Google’s new Data Highlighter for Local Businesses is definitely worth checking out for anyone trying to goose their local rankings. I have found it to be a bit buggy and it’s a new tool, so proceed with caution. Here are some basics on how to use it along with some tricks I have figured out thus far.
Start Highlighting Go to the Optimization section of GWT and click on “Data Highlighter”.
Don’t watch the video, just proceed to the blue “Start Highlighting” button.
Add Your URL & the Select “Local Business” Information Type
Select “Tag Just This Page” or “Tag This Page and Others Like It” If you have similar data types (e.g. Name, Address & Phone Number) across multiple pages, you may want to try the “Tag this page and others like it” option. This will allow you to tag URLs in batches selected by Google.
Tag The First Page
The tool will show a framed “Bot-view” version of the page you have selected as your first page. The top shows where you are at in each step of the process and the right side bar shows you the data you have tagged. When you highlight the data on the page, you get a drop down that allows you to select what type of data it is, Current Local Business data types include name, address, phone number, opening hours, category, department, image, URL, average rating and review:
How To Add Missing Tags If you can’t find the right words on the page to highlight such as a particular category keyword, then click on the Gear icon in the top right of the UI and you’ll see an option for adding a missing tag (as well as for clearing all tags you have set) (hat tip to Darren Shaw for spotting this one – I found the category tagging to be quite buggy btw)
Create a Page Set If you have only selected one page, you can hit publish and you are good to go. But if you are tagging multiple pages, you are then offered the option to create a “Page Set” or to choose the set of pages that the tool chooses for you as the set. As you can see from the screenshot, the tool uses wild cards to select entire directories to apply the tags to:
If you select “Create your own page set” you can add custom URLs to tag. Once you have selected the URLs, the tool then gives you the chance to verify the tags for a sample of URLs before you publish. As you’ll see in a sec, it is important that you check these tags thoroughly.Once you’ve checked them, hit publish and wait for the local SEO magic to begin. Now for a few insights:
Use The Bot View of Tool for a Quick Keyword Targeting Review The example above is from a BMW dealer site I just started working on. When I looked for words on the page to tag, I quickly realized there were few, if any keywords that they should want to rank for such as “new cars”, “used cars”, etc. If you can’t find the right text to tag, there’s a good chance you need to improve the keyword targeting of the page’s content.
The Tag Verification Process May Show You Where Google Is Having Problems With Your Site With the BMW dealer, I let the tool select multiple URLs for tagging the dealer’s NAP. During verification, several of the tags were flagged as possible errors. For example, on one URL the zip code showed up tagged as the phone number. When I looked at the NAP text in the code, I noticed that the text was missing a lot of spaces. It had a format like <Biz NameStreet AddressCity, STZipPhone>. This is likely making it hard for Googlebot to get the NAP right, which is one of the reasons why Google created this tool and even better, one of the reasons why this site may have problems with local rankings. So tagging the NAP correctly could be a quick win, as would just fixing the text so it’s properly spaced.If this tool really is giving a bot view of the site, in some ways, this is a more powerful tool than the Fetch as Googlebot feature. Now, not only can we see how the page looks to Googlebot, we are also told what some of the problems are.
Danger – This Is a New Tool – Proceed With Caution For now I am only testing the tool on sites that have nowhere to go but up. Google has a habit of rolling out new features, particularly with Local, that sound great but have unintended consequences for the early adopters. For example, I have no idea what will happen if your category tags are different from those that are in the Google+ Local Places profile for a site.I’ll update this as I figure more stuff out. If you have any insights, please add in the comments or tweet me.
For all of you marketers recommending that your clients use Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying, be sure to include that it works better if you use it in conjunction with a time machine, or better yet…
Today Yext announced Sync, a service that lets you sync a business’ location data to Facebook along with “enhanced” data such as menus, offers, photos and status updates. While there are plenty of social media management tools that allow you to control content on a Facebook Page, the two big differences with Yext’s service are that it also allows you to share this info across Yext’s Powerlistings network of 50 or so local search sites like Yelp, YP.com, etc. and it attaches the status updates to your business’ location data.
(Disclosure: I do some consulting for Yext so I will try to keep my pro-client bias out of this post)
If you want to know more about how Yext Sync works, you can check out Greg Sterling’s post and here’s a screenshot from Yext’s iPhone app that shows how you can take a photo and share it. It’s kind of like a b2b Instagram:
Besides the utility of the service, perhaps the most interesting thing to me about Sync is that Yext has taken a “Product” that other start-ups are selling (e.g. Facebook Page Management) and turned it into a “Feature” of Yext’s Powerlistings Product. Now Yext will say that they have little interest in supplanting Buddy Media or HootSuite, and in fact, those services offer much more in-depth tools than Sync/Powerlistings for social media management. And I could easily see Yext at some point rolling out an API that allows those services to sync their data up with Yext’s location data (no idea if that’s in the works or not). But to me it raises an interesting question – which is more valuable – social media management or location data management?
