Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

The Semmy Nominations Announced

The Semmy Awards, founded by Matt McGee to honor search marketing content online, has announced the 2008 nominees in the following categories:

Three articles that I wrote this past year: In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview in the Small Business Category and Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Cracking the Code SMX Local & Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps Hijacked (oops by me) were nominated in the Local Search Category.

Thank you for the recognition and my hat  is off to the many other nominees. I must note that I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t receive any nominations in the Rant category. I guess I need to further refine the curmudgeon parts of me going forward. I am sure the Merchant Circle and Google would both appreciate seeing more of that side of me. :)

Local in a Ford Near You

As the pricing for GPS and computer chips drop we have seen computers moving into a range of new situations from TV boxes to your iPod. The capability is now moving into automobiles as well and in this context, Local makes lots of sense. Ford is at the forefront of making this technology widely available in its cars with its Sync technology.

David Berkowitz of Clicktoday did a recent interview with Doug VanDagens of Ford Motor Company. It is clear that Ford has made a commitment to making this technology available in every vehicle at a very low price. Just bring your own voice plan. From the interview:

David Berkowitz: Good, thanks? Do you just want to share what you’re doing?

DV: ….What we’re announcing here at the show is an ability to connect to the internet through a normal voice plan. So all you need is your phone, and we can take Sync through Bluetooth, connect to your phone, connect out to Tellme, which is a voice portal – a best in class voice portal, and Microsoft now owns those assets. From there we can direct you to a number of Internet data sources. We can send the GPS information from the vehicle, we can send health report diagnostic information over your voice plan, and then we have traffic, directions, business search, and information, all internet-based.

DB: This seems unusual to me at least. I don’t follow the automotive industry that closely, but it seems that when a new feature comes out, it’s on your premium model.

DV: Correct. So when we first introduced Sync, we introduced it on the Focus, and the young people loved it, right? It’s a connection to an MP3 player, hands-free cellular calling. This is the same thing. It’s free on every one of our vehicles. There’s another automaker that announced some services similar to this, but it’s only available on their high-end luxury cars. This service is going to be available on every one of our vehicles, free for three years.

You’ll have access to the internet information. You can personalize it. If you want news you can go in and say “I want technology news,” “I want business news.” It’ll be read to you. You can get sports, news, weather. Later this year we’re going to introduce movies and stock prices.

You can get navigation information, so you can go out and say, “Find me the closest Starbucks,” and it will go out, based on your location, and find the closest Starbucks to you, analyze the traffic conditions, tell you how to get there the fasest way, and download the directions to your car. The call will end, and now you’ll get turn-by-turn directions. It will say, “Turn right at 200 yards,” “Turn right now,” it will take you anywhere you want to go. It will do business search – you can get the phone number, and all of this is free for three years.

DB: Does this work in conjunction with GPS or more as a replacement?

DV: We’ve added GPS in all of our vehicles. Starting in January, all of our new vehicles will have GPS. So we send the location from the car so we know where you’re at. You can say things like, “Search nearby,” and they’ll find anything that you want nearby. You can do a business search, you can do it by category, you can do it by actual business name, by proximity. So you can say, “Find me an Italian restaurant.”

It will not be long before it will become necessary to optimize your site for viewing at 65 mph while heading down the highway in search of the perfect pizza parlor. Ford, the strongest of the US automakers, has over the past few years been improving their quality and unlike Chrysler or GM, actually leading for a change.

Sign me up!

Locai 2008- Miriam Ellis – Most Important Search Pieces in 2008

Miriam Ellis, along with her husband, operates  Solas Web Design, a web design & local seo company focusing on the small business marketplace. She writes frequently on small business issues at her blog, SEO Igloo. When she isn’t writing on her blog or commenting here, you will also find her guest blogging, moderating  and writing at: Search Engine Guide, Cre8tive Flow, 14th Colony and The Conscientious Home. Dang, no wonder I have never met her in person. :)

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Here we go, Mike:

In my opinion, these are the two most important local search pieces published in 2008:

http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/08/04/ranking-factors-in-google-maps-cracking-the-code-smx-local/

http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml

These two articles stand out in my mind as having been especially engaging:

http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/09/18/google-maps-widespread-hijacking-of-business-listings-confirmed/

http://searchengineland.com/a-small-business-marketing-success-story-john-tuggle-guitar-teacher-13746

I know there are a ton of other articles I’ve really enjoyed, but my memory tends to hinge more on writers I’ve come to admire, rather than on specific pieces they’ve published. Over time, I’ve learned which authors publish work that most appeals to me, and I return to them again and again. 

I will read anything written by you, Mike, by Greg Sterling, David Mihm or Matt McGee. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Martijn Beijk a bit this year. I’m excited about Matt’s hyperlocal blog and have closely followed the Local and Small is Beautiful columns at Search Engine Land in 2008. 

What I would love to see in 2009 is a focus from some of these great folks on how-to local articles and further case studies of successful small businesses. These are the topics that engage my interest most and I’ll put anyone in my feedreader who is writing about them!

Miriam Ellis

Loci 2008 – Rand Fishkin – The year in Local 2008

Rand Fishkin , of SEOMoz, needs no introduction from me. Here are his favorites: *** Sure – here goes:

Hope that helps! Rand

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.