Post Pigeon Geo Assessment – How Did Traffic Change by City

It has been a little over 2 months since the Pigeon update. And while quality issues continue, with some listings taking a hit and others gaining, Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry seems to have netted out with slight gains in web traffic similar to what she saw immediately post update. Her total web traffic was down but her in-market traffic has shown a 5% uptick in the cities surrounding her in NY State and 13% gain in nearby markets in Canada that frequently shop in the US.

It is difficult to impossible to assess her MyBusiness analytics to know how things worked out on that end, given the inability to compare time periods and the lack of detail in the reports (boo to Google on this front).

As I noted immediately post Pigeon, Barbara had stopped showing in the 7-Pack on strong Buffalo centric head term searches in Local Pack like Jewelry Buffalo (although she and 2 other strong jewelers continue to show above the pack in organic). Thus I was curious to dig into the geo data to see where exactly the increases were and if there was a discernible geographic pattern to the increase.

You can see from this chart that web traffic on from Buffalo has decreased by 37 uniques when comparing the time period before Pigeon to the time period after, dropping from 258 visitors to 221. That was more than offset by increases in visits from suburbs just to the south (Cheektowaga) and north (Tonawanda) which saw 154% and 52% increases respectively.

increase-decrease-chart

Using the new My Maps, I exported the differences by city and plotted them.

It is somewhat easier to see the major shifts geographically if you zoom in although even there it is difficult to ascertain an obvious pattern. Given the lack of keyword data it is impossible to tell exactly what terms are driving the traffic in each city.

It seems likely that the extremes (Buffalo, Tonawanda and Cheektowaga) seem to be driven by new geo results within Pigeon. Those cities with smaller changes could just be normal variation or could be driven by changing results due to the update.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.45.52 PMKey –

Purples Stars = Plot cities that increased

Red/Orange circles = plotted cities that decreased.

Barbara’s location is the black pin.

One of the “features” of Pigeon was to localize results down to neighborhood level. This meant a narrowing of reach so that those in the suburbs were often left out of city wide searches. This, for some, was offset by searches in in the nearby suburbs or neighborhoods. Cheektowaga is a mostly residential area with little high end shopping. It is likely that Barbara Oliver is one of the closest jewelers in that context. Clearly the decline of Buffalo based searches was due to the decreasing radius of Buffalo based searches. But that assessment raises the question of why did Barbara loose traffic from her “hometown” of Williamsville that has both residents and high end shopping and the even bigger drop in the next neighborhood to the east, Harris Hill?

I think plotting this geo information can additional nuance and understanding to your search results. I am not sure that it better helps to understand Pigeon although it does demonstrate some of its affects.

Google Carousel Eye-Tracking Study: The Big Winner is AdWords

In addition to the Local heat maps & CTR studies that I shared yesterday , Mediative also looked at the behaviors around the Carousel in their study: The Evolution of Google Search Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour”.

As with the 7-pack information yesterday, there are limits to this study. The CTR are particularly suspect given the lack of a representative audience and the very small sample size. And the study doesn’t explore post Carousel click behaviors like calling.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.46.41 PM

There are some interesting take aways in these results:

  • The highest performing Carousel Placements are those to the far right; not positions 1,2 or3
  • 11.1% of the clicks went to postions 4-7 on the Carousel while only 1.4% went to positions 1-3
  • 89% (ie almost all) participants fixated on the Carousel
  • Ads did particularly well a 136% increase in time spent looking at them and a 60% increase in clicks compared to other SERP results
  • Ads captured 21% of the clicks on the page
  • The top four organic results, all strong brands, did very well capturing 52% of the clicks

Obviously, if these results bear out, then Adwords is the big winner with the Carousel. Its bold presentation attracts eyeballs to the upper left but not the clicks which accrue to the ads. I think the likes of Yelp & TripAdvisor might need to be careful what they wish for in their European anti-trust crusade.

