Do Ratings Matter in Ranking Local Results?

Matt McGee writes about the local panel at the recent SMX conference. Google wasn’t on the panel but Yahoo! and Microsoft were. Both seemed to say that ratings/reviews didn’t impact ratings on the main search results page (e.g., Shortcut) but did impact rankings on Yahoo! Local:

Brian Gill was talking about the Yahoo “Local Shortcut” — when they show three local business listings in the regular Yahoo SERPs. Here’s what he said:

Reviews and ratings have no impact on reaching those top three spots in the regular SERPs.

He said they do play a role in the Yahoo Local rankings, but not on the main Yahoo SERPs. So, when you do a search for something like [italian restaurants seattle] on Yahoo, user reviews don’t factor into the three results you see…

I would imagine this is also the case for Google as well:

Google Maps search

In local searches a consumer may be looking for some specialized piece of information or a specific type of service. But typically the search is concerned with finding a specific business (already known), the highest rated business in a category or the nearest business in a category. (Closest business is typically not meaningful given the “centroid” orientation of most local search results.)

Ratings and reviews should be factored into the ranking of results, in my opinion, featured in the Shortcut or OneBox/Universal Search result. For its part, Google is showing 10 links to signal users that there’s more content on Google Maps. And there you can now sort by rating.

However, the main search engines, as opposed to their local properties, is where the overwhelming number of local searches are taking place. So the results there should be as meaningful as possible rather than simply acting as an indicator of better results elsewhere.

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Update: There’s apparently a clarification that Yahoo! wants to make. Will provide an update as soon as I hear.  

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8 Responses to “Do Ratings Matter in Ranking Local Results?”

  1. Tim Cohn Says:

    Makes sense to me. If ratings were weighted more heavily wouldn’t they be gamed?

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Above a certain threshold (say 30 or so), they couldn’t be gamed. On second thought, however, newer businesses would be penalized because they had fewer ratings.

  3. Tim Cohn Says:

    ok… When was the last time anybody saw a new business listing materialize in their Local Results?

    Is there any data illustrating the anatomy and life cycle of a local business listing?

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    You’re right about that. But the time from founding to indexing is getting shorter.

  5. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    Actually, I believe that user ratings do influence rankings in Google Maps, and the same top businesses listed in Google Maps for a query will be displayed in the local one-box for the same query in regular web search.

    However, Google has indicated that all the classic SEO ranking elements which impact web search results may also be at play within each of their vertical search properties. Google’s David Bailey mentioned that tidbit in his presentation on The Blended Search Revolution at the SMX conference.

  6. Tim Cohn Says:

    There is no doubt about Google’s ability to freshen data it receives, However the data in question isn’t theirs.

  7. Do Ratings Matter Part Deux « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] Do Ratings Matter Part Deux I just got off the phone with Yahoo! prompted by a desire to clarify the information presented in my post below. [...]

  8. MiriamEllis Says:

    “I believe that user ratings do influence rankings in Google Maps, and the same top businesses listed in Google Maps for a query will be displayed in the local one-box for the same query in regular web search.”

    I’ve actually seen this not work like this, Chris. The 10-pack is sometimes ordered differently than the A-J in Maps.

    Greg –

    I agree with you about the value of user reviews influencing the Short Cut/10 Pack. Matt’s post really came as a surprise to me. However, in discussing this with Mike Blumenthal, he suggested that Yahoo might be doing this as spam protection (harder to game organic than Maps). I think that’s a pretty good guess.

    Enjoyed this post!
    Miriam

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