Suggested Local Search Terms Ooze onto Google’s Default Homepage

Suggested Local Search Terms Ooze onto Google’s Default Homepage

Local-business results were plenty visible before.  We’ve long seen them in the Maps 3-pack, in the Maps tab, in the Maps app, and in the local organic search results.

You or I might say, “The local results are visible enough” or, “OK, we know where to find ‘em.”  Google, on the other hand, might say, “Where else can we push local search results?”

On the holiest of holy ground: the homepage of Google:

3 suggested searches for specific songs, plus “piano teachers near me.”  Loosely related, of course, but which of those items least belongs under that heading of “Explore musical instruments and sheet music”?

The results may be Chrome-specific and personalized.  For all I know, maybe they’re music-specific.  I had been listening to some Irish pub songs on YouTube in the same browsing session, which may have turned Google onto the musical theme.  If I watch a cat video, then will I get a nudge toward “veterinarian near me” or “cat psychologist nearby”?

The kicker is that when I clicked the link, the local results I saw weren’t great.

Two businesses with keyword-stuffed Google My Business names, and absent was the very-nearby music school where my wife has taken violin lessons (which you’d assume Big Brother Google knows we like).

Anyway, I don’t know yet whether this is just a weird little test.  I suspect not, given how over the years the the organic results have become localized, and the ads have seeped into the Maps results, and the Maps results have shown for more terms that used to show only organic results.  I suspect this is the next phase of Google’s mixing all the chocolate with all the peanut butter.

But who knows.  I just caught a little glimpse of something that may or may not be something.

Have you seen any suggested local search terms on Google’s homepage / your default Chrome page?

Any other observations?

Leave a comment!

Suggested Local Search Terms Ooze onto Google’s Default Homepage
Source: Local Visibility System

Want to Guess How Many Local Businesses Use Google My Business Posts?

Want to Guess How Many Local Businesses Use Google My Business Posts?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/idletype/430895151/

Google My Business posts have been around since mid-2017.  They seem to have caught on – more than many of Google’s “local business” features have – mostly because the payoff is clear: GMB posts stick out in your brand-name search results, and can nudge people toward the next step you’d like them to take.

Should you use Google My Business posts – for your business?  On the one hand is the “Why not?” argument.  You can give GMB posts a try for a few months and see if they’re worth the (small) effort.

On the other hand, the “Why bother?” argument also has merit.  To wit:

  • If most businesses use GMB posts already, won’t customers tune them out post?
  • If few businesses use GMB posts, have most people just concluded they’re a waste of time?
  • If few businesses use them, will Google retire GMB posts soon?

You probably don’t need another distraction – another thing to keep you from focusing on the stuff with clearer payoff to your local visibility.

This is where it helps to know specifically how many businesses use – or ever have used – Google My Business posts.  I couldn’t find any numbers on that, and when possible I like a better understanding than, “Umm, not many” or “A lot, I guess.”  So I did some research.

I looked at 2000 businesses in the Google Maps results, in 100 local markets.  Those 100 markets covered 10 cities across the US, and focused on 10 categories of businesses.  (More on my methodology in a minute.)  I counted how many businesses had created a GMB post recently – within the last 7 days – and how many businesses had ever done a GMB post.

Here’s a summary of what I found – the numbers on businesses’ adoption of Google My Business posts:

Q: How many businesses have ever created a Google My Business post?
A: About 17%.

Q: How many businesses have posted recently and seem to post regularly?
A: About 4%.

Q: How many businesses posted at least once, but seem not to keep up with it?
A: About 13%.

Q: Of the businesses that do post on GMB, how many seem to do it regularly?
A: About 1 in 4.

Q: In how many local markets has at least one business (in the top 20) ever tried GMB posts?
A: About 91% of local markets.  In only 9% of markets (that I looked at) nobody had ever posted.

Q: In an average first page of “Maps tab” results (20 local businesses), how many have ever tried GMB posts?
A: About 3 businesses.

