Local Search O-Pack and the Art of Title Tags

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We all know how important title tags are when it comes to SEO. Not only for ranking but it will also be the first piece of information a searcher will see about your site. I like to think of a title tag as a first date. You want to look better than you really are, and hope you can impress just enough to cover up future blemishes that someone might get to know.

So, the question is how do title tags translate on the local playing field? I am sure by now you have seen that when the integrated local results show up (aka the O-Pack) there are usually quite a few organic listings tied to a places pin like the followed…

Local titles

When the O-Pack came out, it was a big enough change to the locosphere that I decided that I needed to do some extensive research into what makes the pack tick. So, I put together a study of the following over the past few months…

28 Google Places listings that are ranking 1-7

28 Google Places listings that are ranking 50-56

Listings were examined from the following keywords:

  1. Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer
  2. New York Divorce Lawyer
  3. San Diego Dentist
  4. Dallas Dentist

In all I took 56 listings in 4 cities across the country in the law and dental categories. I generally find that these are well optimized categories in local search that have very little “luck” involved in rankings.  While the research covered 27 separate factors, one of the things I found most interesting has been the use of title tags.

Where Does Google Places Get the Title Tag From?

Generally speaking, the first 5 results in the O-Pack pull from the title tag of the website page that Google thinks is most relevant, and the remaining listings pull from the Business Name given in the Places account.

title tags

This was the case for all results that were examined in my research. I have seen a few exceptions to this, but only a few. So, bottom line, gone are the days where you could get by without a good website for a Google Places listing. You used to be able to rank a company who didn’t have a website, and you could work wonders with companies that had a website (Even if it was built with website tonight).  Now, not only does your title from your site populate on your Places listing, but it holds effect on rankings.

How Many Websites Had The Keyword Search Phrase In The Title Tag?

22 of the 28 High Ranking Places listings (79%) had the keywords in the website title tag.  Whereas 12 of the 28 Low Ranking Places listings (43%) had the keywords in the website title tag.

16 of the 28 High Ranking Places listings (57%) had the keywords first in the Title Tag.  8 of the 28 High Ranking Places listings (29%) had the keywords first in the Title Tag.

How many Listings have the Business Name in the Title Tag?

17 of the 28 High Ranking listings (61%) have the Business Name in the website Title Tag. 15 of the 28 Low Ranking Places listings (53%) have the Business Name in the website Title Tag.

All of this data is shown in the graph below….

Title tags

A few interesting observations…

When the O-Pack came out in late October, it didn’t take very long to realize that normal SEO ranking factors were now a very large part of local search. My studies have verified that to me. But, I also felt that there were some factors that were being overlooked.

Local Search is all about proving your local prominence through your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number. I couldn’t help but think that businesses would do well to include all of this information in a title tag.  Only 1 business had their phone number in the Title Tag. None had their address. But, as I looked deep into the listings (past the top 7 in each category) I didn’t see any listings that had this information. It simply hasn’t been done on a large scale.

So, I ran a few tests and they seemed to look a lot like this….

Local titles

The site in the first position doesn’t have a superior link profile, a higher pagerank, a crazy amount of citations, or anything else that would peg this listing in front of many others on this list. But they have the NAP information prominently displayed in a big way.  I haven’t shared this with many people as it isn’t something I can prove or disprove with the little data I have, but the results are interesting to say the least.

My Thoughts On A Title Tag For Local Search

For rankings, I think it is very apparent that having the keyword phrase listed is extremely important and probably at the first. This is new in local but simply a transfer from our normal good ol’ SEO factors.

For Recognition, I think that it is very important to include your business name on your home page title tag. Many people try to stuff a title with only keywords. But from a local search perspective, you should be advertising your business on a lot more places that just online and if they search, see your business name and recognize it from either friends, billboards, print, phone books, or anything else, then the chance of you getting the click/call will go up dramatically. Does a business name effect rankings? I don’t know, but it doesn’t hurt them and I definitely think it will help your click through rate if it is included in your Title.

For Best Results, if you are in the top 7 then you better get to the top 5. I would much rather have control over what a user sees as the title to my listing than letting Google show only the business name.

There is a lot more information that I have found interesting during my research of the O-Pack results from Link Profiles to Reviews, and Citations to Category choices. I will be publishing more in the coming weeks, and will probably release the data sheet for anyone to see what they can find as well.

