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Connectivity.com Takes a Shot at Local CRM

April 24th, 2014

Connectivity.com Logo

Whenever I run into the guys from Yellowbot (aka Solfo) at a local search conference, the exchange is typically something like “hard to believe we are at another one of these things…”.

In other words, ErronEmad and the gang have been at the Local game a long time.  I was surprised when Matt Booth jumped the BIA Kelsey ship to join as their CEO. While I had always thought that the Yellowbot team had done some quite interesting stuff with reputation monitoring, their services had always seemed to me to be just another local digital marketing thingamabob.

Today, they announced that they raised a bunch of $, have rebranded as Connectivity.com and now according to Matt Booth:

“We are building a CRM / messaging tool that comes with pre-populated customers for every location in North America. The data is auto populated from any unique handle mobile number, check-in, email. We can do this because the company has assembled a very robust data that includes typical reputation monitoring data but also what consumers touch each business on every location in North America. 
 
Down the road, we will allow business to add transaction data to the tool like a POS.
 
Having all of this allows you to do all sorts of interesting things like: (1) We have not seen you in 30 days. (2) Profile best customers (3) Create look-a-like lists to get new customers (4) Loyalty….
 
And on and on….”

Now that sounds like a pretty cool local digital marketing thingamabob. Local CRM functionality is one of the biggest opportunities in Local IMO. Should be interesting to watch it play out.

Check them out at Connectivity.com 

→ No CommentsTags: BIA/Kelsey · Yellowbot
Posted by Andrew Shotland

The Pleasanton Drought

April 19th, 2014

California Drought Map
Source: Why California’s Drought Isn’t Going Anywhere

I am posting this page as a resource for Pleasanton residents seeking both information on the how the drought is affecting the area and resources for how we can all help the situation.

On April 18th, the San Jose Mercury News quoted Daniel Smith, Pleasanton’s Operation Services Director, saying that the outlook for the drought is “very grim”. The key points of the article:

  • Pleasanton gets 80 percent of its water from the state water project and 20 percent from groundwater. Right now, the state has said the city will get a mere 2 percent of its water allotment. There’s a chance the allotment could drop to zero.
  • Residents have been asked to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent, but usage has actually increased 14 percent in recent months.

The city has water-saving tips and related programs listed here. I recommend adopting as many of their tips as possible, but in my view, these tips are half-measures that are part of the problem. City officials have been slow to react to the water situation, most likely out of political caution and/or operational realities. While we must rely on them to put infrastructure and policies in place to improve the situation, I believe that we all must as individual citizens start taking greater responsibility for our contributions to this problem. We must change the way we both think of and use water. Some ideas on what you can do now:

  • Stop watering your lawns immediately
    We are in a water crisis and people are still soaking their yards daily. Having a grass lawn in this climate makes no sense. If you do not want to convert to a non-grass lawn, then just let yours die over the summer. We have done this before and it always grows back in the fall. Besides the water, think of all the money you’ll save in lawn maintenance. As a bonus, Pleasanton offers residents cash rebates – up to $1/sf – to kill their lawns.
  • Stop washing your cars
    Having a sparkling clean car is a luxury that we can ill afford at this time
  • Stop taking so many showers
    Shorter showers are a great start, but how many times a week do you really need to clean yourself so thoroughly? I don’t mind telling you that I am down to once a week and perhaps I stink a bit, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. And I really love long hot showers.
  • Demand that the city stop watering non-essential public landscaping
    And at the moment I can’t think of any public landscaping that is “essential”. When our family moved to Pleasanton eight years ago, we were attracted by the beautiful parks and public landscaping. But Pleasanton’s climate feels more like a desert most of the year and the resources required to keep Pleasanton green year-round are at odds with reality. We live next to Kottinger Park which was developed with a large lawn area which rarely has any activity on it. It’s beautiful, but totally unnecessary and uses a lot of water. Why the city is still watering this park, or any other at this moment is the question. As a kid I spent a lot of time playing sports on dirt fields. It wasn’t a big deal then. It’s not a big deal now. Our huge investment in green public parks is a sunk cost that needs to be written off to insure our basic water needs are secure.