Q: How saturated do local markets get, in terms of how many local businesses post on GMB?
A: The most I ever saw was 10 businesses out of the top 20.  There were a few nines and a few eights.  Again, the vast majority of businesses I looked at have never posted.

You can download my spreadsheet here.  If you look at it, I’d love to hear any insights you glean that I didn’t mention.

Methodology and limitations

1. I looked only at businesses in the US. I imagine the adoption of (or dabbling in) GMB posts is a little lower outside of the US, but of course it just depends on the local market.

2. I looked only at larger and medium cities in the US. In some cases Google Maps drew results from the suburbs, but I didn’t search there or in less-populated areas. In my experience, adoption of Google My Business features (and the like) is lower outside of the larger cities.

3. I searched in Google Maps – in the “local finder” – so I could look at a larger sample of businesses. The alternative was to look at the top 3 businesses on page 1 of Google’s main search results, but Google’s main search results don’t show who’s using GMB posts. I’d have to click on each one anyway.  In the “Maps” view, I could pull up a list of 20, and very quickly check each business and see whether it had any GMB posts.

4. I focused on 10 industries, by way of 10 search terms: “dentist, “family lawyer,” “auto repair,” “roofing,” “animal hospital,” “preschool,” “electrician,” “real estate agent,” “music lessons, and “plastic surgeon.” Could I have looked at 100 industries? Sure, but I’d still be missing some categories, because there’s an infinity of them.  So I chose to focus on the more-competitive spaces, with a bent toward the brutal markets.  I’ve been in local search for 10 years, and picked the least-bad core sample I could.  (If you do a study like this one, but look at different categories, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.)

What about the red search terms on my spreadsheet? Those represent cases where the search term I originally chose (e.g. “Boston animal hospital”) didn’t produce a full page of 20 businesses in Google Maps. That would have shrunken the sample size a little, and skewed my data a little, so in those cases I just picked a different search term – one that did pull up 20 businesses on the first page of Maps.

6. Over time the number of businesses with a “fresh” GMB post (i.e. posted within the last 7 days) may decrease, or just not grow as quickly as the % of businesses in the “stale posts” column. The reason is simply that most businesses don’t stick with posting on GMB. Today’s business with a fresh post is next week’s business with a stale post.

7. Which categories of businesses post the most? I don’t know, because I’d need to have looked at all or at a couple hundred industries. But I can say that, of the categories I looked at, dental practices seemed the most post-happy.

8. How closely does GMB-posting activity correspond to rankings? I don’t know, because that wasn’t what I set out to find out here. That’s a discussion for another day.  In any case, it would be tough to say, because a business owner who bothers to post on GMB probably has other local SEO irons in the fire.

9. What about the businesses that didn’t even make the first page of Maps results – the businesses ranked #21 and lower? I didn’t look at those. I suspect they post a little less than do businesses on the first page of Maps.

Observations (beyond the numbers)

Most businesses don’t keep up with Google My Business posts.  Of the businesses I looked at, only 4% had posted within the past week, versus 13% that had posted at one time or another (less recently than within the last week). They don’t keep the posts coming.  Google’s mother-hen reminders don’t work too well, apparently.

Because Google sends you a reminder every time your post is about to “expire,” my guess is business owners think that creating a new post is a big chore and a pain.  Maybe they have few good photos to share, or they think a GMB post needs to be like a Facebook post.  Or maybe they choose to post every 2 weeks.  In any case, Google should add a “re-post this post” feature, or something like that.

Customers aren’t drowning in Google My Business posts (at least not yet).  Do some businesses post too often?  Yes.  Are most posts well-done and worthy of searchers’ and customers’ attention?  No.  But most businesses haven’t overdone GMB posts, because most businesses (over 82%) haven’t used GMB posts.

Given how hard Google is pushing GMB posts, if there’s ever a time to give them a try, I’d say that time is now.

