Forever the focus has been on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and even though we shouldn't forget it, we need to start to focus more on LSO (Local Search Optimization).
At the top of most google searches, and Map Searches Google will list places it feels are important. These places sit above even the organic search results. The negative is they only list the top 3, after that it takes an action from the user to see the rest of them. For seasaon businesses being in the top three is the difference between making a million bucks, and barely making enough to cover your costs. If you aren't in the top three you might as off not exist.
Website SEO does not seem to be a factor in this. As several of my clients rank top on search, but then are not making the top 3 or sometimes the top 20, or even worse they are not showing up at all for the Google Places listings. I had to look at this differently to determine what the cause was. Here are my conclusions.
Positive votes, are good, but then just votes in general are good too. Keep in mind no business is going to make every customer happy, so in theory no business should have a perfect track record. Any business with a perfect score of 5, is likely voting themself into that position. Even though this is important I feel this is a very loosely weighted factor in your google places ranking, so don't worry about it too much.
Being listed on every business directory is important, but even more importantly than that is being listed consistently on every directory. Your Name, Address, Phone, Website address, should all be consistent. Also when you can upload company logos, and photos of your business. Also make sure your categorized correctly for the type of businss you are.
The chances are you are already listed in many of these directories. The sites run on aggregated data from third party sources, but that doesn't always mean the data is correct. Take ownership of the profiles you can find, and setup new profiles on sites where they don't exist. This is very tedious, and will likely take several days. I am in the process of doing this for one of my clients as I type this. While to me its obvious that most of these sites get practically no traffic, google is looking at how well you manage your buisness and its PR.
Think of this like advertising a garage sale. You go around and staple a sign on telephone poles around your neighboorhood. Then you decide to change your hours and date, and instead of putting up new signs you only do the signs closest to your house. This cause confusion for people who never see those signs. Google is looking at how well you keep your message and marketing consistent, and I feel its one of the biggest factors in local ranking.
I don't like Yext, something about having to pay a monthly fee for them to just keep my data in place, and then I loose all that the second I stop paying doesn't make me happy. When I update directories I shouldn't have to keep paying a monthly fee to keep accurate information online. Not just that, but I don't trust the system. If you want to do it right, take ownership of all the directories you can find. Just do the free listings. Then later if you feel its worth it you can upgrade. Sure a week of your time to get all your directories in order might seem expensive when compared to just paying Yext $50/ month to do it for me, but long term $50/month adds up quickly. If you think about it you are paying for links, and Google doesn't like that.
Personally I see all these directories like a the .com boom back in the late 90s. Very few people use them. They use huge numbers to sell upgraded profiles to business owners who don't know any better. These same business owners don't take the time to see how many referrals they got from that upgraded directory, or that the clicks were even from the USA. ( clicks from India and China can be bought ). I feel its a matter of time that google stops giving so much power to the directories that nobody uses.
Check the directories and make sure you are listed, and consistent across the web.