Top Local Search Ranking Factors 2013

August 7th, 2013

David Mihm has published 2013′s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey over at Moz. As is tradition, I will summarize it here and encourage you to head over to David’s post to soak in the data: “By and large, the primary factors seem to have stayed largely the same for the past couple of years:

  • Proper category associations
  • A physical address in the city being searched
  • Consistent, high-quality citations from sources that are:
  • Authoritative
  • Trustworthy
  • Industry-relevant
  • Your NAP information featured clearly on your website
  • Your location as a keyword in title tags and headlines
  • A smattering of reviews on both Google and third-party sites
  • A handful of high-quality inbound links”

David’s commitment to doing this every year is inspiring, as is his generosity with the local search community. Well done, as usual.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Local Search · Search Engine Ranking Factors
Posted by Andrew Shotland

No Reviews? The New Google+ Local Reviews Pop-Up Doesn’t Pop

July 31st, 2013

Based on the comments I am seeing on yesterday’s post, it appears that the new Google+ Local Reviews Pop-Up has gone global. Since it seems like this is a real thing and not a test, I started looking at it a bit more to figure out the implications. One question that popped up:


The short answer is if you don’t have reviews, the current display shows a link to the business’ Google+ Local page along with a prompt to “Be the first to review” which launches the review pop-up. Here’s an example for East Bay Floor Covering:

East Bay Floor Covering


As for what this means for a no-reviews business’ ability to rank well, on the one hand in many verticals, particularly where reviews are not so common, businesses with no/low reviews can still do well.  On the other, Google is clearly signaling that reviews are a big part of their future, so ignore them at your own peril.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Google · Google Plus · Google+ Local
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Google+ Local Reviews Now Showing as SERP Pop-Ups – Goodbye Google+ Local Pages?

July 30th, 2013

Not sure if I am seeing a test or if this is rolling out everywhere but now when I click on the “[#] Google reviews” link for a business from the SERPs, I am seeing a lightbox type of pop up display instead of being sent to the Google Plus Page for the business. Check it out:

Google Plus Local SERP

Google Plus Local Pop Up Top

Google Plus Local PopUp Full

Here’s the URL that shows the pop-up.

Some initial observations:

  1. The default view is a list of the 10 most recent reviews with a “more reviews” link at the bottom that creates a kind of infinite scroll effect
  2. There’s a review sort and a prominent “write a review” button.  Pro Tip: Google wants you to write a review.
  3. There is no link to a map or driving directions which seems kind of wrong but implies that Google is thinking when you want reviews, we give you reviews and when you want a map, you go back to the SERP to get the map.  In a way it’s a simpler construct than the kitchen sink approach they use now
  4. THE SERP IS NOW TOTALLY SEPARATE FROM THE BUSINESS’ GOOGLE+ PAGE.  https://plus.google.com/116091785697157979199/about?gl=US&hl=en-US still exists, but it only appears to be accessible via the Google+ UI and as a normal result in the SERPs.

Not sure what this means in the scheme of things other than perhaps Google thinks searchers want a different experience than social media users when looking for local stuff, but it seems odd that the two are so separate given Google’s desire to make them more unified.

UPDATE: Try browsing in Incognito mode:


→ 30 CommentsTags: Google · Google Place Pages · Google Place Search · Google Plus
Posted by Andrew Shotland

What Job Is Apple Maps Hired To Do?

July 22nd, 2013

Lion's Gate Bridge Apple Maps
Hint: Not this one…ripped off from Tumblr.

I asked a bunch of Local Search geeks which company will Apple Maps buy next?.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Apple Maps
Posted by Andrew Shotland

Yext Quarterly Social & Local Hot Off The Presses

July 18th, 2013

Yext Quarterly Social & Local

Yext has just released the latest Yext Quarterly, a report on Social & Local search trends produced by Greg Sterling and yours truly.  From Yext CEO, Howard Lerman’s intro:

“If you had asked me five years ago how maps and local search would evolve, I would have said that the most important entity is the places. Specifically,
the data about what businesses there are, and where those businesses are located.

