You may have seen the news earlier this week that Greg Sterling and I have determined that bad business listing data may be costing US businesses $10 billion.
To provide more context for that number, Yext has just published the first issue of the Yext Quarterly (aka “YQ”), subtitled “The State of Location”. The report was produced by myself and Greg for Yext to provide local marketers with information on critical issues related to business location data, some local search marketing tips and some insights into the future of local search. We even scored the actual last interview (we think) with Andrew Mason as CEO of Groupon, despite what other page-view-driven media outlets may claim.
Leads to having to hire more people in a competitive industry where there are not enough skilled providers and a lot of churn from people jumping around trying to make more $
So you end up hiring inexperienced people and trying to train them on a “SEO system”
So now you’ve got a lot more overhead and your investors are impatient so you take any business that walks in the door and throw it over to the new kid
But the site is complicated – not like those 20 page websites he started doing SEO on as a teenager – so he logs into the company intranet and downloads the “How To Fix Panda SEO Problems”, cuts and pastes a client logo on the deck and hits the “send” button.
Client trusts the advice – Hey, they have a booth at SES so they must know what they’re doing right? – and proceeds to implement massive noindexing, nofollowing, blocking in robots.txt and link disavowal.
Organic traffic goes pretty much the way you would expect it to:
Many doctors kill a few patients along the way – that’s part of the way you learn after all – and there are plenty of great A-list SEO consultants, but sometimes the stories you hear are insane.
Yelp should own local. But it doesn’t. The company, founded in the mobile dark age of 2004, is being assaulted on some major fronts. There’s Foursquare of course, but the biggest threat is Facebook’s renewed interest in local, which the company will be building out in the coming months in the form of a feature called “Nearby.”
While I agree that services like Facebook and Foursquare are threats to Yelp, I wouldn’t classify them as Yelp’s biggest threats.
IMO, the biggest threat to Yelp is the same threat that all players in Local face – huge audience fragmentation coupled with huge advertiser fragmentation. In other words, it’s hard/expensive both to aggregate enough consumer demand for local marketing and to aggregate (and retain) enough local marketers to meet that demand. If Yelp sells a dentist in Fresno a package, they need to have people in Fresno looking for dentists at the time those ads are showing, and they need to do it for every vertical in every geo every day. Every player, big and small, in this space faces this. While Facebook Nearby/Graph Search will surely suck up a lot of advertiser and perhaps consumer attention, it will face the same problems.
Yelp’s biggest threat is that it is playing in Local. And Local is hard.
While I don’t expect Facebook Nearby to stay ad-free forever, with the entry of Facebook Nearby and Apple Maps, both ad-free, I’d say 2012 has been the most interesting year in the Local Search biz since Google Places rolled out. Many in the industry would argue that the ads do help people find the right businesses and help businesses do a better job at generating lead flow. But in the near term, I see these developments as being both a great win for consumers (more services to choose from) and a great pain for them (local search services can be hard to do well – see death by Apple Maps). But in the long run, the real winners will be local businesses and the agencies that help them navigate these murky waters. More big services competing to service SMBs should, in the long run*, produce better services for those SMBs.
A friend who is a former spook told me how he once smuggled an Arab man out of the Middle East. ”I dressed him in short pants.” ”Why?” I asked. ”Because Arab men never wear shorts. People tend to only see what you tell them to see.”
Which brings me to the following response I got from a client developer when I pointed out to their in-house SEO that one of their templates was linking internally with 302s, which is not necessarily a good thing SEO-wise:
Actually there is no redirect in this case. What you experience is the result of caching in the browser, ie we set headers on the page to cache the response for few hours, so next few hours you re-access the page you get the cached result of the browser, which is returning with a 302 response. A script, ie google bot, that tries to download the page, doesn’t experience this response, so google sees 200 response code and the way you can see that is by by-passing your browser and calling the request via a terminal…
I am sure he thought it was true and his email certainly sounded convincing – and there was enough tech jargon in there to give the in-house SEO pause – but a quick search in Google showed that the redirects were getting indexed in Google. A quick crawl of the site with user-agent=Googlebot showed that the 302s were being seen by “a script”. And a quick “Fetch as Googlebot” from Google Webmaster Tools showed that Googlebot was fetching these links.
And once this stuff was pointed out to the dev guy, he realized, without any drama btw, that there might be something to these observations.
I like to say that doing SEO for clients is like going on a blind date with an engineering team. Despite that, I often find the in-house devs become huge enthusiasts of SEO because it usually drives making their site better. But just because they have technical knowledge doesn’t mean you should not notice that they are wearing shorts.
CYA Note: If the dev who sent the email mentioned above is reading this, I have no problem with how you responded. Thought you were totally pro about it.
A new client has been seriously dinged by Google because their site is littered with SPAM. This is quite common for UGC sites where the U is a perv merchant or a purveyor of high quality fake medical products. Even sites that do not have UGC can be hacked and infected with this kind of crap. The problem is that many site-owners either never check their sites for this stuff, or even worse, they know it’s there and they ignore it. Hey, it’s not hurting anyone and it would cost me some $ to get rid of it right?
Of course when Google knocks your traffic down by 40% overnight, you sit up and take notice.
With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to provide you all with a simple method for detecting this stuff. Here’s what you do:
Sorry for the dramatic headline – I am doing some research on how SEO/SEM agencies service SMBs and I am looking to do brief interviews with agencies that handle between 20-100ish SMB clients (or more if you want). If you fit the bill and are interested, please ping me via my contact form or via Twitter.
Thanks for the great response to this. We are full-up on interviews right now, but we may need more in the future, so feel free to ping me anyhow to let me know you’re out there and I may reach out at some point.
Mike Blumenthal’s instant classic Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction has spawned a lively Google Plus thread where various Localistas have been wringing their hands as to why oh why can’t Google stop screwing SMBs. While I am in agreement that Google Plus Place Local Multi Merge for Business Dashboardgate has been absolutely no fun, to me it seems like just the latest in an ongoing saga of companies trying to serve SMBs and falling short.
While Google and others have done great things for SMBs, small businesses as a group are notoriously hard to serve:
They are hard to acquire as customers
When you do acquire them, they tend not to want to spend a lot of money
Once you start doing stuff for them, they tend to have a lot of questions/issues, etc. so customer support costs are high
They tend to churn out at a high rate – a lot go out of business, many don’t want to wait for long-term results or don’t invest enough to get meaningful results, and providing great service at the low prices they demand is tough, so they bail
My guess as to the conversations that have gone on at Google:
“We’re having a hard time getting the Google+ Places Merging Dashboard thingy right. The whole thing needs to be rebuilt from the ground up while the car is moving at high speed and we are spread kind of thin at the moment.”
“How’s Adwords Express?”
“We’re hitting our numbers. Businesses that can’t get their Google Places, er I mean +Local, thing right are using it to get on the SERPs.”
“Great. Keep putting band-aids on the problems. We’ll get there eventually. I am sure one of those companies we acquired can figure it out.”
So when I see Google seemingly not investing enough in a coherent product for SMBs, I only partially blame Google. Part of this just seems to be the nature of the beast. As I said on G+, if we went back ten years and substituted “Yellow Pages” for “Google Local”, we’d probably be hearing the same complaints. Still a train wreck, though.