Loci 2012 – Nyagoslav Zhekov

Nyagoslav Zhekov is a 20 something Bulgarian that owns and operates NGS Marketing. He has spoken at SMX West, is a guest author for SearchEnginePeople.com and elsewhere. When he isn’t answering questions on the Google and Your Business Forum, where he is a Top Contributor, and Quora you might find him playing (European) football with his teammates from Absolut AFC (Varna) or traveling with his wife Jenny.

Wherever or whatever he has a passion and integrity about local and has become a student of the craft. Read along with him on his journey of self discovery about the realities of business.

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I am relatively new to the online world, having used the Internet for the first time just about 7 years ago. That was long after Google has established itself as the dominant search engine and I was hearing everywhere how cool it was and how the team behind it was strictly obeying to their “Don’t be evil” creed. Probably that is why when I started doing what I do for a living I was observing Google’s actions from a somewhat romantic and idealistic point of view. To my greatest disappointment, this grandiose image was gradually demolished by no other but Google themselves.

One point I feel I should make before sharing my thoughts is that I am not really a fan of conspiracy theories. However, there are so many details involved that it would be hard even for the greatest conspiracy skeptic to deny them.

Awakening

My “awakening” began in the summer of 2011 with Google removing the images that were previously “attached” to each Google Places result in the organic SERPs. It didn’t make much sense and they didn’t give any proper explanation why they made this move. A little later, in October of the same year, the Googlers decided to change the red balloon markers that were previously found next to each Places result, with grey ones. Again – no logical explanation. In January 2012, they “reduced” the number of local listings that were showing in the local SERPs, a phenomenon that was observed across a wide array of verticals and locales. And that is when I started questioning myself – why?

The following events gave a relatively clear answer to my wondering. In the end of January (early February), the Venice algorithm update was rolled out, which could have been one of the potential reasons for “blended” Places SERPs to replace the “packs” almost everywhere. In February, the web descriptions disappeared in the blended SERPs. In June, the golden stars that could have previously been achieved if you have 5 or more reviews on your Places listing, were replaced by numbers, but only in the organic results, not in the paid ones. All of these changes made it clear that Google understood that the local listings had too great of an influence on the user’s click-through decision making and they were trying to reduce the “eye magnetism” in every way possible. At the same time they were pitching paid advertising and potentially developing a “marketing portal” targeted predominantly at small businesses. There is nothing bad, you would say, in a corporation trying to increase its profit. And I agree, but just partly. There are two main problems:

1. It would be a conflict of interest if Google starts prioritizing its own paid products. Oh, wait, they are doing this right now, openly and not so much.

2. It means that Google is ready to sacrifice part of the usefulness (removing images and descriptions) and relevance of the organic search results (reducing the number of listing results) in order to prioritize the paid results.

The Bright Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hope for improvement, as frequently happens in economics, comes from the competition. And there is not as much hope to see the competitors coming up with something better, but rather hope for competitors to come at least a little closer to Google in order for them to feel threatened. And fortunately, there was a lot of action in the world of “local” apart from Google. The biggest news came from Apple, but in my opinion it was Yelp who was the most active. Facebook launched Nearby, and Nokia – Here. There are also hopes that the new CEO of Yahoo – Marissa Mayer, will move the things around local inside the lethargic behemoth.

Let’s hope 2013 will show us some signs of Google returning to its roots of non-evil-doing.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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14 thoughts on “Loci 2012 – Nyagoslav Zhekov”

  1. From what I’ve learned about Nyag, he knows his stuff! For such knowlege to be accumulated by a “twenty-something” lad, I’m more than pleased to say I like his abilities and skillSet!

    In fact, we outsource our Citation building to him often!

    In my SEO world, knowledge + skill = Success!

    :-)

  2. In my experience, it’s always a good thing to have someone who “knows a bit more than you” on your side to help you out in those tricky situations. +1 for a great post, and +1 for Nyag :)

  3. I agree with Jim: Nyagoslav has incredible insights, knowledge and depth, and skill set. How do ya like that. Old dudes from the US and Canada are in awe and admire the skillset and knowledge of a young “ish” Bulgarian living in Asia.

    Its a great world. I too pick on Nyag’s keen insights!!!

    As to conspiracy or not…I’m not sure I’d use those words…but every time I look at my adwords campaigns….its patently clear Google in so many ways is pushing those income producers. yeah…Google pursues revenues…but in the world of business….nothing new there.

    Keep up the great work, Nyag

  4. My favorite insight – and the raison d’être for what we local geeks do:

    “All of these changes made it clear that Google understood that the local listings had too great of an influence on the user’s click-through decision making….”

    I’d like to second what everyone has said here. Nyagoslav and I actually have had several of the same clients, so I’ve had more occasions that most to see how much he knows.

    When local search goes to sleep at night, it checks under its bed for Nyagoslav.

  5. These days it seems as though we spend much of our time keeping up with the evil empires latest update as we do performing seo.

    Great read, had may a flashback of the moments during the last year. We can only be sure of one thing with big G, change is the only constant!

  6. Thanks for the kind comments guys! I am happy to see the topic resonated with your own experience. But as Mike remarked in the article: these are the realities of business.

  7. All things must come to an end and showing up on page one in organic search (for free) is one of those things. Lets face it, we learn a few tricks and read a few blogs and get our site to #3. At least that’s how I did it. My listing on Google maps has always been 1-3 of all relative keywords in a highly competitive market.

    Being that I have a totally unrelated small home service business to run, I will not solely rely on Google to generate leads or new customers as I have in the past. Last year after all the panda updates my inquiries fell about 40%. I plan to invest in other advertising methods that are constant and have withstood the test on time. They are not free but at least I will feel like I have more in control of my future sales growth.

    In the very near future (i believe this year) page one of Google will all be paid . Places/Maps/plus.google or what ever it is called next month will be a huge source of income for them as it should be. (Look at Google Shop Ads) Our well nurtured organic web pages will be nothing more than another piece of conventional text in the abyss. Paying to have it seen is what will make it relevant!

  8. Glad to know my countryman Nyagoslav and I’m very happy for what he has already achieved in the world of local search and beyond. Passion and curiosity are powerful motivators and keys to success – keep up the good work, mate!

  9. I’m with Jo, we all love Nyagoslav. He knows his stuff and is highly respected in the local search community.

    When my partner and I talk about him, we always have to abbreviate his name – we are not sure how to pronounce it. I’ll say “did you know that Ng started a new company called NGS Marketing”? But, when I wrote about him our blog a while back, I made sure to spell out his name completely to show our respect.

    Thanks for the valuable input! Keep it coming!

  10. Thanks a lot to all! I almost feel embarrased…

    JR, I don’t think it will ever happen that all results on first page would be paid, but I think Google will do everything possible to squeeze as much space for paid products, and as much CTR, too. What might happen with +Local is what Mike Blumenthal recently suggested – it might evolve into a freemium product. There is a lot of evidence for this and based on Google’s course of action in the recent years, it would be a rather expected and natural move.

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