Archive for the ‘Local SEO’ Category

Articles about Local Search Engine Optimization – Local SEO involves methods and elements for ranking in local search results such as within Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, Bing Maps, as well as within some Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites.

Google Local Is Now A Train Wreck

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Mike Blumenthal posted earlier this week that Google Local is now a veritable train wreck, and I don’t think his statement is hyperbole.

Google Plus Local Page Business Problems

For some time now, Google Local (originally just referred to as “Google Maps”, then called “Google Local”, then called “Google Places”) has had some problems in how it handles how local businesses can manage their own data. All local data providers struggle with the process of how to verify whether someone has the right to change a business’s information — and Google’s phone call / post card verification process is no exception. So, it’s had that problem from the beginning, although it doesn’t seem to’ve gotten any smoother in the meantime.

Then there’s the changing nomenclature — they just don’t keep consistently using the same brandnames and terminology to refer to the data display, versus the interfaces that businesses use to manage their own data. Google Local Business Center became Google Places — where you could login to manage your Google Place Pages (your business profile pages that would appear in Google).

Now, along comes Google+ (aka “Google Plus”). Which has personal profiles for people to use in interacting socially, and then they allowed companies to set up profile pages for businesses — “Brand Pages”. Then the real sh*t hit the fan when they then smashed Google Places into Google Plus, and started referring to THOSE as “Google Plus Local” or “Google+ Local” pages.

But, what of those companies that had set up “Brand Pages” already?!?  The advent of Google+ Local pages essentially (more…)

Google+ Local Pages Delurk At Last

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Well, just as previously rumored and predicted by many of us, Google+ has finally incorporated special treatment pages for local businesses.

Check out Google’s main page about the service. Google’s VP of Product Management, Marissa Mayer, helped promote the new features by going on CBS This Morning, where they referred to it as “a location-based social media search engine available on desktops and mobile devices”, which sounds borderline hyped, if accurate.

Here’s the video:

One interesting element which we couldn’t foresee was how Google would launch this with such a heavy tie-in with ratings from Zagats which they bought not long ago. As the official Google Blog post relates, one of the main aspects of the tie-in with Google Plus is how they’re intending this to push more “recommendations and reviews from people you know and trust”. (more…)

Google Maps Hates Small Businesses By Launching Local Folksonomy Descriptive Terms

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Google has just announced that they’ve launched “Descriptive Terms” to appear with business listings in map search results. According to them, these descriptive terms are some of the most common terms found in user reviews, blogs, web pages and other online references which describe the business. For instance, if you search for “Barbeque Restaurants”, you might see a business which lists such items as “banana pudding”, “pork chops”, “texas style”, “baked potato” and “chicken poppers”:

BBQ Restaurant Descriptive Terms

So, the cool part of this idea is that the feature will highlight user-generated terms which are frequently used in reference to the business. This is a type of an ontology formed by the vox populi, or common man. More properly, these Descriptive Terms begin forming what’s known as a “folksonomy“, which started coming into vogue with social media, particularly around the concept of tag clouds.

(It’s very slightly ironic that Google Maps has now deployed what are essentially small tag clouds with business listings, since I’ve heard some Google Engineers mildly disparage tag clouds as being potentially un-userfriendly and potentially bad on sites in some cases!)

But, the really UNCOOL part of the new Descriptive Terms is that Google appears to’ve launched these willy-nilly without properly safeguarding against sensitive/bad terms that they can end up highlighting.

With very minor testing, I can see numerous instances where the terms selected by the algorithm are inappropriate and unfairly damaging to the businesses. (more…)

Locksmith Spam Listing Issue

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I recently wrote a piece about how to bite back at local scam businesses over at Natural Search Blog, but one of the more difficult variety of scams are the faux local business listings that Google Places fights. And, ever since people first began scamming listing rankings in print yellow pages, the worst sector affected is that of Locksmiths.

Quite a number of locksmith listings are for business locations which do not exist or do not have locksmiths’ offices there. Some listings are blatent — they are locations where there are no businesses at all — while others are more subtle, being shopping centers or office buildings which have no locksmith shops in them.

Why do the scammers do this? Well, they figured out that in order to have placement in local search results, (more…)

City Centroids Replaced By Outlines In Google Places

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I’ve often mentioned how Google Maps/Places has used distance from city centroids as a major ranking factor. Indeed, Google still mentions how distance is a local ranking factor (most recently they stated this in a LatLong blog post on how local search ranking works).

However, there is some compelling evidence to show that they’ve become more sophisticated than they were earlier after Google Maps was born. I believe they’re increasingly using city and ZIP code region outlines when determining the local relevancy for businesses.

