During the PAII Becoming Googleiscious Session I remember hearing one of the speakers say... to get your local listings to show high (those beside the map at the top of the screen when you do a search in Google) you needed to have a LARGE number of LARGE (lots of content) quality reviews. In fact, if I remember correctly, the speaker indicated they had gotten that information directly from speaking to Google.
I had more than one innkeeper contact us after hearing this information because they noticed that they weren't at the top of the list, but many had more quality reviews than their competitors, wondering "What's up with that?"
Acorn has been providing information on Google Local Listings for over 2 years now, in our newsletter and on our blog. We didn't quite agree with these comments at the time they were made, and believed that placement had more to do with your listings as there were grandfathered by different trusted sources on the web.
Of course Reviews play into the algorithm, but they weren't the end all. You could plainly see that by just looking.
A new video has by SEOmoz was posted on June 13th, 2009, and I love it. These guys take the time to explain in detail exactly how we see Google indexing Local Listings.
Then - go verify your Business information on all your "Trusted Sources" (remember they only list a handful of Paid inclusion sources on the video, but our industry "Trusted Sources" are a bit different) to make sure you are providing Google the same information everywhere on the web!
Notice that in the video, the presenters explain that you need to make sure all of your business info (name, address, URL, etc) is identical from all of your sources. This will avoid duplicate or merged listings.
Example: If you have a directional in your address. (E - East, etc.)
In TripAdvisor you might have 432 "E" Street (with double quotes)
In BedandBreakfast.com you might have 432 E. Street (with a period)
And in BNBFinder you might have 432 East Street (spelled out)
Remember, it's a computer algorithm, no human is reading all this and making deductions about what is the same business. Please make sure all your sources read identically on these vital pieces: Name, Address, Phone, URL. If you use an abreviation, use it the same way every where. If you use punctuation, use it the same way everywhere. And so on.
President and Co-Founder
Acorn Internet Services, Inc.
Educating our Industry One Innkeeper at a Time...