September 20, 2012
Getlisted Local University is in full swing for this fall with a range of events in Minneapolis, NYC and Tarrytown, NY. Hopefully I will see you at one of them. If you are a reader and do come, be sure to take a moment and introduce yourself.
MN SEARCH PRESENTS LOCAL UNIVERSITY – TWIN CITIES, MINNESOTA
Friday, September 28
Deluxe for Business, Google and the Board of Directors at MN Search has invited the Local U faculty to the Twin Cities for a presentation to their clients and membership, respectively. The event is most definitely open to the public, however, and both the agenda and tickets are available from EventBrite using the link above. This event offers the basic 4 hour intro session in the AM and more detailed topics in the PM so a you can come for either half or the full day. To receive a discount use the code MB2012.
LOCAL UNIVERSITY ADVANCED AT SMX EAST – NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Monday, October 1
Super-excited to present another Advanced edition of GetListed.org Local U the day before SMX East with David Mihm, Matt McGee, and all the other regulars! Like Seattle the day is chocked full of advanced content …we also added birds-of-a-feather roundtables to allow for more 1-on-1 questions from attendees–ask your questions & get a look at real client issues directly from Google +Local’s support guru Joel Headley!
There is no discount code available for this one. Seating is limited to 50 but there are still a few seats left if you are thinking of coming
LOCAL UNIVERSITY – TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK
Tuesday, October 2
The following morning, in conjunction with Google and Progressive insurance, we’ll be presenting our standard small business-oriented edition of Local U at the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown, NY for businesses in Westchester County and Northern New Jersey. This is a morning only session and speakers will include myself, David Mihm, Joel Headley from Google, Mike Ramsey, Mary Bowling and Ed Reese. If you know of SMBs or those new to the Local SEO field that would benefit from this crash course give them my discount code of MB2012.
For more information on any of these events feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Local University site. If you have a group of clients that you would like to bring or a number of staff members we can provide a group discount as well.
We are now in the process of working out the winter/spring schedule for 2013 and if you are interested in helping to sponsor an event in your market we would love to hear from you.
Since early in the year when Adwords Express, Google’s simplified Adwords product for SMBs, was upgraded we have heard little about the product. The interface was removed from most dashboards and we have seen no effort to promote it. Today, every Places Dashboard account that I have received this email providing a $100 discount and a strong pitch for the full Adwords product. Where has Adwords Express gone? Is it history or will it return when Google finally finishes the integration of local into Plus and offers a full on marketing portal?
This sort of ad leaves plenty of doubt about its future.
September 19, 2012
The initial rollout allowing single location businesses to merge their G+Local page into the fully social G+ Page for local, while very limited, has surfaced very few bugs. The rollout which occurred on August 3rd has been smooth by Google standards for local but any time a company strives to “release early and often” there will be some.
Here is the list of known bugs, assembled with the help of the top contributors in the forum, to be on the watch out for. Most of these are non threatening but given the limited targeting of this rollout I strongly suggest that you be sure that your business is a good fit for merge. You should be a single location b & m business with both a G+ page and a Places/+Local Page, not be a service area business with hidden address and most importantly be sure that there are no duplicates or other issues with your existing listing.
September 18, 2012
Darren Shaw, creator of the Local Citation Finder, recently asked me this great question (I seem to be getting a few of these lately) via email:
I’ve heard people talking about how citations might not be a valuable ranking factor in the future. What do you think? Will they stop being effective for local optimization in the future?
Google’s local search algo is a complex multivariate, bi-modal algorithm that is continually evolving. Thus predicting the future for any Google process is likely a fool’s errand. That being said, I will take the bait.
It might be better to ask what is the role of citations in the current state of affairs and given how it is interwoven into the algo how it is it likely to change.
Google works at scale. In the case of local search, world wide scale. Any local algo needs to account for the great variation in information available and yet still be able to effectively rank businesses in any given market based on some sort of virtual proxy for business prominence. This has always been the case with the local algo and that is not likely to change.