First of all, Google’s introduction of Service Areas this past year demonstrates very obviously that they’re incorporating city and ZIP region outlines with local business data. In addition to being able to specify the more traditional radius from a centroid, the tools within Google Places allow you to specify specific cities and ZIP codes as service areas, and their map indicates a rough polygon outline of selected regions. David Mihm first pointed this out to me last year, and you can see it for this example of a business which offers service to the Fort Worth area:

Google Places Service Area Polygon Outline

You can also get a business’s service area to show up outside of the Google Places administrative interfaces, in the Map interface itself, by clicking on “Show service area”: (more…)

Trust Seals May Be Super Local Ranking Factors

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Over on SEM Clubhouse this morning I posted an article about how online trust seals could increase conversions for local businesses. That proposition is not all that controversial, when you connect the dots. Lots of research finds support for the idea that trust seals increase consumer confidence for online retailers — and online retailers need this, since there’s often mistrust of the safety of making online purchases.

However, confidence is also needed in order to translate online traffic into offline customers. For local businesses, this is key. It is hard in some industries to tell if the online presence represents a real, actual business. As I touched upon in an article earlier this month, there are quite a few false business addresses cropping up in Google Places and elsewhere, and these undermine consumer confidence.

So, the logic seems fairly solid to believe that if you can increase consumer confidence in a website, by extension they may have a higher initial trust in the business itself. For businesses relying upon people visiting their premise, this could be key to improving referral rates from online sources.

Of course, the value proposition just may not be there. Many website certifications and trust seals may be costlier than their worth to offline businesses. This is why I suggested some lesser alternatives, such as making local chambers-of-commerce badges.

SuperGuarantee badgeThe issue of trust is very key to getting a consumer to choose your business. This is why some local business marketing companies have created trust badges and guarantee programs. For instance, the SuperGuarantee program is one such, and for a while was considered to be a primary strategy for that internet yellow pages company, which has otherwise struggled with survival as consumers turn from print media to online resources such as Google Maps.

The SuperGuarantee program was a fairly good idea. The concept of leveraging a trust mark and guarantee program is an overall good idea for internet yellow pages (even if the program was obviously very derivative and immitative of similar services offered by other companies, such as the ServiceMagic Guarantee, and even if it never quite lived up to being the “savior of yellow pages” it was virtually touted to being).

From a business’s perspective, it might be a good proposition, if you count it as mainly an advertising/promotional cost. Statistics indicate that very few consumers actually avail themselves of money-back guarantees in most cases. The question of whether the SuperGuarantee ever actually has achieved sufficient consumer recognition to be valuable to businesses is still up in the air. I’m not sure they have done enough promotion of the badge and service to reach critical mass with consumers.

However, I’d say that even with services that have lower overall consumer familiarity, merely having an independent service providing you with an endorsement could give you a leg up above similar competition which does not have any endorsement.

There are quite a number of industry-specific and product-specific rating services which might be valuable to display on your website. For instance, among attorneys the Super Lawyers rating might well be worth gold. Super Lawyers magazine names attorneys across the United States who receive highest point totals, as selected by their attorney peers and through independent research they conduct. The Rising Stars names each state’s top up-and-coming attorneys.

Super Lawyers - trust seal badge

While the Super Lawyers guidelines won’t allow recipients to directly call themselves “Super Lawyers”, having the association with the Super Lawyers designation likely makes an immediate impression upon consumers. If you’re protecting your business or getting representation for an upcoming divorce, don’t you want to avail yourself of the cream-of-the-crop? Having such a badge would provide an immediate differentiator.

I first became aware of Super Lawyers a number of years ago, when I saw a special section for them in my Texas Monthly magazine.

The more controversial idea I floated in my article on trust seals is whether Google may be using or planning to use the presence of trust seals on websites as a ranking factor. I don’t have any stats as of yet which indicate for certain whether Google or other search engines could be using the trust badges for ranking.

However, I think they could easily factor in, because I think that Google is increasingly using some indicators such as the click-paths of users in determining whether webpages are relevant to search queries. Some metrics such as “Bounce Rate” may be factoring-in, and badges which are linked to related information pages on the certification service sites might well provide Google with indication that consumers are finding the presence of that info quite valuable on your website.

Local Search Technology “Patent Troll” Expands Lawsuits To Target Hundreds Of Retailers

Friday, January 7th, 2011

A recent post by a member on WebmasterWorld alerted me that GeoTag is widening their local search technology lawsuits to include many more companies. WebmasterWorld sharply limits forum members from mentioning particular links, but I think the member was referring to this GeoTag Inc. v. Royal Purple Inc. et al patent suit.


