Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Loci 2008: Ahmed Farooq


Ahmed Farooq is the founder of iBegin.com. He has created, sold and recreated significant local web properties several times over. I communicate almost daily with him about his and my activities and I have found no one to have a better handle on the technical and social issues that confront local nor a better idea on how to build honest businesses within the space. From where I sit, his youthful influence and creative vision makes him the person to watch in the coming years. He writes at his blog, Tech Soapbox.
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No particular order.

1. http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml – All in all, one of the best articles to start at with local search. Any time a friend asks for help in local search – this is what they get.

2. http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/general-marketing/local-seo-citation-is-new-link/ – After they are done with the previous link, this is what they get next. I think it really sums up local optimization – get cited and you will succeed.

3. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/10/30/microsofts-listing-in-google-maps-hijacked-oops-by-me/ – As a company, my thinking seems to be going towards the popular grain (no longer a fan of reviews or most UGC). Mike found an excellent example on how UGC is far from perfect.

4. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/08/04/ranking-factors-in-google-maps-cracking-the-code-smx-local/ – I’m fully expecting Mike to make this a bi-annual-updated presentation

5. http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/no-yelpers-says-one-local-cafe/ – I absolutely stole this off of Greg’s list, but it kind of underlines what I was trying to say with Mike’s hijacking of MS. It became even more pertinent after the entire Proposition 8 skirmish on Yelp (and I actually agreed with Yelp removing those reviews).

6. The various posts on Google Mapspam. What makes it sad is that the payday spam is still there – hell, one of the businesses listed for ‘cash advance new york city’ is a parking page!

7. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/12/16/in-the-trenches-the-reality-of-smb-marketing-bruces-sew-handy-interview/ – kind of smacks the DIYers (of which I am one of) in the head.

8. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/22/business/media/22carr.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1229965464-/0AeK+vUHW2muJIXWmFHcA – I really like this one – kind of about focusing on your strength, not your weakness.

9. http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/google-lbrr-going-out-of-business/ + http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/google-local-business-referrals-is-shutting-down/1377/ – I’m surprised no one mentioned this. It was a potential black eye for Google, but every one seemed to have moved on quickly about it.

10. http://www.localseoguide.com/botw-local-greg-hartnett-interview/ – the established SEOed sites are coming. Trust me, I know. Prepare for local data dilution like you could have never imagined :)

11. No story specifically, but where-o-where are Yahoo and MSN? I think Yahoo’s accomplishment in local this year was releasing data by a company they bought out.

12. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/12/17/merchant-circle-has-trouble-getting-it-right/ + http://blumenthals.com/blog/2009/01/09/why-google-has-trouble-getting-it-right/ - MerchantCircle and Google (!) start astroturfing on blogs. Mike is pretty tech-savvy and keeps a keen eye on commentators – how many other blogs have been hit by such comments? It kind of speaks for how big online local is becoming when people start pull such behaviour.

Loci 2008 – Maps Guide Jen shares highlights of 2008


The inestimable Maps Guide Jen, Google Map’s not very public face, has agreed to share her highlight in Local from 2008. If I were Google, I would turn Jen loose to be their voice in Local. 

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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some picks for 2008. Matt did a great job weighing in on some of our spam fighting efforts, and pointing out articles like Danny Sullivan’s and your own posts on “Google Local Business Hijacking” and “Google Maps Hijacked.” These efforts certainly remain high in priority, as you’ll see within the list below, but I’ve also included some particularly relevant articles that speak to the successes of Google Maps last year. 

1. Spammers Hijack Top Florist Google Local Listings – Cathy, FlowerChat (September 13, 2008)

Prior to this post, we’d seen spam restricted mostly to small-batch, low visibility businesses. Cathy’s alarm really exemplified the extent to which spam had begun to affect the lives of major business owners. 

2. Google Local Business Center adds custom category selection – Erik Larkin, PC World (April 15, 2008)

Custom categories were a huge win for business owners with Local Business Center listings. We saw many debates over category selection and display; this change significantly curtailed concerns over categories.

3. Evaluating Google’s Response to Maps Spam reports – David Mihm, Sphnn (September 11, 2008)

We loved to see this public analysis of our own spam fighting efforts. We recognize that what we’re doing may not always be prominent, so we really enjoyed seeing the results of our efforts from David’s perspective.