Enough businesses seem to use Google My Business posts that Google probably will keep the feature around, and maybe add to it over time.  17% may not sound like a high percentage.  But if my cross-section of 2000 businesses is at all representative, then many millions of business owners have tried GMB posts at one time or another.

Google often kills off products and features both popular and unloved, so we can’t assume GMB posts will be around forever.  But when I think of how slowly most business owners adopt new features, and how (relatively) new GMB posts are, I’d say the chances are good GMB posts will stay out of the Google graveyard.

Good further info on GMB posts

How to Create a Google My Business Post That Will Win You More CustomersBen Fisher

12 Things to Know to Succeed with Google PostsJoy Hawkins

Do Google Posts Impact Ranking? A Case Study – Joy Hawkins

Any researchable numbers or facts you’d like me to cover?

If you’ve looked at my data, did you reach any different or additional conclusions?

What’s the lowdown on Google My Business posts in your local market?

Any success stories?

Leave a comment!

Want to Guess How Many Local Businesses Use Google My Business Posts?
Source: Local Visibility System

Can Google Index the Content of Embedded Yelp Reviews?

Can Google Index the Content of Embedded Yelp Reviews?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pfala/3813096211/

Can Google?  Yes.  Will Google always index the content in Yelp reviews?  Jury’s out.

Google can access the content in Yelp reviews you embed on your site (via Yelp’s embed feature), despite the fact that those Yelp reviews are in iframes.

Here’s an example:

On those two pages the only content with that phrase is in an embedded Yelp review.  (And that’s always been the case on those pages.)

Because Google has gotten better at rendering  iframe conent and Javascript in recent years, maybe it’s inevitable Google indexes more of that content than it used to (or was able to).

On the other hand, on the pages I cited a minute ago, much of the content is in Yelp reviews.  Proportionally, their content is pretty Yelp-heavy.  The pages I looked at where Google doesn’t seem to have indexed the Yelp content also have proportionally more non-Yelp-review content.  That suggests there’s some truth to John Mueller’s characteristically brief and clear answer that, in effect, Google is more likely to index iframe content (like embedded Yelp reviews) when that content makes up a large chunk of the page.

Why does any of that matter to your local SEO?

For one thing, copying and pasting your customers’ Yelp reviews onto your site long has been the best way to ensure that Google can access that relevant content (that you didn’t have to write!).  But copying and pasting is a hassle if you want the reviews to look good on your site, because you’ll have to style them a little.  Now, I’d say it’s not as much of a trade-off: you can use the embed feature to have your Yelp reviews look OK on your site, and still be confident that Google at least knows what’s in the reviews.

Another upshot is that you might lessen the problem of your Yelp page outranking your site for certain brand-name search terms.  Often Google seems split as to which one should rank higher: your site because presumably it’s the “home base” of your business, or your Yelp page because it’s got the juicy reviews on your business?  More often than not Google puts your site above your Yelp page, but not always.  If your Yelp page seems to be cannibalizing your site’s visibility, consider cannibalizing your Yelp reviews on your site by embedding them.  Might make your site a little stickier, too.

Anything I should test or look into?

What’s been your experience with embedding Yelp reviews?

Any benefits or drawbacks I didn’t mention?

Leave a comment!

Can Google Index the Content of Embedded Yelp Reviews?
Source: Local Visibility System

How Likely Is Google Maps to Approve That Anti-Spam Edit?

How Likely Is Google Maps to Approve That Anti-Spam Edit?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/oddwick/4499186005/

Fighting spam in Google Maps is an unpredictable, mushy part of local SEO, and it requires the patience of a monk.  Competitors ethical and unethical come and go, their rankings bob up and down, and Google flip-flops on policies, enforcement, and safeguards.  The least-predictable part of all is: what happens to the anti-spam “edits” you submit to Google in your attempt to clean up the map?