Are these ideas extreme? Sure they are. But in my view, that’s the price we have to pay for ignoring the problem for so long.

I realize I am coming off as a bit of ranting nut-job here. Feel free to rip me apart as a damn hippie or some naive pawn of a shadowy big brother if that’s your thing. And feel free to stick your head in the sand because ignorance is indeed bliss.

For those of you who want to make a difference, please start making a difference.

 

→ 6 CommentsTags: Uncategorized
Posted by Andrew Shotland

You Just Can’t Trust Google Maps, At This Point, To Produce Either Relevant Or Accurate Results When Much Of It Is Just Pure Spam.

April 15th, 2014

Fantastic interview by Nyagaslov Zhekov with Dan Austin on Google’s ineffectual response to map SPAM, including Bryan Seely’s spoofing of Secret Service listings earlier this year. Money quote:

“The “newest” ploy, which has been in development for several years now, is to use real estate listings on sites like Trulia, and have the PIN card sent to homes for sale or rent, and then go to the post office and have the PIN cards diverted in transit, through a change of address card to a central location, which the Post Office is more than happy to oblige. There’s nothing on Google’s PIN cards to indicate that it should only go to the address in question. Mail fraud, incidentally, is a federal crime punishable with up to 20 years in prison. Since the spammers are inputting the PIN code into Google’s system, they’re also engaging in wire fraud, another federal crime. This doesn’t get Google off the hook, either, since they’re facilitating this system, knowingly or not, and have made almost no effort to verify whether a business is legitimate or not, even though it takes all of 30 seconds or less to do so, using existing public government and trade group databases on the web.”

and this:

“I think there’s another reason that Google should care: they’re facilitating a highly organized criminal enterprise. PIN card verification is mail and wire fraud; bait and switch PPC and click-to-call are wire and consumer fraud. This is a multibillion business, and that’s just the illegal aspect of it. Google is profiting from it by taking their AdWords tax from the spammers, and since Google is the primary means of marketing for service businesses, spammers are doing everything they can to get at the top of the search results, and naturally, Google is positioning their own Maps products for Local searches at the top. They have not only a legal responsibility to ensure the integrity of their products, but an ethical one as well.” 

Let me repeat: Google is facilitating a highly organized criminal enterprise. If John Gotti had been a programmer, this is the kind of thing he would have built.

Read the whole piece here. It’s really great. And by “great” I mean “depressing”.

 

→ 2 CommentsTags: Google Maps
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Yext Launches Store Locator Pages

April 14th, 2014

Yext Pages

Today Yext announced the launch of Yext Pages – a store location finder service that complements its Powerlistings local listings management service. Pretty cool stuff if you are local brand manager who can’t seem to get your IT department to get around to updating/building location pages.  And automatically keeping your onsite location pages in sync with your business listings data on the Powerlistings network is a nice bonus.

Yext asked me to put together a white paper on location landing page optimization which you can get here.

 

Disclosure: I do consulting for Yext and I think they are doing some cool stuff.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Yext.com
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Who Owns Customer Reviews of Your Business?

April 10th, 2014

Mike Blumenthal just posed a question about this on G+ and I thought it was worthy of posting here.  The TL;DR answer is:

1. On G+, Yelp and most other review sites, the reviewer typically owns the content of the review (this is to shield the review sites from liability) while the review sites own the right to do whatever they want with the content.

2. Third parties typically cannot use the reviews on their own services without consent from either the service or the content owner (aka the reviewer). Yelp has an exception for non-commercial use, whatever that is.

3. So if you have a business you should probably include in your TOS something like “You agree to give us a perpetual, royalty-free license to use any content, such as a review, that you create related to our business, however and wherever we want.” or something legalistic like that.


