Loci 2010 – Matt McGee

Matt McGee needs little introduction to most readers here. He has been involved, perhaps longer than I, in the local space as a consultant, practitioner and writer and was one of my first virtual friends in the space. I have had the good fortune to have had Matt become a real friend and we often “tour” together with GetListed Local University. He maintains his own blog Small Business Search Marketing, is Executive News Editor at Search Engine Land and a moderator and editor at Sphinn.

His sense of internet marketing is keen and one that I listen to and trust even if having him in my social graph at Hotpot skews the results to pizza.

***

I’ve been enjoying the previous articles in this series. I don’t agree with all the opinions on what was most important in 2010, but that’s surely part of the fun. I do agree that 2010 was a big year for the local industry. Marissa Mayer, one of the most important people at Google, was “promoted” to a position overseeing local and mobile. Google launched Places Search, a whole new take on local search results. Bing made some very cool upgrades to its maps product. Facebook took a real step into the local space with Facebook Places. And so much more. 2010 was a BIG year for local/mobile.

But for all the progress, I’m still struck by how undeveloped the space is as a whole. So, at the risk of having you call me “Debbie Downer” (that’s a Saturday Night Live reference, Professor), I’d like to list 10 things that are still missing, broken, or unsolved in local at the end of 2010.

1- Google Places is still filled with bugs, from merged listings to problems with reviews and so much more. I have a gut feeling that spam is somewhat better than it’s been, but there are so many more problems for such an important piece of the local puzzle.

2- It’s still borderline impossible for the average person to track local/”pack” traffic in Google Analytics. There have been several articles that teach semi-complicated methods for doing this, but those articles shouldn’t be needed.

3- On a related note, the Google Places business dashboard remains mostly useless. The data is several days old and the stripped-down referral keyword list remains often frustrating. It would be better for Places to integrate directly into Google Analytics.

4- Bing still doesn’t offer any stats in its Local Listing Center. Nor does Yahoo.

5- Google still appears to be much more interested in acquiring small businesses (as Google users) than they are in actually supporting the ones already in the fold.

6- We still can’t manage multiple Places listings (for different clients) from a single interface. (Bing and Yahoo also don’t offer this functionality.)

7- There’s still no effective SEO/visibility solution for businesses without a location or for businesses that need to hide their location. Google’s product for those businesses seems to do more harm than good, and Bing doesn’t even have a product for them.

8- Neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo allow a local business to integrate their Facebook and/or Twitter content into local business listings. I think Citysearch is the only local provider that has this functionality. Why?

9- There’s still no real solution to the call-tracking dilemma. SMBs want/need to track calls, but multiple phone numbers wreaks havoc on the trust of your primary business listing.

10- Neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo provide any review management tools inside the business listing dashboards.

I’ll stop there with a “thanks” to Mike for letting me contribute to this series, and a “thanks” to you for reading. Hopefully we’ll see some or all of these things improve in 2011.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Loci 2010 - Matt McGee by

9 thoughts on “Loci 2010 – Matt McGee”

  1. @Matt
    Thanks so much for taking the time to put your thoughts to bits.

    I am curious about your point #7. When introduced the “hide address” function was disfunctional. But with the rollout of Places search, businesses that chose to not show their address were no longer penalized IF they had a website solving much if not all of the problem.

  2. Matt: Great post – hopefully Google is listening!
    Related to “businesses without a location” are businesses with a single suburban location serving an entire metro area. Yes, Google allows me to add other city and suburb names under “List of areas served,” but this does not yet seem to have much impact on the search results. Google needs to give equal weight to proximity data, not just boundaries, when returning local results.

  3. Mike / Matt,

    Excellent summary and every point is bang on…

    Of particular interest to me is the integration of Google Places into Google Analytics. It works like a dream with AdWords I’m sure it wouldn’t require too much engineering to integrate the two products. I’ve never used the Places dashboard to track the successes of my client’s pages, insterad I’ve always insisted on installing Analytics along side, it’s just too good a product not to use.

    For local businesses with little organic visibility it was relatively easy to extract the results from analytics and being in the UK most of the maps traffic was tied to Google.com referrals and was extremely easy to segment, that was before the merge of algorithms back in October, it’s not as straight forward now, so as you’ve alluded to in your post without using advanced segmentation & filtering techniques it’s virtually impossible to accurately analyse local search performance.

    We did see a brief flash of a concept dashboard back in December that provided more detail but it fell way short of my expectations…

    It would be a huge advantage to all if Google explored this option, let’s hope so!

    Great post guys, look forward to reading & contributing more during 2011.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  4. Thanks, Matt:

    I agree with a lot of your points. Specifically:

    #2, 3, and 5.

    Starting with pt. 5 Google is far more interested in attracting smb’s into their “web” than servicing them. I’ve been intermittantly involved in the Google Local/Maps/Places forums since they became active. SMB’s enter these areas with problems and have an expectation for customer service from Google. For years there simply hasn’t been any.

    How can every other tech business in the world offer customer service and Google not do so. Consider the weight! Every other tech business that ever became anything on the one hand. Google on the other hand. Its absurd.

    Prior to writing this I scanned the Places Forum this morning. I didn’t catch any of the all too frequent comments from smbs and their agents bewailing lack of assistance this morning. On the other hand I didn’t see any comments from Google personnel trying to assist businesses working through the problems associated with Google Places.

    I did see:

    Non google employees offering assistance. Hey that isn’t Google customer service at all.

    A lot of problems and complaints these days dealing with reviews.

    Reviews in Google = big bug/big problem. You referenced that.

    While Google isn’t offering help it is and has been aggressively trying to bring more smbs into the fold to ultimately grab their advertising dollars.

    One thing they did was set up a Places account/ some tracking with the dashboard/ and ways to sell out of the Places Account.

    The dashboard is MISERABLE. It simply gives poor incomplete information/ is often outright wrong and is seriously misleading.

    Your comments connected to the dashboard and tracking places visits are excellent. Places visibility on google.com sucks up a lot of traffic. I keep seeing it.

    If Google wants to monetize Places….give the smbs something back of value. Tell the smbs how many visits are coming to the websites and/or G Places pages off of the merged organic/Places records.

    Give them value for their dollar. Give them an understanding of what is occuring.

    Thanks, Matt, for your perspective.

  5. Ha! Matt, I am glad we are on the same page. You hit most the points I touched on in my latest SEJ post. To have so many people complaining about the exact same things should send a very clear message to Google that they are currently missing the mark.

  6. Thx again for the invite to do this, Mike. Appreciate it. On #7, there are so many queries that still bring up the older style 3-packs, 2-packs, and 7-packs that I’m not as willing as you to say the issue is solved. It might be fine when the new Places search results come into play — but quite often, they don’t.

    Doug — Google does have that tool that lets you draw your boundaries, but I don’t have any clients with direct experience using it to know how valuable/effective it is in the situation you describe.

    Andrew, earlpearl, Mike – thx for the kind words and thoughts.

  7. Matt: Thanks for the reply! Yes, that tool is quite fun to use, watching the service area expand as you enter city names. I just have not seen any evidence that it helps in the local listings.

    For instance, search for [anymetroarea] courier and virtually all results are for companies with addresses in the primary city, even though there are dozens of couriers who have set up shop on the city perimeter where better highway access allows them to better serve the metro area. But no one is searching for [suburbname] courier. So a company would need move in town and give up their location advantage in order to convince Google they are a legitimate local result. Of course this is why so many companies are setting up fake or shell offices in city locations.

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