But all is not lost with the Carousel. Their ability to capture eyeballs (if not clicks) has significant branding implications. From their report:

Impressions vs. clicks

3 out of the 5 new elements covered in this study—Carousel, Knowledge Graph and Local Listings—don’t necessarily require the user to click on the listing/ placement to get the information they are looking for. Impression data should therefore be measured as a success metric. Given how much information can potentially be garnered about your business without a user having to leave the SERP, the listings have a similar effect in terms of brand awareness.

Local Heat Maps – Lots of Attention, Not So Much Clicking

Mediative has published results of their recent eye-tracking and click through research performed last spring that included local pack and carousel results:  The Evolution of Google Search Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour”. They discuss the local implications in a blog post today.

While the study has some methodological issues the results are interesting and worth exploring.

Local Listing Below the Pack:

Google-SERP-local-listings-below-organic

 

  • 13% of time spent on the pages was looking inside the Local Listings box.
  • 38% of participants look at the Local Listing box.
  • 6% of page clicks were to the local listings.
  • The top organic listing garnered 41% of page clicks
  • The top two organic listings garnered 53% of page clicks.

Listings Above the Pack:

Google-SERP-local-listings-top-pack

  • 18.5% of time spent on the pages was looking inside the Local Listings box.
  • 76% of participants look at the Local Listing box.
  • 11.5% of page clicks were to the local listings.
  • The top organic listing (below the local listings) garnered 30.5% of page clicks.
  • The top two organic listings garnered 45% of page clicks.

Power of Organic: While most users clicked on the organic results, it is not clear whether that was the brand affect of having major brands there or the placement. Most likely both. In previous limited research that I have done people often scan the page and frequently will stop on a well known site that they know does a good job curating, like Yelp or Tripadvisor.  Regardless, if you are blocked out of the pack due to Pigeon, there are still clearly organic opportunities.

Visual Distractors: Even though Google has removed many visual distractors from the results those that remain are highly attractive to users. Thus rich snippet reviews for example, even if lower on the page, can attract views.

Chunking. One of the things that Ian Everdell of Mediative pointed out was the existence of visual chunking. People look at the top results in any subset of results. They effectively create visual groupings of results of which they do a quick scan and look for relevancy in the given sub group. In any of these groupings (ie Local or organic or ads), the top two results get the most attention. Thus being 1or 2 in the Pack is significantly more valuable than lower.

Limits of the research. While the eye-tracking sample size is more than adequate to give an idea of where searchers were looking that is not the case with the click through study. On many of these results the click through study was based on a sample size of between 50 and 150 clicks. In addition the cohort was not randomized in any way. All were from the Toronto area with no knowledge of income or other behaviors.

The study, in an effort to provide a consistent result to users, was forced to present searchers with a static image and to focus solely on clicks. Thus there is no data on whether or how frequently users cursored over local results to explore the Knowledge Panel.  Nor whether users would have stopped and called some of the local results.

Here are some additional heat and click maps from Mediative: Continue reading

Facebook Reviews Should Be a Part of Every SMB Review Plan

If you had any doubts as to whether Facebook has a place in your review strategy, news this past week from Bill Bean that Facebook reviews were now showing in the Google “Reviews from Around the Web” should put them to rest.

I was curious how widespread this was and whether it was just a one off or if Google had started including links to Facebook reviews on a widespread basis. A number of folks noted to me that they had seen Facebook.com links on their reviews from around the web .
ReviewUsonFacebook
This search at Google (site:plus.google.com “verified local business” AND “facebook.com” AND “Reviews From Around the Web”) indicates that Google has indexed a large number of Facebook review pages and is including them on the business’ G+ Page for Local.

Facebook has snuck up on us in the local review space over the past 12 months to become a significant player. Facebook rolled out reviews across all of their business pages last November but earlier this year limited reviews to just pages that were for local businesses.

My research clearly indicates that Facebook has become a strong contender as a favorite amongst users as a place to leave local reviews.Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 8.37.24 AM Continue reading

Last Week in Google Local

Several interesting and developments last week from Google in the Local space.

