Google sure does like to keep us on our toes, don’t they? This session was originally going to cover local SEO tactics that went beyond Google Places. Then Big G went and dumped Places in favor of Google Plus. I’m betting Mike Blumenthal, Michael Dorausch, and Mike Ramsey did a bit of grumbling when they had to edit their presentations so close to conference time. Ah, Google—such a sense of humor! Matt McGee and Rob Bucci are moderating, so let’s get down to some local business.
We start up with Mike B. and a presentation titled It’s About Place Prominence.
Mike says he’s been looking at Google since 2006. What is Google’s problem? Well, How do you rank a phone book? They needed to create an algorithm that covered about 125 million businesses. Not an easy task. So they created a mix of traditional local information and Web information.
They identified attributes they thought were important to Google, things like proximity, business name, score of highest citation, total number of Web pages, etc. Most people aren’t familiar with the linking part of the algorithm, but it’s very significant in local search.
Two things that drive rank: location prominence, and distance from the centroid.
Google will mix and match, and then normalize those two rankings to give you a result. That’s why it sometimes looks odd, because there’s no normalized solution.
Still valuable and used:
- citations with links on business name or with keyphrase links, which are citation links
The location prominence algorithm is critical to local search. In the recent past it was about domain authority.
Regarding relevance and ranking factors, branded search is important. Google is showing a willingness to embrace branded search with blended results, which does away with the need for place pages.
In the very recent past, it was about place, domain/page prominence and personal authority. Google was relying a lot on local; now they’re relying on blended results. This is a big shift. Page prominence is taking a much bigger role in the new algorithm.
MapMaker has also grown in importance. It’s become a primary data source for them. It can be used to clean up records, and to get rid of spam. But in typical Google fashion, it’s buggy, sometimes just wrong, so hang on for the ride.
This was supposed to provide improved local results. Mike Ramsey wrote a great post [sorry, no link was provided] about the “citification of organic,” as Mike B. calls it. It opens up a longtail strategy to everyone. But more interesting was the triggering mechanism used to show these new, blended results.
Post-Venice Blended Result
Organic results can be in positions one through four, you have authorship… It’s a more complicated algorithm.
Look at AOL. They don’t buy Google local universal results. Their results are purely organic. Compare it to what you see in Google. The top three listings are the same. If you then compare with Google Maps, you can see how Google backfills information.
Now Google Places has become Google Plus. Mike B. confirms he just did these slides yesterday. [Did I call that, or what?!] All Google did was move your Places pages from one place to another, so the information is intact, but they left a bunch of broken links in their wake.
Mike B. says the change in reviews is huge, and Mike D. is going to talk about that more. Review stars disappeared from search results, and they added Zagat scores, which are less engaging, but they left the stars on the ads, which is kind of odd, but they’re more engaging. Google giveth, and Google taketh away. They took away rich snippets, but they gave us authorship.
The Near Future
An integration with G+ Business Pages. It’s going to be a very laborious process. He thinks an improved backend is also coming.
So, reviews are important, but there’s little change in the algorithm, so just manage it the way you always have.
Clearly, Google is moving toward place authority, domain authority, author rank, social signals, but brand is going to be very important, and will remain consistent throughout these changes.
Next is Mike R. [I'm going to have to call too many Mikes pretty soon! :-)] who’s going to talk about Understanding and Competing Against Black Hat Tactics.
Mike R. starts out by saying he doesn’t believe in white or black hats, but that everyone operates on a scale. His focus for this presentation is going to be what he considers pure black, which causes harm to others.
Negative local SEO have been going on for years. It’s nothing new, and he’s been dealing with it for years.
It’s hard to tell the real from the fake sometimes. The first question is, why do people fake reviews? Beause they matter. 72% consumers trust reviews, and 52% said positive reviews make them more likely to use a local business.
And because it’s easy! Take fiverr. Five bucks for someone to put up fake reviews, it scales very well. And those reviews can be found across the Internet.
Re-Submitting Negative Reviews
He gives an example of a person in Seattle who, every time a business gets a new listing, he just reposts his negative review, and immediately, it pops up to the top of the results.
And oh my gosh, Mike R. just threw a Twilight slide into his presentation. Minus points! But then he said Matt McGee is team Edward. Hmm…I’m not sure what that means, but okay, maybe he won a few points back.
Back to local search!
It used to be, you could see when someone left a fake review, you could see their profile name. Now, it just says “A Google User.” So now the chances of being able to do anything about is are slim to none. But soon, you’ll have to start publishing reviews and have them linked to your G+ account, with your real name, photo, etc. So if you’re going to say something negative, you’re going to have to be responsible.
Not scary enough?
They’re also going to link to ALL your previous reviews! Do you think anyone is going to publish fake bad reviews under their real names? He says Google+ local raised the review bar so high only spammers will leave fake reviews.
He looked up John Doe: 356,000 results. So how many John Does can leave fake reviews? On fiverr, you can get 30 accounts for five bucks. That can do some damage.
It’s harder for businesses to get real Google reviews.
Track Your Reviews
He mentions a few tools, like getmelisted.net which allows you to track reviews, although he thinks it’s called sweetiq.com as of yesterday. There’s also getlisted.org and reviewpush.com. Any time you get a review, they send you an e-mail so you can track reviews.