4. My experience using Google Local during a Medical Emergency – Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog (November 4, 2008)

Miriam’s great, well-reasoned perspective showed us the perception of community edits in the SEO community. From later correspondence, we also recognized a few places to bump up the prominence of our contact forms, and display more information on how community edits affect the Maps index.

5. Google hobbyists put ‘paan’ vendor on the map - Samsanth Subramanian, livemint.com (October 16, 2008)

By featuring a couple enthusiastic users who are making a big impact through Map Maker, this article talks about how  the wiki model for maps in India is working.

6. Local Business Center Update – New Interface & Features – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps… (June 13, 2008)

This redesign cleaned up our interface to make it faster and easier for business owners to create, verify and edit their listings. We found that the changes cut down on a lot of confusion over verification, and how clicking on various buttons/links would affect a listing. As a result we saw a decrease in complaints about those processes.

7. Report Spam on Google Maps – Maps Guides & Google Users (July 10, 2008)

This isn’t really an article, but we’ve found it incredibly useful to have this thread where the public could see and respond to spam reports. We understand the scope of what users are concerned about, where the definitions of spam become fuzzy, and how spam reports change in nature as we filter out types of spam. 

 

Honorary Mentions:

8. Google Maps and YP – Comparing Oranges To…Tangerines – Miriam Ellis, Solas Web Design  (July 17, 2008)

9. What is a Legitimate Review? – Greg Sterling, Screenwerk (August 7, 2008)

10. Local Users Bill of Rights – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search (June 7, 2008)

Loci 2008 – Martijn Beijk’s The year in Local Search 2008


Martijn has a background in the semantic and contextual webs and he brings that expertise to Local Search with a European perspective. Martijn is currently living in the Netherlands where he focuses on research and optimization at Onetomarket, a leading online marketing agency covering most of European markets. He writes at his blog, Local Search Optimization and makes “guest appearances” Stateside.

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The local search ranking factors, clearly one of the most extensive works I’ve seen in Local Search with many authorative voices on this topic, mad props for David!
http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/google/local-search-ranking-factors/

Cracking the code. I was lucky to see the presentation before SMX and was impressed.
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/08/04/ranking-factors-in-google-maps-cracking-the-code-smx-local/  

I wasn’t there and this made me feel like I was!
http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/seo-industry/smx-local-mobile-recap/

well, my own ;-)  no guide so far around, It got good positive feedback from all around the web and clearly Google likes KML so why not use it in your Local SEO efforts?
http://www.martijnbeijk.com/tutorial/using-kml-for-local-seo/

Tele atlas data change, and into extent all the topics afterwards about possible improvements to Google maps because of this deal apply as well.
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/09/19/google-maps-now-using-teleatlas-data-exclusively/  

fun fun fun (shake em up ! )
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/10/30/microsofts-listing-in-google-maps-hijacked-oops-by-me/  

good 10-list, but 27th of december Don Campbell released a good one as well, its all about the basics:
http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/general-marketing/the-ten-commandments-of-online-marketing-for-small-local-businesses/  
and
http://www.chiropractor2web.com/online-marketing-tips-chiropractors/

Questions raised, Questions answered
http://searchengineland.com/google-answers-your-local-questions-14956.php

Made me think about print vs online for yellow pages
http://www.solaswebdesign.net/wordpress/?p=215

Short and basic, what are the main differences between US and Europe Local Search and why this changes your approach to optimization.
http://www.searchcowboys.com/seo/186

#11 best google maps joke:
http://xkcd.com/461/

Loci 2008: The year in Local from Michael Jensen’s Point of view


Michael Jensen- @mdjensen on Twitter, is co-founder of SoloSEO.com, an SEO toolset and project management platform.

Michael has a strong interest in local and mobile search, and blogs about Local Search and Local SEO. Michael is also behind LeaveFeedback.org, a free service for local businesses to help improve online customer feedback, customer reviews, and local search rankings.

One of Michael’s hobbies is developing Twitter tools such as LiveTwitting.com, TweetMarks.com, and TweetBeep.com. TweetBeep.com is like Google alerts for Twitter, and is a free service used by thousands of users for tracking conversations about you, your interests, your websites, your products, and your company. Since developing TweetBeep.com, Michael has consulted for both large and small companies in using search marketing and social media for online reputation management.

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How to Create Effective Local Business Landing Pages
by Dev Basu (@devbasu on Twitter)
Best practices for landing pages for local.

