Understanding Google My Business & Local Search
Loci 2011- Nyagoslav Zhekov
Nyagoslav is a recent graduate from University of Economics in Varna, Bulgaria. After a summer internship at Label Bank, Osaka as an in-house online marketing executive he co-founded NGS Marketing, a local search marketing company, in 2011. He has written extensively on local search marketing at his company’s blog and recently became a TC in the Google Places forums. He is intimately familiar with Google Places and has international experience working in Local.
Here is his take on trends and articles from 2011 that influenced his thinking:
My daily job is closely related to local organic search. This, in addition to my natural inclination for having a thorough, core understanding of what I find interesting, results in my choice of Google’s “Scoring Local Search Results Based on Location Prominence” patent as my top information source for last year. I recommend Andrew Shotland’s reading of the patent as a great resource to help make sense of it.
On the practical side of the “local search” challenge, undoubtedly, the number 1 reference is the Local Search Ranking Factors by David Mihm. Although it’s the most widely recognized and thorough survey, it is inevitable that there would be some differences in the relative level of importance of different factors in the real world. Here are my thoughts on the survey. Chris Smith, in another interesting post, using Google’s local search trinity – prominence + relevance + distance, also outlined what he thought were the most important ranking factors by category.
There were some exciting announcements in the Places product arena in 2011 that included (in order of importance): the official roll-out of Google+ Business Pages, Hotpot becoming part of Google Places, the continuous push of Google into the reviews space with local communities (in Austin, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, London, Sydney), the Zagat’s acquisition and the launch of Google Offers. All these can also tell us a lot about what we can expect in the future (Andrew’s thoughts in the last link do not fully overlap with mine, which I should write an article about).
Expanding beyond the USA, where Google had certain problems, but was largely unable to handle spam even after the US launch of Map Maker for the local country Maps, I was interested to see them extend their frontiers internationally. The giant expanded their paid SMB-tailored ads – Express, to new countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Holland, Spain, and Japan. Map Maker was opened for Canada and a few other countries, thus making the overall number of territories available for mapping 188. Unfortunately, it is still not available in my home country Bulgaria, and minor glitches like erroneous spelling of the country name took about a month to get fixed. That is why I think decisions such as the one to use official data instead of the one of Tele Atlas (at least until Map Maker gets opened in these countries) are good. It was also shocking to see that businesses in a whole country – South Africa – where Google Places should be available, are unable to create listings. Unfortunately Google does not seem to be in a hurry to fix the problem. If only Bulgarians and South Africans had the New York Times!
Last, but not least, I’d like to share a couple of articles that are great examples of how thinking outside the box might bring unexpected positives. First, is Mike Blumenthal “closing” Google’s headquarters and second, Gav Heppinstall’s “cracking” the not-too-well-thought-over distance factor in local search.
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