The WebmasterWorld forum member refers to GeoTag as a “patent troll“, which I think may be deserved. He mentions that this company went after Superpages, YellowBot, Yelp,,, and many other IYPs in the past. I was aware of some of this where it concerned Superpages, but I will not comment upon that.

There has been some supposition that GeoTag might be going after relatively small targets before eventually working up to go against a major target such as Google. It’s my opinion that a number of these companies have likely settled in order to remove a nuisance or to avoid risk of an outright loss in court.

It’s also my opinion that a larger target such as a Google Maps or Bing Maps might eventually stand up to them if they were to go after them, and force a legal decision which could void out their ability to enforce this sort of claim any further. I think it may be that their claim might not have merit when considering the full scope of related prior art — although I’m certainly not an attorney. (more…)

Sea Change: Google’s New Place Search Introduces New Disruption

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

So, today Google began launching their new “Place Search” feature, as reported by Greg Sterling. For those of us keeping a finger on the pulse of local search marketing, the change was not a huge surprise, since we’ve been watching the testing for quite a while and could predict in advance that it might impact some online directories and small-to-medium businesses negatively.

Place Search is Google’s name for the new interface and layout of local search listings within their regular keyword search results page. If you haven’t seen this yet, here’s a screengrab for “florists, los angeles, ca”:

Google Place Search - new local search layout

As you can see, the change involves the map moving into the right sidebar. The top local business listings which accompany the map are no longer to the right of the map, but are now integrated into the search results page and occupy roughly the same amount of room as the other listings. Those business listings which coordinate with the map have a lettered pink pushpin icon and some have thumbnail icons which come from their Place Page information. The big impact of the change is that these listings are now (more…)

Phone Call Tracking Companies: Your Product Is Poison!

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

It was obvious to me as I covered the BIA/Kelsey DMS 2010 Conference this September that phone call tracking is getting even more buzz now than it was getting four years ago. If you’re unfamiliar with what this is, it’s simple: for ads that appear in different places (such as in phone books, online directories and even search engines, companies will use different phone numbers in order to understand which ads resulted in phone calls in order to assess how effective their advertising campaigns are. To differentiate, your phone number used in your yellow pages book has to be different from what appears in Citysearch or Superpages or wherever. It sounds great, but what most call tracking companies don’t realize is that those of us who are more versed in online marketing will nearly vehemenently recommend against the practice!

In search engine optimization terms, using multiple different phone numbers around the net is much like using all different URLs for the same webpage, without having the URLs redirect properly. This results in a higher likelihood of diluting your ranking factors instead of focusing them, and could make one’s webpage rank poorly in search results. (For more details, see David Mihm’s writeup, “Be Wary Of Call Tracking Numbers In Local Search“.)

Today, Mike Blumenthal proposes another possible solution to the phone call tracking number dilemma in a post about using a new hCard protocol to clearly alert bots about the type of phone number. As Mike mentions, I’d also proposed a similar possibility which I’d called a “Canonical Phone Number Tag” which also was based on hCard Microformat.

Canonical Phone Tag for SEO and Phone Call Tracking Numbers

There are quite a few companies which do call tracking. They include: Marchex, Mongoose Metrics, TeleCapture, CallSource, AT&T Interactive, AdLocality, and probably quite a few more I’m missing.

Let me be clear — all of us local search marketers like improved analytics such as what call tracking provides! However, there’s a very big disconnect between the analytics and the SEO involved. If I have to choose between improving a business’s performance versus getting more detailed analytics of ads, I’m going to choose performance first.

All of us would like to see this clearly resolved in some way. One option would be to generate some new semantic protocol such as via Microformats. Another might be if each and every call-tracking company published mappings of primary business numbers matched to their tracking numbers, and allowed most bots to harvest this info.

Speaking at MIMA Summit 2010

Monday, September 13th, 2010

MIMA SummitI’m looking forward to speaking at the MIMA Summit later this month.

I’ll be speaking on Local & Blended Search Optimization.

“Blended Search” describes how search engines have evolved search results pages to include content from other “vertical search” results such as including images from image search, videos from video search, and news from news search.

Blended Search results can include images, video, news, blog links, maps and map content, shopping products and more.

Google’s product name for Blended Search is “Universal Search”.

Of particular interest to locally-based businesses and companies with brick-and-mortar locations are the subjects of Local Search, including info on how to rank well for searches in Google Maps and Bing Maps.

I’ll be covering key ranking criteria and ranking factors for achieving rankings for your content under Blended/Universal Search, as well as in Local Search.

While achieving rankings for content in Blended Search may sound somewhat esoteric or specialized, contemporary SEO typically requires increased attention to ranking within the various search verticals in order to augment the more pedestrian keyword search results.