Imagine if you will what Google can learn about a shoemaker in Kazakhstan versus a famous restaurant in Paris. Or closer to home what Google can see about a single plumber with no website in Utica, NY versus the Plaza Hotel in NYC. One has some entries in the yellow pages and the other has thousands of reviews, links, a complex website with a ton of information and an entry on Wikipedia. On the one hand there is little more than a few citation references and the other there is a trove of online information that can be mined.
This data set does not just change across industries and regions but over time as well. Businesses that were not web savvy in 2005 when the basic local algo was released have become so now. The ranking system needs to be flexible enough to deal with these spatial and temporal changes.
When you read Google’s Location Prominence and Local Authority patents you see different types of citations mentioned; everything from a basic listing at a reputable site to a link on the brand name. And you also see that Google will mine whatever data is available whether they need to buy a list from InfoUSA or scrape a local directory.
In 2008 when a number of us explored correlation with ranking we found the impact of citations and reviews to diminish in importance as a ranking factor as we explored markets that were more competitive and had more web based data available. In 2012 we still see that a solid, consistent citations effort can effectively improve the standing of a listing. But we also saw the rollout of Venice in 2012 where Google acknowledged that traditional web signals would play an increasing role in the ranking of local results.
The outcome of that? To be ranked in the top third of local results a business has to do well with both web prominence AND location prominence. But even now you can see pinned listings in the lower 2/3′d of the blended local results that have no effective web presence and whose ranking is predicated on location prominence and nothing more than a lot of citations.
The algo has been dynamic and adaptive. It is a mistake to view any single ranking factor in isolation from all the others that we know (and don’t know) about. Citations are playing less of a role now because Google is able to get more and more signals about many businesses in other ways NOT because it has diminished importance in the algo. But we are also seeing the introductions of new signals like web prominence.
Given that there will be situations like the plumber in Utica and the shoemaker in Kazakhstan for years to come, it seems likely that citations as we have known them will continue to play a role.
I think that near future will look very similar to the recent past. In those geographies, industries and markets where things are getting more competitive citations will have less of an impact in and of themselves on ranking. In those instances where signals are thin and there is little for Google to go on, they will continue to play a significant role. We need to view them as a variable in an ever changing landscape.
The question that was asked was very narrowly framed. The reality is that citations have never been a stand alone tactic but were always best approached as part of a broad, holistic plan to make a brand more prominent on the web. That too will likely remain the same for some time to come.
September 17, 2012
Google MapMaker has become a tremendous resource for cleaning up listings in G+ Local. While it can be incredibly confusing, it provides a window into the complete cluster data that Google has for a given listing, provides a detailed history of activities vis a vis that listing and allows for direct editing of it. The results typically show back up in the G+Local listing within days if not hours. But the product is buggy and very opaque.
One of the more arcane mysteries in MapMaker revolves around the many Google bots that work their way through the listings, often with disastrous results. The Regional Expert Reviewers at MapMaker, those high level volunteer editors with more power to approve edits, have assembled this GDoc MapMaker Bot List spreadsheet as a reference to the many bots that run wild in the MapMaker world. It’s a great resource for understanding some of the history of the listing and how certain changes came about.