Some Yellow Pages Usage Data: Print v. IYP
by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide on Twitter)

Bulk Update Your Yellow Pages Data or Pay Someone Else To Do It?
by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide on Twitter)

IYP Reach in the US (according to Google)
Very awesome numbers that show who the big players are (City Search, YP, SuperPages, Yelp, Local and who’s not.

Search Engine Optimization Means Business
About a local DUI specialty practice employing online tactics to bring in tons of clients.

Local Search – How to Totally Own in Google (Notes and Slides)
A great list of things to do if you’re going to do local.

The “BCS” for Local Search Engine Optimization
by David Mihm (@davidmihm on Twitter)
David rocks, period. Another home run (or should I say touchdown).

3 Things Your Local Business Can Offer That the Internet Can’t
by Miriam at Solas Web Design
Thorough discussion on local businesses’ edge over Internet only stuff

How to Use Yahoo Local to Rank in Google Local and Vice-Versa
by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide on Twitter)

Local SEO (Local Search) at Small Business Marketing Unleashed (Conference notes)
by Will Scott (@w2scott on Twitter)
Great notes, and everyone loves Will. Everyone should know Will.

Why Local Is Different (Notes from SES NY 2008)
by Lisa Barone (@lisabarone on Twitter)
A great read with some good nuggets in there. Pre-Webuildpages days for Lisa.

New Local Search News Site


Steve Espinosa, the world’s biggest Chicago White Sox fan, local search expert and a frequent speaker on Local at the many conferences, has just rolled out a new local search site called Local Search News. It will be an everything local site with both tactical and strategic information on Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Local SEO, Mobile and Local Search.

It looks to become a staple in the world of Local Search.

Loci 2008 – Andrew Shotland’s Top Articles in Local


Andrew Shotland runs Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization and web strategy consulting firm.  He has worked with some of the biggest and some of the smallest companies in the local search world. Andrew got his start in local seo when he was head of product & business development at InsiderPages where his biggest achievement was “losing two million monthly visitors overnight by screwing up the SEO”.  He is a regular speaker at the Kelsey Group conferences.  According to Andrew, his proudest SEO accomplishments are that he regularly ranks at the top in Google Image Search for “soup nazi” and “larry craig“.

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The more time I spend in local search the more I am convinced it’s not much different from non-local search. Sure there are maps and centroids and things like that, but that’s what I read your blog for Mike!

Most of the following posts are not local-specific, but they are all relevant to anyone considering local marketing on the Web.

How Important is Branding to Search Engine Marketing?
Aaron Wall, SEOBook

This is one of those simple ideas that Aaron blurts out every other day that crystallized something I had been messing around in my brain for a while. A quick read gives the impression that businesses with brands should spam the search engines because they can get away with it, but what it underscored for me was that any business, even a mom & pop, can redefine its brand through search.

Local Search Ranking Tactics
Steve Espinosa

Steve is a relatively new voice in local search and he quickly made a name for himself with this post. No philosophy or rantings, just a nice meat and potatoes approach to improving the local rankings for your pages by clever cross linking and use of other sites’ authority. Unfortunately Steve’s blog blew up a few days ago and the article no longer existed. Good thing I liked it so much when he published it that I basically ripped it off on my own blog (no self-promotion intended).

Small Business Reputation Management
Matt McGee, SmallBusinessSEM

Let’s face it, most small businesses are in the dark when it comes to online marketing. Matt’s post on why it’s important to keep an eye on your business’ online profile is effective in its simplicity. Most small guys are not going to take the time or spend the $ to do SEO or PPC right, but if you show them someone talking smack about them on Yelp, or show them that their contact info on a big Yellow pages site is out of date, they are going to want to do something about it.

Planet Chiropractic Blog
Michael Dourasch, Planet Chiropractic
Twitter: @chiropractic

Sometimes the best way to learn is to watch a star athlete do his thing. Mike is a Santa Monica chiropractor cum search/social media junkie who seems to live online. If you want to see want to see how a real small business guy who gets web marketing does it, you could do worse than to get all Web 2.0 with Mike.

Twitter: Ultimate Time Waster or Great Tool
Chris Winfield, 10e20

If you are hearing about this Twitter thing and how it might help your business, Chris’ presentation is one of the best around.

Twitter Case Study of a Commercial Non Big Brand
Rae Hoffman, Sugarrae.com

I love it when people show me step by step how it was done. I often refer to Rae’s post about how her company used Twitter to build up a non big brand’s brand. If you have a product or service that others need but don’t know about, this one should be pretty inspiring.