That depends.  An edit is not an edit.  You can make many kinds of anti-spam edits on Google Maps.  Whether Google rejects or accepts yours depends on the specific type of edit you make, on the particulars of the business in question, and on your history of submitting edits that Google ends up accepting.

Most Google Maps edits (or other requests) you can make are more likely to be approved if the business’s Google My Business page is unclaimed, if you’re a mid-to-high-level “Local Guide,” or if the page you’re trying to edit has a checkered past.  It also helps if your edits are based on the truth and you make them in good faith, rather than in an effort to hurt competitors who play fair and square.

Still, in fighting Mapspam there’s always a “I wonder what this button does?” component, which you probably want to avoid as much as you can.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/marklohmann/27521356233/

You’re more likely to get some of the results you want if you know where your patience is most likely and least likely to pay off.  I’ve observed a few things, based on many hours of making anti-spam edits on behalf of clients and businesses I’ve encountered in the wild.  My observations are based strictly on my experience. Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of Google Maps anti-spam edits, and the general likelihood that each will stick:

Edits Google is most likely to approve

Remove a stuffed-in keyword from the “business name” field.

If a keyword or search term is not part of a business’s real name, and that’s obvious to you, there’s a good chance Google will agree.

Remove a stuffed-in city/place name from the “business name” field.
As with extraneous keywords / search terms in the name, you can probably get Google to remove the city name or other place name if it’s clearly tacked-on.

Remove a pile of keywords and/or place names from the “business name.”
Sometimes it’s obvious which part of the business name is “real.”  Often the spammy competitor will put the real business name first, and stick a bunch of keywords and maybe city names after it – perhaps separated by a dash or similar character.

If all the extraneous words are lumped together and you edit them out, Google is more likely to approve your edit.  If the real name is mixed into the keywords, your chances are still good, but Google is less likely to approve your edit right away, and slightly less likely to approve it at all.  That’s been my experience, at least.  My guess is Google has a harder time separating the wheat from the chaff.

Toss-ups: edits Google might approve, but might not

Remove a listing so spammy it could serve only as a lead-gen method for a “real” business.
If its name is an exact-match search term, and it’s got an exact-match domain name, and especially if the address is elusive or hard to find or you can’t pull up its business license, there’s a good chance it’s a lead-gen listing for a “real” business.  You may not know which competitor that is unless you call (and pretend to be a customer).  Just the same, Google may approve your request to remove the listing.

Change the site URL or landing page URL field.
Not an edit you’d need to make often.  Probably the most likely scenario is your competitor puts his/her Facebook page URL or other third-party URL in the “website” field.  (That’s an old way to game the Maps rankings, and it’s against Google’s “quality guidelines.”)

Flag down a negative review of your business from a non-customer.
Only expect Google to do something if the text of the review makes it clear the reviewer is a competitor (rare), or if it’s very un-PC, or if the reviewer has a fishy pattern of reviewing other businesses in your industry.  Getting other people to flag down the review seems to help get Google’s attention.

Mark a business as “Permanently closed”
This one’s murky.  I don’t know how* Google would corroborate or reject a claim that a business has closed.  I’d be tempted to say it depends on how many other people flag a business as “permanently closed,” if not for the fact that Google often approves that kind of edit instantly after I make it.

(*Unless the business is, say, Toys R Us.  RIP.)

Flag down irrelevant or inappropriate photos.
This is a rare time you can give Google specific details as to why you want the photo(s) removed.  Perhaps that’s why, on the relatively few occasions I’ve reported photos, Google’s pretty good about removing them.

Edit the “business name” field significantly, or change it completely.
Even if the name is complete BS, Google seems to consider complete name-changes major surgery, and usually won’t approve your edit right away.  Whether Google ends up approving it at all (days or weeks later) is a coin-toss.

