Facebook Likes You To Eat Local

August 3rd, 2015

Facebook Local Notifications


Last week I was scrolling through the Notifications feed on Facebook’s iOS app and was surprised to see the above “Nearby Places for Breakfast” list showing 3 restaurants in the area with their hours, rating, price, etc. Hitting the “see more” link brings up a full list of nearby restaurants that looks just slightly Yelp-ish:

Facebook Nearby Places To Eat

This screenshot was taken at 4:14pm so now instead of showing “Nearby Places for Breakfast” I get “Nearby Places to Eat”.  Earlier in the day I would have seen “Nearby Places for Lunch”. It’s simple but gets the job done.

There’s nothing particularly social about these listings other than the ratings, and it’s a relatively buried feature in the Notifications screen. I had to blow through multiple Notifications, Friends’ Birthdays, Trending and News Shared Locally before seeing this list, but I think the initial view of the Notifications screen has grown quite stale. I imagine this is a step towards bringing these content sections more to the front, or perhaps even breaking them off as a separate app similar to what happened to Messenger. I imagine a Facebook Local mobile app that had similar functionality to Yelp would be an instant hit.

It’s getting interesting out there folks, as usual…

→ 6 CommentsTags: Facebook
Posted by Andrew Shotland

How To Scale Google My Business Support for Enterprises

July 6th, 2015

Managing multiple GMB accounts is a tricky beast. I shared a few tips on SearchEngineLand for how we do it. See How To Scale Google My Business Support for Enterprises Like a Boss.

TL:DR version:

  • Hire people who know what they’re doing
  • Have an escalation path
  • Use an agile project management tool
  • Create a knowledge base and keep it up to date
  • Calendar everything so you know when you hit up GMB support and when you need to do it again
  • Conduct regular postmortems so you can figure out what went wrong – because something will go wrong

But I really just wrote the article so I could use this image:
Ghandi SEO - Linkbuilding via Passive Resistance

Gandhi was a pioneer in linkbuilding via passive resistance…

Comments OffTags: Google My Business
Posted by Andrew Shotland

How Did Thumbtack Get Out Of The SEO Penalty Box?

June 16th, 2015

This is Thumbtack

The SEM Post and Search Engine Land are both reporting that Thumbtack.com has experienced a seemingly complete recovery after receiving a manual link hammer to the head from Google (they don’t like the term “penalty”) which rendered the site all but invisible in Google’s SERPs. Jennifer Slegg goes into great detail speculating as to what Thumbtack may or may not have done to earn their get out jail free card so I am not going to dig into this one too deeply. In fact I would put money on the answer being pretty simple:

  • Thumbtack has three main sources of backlinks: Quid-pro-quo links from Thumbtack advertisers, links from advertisers trying to push their Thumbtack profiles to the top of the SERPs, and links from PR-related activities.
  • The “quid-pro-quo” links from its advertisers were likely the source of Google’s ire as they were the ones actively pursued by Thumbtack in a clear attempt to game rankings. Spammy links from advertisers, while problematic, are not uncommon with most local directory sites and in general not at the scale where they can affect the rankings of a large site.
  • Thumbtack most likely had a comprehensive list of the QPQ advertiser links. They asked for them after all.
  • While Jennifer provides proof that Thumbtack had contacted its advertisers to try to get these links nofollowed and/or taken down, the reality is that in most cases such an effort would take a long time to be effective.
  • Given that Thumbtack likely knew the source of 99% of its problematic links, I am putting my money on them submitting a pretty large, precise disavowal file and it working.

Now it’s totally possible that Google coached them on what to do and/or was on the lookout for them and prioritized the review and recovery of the site. But since I am a blogger prone to provocation, let’s stick with the alternate reality that presumes Google did not have it’s finger on the scale. If that is the case, here’s what I think went down:

  • In cases where a client has received a manual action and we knew about the majority of the problematic links (built by the previous SEOs natch), comprehensive link removal and or disavowal resulted in almost complete recovery in less than a week after we submitted the disavowal file.
  •  Jennifer’s analysis suggests that Thumbtack had been actively trying to remove links. Google has stated in the past they like to see a little effort:

But even if the disavowal worked, how did Thumbtack seemingly recover completely when their link scheme had been devalued?