But I was wrong. It turns out that when it comes to local search, the people are just as important as the places, because after all, places are where people

We surveyed some people and found out some interesting stuff. Check it out.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Yext.com
Posted by Andrew Shotland

@willcritchlow Sez Include Twitter Name in Titles via @localseoguide #mozcon

July 9th, 2013

Shameless traffic driver.  I know.  Sorry.

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized
Posted by Andrew Shotland

The Google Carousel & Local Directories

July 2nd, 2013

“Nostalgia means the pain from an old wound…” – Don Draper

When Google’s new Local Carousel came to a town near you a couple of weeks ago, I immediately envisioned the Don Drapers of local search in conference rooms around the country dramatically presenting their initial impressions. Of course at the end, instead of Duck saying “Good luck at your next meeting,” he said “Good luck at your next job.”

Logan's Run Carousel

My initial impression was that the imagery and prominence of the Local Carousel was just so…juicy…that it would immediately attract clicks away from the SERPs where the local directories vied for your attention (can anyone come up with a catchy rubric for that section?).

Big Wong Restaurant

So now that we are a little more than two weeks into the PC era (“Post-Carousel”), I checked to see how some of the sites I work on that target searches that bring up the Carousel were doing. Based on about 10 million queries worth of data, it looks like the Carousel has virtually no effect on local directory traffic. As an example, here’s the Google referral data for June for a site that primarily targets local restaurant queries:

Google Local Carousel SEO Traffic

In retrospect, this is not too surprising. A click to the Carousel merely returns a brand search result that typically contains plenty of local directories. I think the technical term is that these SERPs are “lousy” with local directories:
Bone Lick Park Bar B Que

So have no fear you Don’s of the local search world. You can put that bottle of Scotch away…for now.

Some excellent observations from the Local SEO peanut gallery:

Local Carousel Reporting From Around the Web - Mike Blumenthal

Google’s Local Carousel – Trapped in Google’s World – Mike Blumenthal

Say Goodbye to Non-branded Keyword Traffic If You’re In The Local Carousel - Greg Gifford

54 Keywords Triggering Google’s Local Carousel – Adam Dorfman

10 Random People’s Reactions To Google Local Carousel - Mike Ramsey

New Local Carousel – Aaron Wall

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

Google News Stopped Indexing Your Sitemap?

June 21st, 2013

Extra Extra Read All About It!

UPDATE: This just in from Chris Andrews, one of the top contributors to the Google News Help Forum

“Google News is working on a system-wide fix for the ‘not in the Google News database‘ error-message error.

Nothing is being done on an individual site basis, so publishers do not need to post their sites in the Google News Help Forum. It is already a known issue that is being worked on.

Also, this error is not having an effect on the crawling of news-sitemaps that are actually in the database. The crawling and indexing is continuing as normal.

This issue is expected to be resolved by Tuesday next week (6/25/2013). Publishers that continue to see this error after that point may ask for assistance or seek updated information in the forum or by using the Google News Publisher report an issue form.”

Over the past few days I have been contacted by several Google News publishers who have received the following message in their Google Webmaster Tools News Sitemaps Report and have noticed a problem with Google News not indexing their site:

“Your Sitemap is on a site that is not in the Google News database. Google News can only accept Sitemaps from sites that we crawl. If your site is crawled by Google News, please check that the URL of your Sitemap agrees with the URLs of your articles as they appear on Google News, including any leading “www”. If you would like to request inclusion of your site in Google News, please contact the Google News support team.”

This message has typically coincided with the publisher’s site either not showing up in Google News’ index or with much slower indexing of newly published articles.  Not fun.

The good news is that this appears to be a glitch on Google News’ part.  If you have received this notice and Google News is not indexing your Google News XML Sitemap, I recommend you head over to the Google News Publishers Help Forum and post there about your issue.  Thus far the Google News team has responded pretty quickly to these issues and fixed the problem.  It’s not clear why they haven’t done this yet for all sites, but the sooner you alert them to your site’s issue, the sooner it may get taken care of.

Note to Christian Bale’s agent: No more musicals

→ 2 CommentsTags: Google News
Posted by Andrew Shotland

“The Usability Impetuous Behind Google+ Local…”

June 18th, 2013

Aaron Bradley dropping some Local knowledge, along with a lot of other knowledge, in his fantastic post about the Semantic Web:

“…search is no longer about words, but about the things to which the words on a web page describe and make reference…”

“Why is this important?  It’s important because when Google receives a user query it’s increasingly not trying to provide a match for the query keywords, but (informed, whenever it’s possible for them to do, by the context of the query) to understand the meaning underlying the query, and then return information about the entities it has identified.”

