The two main factors that influence website rankings in Google Maps and Yahoo Local, are back-links from other local directories and user generated reviews.

Small businesses now understand that local directory submission is an absolute must as part of their overall website marketing plan. While site owners will never get rich from the traffic these directories send, the back-links alone are worth their weight in gold for the influence they have on Google Maps and Yahoo Local rankings.

Local Directory Submission

With regard to the local directories, it seems there are always consolidations in the form of buyouts or affiliate agreements. In other words, the rich just keep getting richer. Both AnyWho.com and YP.com, for example are now part of YellowPages.com. And when you search Google for Smart Pages, which used to be the baby Bell local web directories, the top result takes you directly to YellowPages.com. What all this obviously means is that AT&T now owns them all. As a side point, Smart Pages was never really all that smart in the first place.

SuperPages and InfoUSA

The two other major players in the local directory game, SuperPages and InfoUSA also have takeovers and affiliates. For example, Big Book, 411.com and InfoSpace are now part of Super Pages, and InfoUSA now provides data to Mapquest, Windows Live Local, AOL Local, and even Yahoo Local, although not exclusively.

Other local search sites include Dogpile, MetaCrawler, WebCrawler and WebFetch, all affiliates of InfoSpace, which itself, as previously mentioned is now part of SuperPages.

In addition, the following are also important to the overall local directory picture:

Magic Local, True Local, Local.com, Metrobot and Best of the Web Local. Best of the Web Local, although still free, is now free with a catch. You don’t get a back-link unless you upgrade to a $9.95 per month paid plan.

Still more local business data providers include Localeze, WCities, (which also provides data to Yahoo on a non-exclusive basis) IBegin, and McRea’s Blue Book for manufacturing and industrial sites.

User Generated Reviews

While it used to be the more authority back-links you had from high quality local directories, the higher your site would rank in Google Maps and Yahoo Local. Lately, however, another qualifier has entered the mix in the form of user generated reviews. The most popular user generated review sites include Yelp, Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, Mojo Pages, Tupalo, YellowBot and LittleEngine.com.

Perhaps such user generated reviews are indeed the most important factor Google and Yahoo consider when ranking your site in local search results. I say this because customer generated reviews (along with links to other review sources) are easily found as part of Google Maps and Yahoo Local listings themselves.

Claim Your Listings

From time to time helpful new sites pop up to guide us through the local directory maze. One such site, Get Listed, is usually my first stop before submitting client sites to local directories. All you have to do is type in the name of the business and zip code, hit enter, and Get Listed checks to see if the site is already listed in Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Best of the Web, and Windows Live Search.

While your site may, in fact, very well be listed, Get Listed also prompts you to claim it – if you haven’t already. According to Get Listed, “claiming your listing gives you control over how the search engines index you and prevents spammers from hijacking it.”

Improve Your Google Maps and Yahoo Local Search Rankings

And finally, for an organized bullet list of all the local directory sites you need to submit to in order to improve your Google Maps and Yahoo Local search rankings,click here.

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