Edits Google is least likely to approve:

Remove stuffed-in keywords or city/place names from the “business name” field when online branding is consistent.
If it doesn’t appear to be a pure lead-gen listing for a “real” business (see earlier point), getting the name fixed is a tough putt.  In my experience, it works out that way even if the name used on Google My Business differs somewhat from the name on the business’s license.  Probably the best time to escalate your request at the forum.

Remove a fake/questionable ratings-only review of your business.
Unless the reviewer has a pattern of crooked behavior, Google  probably will leave the rating up.

Remove a fake/questionable ratings-only review of competitor’s business
This one’s the inverse of the situation I just described: that 5-star rating of your competitor’s business probably will stand, unless the same reviewer left negative ratings of other businesses in the same line of work (like yours).  You can see the other businesses someone reviewed or rated by clicking on his or her username in the review.

Remove a listing at an ineligible address (e.g. employee’s home, UPS store, virtual office, etc.)
Google has all kinds of rules on the addresses you should and should not use, but does little to enforce those rules.  Unless you can upload a photo that makes it plain as day to the uninterested stiff at Google that your competitor is not at his/her stated address, that listing will probably stick.

Edits I can’t yet comment on (yet)

Move map pin.
I can’t remember the last time I needed to move a map pin, so I can’t say how likely Google is to accept that kind of edit.

Change categories.
Because most business owners get the categories basically correct, because you can only choose from a list (and not specify custom categories anymore), and because Google often “fixes” the categories automatically, very rarely do I ever suggest a different category.  Don’t remember what happened the last time I did, so I’d appreciate any fresh intel on this one.

Further reading

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit – me

25 Hard Truths of Google Reviews – me

Interview with Bryan Seely: Google Maps Spam Fighter and Ethical Hacker for the Little Guy – me

How to Remove Fake Google Reviews – Jessie Low / Whitespark

The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Spam on Google Maps – Joy Hawkins

The Proper Way to Deal with Duplicates in Google My Business – Joy Hawkins

Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back – Casey Meraz / Moz

Review Spam – Which Google Categories Are Worst? – Mike Blumenthal

The Largest Review Spam Network Ever or…Who Is Shazedur Rahman and Why Should You Care? – Mike Blumenthal

Spam in, Garbage out – Why Google’s Recent Paper on Map Spam Is Flawed – Mike Blumenthal

Any types of edits I missed?

What’s been your success with different types of edits?

What about the types of edits I couldn’t remark on?

Leave a comment!

How Likely Is Google Maps to Approve That Anti-Spam Edit?
Source: Local Visibility System

Why Clunky Sites (Often) Punch Above Their Weight in the Local Search Results

Why Clunky Sites (Often) Punch Above Their Weight in the Local Search Results

By “clunky” I mean a website of which you can say some or all of the following:

  • Doesn’t look smooth.
  • Not mobile-responsive.
  • Built on an old or less-common CMS, or is hand-coded.
  • Doesn’t have an SSL certificate.
  • Has some cruft, like pages with overlapping content, messy URLs, wordy title tags, etc.

At least in my experience, those sites often rank well.  Surprisingly well, and more often than you’d think.  When sniffing out a client’s local market and figuring out who’s up to what, naturally I’ll take a quick look at who’s #1 (and 2 and 3).  Half the time that business’s site is beautiful and seems to check all the boxes, perhaps because of a recent redesign.  But the other 50% of the sites are clunky.

How could that be?  Aren’t the Maps and organic rankings so competitive these days that even slight edges matter?  Why might a clunky site rank well in the local results?  A few possible explanations:

1. In-depth content hasn’t been scrubbed out (“Hey, nobody reads anymore!”) in favor of an “elegant” and more-visual design.

2. The site may have fewer slow-loading graphics and whiz-bang special effects. Better to be the Badwater snail than the finicky tropical fish.

3. The SEO person hasn’t wiped out or butchered the title tags.

4. The SEO person hasn’t 301-redirected any or many pages, perhaps losing inbound links in the process.

5. Google has had more time to digest the content on the site, and to evaluate how searchers behave on it. It’s not changing every day, and is more of a known quantity.