→ No CommentsTags: Google · Online Reviews · Yelp
Posted by Andrew Shotland

SMBs Have Got Google Maps’ Number…

April 8th, 2014

Google Maps Phone Number

Just found a classic thread on one of those “did you get a call from this phone number” sites. Some samples for your local SEO reading pleasure:

Calls our business several times per day (not interested in their services). If you hang up, they call right back. They repeat this throughout the day and when we come to work have voice mails left on our machine soliciting their services. I want them to stop calling period!

***

Called me several times, early morning/evening. Pretending to represent google map. He is from outside the country, very heavy accent. Do not give information to this person.

***

I got a call from this number. the girl has a very heavy india accent..after I talked to her our website is gone from google place. It is really sucks.

***

Asked for Nurse next door

***

The guy called and said he was looking at my website and wanted to verify my address which he read to me. Do you think that Sergy and Brin (Google’s founders and biggest shareholders) hire and pay people from India to find my little company on the web and have them call me to verify my address?????? (Actually Google sent a postcard to verify the listing when I signed up for Analytics.) The telemarker scammer said he was with “google maps” an often used ruse. I asked him where “google maps” was and he stammered for a while then I asked him where he was located. He said India. I told him I get about 10 of these calls a day and if he called again I would transfer him to the FBI because he was a scammer. He stammered and said “Yes sir Yes Sir”

***
Don’t ring me please, I am fed up.

I could go on and on. You can find plenty of these sites on this SERP. Enjoy

 

→ 6 CommentsTags: Google · Google Maps
Posted by Andrew Shotland

DO NOT BELIEVE HUBSPOT’S BULLSHIT WHEN THEY TELL YOU THAT YOU WILL LOSE ALL YOUR SEO BY SWITCHING TO WORDPRESS

April 8th, 2014

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p.s. if anyone from Hubspot would like to respond that they did not just tell one of my clients that, I’d be happy to discuss.

p.p.s. honestly I was surprised that you guys used the word “SEO”. Aren’t we all like “inbound” now?

p.p.p.s rebranding tomorrow as “Local Inbound Guide”

→ 5 CommentsTags: Uncategorized
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Redfin Needs To Get Real About Zillow & Real Estate SEO

April 3rd, 2014

Today online real estate brokerage Redfin sent real estate portal Zillow an open letter basically calling Zillow out for not playing nice SEO-wise and demanding that Zillow change its ways to benefit Redfin’s and other brokerages’ websites’ SEO.

Redfin’s SEO complaints boil down to:

  • Zillow takes Redfin’s real estate listings and puts the links back to the listing on Redfin.com in javascript so Google doesn’t see the link and give Redfin any SEO benefit
  • As a “portal”, Zillow is under some kind of obligation to provide users with a clear link back to Redfin and other sources. Here’s the exact quote:
    “We’re asking Zillow.com to render the listing attribution in the same simple way as the rest of the listing, so consumers can find the full source listing via search engines.”
  • They also compare Zillow/Redfin to Google/Amazon with the following statement:
    “We see a portal like Zillow as just that: a portal to data on other sites — a broad starting point for a consumer seeking general real estate information — not the only point, not an ending point. This model is well-established on the Internet. Google, for example, displays only a small snippet of information about a product being sold by Amazon, with a very prominent link to Amazon. Imagine if Google redisplayed most of Amazon’s product page, kept it up when Amazon took it down, and didn’t show the link to the original Amazon listing in an easy-to-find spot?”

Couple of thoughts:

  • If Redfin thinks that consumers are searching for the “full source listing via search engines” v. just the first version of the listing that comes up, methinks they are smoking crack. Real estate listings are generic data that many real estate sites carry. If people don’t care enough to go directly to Redfin or to search for listings via Google on Redfin, I don’t think pulling the link out of javascript is going to make much of a difference.
  • Redfin’s only recourse I can see is to play a game of chicken and withhold its listings from Zillow. Or delay the publishing of the listing on Zillow until Google has indexed the Redfin.com listing. But that assumes that Redfin’s SEO gain will outweigh the loss of leads from Zillow.
  • Redfin’s Google/Amazon argument is flawed. In this case I see Zillow acting more like Amazon than Google. They post products (listings) from vendors and try to sell them (send leads to agents). And you’ll notice that Amazon doesn’t link out to its vendors.

