90′s Redux – Google’s Fanny Pack Continues to Expand

January 26th, 2015

One of the benefits of working with local clients, both large and small, is that we see a lot stuff. Recently we have been conducting a rank tracking project for a large national brand with 1,300+ locations. This has has given us some interesting insights into the move from the local carousel to the local fanny pack. Most often SERP changes, either algorithmic or feature-based, get analyzed at the SMB level. This makes these changes seem monolithic and pervasive as you are just looking at several tiny slices of the picture.

Soon All Local Packs Will Looks Like This

Do you smell what Google is cookin’?

When we started off this project in December, a good amount of this client’s local results were still returning traditional packs even though they are in the prototypical carousel vertical (restaurant):

December 15, 2014
3 Pack Exists – Total: 13,718
Local Pack Position – Total: 6,738
Total 20,456


Before we get into how this was different in January, you should know that we are tracking all of the relevant keywords. We are tracking keywords that are also Google My Business categories, adding the city and tracking it at the ZIP code level.

Whatchoo talkin' about Dan?

An example of this would look like “Vegan Restaurant Costa Mesa” and would be tracked by passing zip code 92627 in as the location of the searcher (thanks Authority Labs!). Spoiler Alert – the client is not Native Foods :-)

Okay, back to what we found. Here is the punch line, Google is still continuing to roll out the fanny pack even within verticals. This becomes pretty clear when you look at the January data:

January 14, 2015
3 Pack Exists – Total: 24,814
Local Pack Position -Total: 3229
Total 28,043


WOW, more 3-packs! This is evident because, duh, the amount of non-fanny pack results showing up has been cut in half.  Here is a visualization to make it a little more clear:

Google Local Packs Across The Country

There are a few takeaways from this:

1) This provides more support to Linda Buquet’s theory that local results are different across different data centers.
It also seems like the roll-out across data centers is pretty slow.

2) Google may not be going all-in on the fanny pack.
If you combine the slow rollout with all the different local result displays Google has been testing then it looks like fanny pack may not be here to stay for very long.

3) Multi-location national brands should be bucketing their local search data, both regionally and by market size.
This lets you better understand the competitive landscape that your brand is playing in so you can develop specific tactics and stratagies to win rather then relying on “best practices”.

4) Invest more in local organic search.
With all the flux in local, and the fragmentation of local search results, it is probably a good call to reinvest some of that local search budget into a better local organic strategy. Even if Google does go all-in on the fanny pack, you would still want to invest more in local organic because there will be net-fewer local pack results available to show up in.

→ 1 CommentTags: Google My Business
Posted by Dan Leibson

Is MapMaker’s Bad Data Grounds for Divorce?

January 13th, 2015

We have been playing around with Google’s MapMaker product a lot lately. While this won’t come as a shock to the seasoned local search professionals out there let me tell you, it’s a buggy product. Just the other day I had it return auto-suggest results in what I think was Dutch. While UI glitches are one thing, it’s totally different when the issue is with the local data itself. I was looking at MapMaker data for a large, multi-location client when I saw this:

Google MapMaker  Result Boundery

Uh oh…

While I wouldn’t consider myself a MapMaker guru, I do spend enough time in it to know when something is out of whack. Associating a car dealership as the grounds/boundary for a physical location is definitely out of whack. Dauntless, I pressed on. While it seems like this could be a mundane issue with the MapMaker database, that didn’t seem to be the case. Just take a gander at the listing:

MapMaker Business as a Boundary

Pop quiz hotshot, why is this listing unlike other listings?

Several reasons:

-Ability to change the bounding line of the address aka the purple sea.
-No phone number
-No hours of operation
-While it display’s multiple categories, only the primary one is editable.

In addition to only being able to edit the primary category, when I went to change it I couldn’t add in a standard category like “Ford Dealer” (probably because it isn’t classified as a standard business).

MapMaker Category Selection Borked

So what I think happened is that somehow this listing has data from two sets of MapMaker features, businesses and grounds/boundary. This is a big deal because this listing is feeding data to the clients Google My Business listing for this location and not all of that data can be corrected. As most of you probably know, MapMaker is a major data source for Google My Business and since it’s such a buggy product there is bound to be blowback into Google’s consumer facing local product. I’m going to post an update as we go through getting this resolved so that if this ever happens to you, you at least know that you aren’t walking through the MapMaker darkness alone.


→ 4 CommentsTags: Google Maps
Posted by Dan Leibson

Yes Virginia, Publishing Does Help SEO…

January 8th, 2015

Local SEO Guide Organic Traffic 11.29.14 - 1.8.15


When you have been practicing SEO for years, you sometimes take the basics for granted. Then they hit you smack dab in the face and it’s like a breath of fresh air.

Above is this blog’s organic traffic graph from November 29th, 2014 to today. While it’s hard to see, organic traffic for the last two days is about 20% higher than any Tues/Wed during the period. While there could be some seasonality to the trend, I think the fact that we didn’t publish anything on this site during the period until December 31st might be the key factor. And once we were out of the holiday period this week, the two posts published Monday and Wednesday likely gave us a bit of a lift.

