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Archive for the ‘Location Based SEM’ Category
Google announced Thursday that Google Places pages have undergone a few very important changes. You’ll notice that third party reviews are now gone from Places pages. These changes come as a result of other consumer ratings websites like Yelp, Citysearch, and TripAdvisor claiming that Google was using their content without permission.
Places pages will still link to these third party sites for a more well rounded search experience but only after showing Google user reviews. Google will no longer integrate the actual reviews from any other consumer rating websites into the page or the Place rating system. Take a look at the photo below to see what this looks like.
Another important change to note is that Google is now emphasizing a call to action at the top of companies’ Places pages with two new buttons encouraging users to “Write a review” and more easily upload photos from places they’ve been.
Having stellar, yet genuine, user reviews are a great way to bring in business and encourage new customers to try your services and check out your business. Places photos also do a lot to help your search engine optimization efforts. Not only do they give your customers visual insight to your company, they also get indexed in Google images. In order to optimize your Places presence, encourage your happy customers to write reviews directly on your Google Places listing.
Expect more Places pages upgrades to roll out soon. Google also notes forthcoming advancements for increased user personalization of local searches, as well as platform and device flexibility.
We’re here at #SMX West in beautiful San Jose, CA getting our SEO learn on. The hot topic this week – Local Search. The numbers vary depending who you ask – but around 20% of all searches and 1/3 of all mobile searches have local intent. So you’ve verified your Google Places listing. Now what? Some insight from the panel this morning Local Search Tactics featuring Benu Aggarwal, Mary Bowling (@MaryBowling), SEM Rockstar Bruce Clay (@bruceclayinc), Andrew Shotland, and Moderator Greg Sterling (@gsterling).
Google is showing Search Results mixed with Place Page results
You’ll see a different combination of Organic Results and Place page results depending on the topic, the city you’re in, the city you’re searching for, your device, your past searches, and your probable intent. For instance, you are more likely to see the “7 pack” – 7 Google places listings a list with pins next to a Map – if there is a city name in the search query. To add a little special sauce to the formula, Bruce Clay speculates that the placement now is also a bit random – maybe Google testing different displays? Bruce added in the session: “The only thing we know right now is that it moves.” So how do you optimize with such unpredictability? Below is advice from the panel on optimizing your Google Places listing to be more likely to show up in one of those coveted spots:
Optimizing Google Places Pages
On Your Google Places Page
- Make sure the information is accurate
This is number 1. Make sure you have only one listing for your location, the address and phone number are correct, and the dot on the map is in the right place. Report any issues you can’t fix yourself to Google via the link “Problem with this listing?”
- Use the exact business name
Don’t be tempted to use something like “The Best Widgets in Town – Frank’s Widgets.” Use your name as it appears across the web, and on your website.
- Use Proper Categories
You get 5 Categories to describe yourself, and should use all 5 opportunities. Google requires that your primary category be one of Google’s – but the other 4 can be custom written if you like. Mary Bowling of seOverflow also recommends choosing as many of Google’s categories as you can (at least 2). Google knows that Dentists “clean teeth” and Plumbers “fix faucets” – it’s best to align with their terms to experience the benefits of that knowledge.
If you do add custom categories, base them on how profitable that offering is to your business and the popularity of the phrase (a good rule of thumb is – if you search for that term, does Google show the “7 pack” of points on a map on the search results page). Also be sure to look at your competitors for good categories you might have missed.
One more tip from Mary: avoid non-related categories – separate into two listings if your business does two very different things (i.e. snow shoveling in the winter and landscaping in the summer).
- Reference Social Media
Reference your social media profiles and include photos and video to make your place listing more rich.
On the Web – Reviews and Citations
- Be consistent with Citations
Google considers a site that refers to you by name and address or phone number as a “Citation” – even if they never link to your website.
Make sure your site is listed with the same name, same phone number, same address, etc. on any site that refers to you. Any variation can make it look less than legit to Google’s algorithm, and will hurt your rankings.
