Local Directories May Survive Google’s New Local Knowledge Pack

November 18th, 2014

Last week, Google started to switch out its local Carousel results for a new set of mobilish-type pack results that appear to rely heavily on its local Knowledge Panels, so let’s call it a Knowledge Pack, or “K-Pack”, for the purposes of this post.

In his seminal post Some Thoughts On The New Pak Results From Google, Professor Blumenthal mused:

“I would love to hear what happens to web traffic for the directory type sites that seemed to be doing well when shown below the Carousel. Clearly this was prime space for TripAdvisor, Yelp etc and this can not have been good for their traffic. In unpublished user research that I did, a number of users would flat out ignore the carousel and move right to a branded website like TA or Yelp. I doubt that behavior persists with this display.”

What the Professor wants, the Professor gets.

While I don’t have access to either Yelp’s or Trip Advisor’s analytics, I do have access to some pretenders to the local throne. Here is the Google traffic to the “geo-category pages” (e.g. “Merkins in Olean, NY”) for a national local directory site focused on one of the verticals that is now displaying the K-Pack:

U.S. Local Entertainment Directory Site: Google Traffic
Total Google Traffic New K-Pack
Traffic was down about 6% on the 12th and has almost fully recovered.

I am not seeing these results in California much but I do get them often for New York searches so I looked at the traffic for these different regions and you can see that New York traffic has been somewhat more impacted.

U.S. Local Entertainment Directory Site: Google Traffic – New York Region
Kpack California Google Traffic
Traffic was down about 11% on the 12th, but recovered to being down only about 3% over the weekend.

U.S. Local Entertainment Directory Site: Google Traffic – California Region
Kpack New York Google Traffic
While traffic was down about 8% on the 12th, it quickly recovered on the 13th.

Of course this is just one site’s data over a few days, but this pattern is similar to Pigeon’s in that Google does not appear to be trying to royally screw local directories with a new local SERP. It has plenty of other ways to do that after all.



→ 3 CommentsTags: Google · Google+ Local · Local Data · Local Search · Yellow Pages
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Big Brands Beware

November 12th, 2014

There has been lots of discussion about why big brands seem to be performing worse in pack results post-pigeon. Originally it looked like this was a byproduct of how Google was processing brand queries combined with an abundance of local spam. However after seeing what has happened to some large, multi-location brands after they transitioned to the GMB Locations dashboard it looks like another piece of the puzzle could be related to this slow & clunky upgrade process.

Specifically, we have been seeing new GMB location pages created even though the brand already had an existing page for that location. To make matter worse, we are seeing the old page lose it’s verified status as it is moved over to the new page. While the verified status is getting moved to the new page, optimizations are not. This means there are now 2 location pages out there and the newly verified one that is getting returned in search results don’t have any post history, proper categories or relevant banner images.

For instance, this page used to be the claimed, verified and optimized page for Days Inn Chicago (notice the “Linked Website” checkmark), and after the migration to GMB Locations this is now the “Verified” page for that same location. And if you do a Google Search for “Days Inn Chicago“, the page linked to that Days Inn location is the new page.

Google Changing Location Pages in SERPs

Something that’s interesting to note, the new “verified” page has the sponsored “Make a Reservation” widget.

New Page Has Sponsored Booking Widget

While we aren’t seeing this for every location in migrated bulk accounts, this is still a huge nightmare for large, multi-location brands and is costing them SERP real estate. The money they have spent on Google local page optimizations is getting throw to the wayside during this migration. Maybe it’s time to start offering large brands dedicated GMB support…

→ 12 CommentsTags: Google My Business
Posted by Dan Leibson

I Speak At Conferences So Hire Me

November 7th, 2014

I speak at conferences

Sooner or later every SEO puts one of these on their site right?

From StreetFight Summit 2014. Fun show. Thanks to Laura Rich and David Hirschman for having me and to Rene Reinsberg of GoDaddy, Jonathan Czaja of Facebook and Brendan King, especially Brendan King, of Vendasta for putting up with me.

So hire me already. I must be some kind of expert about something.