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey is the owner of Nifty Marketing, a Local Search Marketing company hailing from Burley, Idaho. His twitter handle is niftymarketing and he is a proud husband and father. Mike has lost 12 pounds on his local search recipe plan because after all, it’s not edible.
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  • http://www.zcreative.com Eric Marshall

    Thanks for researching this Mike. Have you seen Google pulling title tags from sub-pages (not just the homepage)? For instance, do you think it would have any impact, if I put a physical address on a Contact Us page? Do you think they’d ever pull/display it?

    • Mike Ramsey

      Yes i have. They did scale this back about two weeks ago, but I have to say that title tags were the main reason I saw subpages being picked up. I did a few tests with this as well and had subpages with zero links that became the lead page by displaying good keyword and NAP information. But, this has scaled back in the last update so time will tell.

      • http://www.zcreative.com Eric Marshall

        Interesting – thanks for the feedback.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mike, great insights and thanks for sharing.

    In doing a lot of reverse engineering and testing of the new algo, I’ve made some similar observations. One thing I’ve been testing recently is phone in title because there often isn’t room for keywords, city, name and everything wish you could put in the title.

    One of my clients is #1 for Chiropractor in a very large competitive market. Many months ago I told him to put phone in his title tag and he shot up in the organic rankings. Then many of his competitors started adding their phone numbers. At one point almost every chiro on page 1 had their phone in title. Just checked his rankings today and he’s still #1 and 3 out of the top 4 listings have phone in title. So not sure if that’s helping them rank or if the most aggressive marketers just copied my client and it’s a coincidence. But I’m trying it with some new clients now, so I can measure the results.

    Another potential benefit to phone in title, is some smart phones will automatically turn a phone number into a click to call link.

    • Mike Ramsey

      Completely agreed and a great trick!

  • http://www.wasimismail.com Wasim Ismail

    For Local business, its best to have their Business name and at least one keyword in the title tag, if not more, this way your visitors will recognise your business locally and at the same time you will benefit from the rankings in search results. For a local business just to really 100% of their business to come from online its quite a risk, as they can easily explore other avenues locally, and build awareness locally. There should be a good balance of online and offline marketing for local business.

  • Matt Mikulla

    Has anyone done research into when or why images from the places page might be displayed in the SERPs?

    Seems for some queries images are usually displayed and for others none.

    • http://pestcontrolseo.wordpress.com/ Thos003


      I’ve seen the images come and go on the same search (example “Mesa Pest Control”). I believe it’s just google testing. Although I seem to see it more frequently on the mentioned search over other similar searches. So it’s possible that it fluctuates more on searches that are not as established.

  • MiriamEllis

    Hey Mike (and hi Linda!)
    I’m definitely a fan of putting the phone number in the title tag. Mike, your example of the Interior Designer’s title tag deserves some thought. From an aesthetic (user-centric) viewpoint, I don’t like the way it looks. It’s messy..run-on and cut off, but you can’t argue with the rank, can you?

    I really enjoyed this article! I come to SEJ primarily to read your pieces, Mike. Tell the boss 🙂

    • Mike Ramsey

      I agree- You see the information repeated up to 3 times as far as nap data goes. But results are results and she is doing well with it.

  • http://twitter.com/shazansayani shazan sayani

    Thanks for sharing Mike… I think its best to have business name in title tag, it also help for brand popularity in local search…

  • http://www.web-hosting-service.in Web Hosting Service

    Great insight on local search and the importance and impact of title tags on it. Thanks for sharing this information.

  • srija

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  • http://www.andykuiper.com Andy Kuiper – SEO Vancouver

    I’m sorry Mike… after re-reading the article it’s clear you are speaking about optimizing the title tags on websites, not the title tags (business name) on the Places page. My mistake. As a result, my prior post is clearly inaccurate and redundant (prefer if it was removed). Good work on these findings 🙂

  • http://www.eternitymodern.com/ andru greal

    Title tags with your keywords in them- Now title tags used to be more important then they are today but there is no doubt that title tags play a huge factor in how Google sees your site.

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    best tips for local optimization

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    best to follow tips for local search optimization

  • Yam Regev_Puresheer


    Just inserted my NAP to one of my site’s meta title (home page). Will follow up & update.

  • http://www.mylocalis.com Adam Marsh

    we have been using the full address in the Title tag for a couple months and have had nothing but good results.

  • http://www.gezzmo-searchengine.com/ rebo7

     I don’t think the title tag is important for any website, but interesting advice none the less.

  • http://www.discounthotel-worldwide.com Ivan

    Hi. Nice article. Thank you for the research. Somehow I suspect that the keyword density and the H1, H2, H3 tags are playing a role also.
    From my knowledge the keyword density must not be above 3%. I also suspect that Google can’t be tricked in only by using the correct title tags. Nonetheless I do agree that Title tag is the most important.