Google declares the end of Panoramio and the rise of Google Views: With the release of Google Views, the new Map integrated photo application, Google has declared that they will wind down Panoramio as they wind up Views.

panoramio1Of course there is an uproar in the Panoramio community and the founders have created a petition to stop the closing. Not only will the many comments from Panoramio be lost but the strong community there will be as well. Google has never been very good at keeping these niche communities alive when they integrate the functionality directly into their mainstream products. I wish the founders the best of luck in their petition drive but if history tells us anything its that the axe is a common tool in Google’s tool box. They have nothing on the Game of Thrones.

Google Tests Call Reporting in Local: A feature that has long been requested and one for which Google has long had the data, it was noted last week by Owen Kane that Google was showing Call data in the Google My Business dashboard last week.

Apparently the feature is not yet finalized as Google noted: Nice catch! We’re constantly testing out new features for Google My Business. This one hasn’t officially launched yet, but we’ll share new feature updates when they become more permanently available in the dashboard. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 9.59.04 AMThis is a feature that was longed for as far back as 2007 and one that Google even tested in the 2009 timeframe. I suppose better late than never.

“Edit Details” Feature Gone? No More Mini-MapMaker?: Colan Nielson of Imprezzion Marketing has noted on Linda’s forum that the “Edit Details” link now directs users over to the much more limited Google Maps report a problem feature rather than to the MapMaker interface that has been in use since February, 2013.

The change means that the edits are going directly to Google for editing and are no longer going to be handled within the MapMaker community. This is one in a long line of  recent “demotions” to the volunteer editors at MapMaker. And a return of the the black hole where there is no public accountability of the edits. Can Google really respond to each report? Seems unlikely.  “Pissing in the ocean” is the  maxim that comes to mind.

Facebook now showing in the Google “Reviews From Around the Web”: Google is obviously scraping and now showing on the G+Page and the Knowledge Panel, links to reviews from Facebook Local Pages. If you had any doubt about whether you should use Facebook in your review strategy, you should doubt no longer. More tomorrow. Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 8.37.24 AM

 

Google Answer Box: Call 650-253-0000 For Support

When Dan Leibson showed me this Google Answer Box I thought either that the Google Answer Box had a wicked sense of humor or maybe, just maybe, it knew something that I didn’t.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 7.51.26 AM

Given the recent court decision in Germany ordering Google to “stop ignoring customer emails and start offering a way to communicate with the company” I thought that perhaps they had implemented some form of systematic phone support. Given that Google had in fact implemented real support in Local was just possible across all of their product lines? Hope springs eternal when you are an optimist.

I decided I had better call and see. And after having to listen to the number for Adwords 3 times and getting to the end of the menu I thought- dam they did just say press 5 for support? So I did.

Spoiler: it was, for the most part,  a bait and switch.

As you can guess the Answer Box “don’t know nuttin”.

PS Whatever you do, DON’T dial zero thinking that you will get a human. The phone system has an even more wicked sense of humor than the search results.

Why I Bought at Walmart and What Does It Say About the Future of Retail

walmart-logo-wallpapers-a-e-ibackgroundz.comI wanted a bike rack for my Honda Fit. I was going on vacation and wanted to bring our bikes. I also, having worked many years in a family owned business, wanted to buy it locally. Sometimes it just isn’t possible. Here’s my story of how I ended up shopping at WalMart despite my very best intentions.

On the Friday, three weeks before heading out to Chautuaqua Institute ( a gem of a place by the way) I called Just Ride Along (aka Pete’s Bike Shop). Seemed like plenty of time. It is the nearest serious bike store and it is located in the next town over about 15 miles away. It is a locally owned shop that carries high quality biking equipment and provides full service. I wanted to buy just once, not have to install it myself and wanted something that was well made so Pete’s seemed like the right place. He is the only “real” bike shop for many miles.

I called, he had some Thules in stock. We discussed the issues and I learned that I needed to identify whether my hitch (which I also needed installed) was a 1.25 or 2″ ball. He had both size racks in stock so I just needed (or so I thought) to get the hitch installed. He said that he wouldn’t need to set one aside as he had plenty of them.

