Category Archives: Google+ Local

Most Excellent! A Compendium of Greatest Hits from my Back Library

Have you ever thought: I really want to spend tonight reading Mike’s back library but I just don’t know where to start?

Phil Rozek thought you might and wanted to make your job easier. He pored through the 2400 articles I have written since day one, drove them through the absolute best local algo (Miriam Ellis, David Mihm, Dave Oremland, Andrew Shotland, Nyagoslav Zhekov & Phil himself) to come up with a list of The Best of Blumenthal (so far).
jan-and-dean
So if you really ever did think that you actually did want to spend some time perusing my back library this is probably the place to start….. a list of articles curated by some of the best in the local search. And people that I am lucky to have met along the way and become friends with.

Now me? I am off to listen to the greatest hits of Jan & Dean.

Google Adds Instant Listing Verification Via Webmaster Tools for Most Business Categories

Googler Jade has announced in the forums that they are now going to allow instant verification via webmaster tools for many businesses.

From the announcement:

Good news — starting today, if you’re verifying a page for your business, you may be instantly verified on Google My Business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools. The verification will happen automatically, if applicable, when you attempt to verify a page for your business.

If you’d like to try instant verification, please make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools

Not all businesses with websites verified using Google Webmaster Tools will have instant verification, since not all business categories are eligible. If that’s the case, please use one of our other methods of verification (https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778).

From the My Business Help page on verification:

 Instant verification

You may be instantly verified to manage your business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools.

Make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools. Note that some business categories may not be eligible for instant verification.

If your business falls into one of the categories that doesn’t allow webmaster tools verification, it will still be necessary to use the other offered choices of postcard and phone when it is available.

Yelp Reports $0.00 per Share Earnings

Yelp has just released their June ending numbers. I wanted to lead with a realistic headline before the other pundits did.

While profit has never been something that Yelp crows about there are some interesting numbers:

  • 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.

Moz Updates Local Query Set – Revised Data Show 23.4% Drop Post Pigeon Update

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.

MozCast_Feature_Graph

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:
  • jet ski
  • condos
  • house rentals
  • money gram (misspelled – interestingly, “moneygram” returns a pack)
  • homebrew
  • wheels
  • subway store locator
  • resorts
  • apartment rentals
  • custom cars
  • gardening
  • jeeps (“jeep dealership” does get a pack)
  • wedding makeup
  • bed and breakfast
  • train tickets
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.

Whitespark Reports a 24% Decline in Local Packs

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 .

localpackdrop

Terms that appear to have been dropped:

From Darren’s postTerms that appear to no longer be triggering local packs (based on our rank tracker data and some manual testing): 

  • mold removal
  • dui lawyer
  • dui lawyers
  • dui attorney
  • dui attorneys
  • real estate
  • realtors
  • emergency plumber
  • 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.

Discussion:

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.

Conclusions:

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.

 

Crap Google Results & Yelp

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):

Google 7 Packs Dropped But Probably Not as Much as MozCast Indicated

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 markets have nothing on our industry.

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:

Sergiu Draganus Yesterday 1:15 PM

+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.

Please check the results:

http://files.georanker.com/1406481194.jpg

Organic & Ads results for Chicago ( used in the near tag ), but maps for Philadelphia, because of the IP location.

Not sure where the IP addresses you are using for crawling Google are located, but we now for sure for that for that location the maps pack got a huge drop.

Pete Meyers – Yesterday 3:29 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 8.39.39 AM

7 Pack Decline of over 60% Reported by MozCast

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.

Here is a communication with Cyrus Shepard and Dr. Pete Meyers at Moz about the prevalence of the Pack in results they track:

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.

MozCast_Feature_Graph
Click to view larger