I’m not saying that Redfin doesn’t have a point. Zillow is being a bit dickish with their links. And some of the other non-SEO arguments may be legitimate industry issues. But in my experience SEO issues between companies are no different than any other business issue: the guy with more leverage tends to win the argument.

→ 8 CommentsTags: Linkbuilding
Posted by Andrew Shotland

2014 Local Directory SEO Content Strategy

April 3rd, 2014

This post was originally published on Search Engine Land, but I didn’t like how they rewrote the title so here’s the director’s cut:

To:           Local Directories

From:      Google

Re:           Local Search Rankings

Hey guys… You may have noticed that over the past year, a lot of the organic traffic to your sites has been… well, we guess the right word is “tanking.”

As you know, it is our stated goal to organize the world’s information while simultaneously doing no evil. And, while you certainly have helped us manage the world’s information (thanks for adding schema to all your business listings and reviews so we could figure out how to beef up our Google+ Local listings!), we are starting to think that showing most of your sites in our SERPs just might be a tad evil.

We have told you over and over again that if your site is “good for users,” then you’ll show up in SERPs. But, if your site’s just a collection of a few million generic business records slapped on a state > city > category architecture — well, at least you have figured out your 2003 SEO strategy.

We know. You are busy selling digital marketing to SMBs and optimizing for AdSense (Larry says “thanks!” BTW) and haven’t had time to figure out the “good for users” thing. Since no one is using your site anymore, perhaps now you might have a bit more time?

You may have noticed we haven’t dinged all local directories. There are some out there that are thriving and in fact have increased their organic traffic, thanks to some clever algorithm updates — who doesn’t like four Yelp results in a row, right?

yelp-SERP-clustering-600x652
Click for a less crappy image

 

Perhaps you can learn from some examples what makes for a good user experience. After all, using other people’s content is what we do best, right?
airbnb-logo
Be Great At Telling Local Stories (Airbnb Infographics)
If you want to see a great example of using data to tell your story and attract links that have local rankings impact, look no further than Airbnb’sEconomic Impact infographic which illustrates the impact the service has had on nine cities around the world. The piece leads readers (and Googlebot) via text links to neighborhood pages like this one. This is not rocket science. Tell an interesting story in an interesting way, promote it, get links, and chances are you’ll start ranking on page one.
angies-list-logo
Know How To Write Quality And Quantity (Angie’s List Articles)
While Angie’s List has customer reviews like Yelp, Angie started out producing a monthly magazine to provide its members with home maintenance tips and profiles of local advertisers. After doing this for a few years, Angie and her crew were sitting on a gold mine of professionally produced editorial and started publishing it on their website. According to this search, they may have as many as 11,000 articles on their site by now, most of which are how-to and homeowner-tips type stuff relevant to their target customers.

While no single article is going to make or break a link building campaign, having a veritable library of content can both attract links and provide relevant info for anyone who clicks over to the site. So, your links help your rankings while your content helps engagement.

Angie’s List employs two different styles of content: meat-and-potatoes posts that target common, valuable queries (like this one that ranks high on page one for “new roof cost“) and posts that act as link magnets (like this awesome Do-It -Yourself Lego Wallpost).

Foursquare Logo
Get People To Phone It In (Foursquare Check-Ins & Tips)
After Marissa blew the Yelp deal, we have found ourselves using Foursquare more and more. Foursquare is a great example of how a mobile-first strategy can benefit desktop SEO.  Every time a user checks in or adds a tip, that content gets added to the business profile on Foursquare.com. There is almost nothing better than regularly updated profile pages to get these URLs ranking well. Do you have a good mobile app that people use to do stuff?

