When Google released their new Local search results format in October, 2010, SEOs quickly determined that the number of reviews and overall rating associated with a business were ranking factors. They also predicted that these would be quickly be gamed.
It was an easy ranking factor to launch the new integrated SERPs with, as they already had piles and piles of review data from their own properties as well as sites they’d partnered with. But Google’s algorithms are not static, and it couldn’t be too long before the Local algorithm included other ranking factors.
Now, it looks like they might be starting to think about other options. A paper submitted to the upcoming Very Large Data Bases conference, on Hyper-Local, Directions-Based ranking and written by two Googlers along with two other researchers, proposes a method for using direction queries…say, of the sort a user might enter into Google Maps…to determine interest in particular places that could possibly be used for ranking such places.