|Current Name & Profile
|| 1251 days , 16278 edits
||Possible bot; may not be active anymore
|| 841 days , 3614717 reviews
||Approval bot; either approves an edit or adds a tag
|| 561 days , 7160629 edits
||Possible bot based on the number of edits
|| 907 days , 9692721 edits
||Places Import Bot; imports features from other databases if it’s not in the Map Maker database at the time of editing
|Google Automated Deactivated Accounts
||Deactivated Map Maker Account(changed Sept 2012), Google Automated Wipeout (changed Aug 2012)
|| 398 days
|| When a Google account is deactivated, all edits made using that account are attributed to this profile. ** Not Technically a Bot **
|Google Automated Address Fixer 1
|| 521 days , 1486 edits
|Google Automated Bounds Fixer
|| 77 days
|Google Automated Cleaner 2
|| 1550 days , 117557 edits
|Google Automated Flyover Fixer
|| 577 days , 207 edits, 2 reviews
|Google Automated Reconciler 3
||Map Maker Syncer (changed 8/23/2012)
|| 64 days
|Google Automated Reconciler 4
||Map Maker Instant Syncer (changed 8/23/2012)
|| 24 days
|| 192 days , 20 edits
||Adds the height to buildings
|Map Maker Revert
|| 878 days , 7673953 edits
September 13, 2012
The ability to upload videos to your G+ Local listing via the Places Dashboard has long been broken and the feature was missing on the merged G+ Pages for Local. I am not quite sure when this happened but you now can upload videos if you have a (re)verified G+Page for Local. As reader Julie Larson from Divas Mobile Solutions pointed out to me, the feature is isolated to G+ and doesn’t allow for easily integrating YouTube channels into to your profile but with drag and drop it does allow for bulk video uploads. And more importantly the feature seems to just work.
The interface is simple, the uploads moved along quickly and I was able to upload both WMV and FLV files simultaneously. The uploads can be easily shared on G+ as well. You can see the results on Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry’s merged G+ Page.
A customer of ours sent us a question about citations. They have been building citations recently and cleaning up NAP inconsistencies. But they have seen a significant drop in rankings.
I’ve never heard of ‘good’ citation building having a negative effect on rankings – have you?
Also what’s your theory on speed of building citations and if you build too rapidly do you see Google treating this similarly to building links too quickly?
These are great questions because they touch on virtually every aspect of local ranking and logical thinking. Rather than just reply via email I decided to respond publicly so that all could join the discussion. Can a citation building campaign have a negative effect on rankings? Can you build citations too fast? The short answer is NO. For the longer answer read on.
As is often said in the SEO field (to the point of cliche) correlation is NOT causation. Certainly correlation of a good data set to certain events can lead to more understanding of a situation but a single instance is a particularly weak data set. Humans have a tendency to see patterns and relationships where none exist. Search involves a particularly complex set of variables many of which we don’t even know. (more…)
August 20, 2012
What is the difference between asking for reviews and soliciting them? It seems that a number of SMBS have discovered that one leads to jail time.
Google has been throwing out reviews left and right of late. This is not a bug but the outcome of a newly aggressive review spam filter. The forums were rife with complaints from businesses about lost reviews and from individuals whose reviews would not post. In a consolidated thread Google indicated that most of the reports were a function of the new algorithm and not a function of the problems that had caused lost reviews in the past. Here are Googler Jade’s comments over the course of the post that provide some (albeit confused) insights into Google’s thinking:
Aug 6: Hey guys — popping in to say that we’re investigating. Thanks for the reports.
Aug 15: Still looking into this, guys. Soliciting reviews is suspect behavior for our systems, so please please please make sure your reviews are legitimate and left by your customers of their own accord.
Aug 15: Well, first — mobile reviewing can only be done through: Google Maps or Google+ for Android, or, Google+ Local app on iOS. (Visiting the page on a browser on mobile does not work!)
The technical issues for reviews still exist — those are more common in my experience with pages that have had duplicate or merging issues in the past. The majority of the reviews cases that I have investigated from the forum and other channels are reviews being taken down for suspicious reviewing behavior.
Aug 16: “Soliciting reviews is suspect behavior for our systems.”
What I mean by this is — it’s fine if you reach out to customers to ask them to review, but I do not recommend that you do this in waves. If you want to reach out to legit customers and ask them to review, I recommend you contact them immediately after you have done business with them.
Aug 16: Well, think about it this way — in our ideas, the “ideal” review is by a customer who writes a review of a place completely by his or her own accord, on mobile during the experience or at home after. This would mimic the regular flow of the business.
On the other hand, some SEO companies that resort to spam reviews to deliver “results” would exhibit different behavior.
