@EGOL: I'm sure your methodology works. I certainly haven't made that effort in terms of size of article as described by theAlex. With regard to one of our smb's we spent a lot of time tracking specific customer responses with some simple questions having to do with how they found us.
A couple of things came out. Search is by far the dominant source of leads. Word of Mouth (WOM) is the 2nd most important source of leads. The site has high visibility and rankings. Over many years we've heard from folks that they were searching "with intent" for our service and our site popped up first. Many of the people that referenced "search" went on to say that they also heard about friends of theirs who had used our service. A sort of search/WOM source for sales.
More discerning for us is that we heard from a fair number of people that our site looked "real" in some context. Starting around 2005 we kept adding content that conveyed the "realness" factor. It wasn't elegant in appearance. From customers though we found that it tended to work. While many might visit the site there were folks who probably were thinking more seriously about the service. Keywords, locations, ...all sorts of indicators don't tell us who they are.
On the other hand, when looking at our web site data we broke it down by all traffic, conversion traffic and non conversion traffic. The traffic that converted by form spent over 3 times as much time on the site and went through about 4 times as many pages. As with many websites and businesses...engagement positively correlates with conversions.
Since we have other sites of this type in different markets and I've connected on this topic with operators/web site owners on this issue....the folks that converted on the site spent a "heap load of time" on the site compared to other sites of this type. This is the site that is ranked #1 for its industry phrase in Google when one disconnects from a "local" setting and uses "United States" as the location setting.
Goo-ogle has that data via analytics. Even if a site doesn't have G Analytics it has data on how much time is spent on sites and it has data on whether or not searchers land on a site (and do a conversion on the site) or alternatively land on a site then go to another vendor.
When I break that data down even further by keyword...there is a lot of time and page engagement connected to the number one keyword. There is also a lot of time and page engagement connected to some other phrases where we have strong rankings.
The engagement factor/ realness factor etc. could certainly weigh in with regard to rankings. I'm not going to dispute it...and I have data that suggests it correlates with higher rankings.
Who knows. We have customer response as to "realness". Maybe google's algo's have picked it up in this case and its contributed to rankings.
Location prominence and personalization is very powerful and impactful on serps. I was testing on the ubiquitous service of florists/flowers etc in some cities. There are a lot of florists in most cities. Not many of them have strong web sites. In certain markets a few florists have unusually strong sites relative to the competition.
Set your location in a city via the "search tools" link in a city. Then instead of using the specific city, input zip codes around the city. As you input different zip codes google will deliver different serps for florists in that city.
Currently, if a site has a relatively strong site it can get an organic result above the pac and a top pac ranking depending on its location relative to the zip from where you are searching. Move around different zip codes within that city and the results/ serps will vary for different florists. I florist with an organic result above the map pacs and a first in the pac in its zip code will lose the organic result and get a lower pac ranking in a different zip wherein there are closer florists.
That is incredibly granular and I believe a more recent development this year by google than in the past. In the past calendar year I saw a significant increase in adwords data breaking down locations by zip code than in the past. In analytics data I saw more "sub towns" or breakdowns of dafa by location than in the past in some of our more urban locations than in previous years. It hasn't been widely reported. I referenced it in a popular forum for local seo's and local search and I think that might have been the first time it was referenced in that field.
The level of delivering data by location is very significant and powerful and its currently in effect.
The significant evolution of delivering personalized results by location is an increasingly important factor for local seo.