How to Use Alphabet My Business Support

August 10th, 2015

I just wanted to rank for that term. I’ll fill it in later :)

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Posted by Andrew Shotland


August 7th, 2015

Ted Levine, DCI

I just heard that Ted Levine passed away. Ted was probably the first true entrepreneur I ever worked with. While I am saddened to hear he’s gone, the news has brought up a lot of great memories.

Ted created Development Counsellors International, the world’s first economic development marketing company. I don’t rememberl the exact origin of the company but I do recall the spark was when Ted, who I believe was a PR guy for the government of Puerto Rico, realized that when it came to working with governments, it was better to be in the private sector. The story had some kind of Seinfeld-esque escapades that had something to do with mimeographs or at least he had a mimeograph so we’re talking MadMen time. Anyhow, what I remember most is that he saw the opportunity that no one else saw, and he went for it.

My first meeting with Ted – I was in my 20s – he sat me down at his desk which was overflowing with piles of Economic Development trade magazines, many with his business card paper-clipped to it for mailing to clients. He was giving me the big Vince Lombardi motivational talk which pretty much amounted to “We’ve got something really great going on here. If you can figure something great to do here that would be great.” Everything was usually pretty great with Ted.

I have a lot of great Ted stories – the time he convinced me to wear fake glasses to meet a client so I would look “more mature”, the time he absent-mindedly stuck a flair-tipped pen in his ear while talking to some clients and left a fashionable black ring, or the time he got up from a table to shake hands with the governor of Nevada not realizing he had a tomato-sauce-stained napkin hanging from his pants. Ted didn’t really seem concerned with other people’s opinion of him. There was something “authentic” about him that clients inherently trusted. I think he taught me that being yourself was the best business strategy of all.

As his son Andy says on his tribute to Ted on DCI’s site, “Ted was the most optimistic guy I ever met.” I agree. He once told me that when he first started out he did a lot of cold-call telesales and got hung up on a lot. But that never discouraged him. He had figured out that if he made enough calls he would eventually make a sale. After he had made a few sales, he did the math and figured out on average how many calls it would take to make a sale. He concluded that every time someone said “no” to him he would make $0.25. After that he came to love to hear prospects tell him “no”. Each time he knew he was one step closer to “yes”.

In my business career I have had a lot of bosses. I never thought I ever had a really great mentor, until just now. Thanks Ted!

Best wishes to Pat, Andy, the rest of the Levine family and all the DCIers out there.


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Posted by Andrew Shotland

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 Off on How To Scale Google My Business Support for EnterprisesTags: 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