6. Most other businesses have sites that are clunky, too, and most of the few who have slick-n’-modern sites probably think that’s all they need to rank well.

7. The business owner doesn’t spend all his or her time on the site, and puts a little effort into other things that matter – like earning links, rustling up reviews, and working up enough recognition that people search for the business by name.

I’m not saying you should try to make your site clunky, or that you should never put work into it or reinvent it.  There’s a time to take it to the barber and the tailor, and there’s a time to take it behind the barn.

All I’m saying is that to rank well in Maps and in the localized organic results (1) your site doesn’t need to be perfect, (2) a redesign may not make it better, (3) the off-site work matters at least as much, and (4) tweaking your site shouldn’t be your nervous twitch when you want to improve your rankings.  Don’t be afraid of a little crust.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/61896505@N04/15267050363/

How well does your clunky site – or redesigned site – do in the local results?

Any first-hand experience that aligns or conflicts with what I’ve described?

Any war stories?

Leave a comment!

Why Clunky Sites (Often) Punch Above Their Weight in the Local Search Results
Source: Local Visibility System

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ftmeade/21716408891/

You’re considering a change of one size or another to the name your business, in the name of better local rankings.  The basic plan is to get a “keyword” and city or other place name into your name.

To make that change you might feel the need to keyword-stuff your Google My Business name, to use a fake name on your Google My Business page, to register a “doing business as” (DBA), to rename your business entirely, or to name your new business with local SEO in mind from the get-go.

The first two options aren’t wise, and the others may be wise.  Depends on your situation and on how you’ve weighed the pros and cons.  Here are the pros and cons you’ll want to weigh before you mess with your name:

Pros of a generic, “local-SEO-friendly” name:

  • You may rank for that search term (and maybe similar terms) more easily and quickly. The name of your Google My Business page affects your Maps rankings more than it should – partly because Google often isn’t good at telling brand-name searches from broader searches.  Your name also matters to your organic and non-Google rankings, to a lesser extent.
  • More-relevant anchor text in links. Any time the text of a link to your site is the name of your business, the link will contain a “keyword” and maybe your city naturally.  You won’t need to resort to shenanigans.
  • Some customers’ reviews will contain that search-engine-friendly name. The content of reviews seems to matter, in my experience.
  • For some search terms you might be the only business that appears on the local map (in a “local one-box” result, as it’s called).
  • Maybe you just can’t think of a good name.

Cons of a generic, “local-SEO-friendly” name:

  • It’s easy for your competitors to do the same. Most will not bother or simply will keyword-stuff their names but it may take only a couple of like-minded competitors to end your fiesta.  Easy come, easy go.
  • You may get competitors’ bad reviews. Their angry customers may confuse you with your competitors.
  • Competitors may get your good reviews. Your customers can get their wires crossed, too.
  • In general, more people may think you and your competitors belong to the same organization (maybe you’re part of a chain). That can lead to confusing phone calls, annoying emails, mixed-up coupons, bad press, and more.
  • You may be mistaken easily for spam. Competitors and do-gooders may submit Google Maps edits to your name.  Don’t assume Google will make the right call on whether to apply those edits.
  • You may be pigeonholed. Maybe you want to rank for other search terms and in other cities.  Then you’ll be at a crossroads as to how to do that.
  • Citation audits may be tougher. You (or a third party you work with) may find listings that aren’t yours, and miss listings that do belong to your business.
  • Google may have a harder time identifying searches specifically meant for your business – AKA brand-name searches. Because of your generic, broad name, Google likely will hedge its search results with businesses other than yours, just in case the person wasn’t searching for your business.  When in doubt Google includes junk.
  • You probably can’t trademark your name.
  • You miss out on the benefits of having a sticky, memorable name.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/3383179223/

How has the name of your business helped (or hurt) you?

