What does a link campaign look like for Local?

In my previous post about the sources and weightings of local information it was clear that reviews and web references played a key role in your Google Maps ranking and hopefully a business’s appearance in the top 3 One Box.

However if you execute the link command (link:www.anchorbar.com ) for the number 1 ranked restaurant, The Anchor Bar, in the search “Restaurant Buffalo NY” you will see “Results 1 – 10 of about 40 linking to anchorbar.com”. When you drill into the Google Map local detail for “web pages” for the Anchor Bar you see that Google finds 335 “web page” references. Clearly Google looks at “links” differently in local than in organic.

In fact one of the first things you notice is that your “links” don’t require a link at all just an actual street address and a business name that matches what Google thinks it should be. At this point in time Google obviously notes these references more liberally in Maps than on the organic side.

What types of sites and references should you be looking for?

First and foremost, your own. The first web page always listed by Google Maps is the business’s own. This assumes of course that the site has the address obviously visible to Google (i.e. plain text) in a format that Google understands and it is clearly associated with the domain and/or business name that Google associates with the business.

The next type of references are those that are providing reviews that have summary pages for businesses in your category that include the address. I.E. The restaurant listings for Buffalo page in the Superpages directory or the review page from CitySearch.

The third type of pages that you will find is a page are pages from local websites that list all of the restaurants in your area. The type of page you would see on a University site for parents or the local tourism site that is clearly about your business category. Typically these pages are clearly about the restaurant business in the locale for example student.sdm.buffalo.edu/buffalo/dining.html or www.dyc.edu/welcome/to_buffalo/restaurants.asp. Again a link to your site isn’t required, but the street address and business name are so that Google may successfully associate the listing with with your business. Bill Slawski has a great patent summary about how Google does this.

The fourth type of “web page” references were news stories from sites like the NYTimes and prweb.com.

Lastly, it appears that Google Coupons also provide a “web page” reference that adds authority to your link. There were none in Buffalo because none of the restaurants had yet created a coupon but I have seen them on other searches. It’s a freebie, clearly improves your ranking and while I doubt that you see many redeemed (see Greg Sterlings tale) they will do little harm if you create your coupon judiciously. If it is ever redeemed you will know that either Google Maps is finally more than 1% of all Google Traffic or Google has started promoting them…both seem a ways off.

Several notes: Even minor differences in the business title will cause Google not to use it. And Google sometimes just gets it plain wrong (see my post on just how wrong Google can get this)

Of all the links this was my favorite (a blog): LORD of the WINGS (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the suicide (And I thought that I blogged in a niche :))
AllMapDetailsA-P1-10LineGiven Google’s history and technology development and discrepancies in ranking results there is every reason to think that there is a Maps equivalent of Page Rank. At this point thought Google Maps seems to be recognizing all of these web pages as relevant. I assume that at some point they will “normalize” their results and drop the less significant pages.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
What does a link campaign look like for Local? by

23 thoughts on “What does a link campaign look like for Local?”

  1. Excellent points, Mike.

    When I was in Sonoma Valley, visiting some of the wineries this summer, one of the places I visited was hosting a Dog Show. It wasn’t by any means on the scale of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but it was something they were enjoying doing, and had done for a couple of years before then with some nice turnouts.

    And it got them some nice mentions in the local newspapers (online and off), along with directions to the event.

    Looking for links online and finding places to be mentioned is great. But it can also be good to do something that people will want to write about, and benefit in local listings that way. Actually getting involved with a local community is a great way to build some signals that you are part of that community, online and off. Even something like a dog show. :)

    Unfortunately, Google doesn’t always list the URL of a business with that business/location correctly. There’s another Google patent application that came out this year that I wrote about which discusses how to be the authority web page for a location. It breaks down a number of the signals that it will look for to associate a URL with a location.

  2. Bill

    I totally agree with you. In fact you can probably take this one or two levels further and say that it only makes sense in the context of a total marketing plan and in the context of a business that is providing significant value to a client base (and the community in which it exists).

    It is of interest to understand how it works but gaming the system provides little value if the underlying business has little value.

    I was impressed that the Anchor Bar was mentioned in the NY Times but I guess inventing Chicken Wings (despite their dubious culinary and helath value) rates that level of coverage but it is a good example of what you are talking about.

  3. Bill-

    Another thought on this topic of “relevancy” is that Google unfortunately defines the rules of the game as only allowing 3 local businesses into the local Onebox on the main page.

    It’s as if they have created an arbitrary and capricious way of “allowing” your business into the new age Yellow Pages and some of this exploration identifies some of that black box nature of Google.

