We are always looking for creative ways to help our local SEO clients archive better results. In this particular experiment I was curious to find out if calling to a business page directly from Google’s organic results might have an effect on the ranking of that particular page. To our surprise it turned out to be a major ranking signal often improving the position of a local business by several spots. This report presents exactly what we did and how it affected the rank of our clients. Discussion is encouraged. Learn more about Google Mobile Technologies here.
With all the confusion and turmoil that up to the day this post was created, the term “google plus local”, “google places”, “google places for business”, “google plus business” will be used to refer to the same concept: a listing with an address and phone number snippet in the first page of organic search results.
As many local SEO experts would point out, ranking high in Google’s organic-mix of results for a local business page might turn out to be a difficult ordeal. With hundreds, even thousands of factors, Google Plus Local optimization has proven to be a very sophisticated (some might think otherwise) algorithm that seems to run almost independently from the “normal” listing algo. With the increased use of mobile devices, I was curious to find out if mobile marketing would have any effect on Google Places ranking in the organic listings.
Because I was traveling back and forth from Houston to McAllen, I decided that it would be best to test this experiment in a less competitive environment to see subtle changes that perhaps might be invisible with monster SEO companies in Houston. I just wanted to see if there was a “real effect” on organic rankings. Having the advantage of knowing a lot of people in South Texas because of my connections back when I was in University of Texas Pan American Student Government, I asked 40 contacts with an android-powered device to participate in the experiment. Basically all that they were doing is simply trying a local-oriented query and clicking on a particular, predetermined, Google+ Local listing’s phone number.
Disclaimer: participants were remunerated with a $5 dollar Starbucks card. Accurate reporting of the research methodology was verified at the end of the experiment by the number of calls registered by the business owner.
We got authorization from 5 local clients who had a Google Places Listing in the first page of organic search results for a local-oriented keyword. The listing, however, was chosen specifically to be a non-prominent one. For instance, client A was in position 8 in the organic-mixed results for “pizza restaurant in CITY”. No on-page modifications were made, no backlinks were created for the purpose of this experiment.
Over a period of 2 weeks, research participants searched in the default Google Search Box in their Android-Powered device for particular keywords that were given to them at certain intervals. Participants searched for the predetermined listing and clicked-dialed the default number inside Google’s Organic listings. Then they reported to the business owner with their name and time. The business owner then wrote down the day and time.
Two Clients received an average of 40 calls per week for “KEYWORD + CITY”, two clients received only 20 calls per week for “KEYWORD + CITY”, one client was used as a control and received 0 calls from the research participants. This occurred over a period of 2 weeks.
Factors taken into account:
- Number of Click-Calls from Mobile Devices
- Initial and Final ranking position of the Google Local Listing
The four clients that received the calls all saw major improvement in their ranking positions, often making it to the very first spot in as little as 5 days. The control client saw no significant modification in the ranking position in Google’s organic mix results.
Number of Average Calls per Week VS Improvement of Ranking Position (moving from position 7 to 2 would be a 5 point improvement)
Business A showed the greater improvement but also received the most number of calls reporting an enhanced position by 5 spots with 41 calls average per week for “Keyword + City”. The control did not show a significant change in comparison to the other businesses.
With an increased use of mobile devices, it is logical that Google is taking into consideration usage metrics from mobile devices, after all they know the technology behind Android and have patented powerful algorithms that authenticated users. It is much harder to get real people with real -in use- mobile devices to influence organic search rankings that it is to create a bot that rotates proxies and clicks on your website. I suspect that Google track calls (some participants reported a message in their phone after the call saying “Was the phone number correct?”, suggesting that Google might be placing higher attention quality in this product (I suppose).
I do not see a particular threshold of calls to activate this kind of Google improvement, but I assume the more “natural and real” preference the better. Basically to the eyes of Google’s Bot the verified user is making a conscious preference over other business (a powerful indication of local sentiment).
Perhaps it might seem difficult to apply this technique for a broad audience, yet a useful application might be for instance:
When running a radio campaign, ask users to “Google KEYWORD in CITY” and then FIND your business. This would be considered a user-oriented preference and might give you higher rankings for your Local Business Page.
Please share your own experiences and research in this matter. It would be interesting to find out if more competitive cities get a boost from “Click-Call SEO”.