Obvious to most, I know, but if you ever are trying to convince someone that it’s worth the time to write something down and post it, this post might nudge them in the right direction. And if you are ever in procrastination mode, it couldn’t hurt to crank out a little post like I just did now…

→ 5 CommentsTags: Whateva
Posted by Andrew Shotland

When It Comes to Google MapMaker, Don’t Take No for an Answer

January 7th, 2015

Do you find your edits in Google MapMaker often get denied?

Ever since Maptivists shed some light on the exploits that were possible using MapMaker, it has been harder and harder to get legitimate changes made. Most of the time I see MapMaker edits get rejected, regardless of their validity. A good example was when I deleted the category “Brewpub” for Noble Ale Works (which you should visit if you are ever in Orange County). It seemed like a pretty non-controversial change, I have been to Noble several times and know for a fact that they don’t serve food. Anyway, a couple of days later I was greeted with this notification:

Google Map Maker Denial

Well Listing Editor Sirish Y, that is really helpful (not). I understand that to a non-native English speaker “brewpub” probably seems like a logical choice for a place that serves beer. However, as a proper beer snob I can tell you that the difference is pretty distinct. Brewpubs serve food, breweries do not. Anyway, since I know that it’s the correct information I appealed the rejection:

Noble MapMaker Appeal

And lo and behold, a couple of weeks later my appeal was victorious.

Now this isn’t a story about an isolated case of getting a MapMaker edit rejected and overcoming that with an appeal. An entirely made up statistic about MapMaker, based on my own personal observations over several years, is that 78.3% of MapMaker edits get rejected. We see this all the time, if it’s not in Google’s databanks then the front line of defense (e.g. MapMaker editors, GMB Support etc) doesn’t have the expertise or the data to make an informed decision.

So back to MapMaker, we have over a 90% success rate of overcoming MapMaker denials. The trick to this isn’t really a trick, it’s something everyone in this space should strive to do everyday. Be the expert, explain why a certain view is incorrect, and provide data backing up your assertions. Doing this puts you on the path to success with more then just Google MapMaker.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Google Maps
Posted by Dan Leibson

15 Local SEO Predictions for 2015

January 5th, 2015

PreCog Minority Report 

And you won’t believe what happens next…

  1. Google will lose market share in Local (trying not to repeat myself here so check out the link to Streetfight for more thoughts on GOOG, Facebook, Apple, etc.)
  2. Google will significantly change the layout of its local pack results at least twice, causing me to break out the Pigeon poop pic again
  3. Google will drastically update their GMB guidelines for the 3rd time in two years, causing a mad dash of changes and posts with the actual impact being minimal (on a related note, Linda Buquet will create the longest forum thread in history with updates on this)
  4. Google will release the ability to claim a listing into GMB locations (aka bulk feed) like you can with their regular dash (Hallelujah!)
  5. As mobile search volume hits north of 75% of local queries, Google Desktop SERPs will almost start to not matter for certain industries – thinking A&E & on-demand services specifically. While the mobile algorithm will continue to be similar to the desktop algo, we will start to see an increase in the ability to influence mobile SERPs via making your site/service/content more “location aware”
  6. To that end, Google will continue to experiment with paid versions of the local pack in an attempt to make these often-horrific results a lot better
  7. After two years of Penguin paranoia, crap linkbuilding & guest posts will continue to be the coin of the realm for most SEO services
  8. Social signals still won’t mean shite for SEO but SEOs will still sell them to SMBs, cause ya gotta be on Facebook, right?
  9. Apple Maps Connect will roll out functionality for multi-location brands; maybe they will even allow more agencies to manage accounts for multiple businesses; and European & Canadian businesses will be able to use the service to manage their listings.
  10. The number of “How to Optimize for Apple Watch” posts will be unsurprisingly insane. I may even have to write one ;)
  11. Yext* will successfully IPO creating a feeding frenzy for big players to try to get bigger pieces of the listings management biz (while likely ignoring the lessons of Zero to One). A Yext IPO would also open the floodgates for other scale local marketing plays to test the waters (thinking Thumbtack, Houzz, etc.)
  12. Someone will try to buy Foursquare (what’s a local search prediction list without this one?). And speaking of acquisitions, the success of Moz’ and LocalU’s Local Up conference will spur M&A rumors which will cause Mike Blumenthal to have to say “no comment” for the first time in history.
  13. Stone Temple will publish an exhaustive study on how regularly publishing exhaustive studies improves SEO (I keed Eric, I keed…)
  14. The demand for Local SEO services will hit an all-time high
  15. We will publish more often on this blog and elsewhere in our attempt to blow your collective minds and/or procrastinate

*Yext is a consulting client and I own a small chunk of Yext stock

→ 11 CommentsTags: Local Search
Posted by Andrew Shotland