is likely correct. If that is the case, then it is important that your places page have a accurate and complete information. A website URL is probably what they use to most accurately associate online sources. The most important piece of information to increase your prominence, probably.

        Relevance is probably a blend of physical address and the categories that you associate with your places page.

        This is all increasingly important information and I am happy to see that social plays a big part in how Google is ranking these results.

      • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

        I think your assumption is likely correct. If that is the case, then it is important that your places page have a accurate and complete information. A website URL is probably what they use to most accurately associate online sources. The most important piece of information to increase your prominence, probably.

        Relevance is probably a blend of physical address and the categories that you associate with your places page.

        This is all increasingly important information and I am happy to see that social plays a big part in how Google is ranking these results.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Anything that’s publicly searched and indexable is all I can assume it is. I don’t believe they would look at web data any differently here than they do in any other search result. It’s just filtering the data by source, location, frequency, links, etc.

      As far as how do they need to refer to you? Links, business name, location indicators … they all are considered by Google. The strongest (link) is obvious, but Google is going to see a review on Facebook that doesn’t link but says “Joe’s Pool Hall” and “Louisville” or “near UofL” and make assumptions. No, those ties won’t be as strong to the business as a linked reference, but it all factors in the algorithm.

      All of this is my assumption, though. I assume and trust that Google is an impartial source looking at the array of data in the same way trying to find relevance for the keyword search. Until they show me results that indicate otherwise, I’m comfortable with that assumption.

  • http://twitter.com/TurnSocial Matt Hendrick

    For many business owners, social media is great at providing context not only about a local business itself, but in many cases the surrounding neighborhood. For example, we work with a lot of apartment companies and many are keen to install our product on their website because it gives them an easy way to showcase what else is going on in the neighborhood, in addition to the standard social media profiles (FB, Twitter, 4Square, YouTube, Flickr) that visitors have come to expect. If you’re in the market for a new place to live, being able to see Apartment Ratings and Yelp reviews for the building is one thing, but how about Yelp reviews for nearby restaurants, and a Walkscore for the neighborhood? What tips have current residents been left on Foursquare? Visitors to an apartment website may never have sought this information otherwise, but seeing it delivered to them in the context of their apartment search can positively impact their decision to inquire further, translating to more leads for the apartment owner.

    At the end of the day, there’s a LOT of relevant local biz content created outside of the major social channels, and owners who can tap into it stand to gain relative to the competition. And FWIW, http://TurnSocial.com is where you can find us….

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Very cool, Matt. Thank you for that!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Very cool, Matt. Thank you for that!

  • Anonymous

    I think this was the first time that prominence made sense to me! I am definitely not an SEO person (beyond basic understanding of how it works) so this really made me feel more comfortable with how to actually make prominence work :)

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual office assistant

    It is good investing in Social media. Social Media platform is ideal for different uses and should therefore have a customized strategy. Due to the rapid rise in popularity and relevancy many online marketing companies now offer Social Media Marketing and strategy development services which are paramount to the success of Social Media as a viable marketing channel.

  • http://www.ventureneer.com Geri Stengel

    All good suggestions for both customer service and search engine optimization. In fact, good customer service is at the heart of all marketing whether online or off. Good relationships with customers pay off in referrals, return business, and “likes” rather than rants online.

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  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual office assistant

    Its good investing in Social media. Social Media platform is ideal for different uses and should therefore have a customized strategy. Due to the rapid rise in popularity and relevancy many online marketing companies now offer Social Media Marketing and strategy development services which are paramount to the success of Social Media as a viable marketing channel.

  • http://www.brosix.com/ Brosix

    It think review sites make a bigger impact than many businesses think they do.

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  • http://twitter.com/localbusinessco Local Business Cons

    You are so right. The prominence thing is so important and of course it would be the most difficult to achieve.

  • Jeremy

    Hey, thanks! Good info.

  • http://morewebsitetrafficguide.com Spatch Merlin

    Social media is never a choice if your goal is achieving success in your online business. With thousands of online businesses sprouting progressively, making your
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  • http://bizfromthekitchentable.blogspot.com/2011/12/3-search-engine-marketing-tips-getting.html Dan – search engine marketing

    With the Google Panda update starting to factor in social signals in their ranking algorithm, there is no better day to put the power of social media to good use than today. Social media opens up a new communication line between you and your customers and that can translate to new revenue streams for your business.

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