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Google’s About To Close Your Local Doorway Pages

March 16th, 2015

Please Do Not Slam The Door

Today Google published “An update on doorway pages”. The post implies that Google will soon be updating its algorithm to weed out offending doorway pages from the SERPs:

Sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.

While sites with spammy set ups such as multiple exact match domains that link to the same landing page are likely the targets (get ready for more Lawyer leads SEOs!), Google’s well-intended algorithm updates often go too far so brace yourselves for collateral damage, even if you think you have a good set up. Some potential issues:

  • Local directory sites with geo-SERPs that have the same content. For example, when one gas station serves two rural towns a site will have two pages – Gas Stations in City A & Gas Stations in City B – that have substantially the same content and lead to the same gas station profile. If these get hit, these sites will likely have to choose to only display results that are actually in the searched geo, which could have huge implications as to how data is displayed across the entire site.
  • Service area pages that don’t have unique content. We have long seen issues with sites that use cookie cutter text to create multiple service area pages. While plenty of sites still get by with it, I imagine this algorithm could finally snuff out this tactic. Get your content writers ready.
  • Franchise businesses – they have all of these issues in spades – particularly those who have microsites for every location. While cookie-cutter implementations make sense to easily create a lot of local sites, it’s possible Google will throw these local babies out with the bathwater.

I don’t want to be too alarmist. This update may be no big deal, but when I see Google use the phrase “broad impact”, I tend to get a bit paranoid.

And then there’s this:

For example, searchers might get a list of results that all go to the same site. So if a user clicks on one result, doesn’t like it, and then tries the next result in the search results page and is taken to that same site that they didn’t like, that’s a really frustrating experience.

Might be a good time to short Yelp:

Pleasanton Nail Salons Yelp

→ 13 CommentsTags: Google
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Stop Ignoring Bing Webmaster Tools

March 6th, 2015

At the beginning of every new engagement we ask clients for access to their Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Adwords data, Bing Webmaster Tools and any other analytics they have. 95% of the time, the client does not have Bing Webmaster Tools set up and 50% of the time they don’t want to go through the (very minor) hassle of setting it up. Most clients are pretty focused on Google of course, but in some cases Bing can still drive significant traffic. And ignoring Bing because it’s not Google can be a big mistake. Case in point:

On January 15th of this year a large news site client’s Bing referrals dropped by about 150,000 – 200,000 sessions/day. So they were losing about 6 million visits per month. That’s not chump change. We did all of the standard technical SEO diagnoses and the site was clean. Google traffic looked fine. So we were pretty sure the problem was not on our end. The only thing I could do was email Bing’s webmaster support which I fully expected to be a black hole. I got a canned “thanks for the submission” response and pretty much forgot about it. But you’ll be amazed at what happened next!:

Bing Webmaster Tools Support Works

click to enlarge

I ran into Duane Forrester, Bing’s Webmaster relations guy, at SMX West this week and asked him what the standard procedure was for sites that get whacked by Bing. He claimed that the Bing Webmaster Tools team takes these support inquiries seriously and the key is to be credible and patient. He stressed that you should not have multiple people submitting support tickets for the same site and described this partly as a resource issue – as in they can only spend so much time on any one site/ticket – and partly as a credibility issue – you should be confident that you have ruled out issues on your side and having ten people pile on complaints to Bing support isn’t going to make them move any faster. Of course the flip side is that asking site owners to be patient while Bing keeps you in the dark and figures out if they screwed something up is a pretty big ask. But there aren’t many other options.

The good news for this particular client is that it appears that the issue was on Bing’s side and they responded to our request. So set up your Bing Webmaster Tools. You’ll never know when you’ll need it.

 

→ 5 CommentsTags: Bing
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Dude, Where’s My Primary Category?!

February 26th, 2015

Google recently rolled out their “primary category” requirement to Google My Business Locations bulk accounts. Instead of associating the first category per location in a bulk account as the “primary category”, the roll out is instead selecting nothing as a primary category for all locations in a bulk account.

Primary Category is Blank

 

This means that if you want to receive the benefit of having an associated “primary category” you need to go into your bulk accounts and chose the primary category for all locations.  Since Google has been placing more importance on categories in their recent Google My Business guidelines updates, these may be a non-trivial ranking factor. So those of you with large, multi-location clients now know what you are doing for the rest of the day.

→ No CommentsTags: Google My Business
Posted by Dan Leibson

Google Now Outsourcing Local Packs to India

February 5th, 2015

We have been seeing a lot of mismatched locations in the local packs lately but this one takes the cake, er curry…:

(Click to enlarge)

Google Local India

 

You know you can’t beat Nayana Eye Care in Pradesh. They’re “recognized by the Food Corporation of India” and have “world-class sterility.”

→ 8 CommentsTags: Google Maps · Google Place Pages · Google+ Local
Posted by Andrew Shotland

90′s Redux – Google’s Fanny Pack Continues to Expand

January 26th, 2015

One of the benefits of working with local clients, both large and small, is that we see a lot stuff. Recently we have been conducting a rank tracking project for a large national brand with 1,300+ locations. This has has given us some interesting insights into the move from the local carousel to the local fanny pack. Most often SERP changes, either algorithmic or feature-based, get analyzed at the SMB level. This makes these changes seem monolithic and pervasive as you are just looking at several tiny slices of the picture.

Soon All Local Packs Will Looks Like This

Do you smell what Google is cookin’?

When we started off this project in December, a good amount of this client’s local results were still returning traditional packs even though they are in the prototypical carousel vertical (restaurant):

December 15, 2014
3 Pack Exists – Total: 13,718
Local Pack Position – Total: 6,738
Total 20,456

 

Before we get into how this was different in January, you should know that we are tracking all of the relevant keywords. We are tracking keywords that are also Google My Business categories, adding the city and tracking it at the ZIP code level.

Whatchoo talkin' about Dan?

An example of this would look like “Vegan Restaurant Costa Mesa” and would be tracked by passing zip code 92627 in as the location of the searcher (thanks Authority Labs!). Spoiler Alert – the client is not Native Foods :-)

Okay, back to what we found. Here is the punch line, Google is still continuing to roll out the fanny pack even within verticals. This becomes pretty clear when you look at the January data:

January 14, 2015
3 Pack Exists – Total: 24,814
Local Pack Position -Total: 3229
Total 28,043

 

WOW, more 3-packs! This is evident because, duh, the amount of non-fanny pack results showing up has been cut in half.  Here is a visualization to make it a little more clear:

Google Local Packs Across The Country

There are a few takeaways from this:

1) This provides more support to Linda Buquet’s theory that local results are different across different data centers.
It also seems like the roll-out across data centers is pretty slow.

2) Google may not be going all-in on the fanny pack.
If you combine the slow rollout with all the different local result displays Google has been testing then it looks like fanny pack may not be here to stay for very long.

3) Multi-location national brands should be bucketing their local search data, both regionally and by market size.
This lets you better understand the competitive landscape that your brand is playing in so you can develop specific tactics and stratagies to win rather then relying on “best practices”.

4) Invest more in local organic search.
With all the flux in local, and the fragmentation of local search results, it is probably a good call to reinvest some of that local search budget into a better local organic strategy. Even if Google does go all-in on the fanny pack, you would still want to invest more in local organic because there will be net-fewer local pack results available to show up in.

→ 1 CommentTags: Google My Business
Posted by Dan Leibson