These pages are especially valuable if your business name and address or city is in the page’s title tag.
- Submit your site to local directories and review sites
Google pulls ratings from different sites depending on the industry. Look at search results and reviews fed into your Place listing to get an idea of what sites Google sees as relevant for your business.
Make a list of the most relevant review sites and tackle them one by one.
According to Andrew Shotland, his company surveyed the top 20 categories in the top 20 US cities and came up with this list of top 10 review sites to consider:
- Yahoo Local
- Encourage reviews
It’s not all about quantity, but try to have at least as many reviews as the average top rankers. Perceived authenticiy of reviews is also really important, look for sites that have a vetting process – anonymous reviews have a tendency to look spammy or fake, which Google can recognize and fault you for.
You will sometimes get bad reviews, but that’s ok. Use those to improve your business. Respond to bad reviews – not necessarily because you believe you will win that customer back, but so future reviewers and visitors see that you are listening.
On Your Website
- Remember that you have to optimize your site for location as well. Claiming a Google Places listing is not enough. Specific things to note for including location information on your website from Benu Aggarwal:
- Include a Location Map
- Image names and Alt tags should have city/state keywords
- Display address and phone in text throughout your site, and in the footer of sidebar on every page
- Make sure your data is consistent with how you’re describing yourself on Google Places.
- Specifically, re-enforce the categories you’ve put yourself in – be consistent in your wording
- Optimize the categories you’ve included on your place page and your city location in other web content – press releases are eligible to show up in Google as News results for up to 3 days, videos and photos as well.
- Associate your website with you Places listing – include a link
- Encourage reviews – link to reviews sites from your site
Optimizing a Google Places listing can be summed up in one short checklist: Claim, Optimize, Clear up confusion.
Remember to keep your company name, address, and phone number consistent across the web. And the bottom line is: you need a strong business to support your local presence on the web – Facebook/Places/etc. won’t do it alone.
Want more from SMX? Follow us on Twitter at @SEMblog. And if you’re attending – find us and come say hi!
Oh SMX, why are you having so many great sessions? I am only one person and can’t be in different places at once. In either case, it’s great to be here with such legendary SEO / SEM rock stars including Matt Cutts, Bruce Clay, Jill Whalen, and many more.
The first day of the conference has already been filled with local search, paid search and social search marketing awesomeness. So, many sessions yet so little time.
After some debate, I have finalized my conference schedule. These are the sessions I will be attending throughout the week. For live updates from the SMX conference, be sure to follow our @semblog twitter account.
- Local Search Tactics
- Best Practices with Adcenter for Bing & Yahoo
- Up Close with Google Places Pages
- Location Services: The New Local Search
- Keynote: Tristan Walker of Foursquare
- The State of Search Marketing
- What’s Really Important for Technical SEO
- Retweet Me: How To Be A Twitter Authority
- Actionable Metrics and Diagnostics
- Building Buzz on Facebook: Getting Linked & Shared
- Keynote Conversation with Steven Levy
- SEO Myths, Mistakes and the Madness of Crowds
- The Spam Police with Matt Cutts
- Analytics for Social Media
If you are at SMX too, which conference sessions are you attending? Let us know in the comments below. Photo thanks to the SMX 2011 Flickr album.
In the new era of micro messaging, Google has added Posts to the Google Places listing tools. Think of this as a small welcome or featured message to your clients and to promote your business. If you haven’t see this yet, Google Places is the newest version of Local or Google Map type listings.
Once you have your Google Places page setup and verified, make sure and complete your profile. Then, take the next step and add a Posts feature as a quick status update in the now familiar 160 characters. The message will automatically run for 30 days in your Places page. Think about using your targeted keyphrases or a special message to your visitors. Only one post will show at a time, but you can choose between Specials, Events, or new features. The end of the year is a great time to provide information about specials and events.
Let us know how you are using your Google Posts or if you need help creating a complete listing for your business.
Contact the Schipul SEM Team in Houston for more information.