Lately to me it seems like social media management has become more commoditized while location data management, which can be hugely complex, has become something of a unique service, which is odd, because if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said it was the other way around.
I thought it would be interesting to see if we can figure out why this is happening and whose screw-up it really is. Here are some of the smoking guns:
Dana Point Jet Ski shows danapointharbor.com as its website on its Google+ Local page. I am guessing Dana Point Jet Ski has not claimed its Google+ Local page yet. Note to DPJS: Claim your Google+ Local page and update the URL.
Of course, it doesn’t help that danapointharbor.com has a URL with “Dana Point Jet Ski & Kayak” in its title: http://www.danapointharbor.com/dana-point-jet-ski-kayak/. But that URL links to danapointjetski.com, so you’d think G would be able to figure that out. BTW, I have put my kids through college on G not being able to figure things out that you’d think G would be able to figure out.
But maybe the issue is that the business doesn’t show it’s full name in the title of its home page. It just shows “Dana Point Jet Ski – Jet Ski Kayak SUP Rentals”. Nowhere on the site does it use the full business name in the title. Perhaps just adding ” & Kayak Center” to the home page title would push it into the #1 spot.
And there are plenty of additional NAP issues. I did a Yext scan (use the name “Dana Point Jet Ski & Kayak Center” and (949)661-4947″) and found 142 different location data errors – many of which were a different business name. For example, Mapquest calls it “Dana Point Jet Ski” and the Mapquest profile links to the Patch listing for the business instead of directly to the business website. Yelp thinks it’s a Polish-run shop and calls it “Dana Point Jetski and Kayak Center”. I haven’t examined all of the citations, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them pointed to http://www.danapointharbor.com/dana-point-jet-ski-kayak/. Looks like the business should start doing some serious citation claiming/updating/fixing. Hit me up guys.
Danapointharbor.com likely has a significantly more inbound links than danapointjetski.com. I wouldn’t be surprised if http://www.danapointharbor.com/dana-point-jet-ski-kayak/ has more links than danapointjetski.com.
This one is a bit fuzzy, but Google may be interpreting “dana point jet ski” as a generic local query instead of a branded query. For instance, when I search the full business name, the title tags are more accurate.
It’s still connecting the Harbor to the G+ Local page though, so I think this one can be chalked up to the fact that the G+ Local page is still linking to danapointharbor.com.I am sure there’s more to it, but time to get back to my day job.
You’ve always wondered what SEOs do all day, right?
UPDATE: Looks like the algo is working it’s magic (or someone at G pressed a button). About 3 hours after I published this, Google is now not showing the biz name in the title of danapointharbor.com in the SERPs:
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Looks like someone over at Dana Point Jet Ski & Kayak Center decided to update the link on their G+Local page cause now all is right with the world:
Dr. Pete Myers’ post, Rel=Confused? Answers to Your Rel=Canonical Questions, has reminded me that I have had a bee in my bonnet about the rel=canonical tag for a while that I’ve been meaning to get off my chest on these hallowed pages. In short, the rel=canonical tag sucks.
You can’t always tell if they are working
Contrary to what Dr. Pete says, they still often show up in the index after they have been crawled, which tends to freak clients out after they have put in the effort to add them
They still often show up in the Duplicate Title Tag report in Google Webmaster Tools, leading clients to think that they are not working
Per Dr. Pete’s post, they are often implemented incorrectly
On big sites they still leave a huge number of URLs that take up crawl budget while adding no extra value
Ok I know Facebook is a big-ass brand that doesn’t need your stinking organic traffic, but if you’re going to have a big press conference about your amazing new mobile strategy, don’t you think the in-house SEO person would at least do the minimum to make sure that someone searching Google would be able to easily find Facebook’s official explanation of Facebook Home?
I just searched Google for “facebook home” and here’s what I got:
Now at least the ppc guys at Facebook were on top of things enough to get an ad up there, and that “Welcome to Your New Home Page” link certainly looks like the right place. Too bad it goes to blog.facebook.com which hasn’t been updated since January 18, 2012.
Must be nice to not give a shit about this kind of thing…
“In many categories the ads are for national players. In florists for example there are 2.5 pages and only 1/8 of one page covers truly local florists….The print YP are no longer a local advertising medium catering to local business. It is clear that what is left of the print yellow pages has been taken over by regional and national advertisers. One has to wonder though if they ever bother to calculate their returns or they are doing this out of habit.”
I wonder if this is a symptom of the “Big Box Store” effect on many local businesses, where bigger players are able to come into a market and push out smaller guys who can’t compete at the same scale? I don’t know about florists, but it feels like many of the lawyers in my city are part of a multi-location regional company. I am seeing this across my client base as well. A lot fewer single locations over the years. This may be a self-selection issue as smaller businesses are less likely to hire a fancy pants SEO guy like myself.
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.