We live in a big country. There are differences in behaviors between men and women, rural and urban and regionally. This is as true on line as it is offline.
Those who leave reviews are not a uniform lot nor are their preferred review sites. In my recent research as to which sites US internet users prefer to leave reviews, it was a 1,2,3 finish for Google, Facebook and Yelp. But there were interesting difference by gender, urbanicity and to an extent income as to which sites reviewers preferred. There are likely other differences as well but the sample size was not large enough to make conclusions.
There was little gender differences among those that left reviews at Google, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List or YP.com with each site having roughly equal number of males and females that preferred each site. Perhaps it is self evident but women comprised a significant majority amongst those that left reviews at Facebook. Yelp had a similar tilt towards men.
There was little difference in preference amongst those living in suburbia, rural or urban environs on Google, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List. YP.com and Citysearch. But there was a distinct urban bent towards Yelp amongst its users and a definitive tilt towards suburban and rural users amongst those preferring to review on Facebook.
Cumulative reviews grew 44% year over year to approximately 61 million and and approximately 40% of new reviews were contributed through mobile devices.
Average monthly unique visitors grew 27% year over year to approximately 138 million* and average monthly mobile unique visitors grew 51% year over year to approximately 68 million**
Active local business accounts grew 55% year over year to approximately 79.9 thousand
It is interesting to note the traffic growth and the fact that Yelp didn’t seem to mention whether it was desktop/mobile search or their mobile app growth. Given Yelp’s incredible performance in the Google desktop SERPS, one has to assume that they are getting an increasing number from Google as opposed to their app.
MozCast has now updated their query set to better reflect what searchers are seeing. Even though their methodology was different than that of Whitespark, the new results showing a decline in 7-packs due to the Google Local algo update are much the same: a 23.4% drop.
It is interesting to note that one of their observations which correlates to what I am seeing, is a number of “these queries now have authoritative one-boxes instead of packs”. That is consistent with an Google’s statement to be using more web signals and in this case demonstrating a predilection for brands and one boxes ala Hummingbird. This brand preference might also lead to additional 3 packs often seen on brand queries.
Here is the communication from Cyrus regarding the MozCast update:
So, the fix to MozCast seems to have worked, and it’s as we expected – there was a drop, but less than originally reported. On July 23, before the decline started, we measured local packs on 12.06% of localized results. Today, we’re seeing 9.24%.
Interestingly, this is a 23.4% drop, almost exactly what Darren saw in his data (just read that this morning). Could be a coincidence, but since we used different methods, different data sets, and had no idea what each other were doing, I’d say that 24% number is pretty close to the truth.
Here are some queries that seem to have legitimately lost local packs (at least in the regions I’m checking them:
money gram (misspelled – interestingly, “moneygram” returns a pack)
subway store locator
jeeps (“jeep dealership” does get a pack)
bed and breakfast
In a few cases, these queries now have authoritative one-boxes instead of packs. In a few other cases, I’m still seeing packs on manual inspection, and I can’t account for the mismatch. Our code shows no pack for “used car” in Hartford, CT, for example, but manually setting location in Google does. So, this could be volatile.
Clearly the Local algo update (note to Matt McGee: can’t we do better than naming it after a pigeon?) has had an impact and a large one.
The more important questions though revolve around the real world impact on local businesses. Is there a decline in call? Is there a decline in driving directions? Are their fewer web visits? Over the next few weeks as we learn more about these real world impacts we can hopefully better understand how to advise clients.
Last week I reported that MozCast was showing a decline of over 60% in display of the Local Pack on Google after the recent local algo update. Moz was gracious enough to share their data and it was determined that their search queries had been obsoleted by the update. So while their data was internally consistent they were likely overstating the drop.
I reached out to Darren Shaw at Whitespark and he agreed to analyze their historical ranking data on any decrease in display of the Local Pack as 1)they have a larger data set and 2)they set location differently (not using the near parameter).
Whitespark’s results? A 24% decline in display of the pack during the two day peak drop (using the same date range as Moz). Not as large of a drop as indicated by Moz but a significant drop none the less.
Like Moz, their data show a small recovery subsequent to the initial multi day drop .
