Local Database accuracy

Greg Sterling had an interesting piece on local database accuracy

What did they find? Shockingly, they discovered there was something wrong (minor to major issues) with 47% of the listings! That’s a remarkably large number. I was truly surprised.

The discussion in the post is of equal interest and well worth a read. My experience with Google’s data is similar. I beleive that it was originally purchased and maintained by InfoUSA and was riddled with problems. The question is whether the partners/local businesses/Search professionals of Google can get the data straight and keep it straight.

Does Business Name = Title Tag?

2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)

As I have explored Google Maps local rankings, I have used the models developed for organic search optimization as a starting point to develop understanding and make progress.

The working theory I developed is that the business name created in the Google Business Center functions in much the same as a Title Tag on an html page and that it perhaps has priority over other methods of determining relevancy. Minimally it plays a role, that much is sure.

Google Local (Google Maps) Title Example
Note in this example how Google highlights the search phrase in the Business Name (title) phrase.

Google Maps though has a number of different ways to potentially determine relevancy of a page to a search. One of the most significant besides business name is categories. Since they are limited in number and any listing can only have five they could easily play this role. Description also seems to play a part in reinforcing the relevancy of the listing.

It is certainly conceivable that category and description are more important or equally important to title. My theory is though that they act more like body copy & headlines on a text page to reinforce the business listing name. Can anyone shed more light on this relationship?

Continue reading

Local Search Continues to Gain According to comScore

“According to the study, 63 percent of U.S. Internet users (or approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July, a 43-percent increase versus July of 2005. Google Sites (30 percent) and Yahoo! Sites (29 percent) garnered the largest share of local searches in July. Microsoft Sites captured 12 percent of local searches, followed by the Time Warner Network with 7 percent. “

To read the comScore press release

To read Greg Sterling’s summary and comments

From Google Local to the World

1)Be sure to edit the local listing and include the relevant business categories

For those of you that are new to Google Local this might not seem obvious how to do. If you have just one business your can edit the business listing that appears in Google Local in one of several ways, neither of which is totally obvious or readily available.

Edit this business imageWay one (the long way) is to find the business record via the main Google Search window…search on your business name and local information (either the zip code or city, state) and then drill down into the record via the “More local results” link. From there select your record from the list, and then drill into the “bubble” and on into the details area of your record. At the bottom you will find an “Edit this listing” link. The other (much shorter) route is to go to the Google Business Center. If you didn’t know to look for this link, it would be less than obvious to most business owners. The third way is to use GoogleBase to upload a list of locations (if you have more than 10. Again a solution that is not particularly market accessible)

The question that cropped up after I articulated this process to myself was : Why is this so hard to get to? Continue reading

The Basics of Listing for Success

Here is a simple list of what is I have discovered is necessary to start improving your ranking at Google Maps and Yahoo Local.

As I have worked with local listings over the past year I created this small check list for achieving some measure of success. These points may be self evident or they may require additional clarification which I will be attempting to provide over the next several days. They all need testing and examination.

1)Be sure to edit the local listing and include the relevant business categories
2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)
2a)Craft the categories and the description to reinforce the key phrase(s)
3)Get lots of web references (these are like links but not as rigidly defined) that reference the main key phrase and location of the business
4)Be sure that your own site has lots of references to your local address and key phrase
5)Join the Better Business Bureau/Mobile Travel Guide/Talking Phone Book etc. etc. that Google uses to provide details
6)Be sure to get some good reviews from the reviewing services the Google & Yahoo uses

Unlike optimization for organic search, optimization for local search at the major engines is in a much less developed state. It seems to have many fewer people poking, prodding and testing the hypothesis of local search and coming up with a definitive set of best practices. This is list is an attempt to create that model that we can all test. Have a go and let me know.

Does Google Maps have a sandbox?

Almost 6 months ago I was requested by a local client to get them listed (or rather improve their listings) in Google Maps and Yahoo local.

I made a series of changes to the listing, helped them get their reviews improved, modified their business categories. On Yahoo the results showed up within a week.

On Google however the local listing was mired on page two and despite many of the same changes, didn’t go anywhere. This past Sunday, the listing has moved to the number one spot on the Google search page.

Google Map results for theBeefeatersRestaurant.com

This raises several questions but the obvious one is: Does Google Maps have a Sandbox?

It would seem likely that they do. But the question that I have is: Is this just a function of their data update cycle or is it a more formal protocol that they follow.

Over the 6 month period, I had noticed that the reviews from citysearch.com that seemed to influence the standing on this listing were updated on Google. Now the aggregate star rating has been updated although Google Maps still quotes an older 3 star star review.

Local Search

I have been working on Google and Yahoo local search optimization for awhile. It is an area that while not earth shattering in terms of traffic that they have generated it became clear to me that the importance to Google and Yahoo and the client was increasing and it would be a benefit to understand more about it.

I searched the internet for technical and practical knowledge on Google Maps and Yahoo Local and while there were posts from time to time at a number of sites, none seemed to provide a single place to obtain comprehensive and current information or a place where experiments in techniques could be hashed out and discussed.

If you have an interest in this topic and have some experience I hope that you will take the time to share it so that the general state of knowledge about search optimization for Google and Yahoo local can move forward.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search