Comments OffTags: Uncategorized
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Slow Google+ Upgrades + Pigeon = Bad Big Local Brand Rankings

November 5th, 2014

Last week I posted some theories on why Google’s Pigeon update may have hurt the local rankings for some big local brands. While we have seen a lot of positive rankings improvements for our local clients, we have also heard of some large multi-location brands that got hit with 5-10% traffic losses. My take was that the combination of overweighting of Google’s brand algorithm and the narrowing of the radius for many local queries could have pushed some of these big brands out of the local packs. Today James Robinson adds a new piece to the puzzle:

According to James:

“This came up in a call back we had with GMB support the other day. They were saying that big local brands have been slower to be upgraded to Google +, and there is a ranking benefit to being upgraded. So big brands (bulk managing their listings) are at a disadvantage based on that.”

Mike Blumenthal recently mentioned on his great Local U Forum that Google is upgrading the simplest cases first. This means that multi-location businesses that have a lot of complexity (e.g. multiple owners, lots of conflicting data, etc.) are going to be the last to be upgraded. Our advice to these businesses has been to sit tight. Those that try to delete their locations and start all over again, most likely increase the complexity and get sent to the back of the line.

So I suppose if in fact the upgrade does improve rankings, then they would be at a disadvantage and can’t do a thing about it. Now that’s some serious Pigeon crap.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Google · Google My Business · Google Pigeon Poop
Posted by Andrew Shotland

How to Claim a Groupon Merchant Page (Or Not)

October 24th, 2014

Groupon made a big splash a couple of days ago by announcing the launch of Merchant Pages. Merchant Pages is an attempt by Groupon to leverage their daily deal ecosystem and channel local businesses into a local directory type site similar to Yelp. As it relates to the local search space, a new business listing on a brand like Groupon does have the potential to provide value to a businesses online search presence. Also, the listings look pretty nice and have a followed link to the business website.

What A Groupon Merchant Page Looks Like

If you are lucky enough to find your page, navigation is a bit opaque as deals are prioritized over business pages, then there is a link on the right side of the page to claim it. However, you should save yourself the hassle and just click on this link to get started. The first thing you need to do is fill in your business info:

Enter Your Business Info To Claim Your Page

After you submit the form with your business information you are prompted to select between a few businesses their system thinks may be yours.

Select Your Business

Since the location I was testing wasn’t on the list I’m not sure what happens if you find your business. However, if you don’t find your business you are given an option to click through to another page. After you click through a message is displayed telling you that a Groupon representative will be in touch to help you create and claim your page.

Things Go South

The next morning I received a call from a very nice, if highly disinterested, Groupon sales representative. After going through the pitch for various advertising campaigns for ~20 minutes I reiterated that I was just looking to claim my free listing. The representative then told me that he was unable to help with that and he would transfer me to the proper party.

What actually ended up happening was me getting transferred to a call tree with no option remotely related to Merchant Pages. I selected the option for new merchants and explained my situation to the nice representative who picked up my call. She informed me she would transfer me to the proper party and sent me straight back to the call tree I came from.

Again, there were no options that were remotely related to Merchant Pages so I pressed the option for new merchants where I explained my situation to the rep who answered. He placed me on hold for a couple of minutes to investigate. When he returned he informed me that it’s a known issue that there is no proper selection on their call tree and that I wasn’t the only one effected by this. He took down my information and told me I would receive a call back from someone who could help me.

To recap, ~45 minutes later I was only slightly closer to creating or claiming my merchant page then I was the day before.

The Call

Three hours later I received a call from yet another Groupon agent who apologized for all the confusion and hassle around the Merchant Pages product. He let me know that a page didn’t exist for my business, but that he would have one created for me. He took down some information, including the business website, and told me he would email me when it was complete and then follow up with a call to go over some features of the product. I have not yet received either the email or call so I will update this post once that happens.


I would consider this a very rough launch for Groupon and wouldn’t invest anymore time in it right now. The process is not where it needs to be and there is no way that the return will make up for all the time you spend on it. Also, calling on behalf of a client would seem to further complicate this process as I was told they would only call you back on the number they use for the business. A complicated phone verification with significant time spent on up-sells is probably not something that your clients would appreciate. But hey, there is a follow link on the profile so if you’re into directory link building and other forms of masochism maybe this is for you.

→ 7 CommentsTags: Groupon
Posted by Dan Leibson