More threads by Linda Buquet

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Whoa, this is pretty interesting. No time to digest or critique. I know it's a small sample, but wanted to share for you guys to discuss.

Calling a Business From a Mobile Devices Increases Rankings

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.

Click to read the rest: Calling a Business From a Mobile Devices Increases Rankings

What do you guys think?

Edited to add warning. It makes sense that # of clicks to calls would indicate popularity of a business. She can't track regular calls, but COULD track Android calls and likely is - because she tracks everything!

The warning is Google does not like ranking manipulation of any kind.
If you are calling clients a bunch to try to boost ranking - that IS manipulation!

So if this 'does' work and starts being abused, they will likely add a spam filter or may already have one. Likely an algo similar to the review spam filter that gets triggered if review velocity increases significantly.
Based on my past experiences, I too believe that calls from mobile devices can boost local rankings. It has been awhile since I have done any tests but it was my impression that these details are being tracked and do make a difference. It stands to be a new test on my docket.

Thanks for sharing Linda.
I haven't performed an intensive study, but I have a "feel" for what is working for my clients. I now focus heavily on finding ways to increase online interaction between my clients and their community/prospects/customers--for the sake of interaction, if nothing else.

Not only does this increase the likelihood of them making another sale (Which is why they pay me, of course.), it helps boost their overall online visibility, in my experience.

Again, I don't have the resources to prove this definitively, but my "gut" has done pretty well for me/my clients over the past 13 years in the local Internet marketing biz.

Also, when attempting to answer these types of questions I try to put myself in Google's shoes. I know that they watch CTR on organic listings, and this influences rankings somewhat, sometimes (all the time?). So, why wouldn't they want to measure a local business' "CTR" wherever possible for the same reasons?

If I were Google, I would want real Users to "tell" my algo which companies are the "best". Real-world "click-to-call" data would have significant value in this regard, I'd think.
Edited bottom of original post to add warning.

Thanks for weighing in Daniel!
The evidence from just the snippet you posted is overwhelming a bit and makes me think that it must be true.

However, from a logical perspective, I wouldn't think Google would use this as a metric. CTR has long been thought a ranking metric but I'm not too sure I believe that. That would just be the rich getting richer. A #1 click traditionally gets around 40% of traffic all other things being consistent (reviews, rich snippets, etc.) if the studies over the years are correct. Sounds like to me that if the #1 spot gets that much traffic, the rich just keep getting richer, they keep getting more phone calls and being #1 alone would keep them #1 perpetually. Google could offset this with a weight I suppose in the algorithm but still, CTR isn't a good metric to me. A much more valuable metric would be bounce rate and sit interaction. CTR doesn't tell me anything except that the website potentially did well optimizing their title and meta description to entice someone to click. I want to know if the searcher had their question or need taken care of (bounce rate, time on site, interaction, etc). The above poster mentioned a call being a CTR and I would agree with that. If Android records time on the phone, then I think they could use that but once again, maybe they were just put on hold? Maybe the frequency at which communication is happening but then what about call waiting operators?

It's all very interesting. Logically, I would say no. However, if this test is true, it's hard to ignore the facts. Also, Google hasn't always been the most logical of machines.
I wanted to amend my first post.

After reading the full article, I realized I had missed something. While CTR may not be an effective online measurement, calls are different. While calls may be a signal of online popularity, it's also equally likely (if not more likely) that it is a signal of offline popularity. Popularity within the community.

If a listing that isn't at the top continues to receive calls over other listings that are at the top, this could potentially signal an offline metric of popularity/prominence and therefore, quality. We know this is important to Google because they try to ascertain offline prominence/popularity already: Local Search Directory Prominence.

This may be another signal they use to ascertain prominence. They may even consider it a better quality signal.

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