It’s a system that we are constantly trying to improve, but for now, this is what I can say to try and help. I really don’t want legit businesses with legit reviews to get caught, so this is our effort. I can’t provide specific numbers (and in fact don’t know them).
If the above seems less than clear, that is because it is. Google, in their inimitable fashion, seems content to roll out a new, much more aggressive change in their review spam algo that seems to nuke reviews bad and good and then communicate little, late and in a less than helpful way. Mitigating review spam is good but Google does so while hiding behind an impenetrable cloak that purports to hide the inner workings of their algo. That is a formula for disaster. Google has, over the past few years, been schizophrenic about reviews. It was only last December when Google publicly stated at one of their Get Your Business Online training sessions that that it was OK to use review stations. Now it appears that review stations and many other practices seem to trigger review take downs.
I think strictly enforced and clearly articulated standards are great in the review arena. The constantly shifting sands of Google’s secret policies are not.
August 14, 2012
For the past month and half Google has been testing a new local car lead generation product in the San Francisco market. The product, officially called Google Comparison Ads for Autos, allows a consumer to anonymously request quotes on specific in stock inventory from dealers within a certain distance of their search. According to Brian Pasch of PGC Marketing the Google Cars results are ”focused on lower sales funnel queries meaning the buyer has already decided on a brand and a model to purchase. So it will not be showing up for all automotive search queries, just a subset that Google believes have already made a brand/model selection”. For example the results will show for Toyota Prius or Toyota dealer but not for the search phrase Toyota.
Google has noted the following benefits on their sign up page:
- Higher-quality leads: Our leads come directly from motivated, purchase-ready consumers who have specifically chosen to contact your dealership. Leads are unique, never resold, and delivered immediately to you.
- Free inventory listings: You can have your inventory shown to consumers on Google for free, and only pay for leads you receive.
- More than just inventory: Consumers can choose to connect with you even when you don’t have a specific car in inventory. We know that you can order the car, dealer trade, or find other solutions to help consumers get the cars they want.
- Greater control over leads: You choose how much you’re willing to pay for a lead and can target consumers based on distance and specific type of car, so you get the leads that are most valuable to you.
To interact with Google’s test, set your browser to San Francisco or Palo Alto and search on a phrase that is model specific like “Toyota Prius” and you will be presented with this sponsored result just below the sponsored ads:
From that screen the searcher is taken to a search result screen of in stock inventory within a certain distance of your location and a faceted interface that allow for additional narrowing of choices trim, engine type, color and options. When you click on the “Google price info” button you are presented with pricing detail that shows MSRP, Invoice AND (again as reported by Brian Pasch) the average regional price paid as calculated from data shared by dealers to the DMV in their state. This pricing transparency is not a number that most dealers will feel comfortable about being shared. (more…)
August 13, 2012
Google has announced
that they are testing the rollout of vanity URLs for Google Plus:
Custom URLs for profiles and pages: a first step
Your Google+ profile is a place for you to share your passions with the millions of people who come to Google each day. Whether you’re a clothing brand showing off your latest fashions (google.com/+hugoboss
), an athlete talking about the game (google.com/+davidbeckham
), or an actor recalling a favorite role (google.com/+hughjackman
), your Google+ profile helps you connect with the people who share your interests. Today we’re introducing custom URLs to make it even easier for people to find your profile on Google+.
A custom URL is a short, easy to remember web address that links directly to your profile or page on Google+. For instance, +TOYOTA can now use google.com/+toyota to unveil their latest models, +Britney Spears can share her upcoming appearances atgoogle.com/+britneyspears, +Ubisoft can share game trailers and videos at google.com/+assassinscreed, and +Delta can help travellers find great deals at google.com/+delta.
Custom URLs will also be available to people and pages worldwide, so brands like Globo can point readers to google.com/+epoca, or any of their other Brazilian publications.
At first, we’re introducing custom URLs to a limited number of verified profiles and pages. But over time we plan to offer custom URLs to many more brands and individuals, so please stay tuned!