Look at the reviewer account, if applicable. Match the story and date with employees to find out more details about the event. If it’s fake, flag it as inappropriate. To do this, roll over the review, and a little flag appears. Click on it, and you can report the review as containing spam.
If that doesn’t work, carefully respond to the fake review. Be professional. People are going to react to how you react.
Important: The best defense is a good offense. If you’re constantly engaged in getting good reviews, it will be hard for bad reviews to negatively affect you.
Best way to do this? Create reviews cards. Hand them out to customers. Put a URL on them that sends people to a page that allows them to leave reviews.
Name Address Phone number. Google grabs N.A.P. information from a lot of places and creates listings. But there are sites that basically aggregate and push information out to a lot of directories, and they submit bad data.
People will create listings with competitor names and a valid phone number, meaning when people search for competitors, your phone comes up. It’s dirty. The only thing you can do to combat this is claim all listings you can with the correct information by hand.
Other ways people can submit fake business information:
- Google MapMaker
- Hijacked Listings
- Moving Locations—People will drag the map pin to another location, like an uninhabited island, or Europe. It pulls people out of rankings.
- Mark as Closed – Supposedly Google fixed it, but he shows one from just last week. If it happens, you can click on “Not true?”, get your employees to click, too, to change it back.
Log in to your listing often, and do a “null” submit. Google will trust more recent submissions than your own if it hasn’t been updated for a while.
Please don’t do this to competitors. It’s dirty. If you use black hat tactics for yourself, then fine. But don’t use them to hurt others.
Now we’re down to the last Mike, and an Outspoken Media favorite, Mike D., not to be confused with the Beastie Boy.
Deep Granular Hyper Local Content #DGHLC
He says all the stuff Mike R. was just talking about makes his blood boil because he sees people do that. People have tried to do it to his small business.
Walking from LAS to Las Vegas Strip. Who has time to do this? Well, he took the time to do it, wrote about it, and got a lot of traffic from it.
Writing about you gets old. Provide content for your local community and go beyond the five-page mentality.
Local content is predictable and repeatable! Be the evangelist in your local community.
Every summer, there’s a volleyball tournament in LA. Mike goes, takes photos, does chiropractic work. Get involved in your own local events.
Any street fairs in your community? People want to know what’s going on. Tell them!
Local content takes discipline, persistence, and effort. He covers the LA marathon every year. He’s been doing it for about ten years, and now he gets a press pass, and about 200 pages of content beforehand.
The SMX social media conference is going to be in Vegas this December. The week before is the Las Vegas marathon. The strip is going to be closed, there will be thousands of runners, hundreds of volunteers, all kinds of stuff. It’s a huge opportunity for someone local to cover it and get some traffic from it.
People want to know about these things. Why are the streets closed? People will go to Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s going on. You’ll get a lot of retweets if you’re talking about it.
Talk about when, where, and how, and then afterward, share photos and results. You can also provide information on ways to avoid traffic and crowds during the marathon, where to park. These are positive events people like and want to know about.
Never underestimate the power of an optimized photograph.
He’s had marathon posts published for Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities, and they appear high in the SERPs.
Local Content Prep Sheet
- What kind of marathon/run
- maps (parking, directions, route, hot spots)
- highlight on volunteers (happy stories)
- photos (Flickr page, blog, Google+, FB, panoramio, etc.)
- video (YouTube, embed)
- race results
- twitter (engage community and use hashtags)
- success stories
- sprinkle in local links/citations
Other Ways to Provide Local Content
- Parades – There may not be an LA Lakers parade this year, but what about an LA Kings parade? NO ONE has written about that yet.
- Canoe Races
- Local Intent Photography – Sidewalk Views. Google maps take photos from the street, satellite photos are from above. Make sure you get sidewalk or up-close views that the others don’t offer. You’ll be the only person providing this. They don’t have the ability to create it—yet. They’re working on bicycle views.
- Local Construction – Take a photo and write a post. Maybe a real estate agent has written about it, so take the opportunity to provide information about it.
- Brands and Locations – People want to know things like where the Starbucks is located. The monorail is bankrupt because no one knows how to find it. You can get a good amount of traffic for information like that.
- Local Activities – Hiking. Where you can hike, where you can park. He wrote about hiking opportunities 15 minutes from his business. People who have no interest in his business, but were interested in hiking, were sharing the post, which brings traffic to his site.
- Local Art – Graffiti. He takes photos of graffiti, and it gets shared like crazy.
- Local Fauna
- Local Regulations – Skate parks, BMX parks, If you’re thinking your business has nothing to do with skate parks, you have to think outside the box. Even if your business has nothing to do with it, think of it from antoehr perspective—for example, as a parent.
- Local Transportation – Bus stop signs, parking signs, with local information.
- Local History – Monuments, statues. Take the time to commemorate people, things related to veterans and Memorial Day, people are looking for it.
- Local Archives – Venice in 1924. He says he’s the only guy who goes to the library in downtown Los Angeles. [I hope that's not true, because that would make me sad.] Who’s interested in archives? Researchers. Librarians, people who work at .edus. He’s going to spend some time in the Seattle library tomorrow gathering information like this.
- USDA Farm Service Agency
Whew! With a list like that, you have NO excuse for not getting out there and becoming more involved in your city! Not to mention getting more traffic. Have at it!
Get all the SMX Advanced 2012 coverage here!