Bits of Destruction
Fred Wilson, AVC.com

I could have picked almost any post by Fred. He is great thinker and an even better writer. This is one of his latest on the “creative destruction” brought about by the information age. Every business, small and large, could benefit by thinking about the ideas he discusses here. Oh yeah, and the guy has great taste in music too.

Loci 2008- Greg Sterling’s Significant Developments in Local in 2008


Greg Sterling is a widely respected industry consultant in Local, Local Search & Local Mobile. He writes prolifically at his blog, Screenwerk, Local Mobile Search and SearchEngineLand where is a contributing editor. He plays a significant role in organizing SMX Local and the local tracks at the other SMX conferences.
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I’m not a “search practitioner.” I write more about the “industry” and the business side of “local search,” among other aspects of online marketing. My perspective is therefore somewhat different than Mike’s other invited list-makers. There are lots of great tactical and advice pieces in the lists that David Mihm and Matt McGee presented.

I’m going to take a somewhat different approach here and mention posts (some by me) that identify important issues or broader developments in the segment.

But first, Local Search Ranking Factors and Mike’s own Cracking the Code are perhaps the two most significant local search marketing posts of the year.

In terms of developments, I would say that Google opening up Maps to community editing was also highly significant from several perspectives. But it brought with it numerous problems. Mike has thoroughly documented the challenges Google has encountered with mapspam and hijacking that have come in the wake of opening up Maps.

While the local segment isn’t synonymous with “small business,” small businesses continue to struggle with online marketing and search marketing in particular. This is a significant issue that will persist for some time to come.

The most popular post to date on my blog, from late 2007, is No Yelpers Says One Local Café. It points to the growing challenge of local user reviews and how to deal with them. Another popular and somewhat controversial post on my blog was The End of SMB Websites, which asked whether stand-alone websites are necessary or whether rich landing pages could more effectively do the job for small businesses.

Another significant event, that hasn’t quite happened yet, is the coming of precise location awareness to the browser and the OS. Chrome has it today and so will the next release of Firefox. Windows 7 the forthcoming successor to Vista will also employ various strategies to get at user location. This “baked in location” will eventually be meaningful for SEO and SEM – SEO in particular.

Interestingly nobody (so far) has said anything about mobile. Arguably mobile is the most significant thing that is happening right now in the local space. The iPhone has gotten everyone’s attention and made “mobile search” a reality. And though it’s still a somewhat “embryonic” segment, mobile will become of equal or greater importance to local over time.

This short piece I wrote for iMedia makes the case for mobile marketing and argues that mobile marketing today is somewhat analogous to search several years ago.

Happy New Year.

Loci 2008: David Mihm’s Significant Local Posts of 2008


David Mihm, a web designer and search marketing practitioner from Portland, writes for Searchenginland and has his own blog, Mihmorandum, that focuses on local search. David, for me,  epitimomizes the ideal of learning through cooperation and collaboration. He created the well received Local Search Ranking Factors project and was a key contributor on the research for the Cracking the Code – Local Search Ranking Factors study.

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Mike, how’s this, in no particular order:
 
Local vs Traditional SEO: Why Citation Is the New Link 
Not that the article itself is necessarily earth-shattering, but during the course of thinking about Local and researching 10-pack rankings, I came to two very important personal conclusions – 1) In Local SEO, not all links matter.  2) “Links” that matter for Local SEO aren’t necessarily links.  This mindset has guided my thinking about Local Search for client work for the remainder of the year.
 
It was very rewarding for me personally to get the perspectives of so many top minds in Local.  I probably had more fun putting this together than the average SEO or small business owner did in reading it!
 
The first of Eric Enge’s interviews with the men in charge of the two major players in Local Search.  An absolute must-read when you get the kind of (even if the interviewee was not entirely forthcoming / intentionally misleading).
 
The second must-read interview from Eric Enge on Local Search, this time with Yahoo Local’s main men.

The first major quantitative study of Local SEO ranking factors, led by Mike Blumenthal.  The search community gained a deeper understanding of how the main ranking factors interact with each other based on availability of data and competitiveness of market.
 
Mike takes things one step further here and dives into Google Maps’ patent on ranking.  Pay attention to the concept of Location Prominence in 2009!  It’s only going to become MORE important, IMHO.
 