“The process of navigating to web pages, and moving back and forth between search results and the web pages they reference, is trivial on desktop computers but a royal pain on a hand-held mobile device.

This situation provides a compelling incentive for the search engines to circumvent additional web page visits altogether, and instead present answers to queries – especially straightforward informational queries – directly in the search results.

While many in the search marketing field have suggested that the search engines have increasingly introduced direct answers in the search results to rob publishers of clicks, there’s more than a trivial case to be made that this is in the best interest of mobile users.  Is it really a good thing to compel an iPhone user to browse to a web page – which may or may not be optimized for mobile – and wait for it to load in order to learn the height of the Eiffel Tower?

This also sheds considerable light on the usability impetuous behind Google+ Local.   A well-formed Google+ Local Page enables Google to display things like business hours and an interactive map in a mobile-friendly fashion in response to a query like “Jones Aquarium Supplies” (which is, of course, an entity).”



→ 3 CommentsTags: Google · Local Search
Posted by Andrew Shotland

The Small Business SEO Agency Reseller Model

June 18th, 2013

The Red Pill or The Blue Pill?

I tend to get a lot of calls from start-ups trying to go the small business SEO agency reseller route to get their services in the hands of SMBs.  Often they are looking for feedback on their service, introductions to potential resellers, or a SEO strategy to get in front of potential customers.  I have had this conversation so often in the past month, that I figured I would save everyone some time and give you my initial feedback on your business model here.

Before calling a potential reseller, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does your service make the agency more money than their current system?  (I can basically stop right here, but you called me for help, so I guess I owe you a bit more than that.  #Etiquette)
  • How does your service make the agency’s job more effective/efficient, etc.?  Can you prove it?
  • Why is this worth the agency’s time v. the fifty other things they could be doing?  See #’s 1 & 2.
  • How long can you hold your breath? Give yourself a long time before you see meaningful traction.  Big agencies/yellow pages companies, etc. are notoriously slow in making decisions on adding new SKUs to their menus.  They already have a hard time getting sales people educated on the stuff they already sell and new services, particularly those with low/no financial incentives for the sales people and the agency tend not to get mentioned when talking to the client.  And once they decide to do a deal, they might roll out a small test and then take six months to really get behind it.  And smaller agencies who might be faster to take on your service, will sell a few packages and then probably forget about it because they are too busy and it wasn’t enough revenue or it was too much effort to sell.  Remember, small search marketing agencies are basically SMBs, and trying to do business with them is no different than trying to do business with a kitchen counter guy.

For a SEO agency reseller model to succeed, I think you need to hit one of the following points, in no particular order:

  • Your service is a better substitute for something the agency is already doing.  For example, if you can produce crappy infographics cheaper/faster/better than the agency’s current solution, perhaps they should give you a shot.   Showing data that proves results from actual case-studies always helps.
  • Your service does something the agency doesn’t, but needs to do.  Emphasis on the “needs”.  For example, if Google announced last week that it’s going to demote all non-smartphone-optimized sites and you have a smartphone-optimized site builder, then perhaps an agency that doesn’t have a smartphone SEO solution should give you a shot.
  • Your service does not require the agency to ask their clients for more money.  I am not saying an upsell model can’t work, but it’s definitely going to have a harder time getting traction unless it’s the kind of thing that clients are already asking for, like a smartphone-optimized website.  Most small business SEO clients are not spending a lot per month and if your amazing new thing is going to cost 25% of the client’s billings, the agency is not likely to want to eat the costs, and the client that already feels like they are spending way too much money on this stuff (even at $100/month!) isn’t going to want to spend more – unless perhaps it’s for a smartphone-optimized website or something.

There are plenty of great businesses that rely on agency resellers – SEO tools, data management, smart-phone optimized websites, etc.  -  so I don’t want to be a wet blanket.  But when you enter the Matrix of small business SEO agencies, I always recommend you take the red pill.


→ 3 CommentsTags: Small Business Marketing
Posted by Andrew Shotland