    In the end though your point of customer relevancy is the only thing that matters.

    Mike

  4. Many of these local listing sites offer comments and reviews about the listed business.

    If a business is listed in 6-8 different local sites, how does the business owner determine which of the sites to send the next happy client to so that a comment can be added?

    Assume all listings are new and none have brought a visitor yet.

  5. Hi Jim-

    I see very little traffic (if any) from the Local Sites directoy but I do see traffic and receive phone calls from Google and Yahoo local listings. It makes one wonder if some of the local sites aren’t a little bit like the Yellow Pages.:(

    Google’s relationship with reviews is tenuous. On the one hand they seem to have bearing on rankings, on the other they do not update them very often at all. I know of reviews with major local sites posted as long ago as last May that have still not appeared on Google Maps

    Anything you do now on the review front might not serve you well or then again it might as far as Google is concerned….as always these efforts should be based on realities that benefit you regardless of what Google Does or Doesn’t do…

    In that vein a cautious but proactive approach to reviews makes sense. I would start recommending customers create reviews on whatever site that Google seems to use for their stars in your industry…and hopefully a site that is popular in your region…and one that you might even enjoy becoming a member of…not sure if you saw Greg Sterling’s post: about Yelp Becoming a CRM platform.

    I would love to hear if these activities pan out for you.

    Mike

  6. Mike,

    I appreciate your speedy reply. I should not have waited so long to check for a reply.

    I have listed my own business in yellowpages.com, superpages.com, localeze, true local, Yahoo Local, Merchant Circle, Google Local and a couple of my town directories to learn what works. Yelp was on my list, but not completed.

    This is my first foray into local search due to reading Graywolf’s interviews and many other’s articles on this subject recently.

    After creating the listings mentioned above, Merchant Circle ranked right away (in 2 days), as did the americantowns site. I had been in MarketingTool for quite a while, so no surprise that this site shows up. The above is based on searching for jbs partners winchester ma in Google.

    Yahoo produces a different result profile. They rank listings at the chamber of commerce, local library, Yahoo local, and americantowns much higher. MerchantCircle is in the index, but does not show up in the first pages of results.

    Also, I suppose LinkedIn is another option for a review/comment. I always think of LinkedIn as B2B, but client comments would be useful there as well. However, searching Yahoo and Google, my listing is not in the indexes. I only just made my profile public in the last 2 weeks.

    Merchant Circle is interesting because it allows you to keep track of activity at other sites.

    I have customers that would be pleased to write a few reviews, if I tell them which site to visit.

    It seems that Merchant Circle might be a great choice to add reviews to since the listing there ranks in Google. Would you agree? Other considerations? I am happy to keep you updated.

    Many thanks,

    Jim.

  7. Hi Jim

    One of the reasons for my speedy response is the recognition that this project really only can work with the collective brain power of all interested parties. Only by making sure that everyone feels welcome to contribute and hoping that they do can we gain understanding.

    You have the most unusual records at Google Maps…in that 1)You have three listings (you probably should consolidate them) and 2)They show NO “Web Pages” references in the local record.

    Thus while you are listed 2 and 3 in Maps on Web Design Winchester MA you are not showing in the OneBox for the same search.

    You obviously have a number of links into your site from Local sites as well as the sites that you have designed. One suggestion might be to add your location to the small link text that you put at the bottom of the sites you design: ie web site maintenance by JBS Partners, Winchster, MA. (as part of the link text)You might also consider adding a coupon at Google and see if those start showing up in your local record. I found Yelp & InsiderPages both show up quickly in Google Maps.

    Mike

  8. Mike,

    Cool project. Thanks very much for letting me join in. ;-)

    Three records in Google, yep, an accident really; one includes Inc., my new official name, one has the zip code and one does not have the zip code. I am not sure which one is the best to retain. The Inc. is the most accurate, but it shows “unverified listing”, and I don’t know what to do about that. I got the postcard and entered the codes for all three. I was thinking that the oldest one is best to retain, but I don’t know which one is oldest or how to find out. Ideas?

    I guess I thought having three was better than one, but it is sensible to just have one and not play around.

    As far as the web page missing. Stumped. I instead searched for the book store in town, Book Ends. They have no web page listed either. My assumption is that they don’t show web pages in the side bar of Map searches. If you click more info” you can get to the web page. How can I make the web page visible?

    Actually, two new ideas here. I just looked again. One, in my Google Local account I had listed my web address without the http://. I just added it. Think this is relevant?

    Two, the first listing is the Google add and the second listing for the same company is their web site, which shows the web site address. Each of the
    listings here have two entries. Am I on the same page with you, or is there something else I need to do to get the domain name listed with the ad?