The following Monday I called Dixie Auto, a local garage that specialized in hitches and trailer. I had to leave a message for Fred. He managed to call me back on the following Wednesday and told me the hitch would be in 5 days and he could install it then. I thought, a little annoying that it took 2 days to call me back but no worries. It would make it in by Tuesday which would leave me plenty of time to get over to Bradford and pick up the rack  and have it installed before my Sunday departure.

Well it didn’t come in until Wednesday and I couldn’t get down there until Thursday to get the hitch on. Still no worries as I figured I could head over to Pete’s on Saturday. Which I did.

Only to find a hand written sign taped to Pete’s door noting that he was on vacation and he would be back in a week. Now I recognize that Pete chose a lifestyle not slavery but his closing his doors from January to March always seemed to fill that bill in my mind. What was a bike store doing closing during August?

Stranded, not sure what to do I discovered the nearest Thules were at least 50 miles away. Hmm.. frustrated I ran over to Walmart in Bradford and they had a Bell hitch mounted rack, with the right diameter in stock. $100 less. But I had to do the assembly myself. For me living better isn’t about saving money its about saving the frustration of self assembly and getting a durable product that will last forever.

OK. What choice did I have as I was leaving the next day? I can do it, I told myself. I took the sucker home despite Walmart being my absolute last choice of purchase location and started the assembly. No written instructions, pictures only and after I had made 5 mistakes on a 4 instruction process I managed to get it installed.

While I was sitting there assembling the rack, the lawn mower repair company (A1 Rental – who names their company A1 any more) that had taken 2 months to pick up my lawn mower and another one to fix it, delivered the repaired mower. Seemed ironic as I was cursing Pete. That is a story for another day but pick up and delivery is part of the reason that I use them. They just can’t seem to remember that I called (and called and called and called) and asked for a pick up….

Lawn mower in the garage and the bike rack on the car I decided to reward myself for a job well done and head down to the locally owned cupcake shop for some coffee. Upon arrival the sign on the door said: Closed. On vacation.

So why did I buy from WalMart when that was the last thing I wanted to do? Because they do what they do very well. So well that any local business has trouble competing.

They are open 24 hours (and they don’t go on vacation). They have great logistics and inventory control. Even though this Walmart is out in the weeds, they had the one thing I needed. They agreed to take it back if I couldn’t assemble it. In fact they agreed to take it back at the Walmart closer to my house. They were there when I needed the product and they were able to deliver it with reasonable return options.

If I had known the difficulties I would have run into I would have ordered the product from the other company that has their logistic and process act together (and better quality stuff), Amazon.

I used to run a local, family business. I know how hard it is. I don’t fault these local business folks for their vacations or their lack of rigor in their processes. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay ahead of the inventory, scheduling and logistic advantages that the WalMart & Amazons of the world enjoy. Despite my best effort to buy from a local shop, it will happen less and less.

Olean, with its 15,000 people, once was a retail mecca. Starting around the turn of the new century and perhaps before most of the old, post WW II retailers had retired, many businesses were shutting down from the pressures of WalMart and the big box stores and it got harder and harder to find a good local retail store.

The day of the small rural local retailer has passed. But I think that the issues that I confronted in my purchase are now affecting every retailer, everywhere. What was a rural phenomenon, the closing of retail shops is now going on in urban areas as well.

The urban bookstore was the first to go. But others are leaving as well. The day of the large retailer, the likes of Staples, Sears, KMart and Best Buy seem to be coming to an end. What has already happened in Olean will continue to work its way out in every city as retailers fail.

The advantages of scale, logistics, preferential vendor t & c’s, sale per employee etc that WalMart and Amazon have accrued due to their size will continue the consolidation. Retail businesses small and large will become fewer as the movement and sale of products is consolidated into the hands of a few that are truly expert at the processes needed to get products into the hands of consumers and take them back if they don’t work.

I suppose there could always be high end bike shops and local repair shops down the road but as the likes of Amazon & WalMart move into new market places even those will be threatened. And move into new markets they must. Every product in every category is a target for them and once they are done with that they will target the services. Consolidation has taken longer in the physical world than it took in the online world.

