This is my current read on the state of the algorithm used within the Maps product. Matt has posted a valuable summary of factors that seem to influence Google Maps standings.
I want to supplement that list and organize it in a slightly different way to clarify my understanding of the situation.
|Relevance||Is the business listing considered in the pool of candidates for the search in question? This data is gathered both off and on-line|
|1. Address Located within City of Search||See Bill Slawskiâ€™s post on local sensitivity.|
|2. Confirmed listing by virtue of entry in Local Business Center or trusted Google partner||Only one seems to be required and there seems to be no ranking difference between them. Local Business Center, BBC, Talking Phone book, SuperPages are examples. However, using the Local Business Center is the preferred way as it avoids any ambiguity particularly about the authoritative website.|
|3. Categories of business relates to search phrase||Again from Google Local Business Center or one of its partners (which means that sometimes the categories donâ€™t come from Local Business Center ). How Google cross references these is of interest.|
|4. Business Name relates to search phrase||This works like a title tag in organic search|
|5. Confirmation of address by authoritative website and referring websites||This is why your website needs your address and the sites you are listed on do as well .|
|6. Link phrase relevance||I have not yet tested but it stands to reason that this is the case|
|Rank||When compared to other businesses in the search pool what is relative standing of this business listing across various web resources|
|1. Score of Authoritative Website||This appears to be pagerank related. In a brief analysis that I performed this was born out. See Bill Slawskiâ€™s patent review|
|2. Number of Reviews||Quantity seems to trump quality. This speaks directly to Matt’s point about being in local directories and getting reviews in those directories.|
|3. Number of Web References|
|4. Quality of Web References|
|Since not all of these are available on all businesses, Google will use whatever is available.|
The results with the Local OneBox are different than those in Google Maps roughly 50% of the time. Half of the time they are exactly like the Google Maps results and half the time they are not. This has shifted within a single search over the past 3-4 months.This implies that Google is testing additional factors in those results. In the set of results that donâ€™t match the Google Maps results, I have noticed that Google will not list â€œunverifiedâ€ results in the OneBox and it appears that in the past there is additional weighting review scores.
Given the flux in the OneBox, it appears that focusing your efforts on the Maps product is the only reasonable thing to do as of today. I assume that over time, as more data is gathered and updated more frequently, the Maps results will improve and that there will be consistency between the two. Once the OneBox algorithm has gelled it makes sense to revisit it. As I and others have pointed out, it makes little sense for them to be different but Google may decide otherwise.
There are a number of unanswered questions about the Google Maps rankings as well. This is true particularly on searches that don’t have locally prominent results. So this list should be viewed as a first stab and an effort with the help and cooperation of others to achieve understanding.