    Adding to the link text is a great idea. I hesitate imposing too much on client real estate. I don’t think they would mind though.

    Google Coupons is a great idea. I was stumped on coming up with what to offer. I guess the old free one year domain name with a new web site is one to consider. These coupons need to be compelling to be valuable, unless it is just another free link.

  9. I would get rid of the “inc” as it does nothing to inform your clients about what you do and takes up valuable real estate.

    there are three possible criteria when choosing a name for local-
    1)To be consistent with previous phone listing entries
    2)To be consistent with some branding initiative
    or
    3)To go for customer education and ranking
    (or some combination of the above)

    Clearly you need to realize that in the post yellow page era customers are going to find you in a number of different ways….those that don’t already know you might be looking by function or geography or both…you might want to think about an “internet yellow page” name like “JBS Partners – Web Hosting & Design” and standarize it across the internet as best as you can…if it is not the same as your current phone listing this might be more work than you want.

    I don’t think having more listings in this situation is better unless you have offices or some other presence in other cities.

    The unverified listing is the one with all of your web references…I am not sure which one to pick…my inclination is to pick that one and can the other two…sooner or later Google will associate the web pages with your business and you will show up better.

    Mike

  10. Mike,
    Thanks for your suggestions.

    I have deleted the two extra listings in Google.
    Great idea to replace the Inc. with words that describe what I do. That is also done in Google. I can modify other listings as time goes by. Still thinking of which site to send Susan. She wants to write a testimonial for me. Maybe Yelp. Any suggestions?

    Cheers, Jim.

  11. Jim

    I like Yelp. It shows up quickly and seems to have a lot of promise. If you are picking one, that would probably be my first choice. I would start there and see how it goes.

    The whole review situation is very fragmented on the internet so there is no clear path yet…so you need to pick a site that 1)that is used by your clients, 2)used by google and 3)one where you might not mind spending some time if a year or two down the road there are a significant number of unsolicted reviews that need a response.

    Mike

  12. I have figured out how to post pictures and videos, etc to my Maps Listing, but I can not figure out how to get other “links” or “citations” listed on my account—-links like my Yellow Page.com account, etc. How do I get these “citations” linked to my Maps Page?

    Rick

  13. Hi,

    I am a link builder and one of my client want to me to do this citation task. May I know what is my first step on doing this strategy? is there any full tutorial video for free? I am just very confused on how this citation thing works. I am very glad to hear any positive reply on my problem.

    Thanks

    Roldan

  14. Hi Mike,

    As I started in the Google Search world a little later in the game, I didn’t know what a OneBox was… and the link you provided changed over the years.

    So, I just wanted to provide a ‘WayBackMachine’ reference to the OneBox link referenced in your opening paragraph, seeing as though Google replaced it and redirected it to another page now.

    The archive shows the earliest crawl of the page that includes the ‘OneBox’ working was in 2004 and the lastest date that still contained reference to the OneBox concept was in 2007.

    From May 8th, 2004:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20040508201542/http://www.google.com/help/interpret.html

    “Google includes many sources of specialized information and those that appear most closely related to your search are included at the top of your search results. We call these “onebox results” because they don’t require you to enter your search in a special place. Any Google searchbox will trigger them. Typical onebox results include news, stock quotes, weather and local websites related to your search.”

    To May 6th, 2007:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070506172200/http://www.google.com/help/interpret.html

    “Google’s search technology finds many sources of specialized information. Those that are most relevant to your search are included at the top of your search results. Typical OneBox results include news, stock quotes, weather and local websites related to your search.”

    After that, I see a mention of a ‘Plus Box’ come into the glossary for a couple of years before that type of page was redirected/replaced.

    “Plus Box”
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070520173136/http://www.google.com/help/interpret.html

    Clicking the “plus box” icon reveals additional info about your search result. You’ll see this feature for pages related to publicly traded U.S. stocks, local businesses, and Google and YouTube videos.

  15. Hi Russ
    Thanks for the historical reference.

    In the current context One Box usually refers (amongst SEOs) as a single local pinned result showing for either a brand or a keyword search. So that has changed over time.

    The Plus box has always been called the Plus Box and their presence has come and gone over the past few years.

  16. Ah, I was wondering what the new name for that box is. ;)

    Besides calling it a ‘Single Local Pinned Result’ are there other good alternative names you have seen for it?

  17. Besides calling it a ‘Single Local Pinned Result’ are there other good alternative names you have seen for it?

    It is referred to as the “One Box” or the “Branded One Box”

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