The IRS should send out a notice that makes Miriam Ellis’ fantastic series required reading for small business owners.  The government could increase its tax revenue by 20% on the profits of SMB’s who read it!
 
A non-Local-Search-marketer, Dr. Pete Meyers, opens our eyes to the central importance of Local Search as the world goes more and more mobile.
 
I could have chosen any number of press releases from the Yellow Pages themselves to fill this slot, but this is one of the more egregious examples of self-promoting puffery coming from an industry dying almost as quickly as the Big Three (at least on the print side).  A terrific analytical look at YPA data by Chris “Silver” Smith.
 

Loci 2008: Matt Cutt’s Important Local Articles of 2008


Matt Cutts from Google is well….Matt Cutts. He doesn’t need much introduction (nor link juice) from me :) .
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Here you go:

Just to reiterate, this is my personal opinion. I would say that in my mind, one main story of Google Maps/Local this year is how it opened up more this year. Overall, that’s a good thing and Google’s service has gotten better as a result:
http://searchengineland.com/google-maps-opens-up-editing-to-everyone-13590
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/03/18/google-maps-everyone-can-create-a-business-listing/

But it’s not just editing listing and claiming listings. Google also opened up with Google Map Maker, which has let people around the world contribute a phenomenal amount of data that helps everyone:
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/06/making-your-mark-on-world.html

The articles that have been the most important to me personally are the ones that point out areas that still need work, although other people might not pay as much attention to them, e.g.
http://searchengineland.com/searching-for-small-businesses-coming-up-frustrated-15112
http://searchengineland.com/google-local-business-hijacking-microsoft-acquires-yahoo-becomes-escort-service-15313

But then again, I tend to dwell on the negative reports or articles that give feedback on ways to improve. I think an average person is more likely to care about traffic conditions:
http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/04/google-maps-predicts-traffic-conditions.html
or that Google Maps provided great voter guide information:
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/09/20/google-maps-to-provide-complete-voter-information-for-upcoming-election/

I sometimes dwell on the negative feedback that we get, but the Maps/Local products have really improved a lot this year, from much more Street View coverage
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/12/double-coverage-double-fun.html
to Terrain Maps:
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/04/last-summer-somewhere-in-adirondacks.html
to a new UI:
http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/11/google-maps-has-new-interface.html

Matt

Loci 2008: Matt McGee’s Favorite Articles in Local Search


This is the first of many posts in the Loci 2008 review that details who is reading what in Local Search. Up first is Matt McGee and over the next week you will hear from David Mihm, Ahmed Farooq, Matt Cutts, Martijn Beijk, Will Scott, Greg Sterling, Danny Sullivan and more.

Matt McGee has a long pedigree in Local Search. His well known blog was an early beacon promoting the benefits of local search, he has worked extensively in Local, consulted broadly in local, writes for SearchEngineland on Local Search, is a leading authority on hyperlocal blogging and is a general all round decent fellow. He was one of the first people I met when I came to this neighborhood. Here are the articles that  have influcenced him this year:

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Oh, this is an easy one to help out with since I’m in the middle of organizing SEMMYs stuff. :-)

Local Search Ranking Factors - David Mihm, Mihmorandum 
To me, this is far and away the best piece of local search content anyone put together in 2008. It offers plenty of How To help, but it also shows some of the unusual vagaries involved in local SEO and how things differ when you throw an address into the mix. It was an honor to be one of the contributors.

Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps
Another great peek into ranking factors. I already felt bad enough missing SMX Local, then you had to go and post your slides from what was obviously a terrific session. :-)

Local SEO’s Share Geo Location Tips From Around The World – Lucy Langdon, Distilled
I like this particularly because I haven’t had the challenge/pleasure of doing local SEO on an international basis. It was an interesting read.

How to Optimize Local Business Profiles for Free Local Directories – Steven Brier, SearchEngineJournal
Steven Brier did a great job going through the process of making sure your local business profiles are as optimized as they can be.

Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps Hijacked (oops by me) – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps
I don’t think any year-in-review list would be complete without getting into the clusterf–k that Google Maps (and Yahoo Local to a lesser degree) has become with respect to spam and hijacked listings. So many posts to choose from on this matter, but this one shows how irresponsible it is for Google to take a “wiki-like” approach to business listings and let anyone edit listings that are unclaimed.

Thanks, Mike!

m2