But it seems to be on its way.

Hyperlapse – A New Tool in Your Local Content Toolbox

We live in amazing times. And there is nothing more amazing to me than a technical breakthrough like Hyperlapse, the time lapse iPhone app from the Instagram folks. The app does two things – it provides sophisticated image stabilization even when hand held and it allows you to choose the speed to the time lapse – and it does them incredibly well.

I saw this article  8 Do’s and Don’ts for Brands Exploring Instagram’s Hyperlapse (h/t to @Simpartners) and I wondered exactly how hard it would be create some local content using the app and iMovie.

The answer? Not hard. I am blessed by living in beautiful country and today was more beautiful than most. I decided to hyperlapse the bike ride that I take to work ever day.

This 3 minute video took about 20 minutes to film and another 20 to assemble into a final product. I hand held it while riding my bike (and I am sure that Matt McGee will chastise me for that).

My conclusion? Hyperlapse, when combined with some music and iMovie, is a great way to create some very sharable local content.

The end of the local marathon, the local fair, perhaps a day at the car races or the highlights of the highschool game. There are a lot of local topics that would lend themselves to this treatment. If you use it for that, please let me know.

Some production suggestions:

1-The app does a great job of auto exposure in both low and highlight situations but it doesn’t auto adjust if you change lighting. So either keep your lighting consistent or remember to touch the area of the screen that you want properly exposed. Obviously while riding a bike I was unable to do that.

2-Since you are speeding things up, you need to hold scene endings and transition shots longer than you normally would.

3-The app doesn’t do audio so you need  plan to create something interesting to go along with

PS the soundtrack is by Enchanted Mountain Green, a blue grass band that my brother played in in the 70’s and 80s.

 

LocalU Bootcamp at SMX – Sept 29th in New York

On September 29th, we’re rolling out a new classroom-style training event in conjunction with SMX East – Local U Boot Camp in New York City.

REGISTER WITH CODE WS-LUA10 FOR A 10% DISCOUNT

LocalU Bootcamp is the only workshop of its kind and provides the knowledge, processes and tools needed to help your business and the businesses of your clients prosper in Local Search. If you’re looking to develop a career in Local SEO or want to refine your current processes, this is the workshop for you. It’s also a great way to train new staff or cross-train existing staff in local search in one day. 

See full LocalU Bootcamp Agenda here.

You’ll enjoy a small group setting, concise presentations, plenty of Q & A time, complete access to the presenters, topic roundtables and the opportunity to speak directly with some of Google’s local team.

Join David Mihm, Mary Bowling, Will Scott, Mike Ramsey, Joel Headley and Ben Pavious and Abhishek Poddar of Google for this full day of learning.

If you’ve attended a Local University event in the past, you already know how valuable the knowledge you gain and contacts you’ll make at an event like this can be! 

We’re capping attendance, so register soon to avoid disappointment. 

 

Google Dropping Review Shadow Box in Serp and Going Directly to Plus?

Yesterday while doing training I noticed that Google was dropping the review shadow box from the main search results and taking users directly to the business Plus page.  Today others are noticing this as well. Nicolai Helling pointed the new behavior out on G+.

As Nicolai mentioned and I agree this change “seems to be preparatory to release a new way to insert the Google+ Local results into the main Google-SERPs” that I wrote about early in the week with the total absence of review links in the new mini pack results. 

Currently the review shadow box STILL shows for brand searches on both the link under the One Pack and in the Knowledge panel.  But on Pack results users are directed to the Plus About page. On the current Carousel a click takes the searcher to a brand search.

While it is possible that the 7-pack will survive the carousel transition to newly seen Mini Pack, all of this behavior would be consistent with changing all local results to the new mini pack as well.

Brand Search still directs to the Review Shadow Box
Brand Search & resultant knowledge panel still directs to the Review Shadow Box
click to view larger
click to view larger

 

Developing Knowledge about Local Search