Terms that appear to have been dropped:
From Darren’s post: Terms that appear to no longer be triggering local packs (based on our rank tracker data and some manual testing):
commercial * (painting, construction, remodeling, etc) – anything with commercial preceding it seems to have stopped returning a local pack.
Comments and notes.
What is reality? We won’t ever know exactly how many Local Packs Google has stopped showing nor do we have any way to easily validate any of the methods used.
We have determined that the Moz methodology, while internally consistent, is likely over reporting the drop. Whitespark is setting location differently and is thus able to overcome the limit of the Moz report. Google though, has a great many tools at their disposal and we have no way of knowing how either data set measures up against searcher realities.
Moz’s data are meant as a real time directional view of the data and in that sense served their purpose. Whitespark’s data, on the other hand, is a retrospective review of actual ranking reports.
Whitespark used a search parameter than did not change as much and has a larger data set than Moz. While Whitespark’s sample is larger, it too could deviate from reality as the phrases used are keywords chosen by businesses as “money terms” worth tracking and don’t necessarily reflect the full reality of search.
Moz’s data served it’s intended function of validating observed changes in real time.
That all being said Whitespark’s number is probably closer in size to reality than the Moz data as both anecdote and methodology seem more consistent in their results.
There was a big drop. Phrases that previously returned a pack do so no more.
We will not ever know the exact size of the drop but it was likely not as large as originally reported. It is still big.
A number of businesses will be affected.
The changes are probably still occurring although at a much slower pace.
Yelp is obviously very, very good with their SEO. They apparently have the ability to sculpt their internal link values to highlight what appear to be the most popular local businesses in the Google local results.
Apparently their ability to do that in their strongest markets is even greater than elsewhere.
These results, first highlighted by Matt Storms on G+ (h/t to Max Minzer) well before the current local algo update and they are still seen in the SERPS. They reflect on Yelp’s ability to manipulate the search results and reflect poorly on Google’s acceptance of those practices. Yelp, though, needs to be careful of soiling the bed in which they sleep. Although I suppose they could fall back on their all too successful (but BS) cry wolf strategy if Google were to clamp down.
Look at these searches (I am sure you can find more):
Last week, in the wake of the Google’s Local Algo update, MozCast was showing precipitous decline in their tool that measures visibility of the pack. With the access to the actual queries (thanks to Moz for that transparency), Linda (and to a lesser extent I) noticed anamolies, with totally unpredictable results based on previous searching techniques.
The other reality is that the search results appear to have been changing on a regular basis over the past 72 hours and appear to have not yet “settled” in. See today’s chart captured below.
What Moz was tracking did decline precipitously. It appears however that the way that Moz was tracking, using the “near” parameter, has been severely affected by this update. Bottom line seems to be that while there was a drop in 7-Pack displays in the SERPS, the MozCast is probably overstating what the “average user” (which as Cyrus points out below is a mythical baseline) is seeing. I am embedding below the best discussion of this from G+ started by Enrico Altavilla and highlighting what appear to be the best comments about what is known so far:
+Moz thanks to +Enrico Altavilla and +Mike Blumenthal report the crawling issue was probably identified.
When crawling Google without using a real Local IP address but only the modified URL with the near tag included, for Chicago for example, google SERPs are delivering Organics results for Chicago but the maps pack for the IP location used for crawling – in the next example I have run the search query with an IP from Philadelphia using your custom URL for Chicago.
I am very happy to have people validate #MozCast data – this is a real-time system designed to detect changes on the fly, and that can be tricky. If a change is big enough, the system may not be flexible enough to adapt.
In this case, the situation is complicated. Here’s what I know so far:
(1) This is not a system glitch, in the usual sense. MozCast is collecting data normally, and the numbers accurately measure what the system is seeing (more on that in a moment).
(2) The drop coincides almost exactly with the “Pigeon” roll-out, so we know something is happening. People have verified pack drops, although other have verified packs on queries that previously had no packs. All of this information is anecdotal, so it’s hard to sum it up.
(3) I have been able to manually verify some of the pack drops. However, I have also seen queries where I’m still seeing packs, even though MozCast indicates a drop. In other words, the system doesn’t seem to be either completely wrong or completely right.