Outside of perhaps Yelp, I would argue that there has been no local service directory that has leveraged “content marketing”/PR as successfully as Thumbtack has to generate backlinks. Their annual “Small Business Friendliness Survey” has been extremely effective to that end. It has been a link-generating PR machine, with national and regional news outlets regularly covering it for the past three years. Here are but a few of the juicy links, links btw that go both to the ”national” survey results URL and the local results URLs for states and cities, creating quite an effective flow of “PageRank” to its geo pages:


So perhaps Thumbtack didn’t need those links from their advertisers after all. Just a theory. Feel free to troll it.

→ 14 CommentsTags: Local Search
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Google My Business Locations Down To Two Categories?

June 9th, 2015

This morning we noticed Google My Business Locations starting to toss “error” messages whenever you are saving a location that has more then two categories.

Here is a location with no errors when saved (and only two categories):
GMB Locations Allowing 2 Categories
And here is what it looks like when you add a third category:
GMB Location with 3rd Category


Tested this across a couple of accounts (including ones where multiple categories make the most sense for the business e.g. multiple brand auto dealerships) and saw the same issue. Not really sure what is going on but it may be a few things:

  • A reduction in the number of allowed categories
  • Google applying rules about which categories are the most specific for a vertical
  • A glitch

Anybody else seeing this across there GMB locations account?


→ 10 CommentsTags: Google My Business
Posted by Dan Leibson

Thumbtack’s Teachable SEO Moment

June 9th, 2015

Thumbtack meme

Source: Memeswithtypos.com

It’s kind of big news in the Local SEO biz that Thumbtack.com* has received a manual action penalty from Google for unnatural linkbuilding. If you study Thumbtack’s backlink profile or read some of the articles on the subject, you can see that perhaps parts of their backlink strategy may have gotten them into trouble, which is really too bad because the start-up had been quite effective at using PR to drive both national and local links and generate buzz.

SPonge Bob Thumbtack

I am not going to delve into the particulars of their penalty or the typical controversy surrounding SEO and sites that have received investments from Google. Instead I thought it would be interesting to look at two of the oddities around Thumbtack’s branded SERPs to get a better idea of how Google’s different algorithms are connected, or in this case, not connected.

“Thumbtack” Desktop SERP

Thumbtack Knowledge Panel

Click to enlarge

The site no longer appears for brand queries for “thumbtack” but Thumbtack’s Knowledge Panel shows up. This suggests that the backlink algo is independent of the algo that drives Knowledge Panel results. This makes me think that Knowledge Panels are driven mostly if not entirely by brand queries and have nothing to do with backlinks/domain authority. I wonder how many clicks this Knowledge Panel gets from people searching for the service?  Enough to counter the lost traffic from the organic section? And while I realize this is a minor use case, isn’t this kind of domain suppression counter to Google’s intent to do what’s best for users? I mean I searched for “thumbtack” and I want me some god-damned local professional services not a Google News result with some weird site called “Search Engine Land” at the top.


Also of note in this SERP is that the Manual Action algo may not alter the Adwords Quality Score as Thumbtack is able to buy their way on via AdWords. Hooray for commerce.

“Thumbtack” Mobile SERP

Thumbtack.com Mobile SERP

Click to enlarge

Just as intriguing, a mobile query for “thumbtack” still displays the Thumbtack app in the SERPs. So again, we can see the potential disconnect between backlinks and app results. Given that their website is not appearing, I wonder if this has the effect of driving more app downloads? And more app downloads most likely means increased visibility in both the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. And more app downloads also means less of a reliance on SEO for users – I know, I know, you always need more organic visits – but still, is this maybe a win for Thumbtack?

I am sure the team at Thumbtack is having no fun this week, but isn’t it always the right time for a teachable SEO moment?


*Full Disclosure: On occasion Local SEO Guide may or may not have done SEO consulting for Thumbtack.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Google · Local Search
Posted by Andrew Shotland