MerchantCircle Logo
Get Businesses To Do Your Work For You (Merchant Circle)
When Yelp, Insider Pages and Judy’s Book were starting out chasing customer reviews, MerchantCircle took a different path and started chasing local businesses to add content and connect with each other on the site. While it became a bit of a spam magnet, it also became a powerful content generator as local marketers saw the benefit ofpublishing as much content as they could and reaping the Barnacle SEO benefits. What’s your strategy to engage your customers to contribute to your platform?

Thumbtack Logo
Create Your Own Annual Survey (Thumbtack Small Business Friendliness Survey)
We like to call Thumbtack the little directory that could. During the 2012 presidential election, Thumbtack partnered with the Kaufman Foundation to conduct a poll of local businesses, asking them how they felt about the economy.

They published the results for each major city and state in the country and then did some old-fashioned smiling and dialing to let business journalists covering the election know about it. This resulted in both national and local press coverage. The local press coverage was particularly effective in driving links to the city pages that contained the local survey results. They repeated the survey last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do it again in 2014.

Yelp logo
Be Yelp
An obvious one, but let’s face it, Yelp won round one of the local business reviews battle and all of the SEO spoils that come with it. What battle are you fighting, and what’s the SEO benefit of winning it?

At Least Start A Damn Blog Or Something!
Check out Mike Blumenthal’s Blog or Linda Buquet’s forum or Phil Rozek’s blog or anyone who has had to publish or perish. But those don’t scale, you say? Well then, how about The Dish or Daring Fireball — personal blogs that have exploded to thousands if not millions of users? These sites have single posts that get more organic traffic than most of the pages on your sites put together. We often see you guys starting blogs but never really committing to them. If you’re committed to SEO, you need to be committed to content.

Look, we know you got in this business because… well, we’re not sure why you got in this business, but to succeed in the local directory SEO game these days, the more you start to think like a content publisher first and a lead generator second, the better off you’ll be.

Disclosure: I did some SEO consulting for AngiesList and Thumbtack back in the day and I own a few shares of Airbnb stock. Go Airbnb!

→ 4 CommentsTags: AngiesList · Foursquare · Google · Linkbuilding · Local Search · Merchant Circle · Yellow Pages · Yelp
Posted by Andrew Shotland

How To Do a Local Infographic Right Airbnb Style

March 25th, 2014

Airbnb just released a beautiful interactive infographic on the local economic impact the company has had on nine cities. If you are considering using content to attract links, for both national and local SEO, this would be a good piece to study.

Airbnb Local Economic Impact

The design is beautiful, but the interaction and “scrollability” is what sets this apart from your typical everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to infographics. It’s also responsive and the different elements work nicely on a mobile browser:

Airbnb Responsive Screenshot

Calling this an “infographic” really doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like a work of art that also has information.

They took an interesting approach with the geo information. With local linkbuilding, you want to drive inbound links to a page that targets the specific geo. The idea is that you get anchor text with the city name (e.g. “economic impact in New York”) which should help all the “New York” pages connected to that page. Airbnb took a slightly different approach. At the bottom of the page, there are links to info about the different cities they studied:
Airbnb Cities Economic Impact

But these link to a single page with anchors for each city like http://blog.airbnb.com/airbnb-economic-impact/#new-york.

This allows linkers to link to New York specific content with New York specific anchor text, while links from others to other cities on the same page do the same for those cities, and combined, it all adds up to a lot of links to one page that they then funnel down to different neighborhood pages in those cities via internal links:

Airbnb New York Economic Impact

My only quibble is that the anchored URLs might not be so obvious for some linkers. But all in all a really nice job that is already paying off in high quality links.

Hats off to Dennis Goedegebuure, Airbnb’s SEO master. He is on a content/story-telling roll these days.

Disclosure: I own a small amount of Airbnb stock from my role as an advisor to Nabewise, which Airbnb acquired. Go Airbnb!

 

 

→ 2 CommentsTags: Linkbuilding · Local Data
Posted by Andrew Shotland