(4) I have manually verified that our geo-location methods do not seem to be working they way they did previously. In other words, the system isn’t “seeing” what we expect it to see. This change seems to have happened with the Pigeon update. So, I suspect that Google has made some changes to how they handle and support geo-location (which their public comments suggest as well).
As of today (and, unfortunately, this change happened close to a busy weekend), my best guess is that (a) something did happen, but (b) the change is being exaggerated by MozCast. The question is – how much is it being exaggerated? I don’t have that answer yet.
Anecdotal reports were highlighting changes but not as severe as MozCast was reporting.
(Click the comment flag to view all comments)
Note that the MozChart is continuing to show changes:
Update: Moz has provided me with a list of local searches that were returning packs that no longer are. I am sharing this here as a Google Doc. If you draw any conclusions from the data please reshare it.
There has been some discussion at Plus and SearchEngineland about the impact of the recent Local Search algo update on directories and Local Pack results. While the article at SEL was anecdotal this recent data from Moz is less so.
Out of the 10K keywords MozCast tracks, 5K are localized (to 5 metro areas). On the morning of 7/24, 560/5000 (11.2%) were showing pack results. This morning (7/25), only 212/5000 (4.2%) were showing back results. We saw a 60%+ drop day-over-day.
Local carousels were also down, and one-boxes seems to be up.
When viewing in the context of the Local MozCast the apparent drop in 7-Pack results appears significant. I suppose it is conceivable that they are showing more on searches that Moz isn’t tracking but the Moz sample is large and varied and this is the best overall view so far.
Update: Great tip from Joy Hawkins to get a sense of the changes: In fact, if you search Google.ca for anything you’ll see the results that USED to show in the US yesterday (old algorithm I’m guessing)
Last night just before going to bed reports (h/t to Brian Mayo) started drifting in about missing 7 packs in the real estate results. Map results that had been showing on almost all real estate related searches had disappeared from the results as have DUI lawyers. Around that same time Searchineland reported that Google was reporting a major update to the local ranking algo:
Google has released a new algorithm to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. The changes will be visible within the Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.
The core changes are behind the scenes, but it does impact local search results rankings and some local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and business from the change.
Google told us that the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.
In addition, Google said that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.
The Local Search Weather Report is showing higher volatility today and MozCast Feature Graph for local seems to have captured the loss of the 7 pack on a number of searches where it was previously present (although they are showing no decline in the carousel):
In searches I follow there has been both ups, downs and the disappearance of the pack where it was previously prominent. In one case a detached listing which had been doing well both organically and locally but wasn’t in the pack returned to the pack.
There also appears to be less duplication of results in both the 7-Pack and the organic where the order of the organic and local results mirrored each other. And in this search at least, the radius of the search has been reduced significantly. The three organic top results were all located in the suburb to the east of the city.
Google noted in the SEL article that the changes were rolling out in the US. Curious if Canada or Europe is seeing a similar turmoil. Your observations would be welcome.
Well as of last night, after almost 5 years, you (as well as web designers, advertising agencies and marketing firms) are back in the Local results in most markets (thanks to Max Minzer for the tip). It appears to be a function of the new Local algo update that was announced last night. I doubt that SEO’s are now back in Google’s good graces but regardless it reflects the big change in the new algo.
In November of 2009 here were examples of searches that had lost their local universal results that I noted in a blog post at the time (those in bold are now again showing pack results):
I just received the this Review Us on Google window sticker enclosed with a very sophisticated and personalized pitch based on the fact that I had a verified Local listing on Google Plus. The sticker was the hook to open the envelope.
Once opened I was presented with a very slick, individualized piece of literature. The flyer showed a localized, personalized Map declaring that blumenthals.com was now on the Map and they embedded our business name front and center.
As you flipped through to page 2, Google pitched the benefits of showing up for a brand search on “Blumenthals.com” and having our hours and phone show as a mobile knowledge panel. (Unfortunately for Google it doesn’t unless I add a geo-modifier… alas).
From there Google pitches the idea that I can get category level exposure and keyword search results with… (a clue: its not SEO)…. Adwords.
Despite the ironies of our company not showing on a branded search, it is an incredibly effective piece. Even if the stickers are somewhat lame Google has managed to leverage their Adwords budget to highlight their free local offering and tie two historically independent areas of Google together into a package that sells both things.