To what extent did you think about the search-engine-friendliness before picking it?

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Leave a comment!

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One
Source: Local Visibility System

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit

https://www.flickr.com/photos/seanfreese/7185529293/

Let’s say you have a local competitor with a Google My Business page with a spammy name like “Your Best HVAC Company Cleveland.”  You know the real name of their business is “Harry’s Heating,” and you’ve submitted the real name as an edit in Google Maps, but Google didn’t approve your edit.  Google is too thick to recognize the fake name is fake – and against Google’s own policies – so the spam stands, and your spammy-named competitor ranks artificially well.

What now?

Try editing out only the name of the city.  It’s a baby step.  Google is more likely to approve your edit – and instantly – in my experience.  So, for a spammy listing like “Your Best HVAC Company Cleveland” you’d submit “Your Best HVAC Company” as the correct name of your competitor’s page.

Even if your first edit to the name has been “pending” for a few minutes or a few days (likely to be rejected by Google in the end), your newer, less-ambitious edit will be approved almost instantly if it’s approved at all.  It’s not stuck in a queue behind your earlier edit(s).

Why is a partial edit more likely to stick?  I’m sure there’s an algorithmic explanation (most edits are approved and rejected by algorithm), but I’d guess it’s simply because you’re asking Google to make a smaller decision.  You’re not asking Google to change the whole name of a business.

Wouldn’t it be better if Google fixed your spammy competitor’s name completely, so the business’s real name showed up on Google Maps, rather than the Keyword Spam Lite version?  Of course.  But there are many benefits to trying a partial edit:

1. Google may actually approve the partial edit. Clearly Google had a problem with your broader edit.

2. You’ll lessen your competitor’s exact-match-keyphrase mojo. A page with a spammy Google My Business name ranks well often not simply because it’s got “keywords” in it, but rather because Google’s terrible at telling when people are searching for a specific brand or company. Even when you type in a broad search term (e.g. “electricians in San Antonio”), Google thinks there’s a chance you’re searching for the spammy business that has a Google My Business page of that name.  Google would prefer to show you 3 businesses on the local map (including the spammer), knowing that 1-2 of those businesses won’t be what you want, rather than risk not showing you the specific company it thinks you might want to see.

3. Your competitor will have an ugly-sounding name show up in the search results. It may be more ugly or less ugly than the original version of the name (the one that included the city). But if it doesn’t rank as well (see point #2), even fewer people are likely to click, which in turn may put another damper on your spammy competitor’s rankings over time.

4. You’ll put another notch on your anti-spam belt. Your future edits will have a slightly better chance of being approved by Google.

5. Even if your competitors change their names back to include the city, you’ll become a pain in their necks. If they don’t just give up, by repeatedly adding the city back into their Google My Business name they’ll establish a longer history of spamming. That’ll be relevant information if you ever escalate the problem at the GMB forum.

6. Over time you might clean up your whole local market – at least a little bit. New would-be spammers will stick out even more, and some of the more-casual spammers may be deterred if they don’t see every other business use a spammy name. With luck, you can transform the local Superfund site into a mere town dump.

What’s a stubborn Google My Business “name-spam” case you’re dealing with?

Any war stories?

Any tips?

Leave a comment

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit
Source: Local Visibility System

How Long Does It Take for a User-Submitted Yelp Page to Rank on Page 1 for a Branded Search?

How Long Does It Take for a User-Submitted Yelp Page to Rank on Page 1 for a Branded Search?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonparis/4066106103/One week or less, from what I’ve seen.

A 7-Eleven opened nearby last year, but Yelp didn’t have a page for that location.  The locally-owned convenience store that used to be at that location had and still has a Yelp page.  (Nobody’s reported it as closed, and Yelp hasn’t de-duped.)  But the 7-Eleven didn’t have one for 9-10 months after opening.

I guess their SEO person is grazing in tidier pastures.

Anyway, I took it upon myself to submit a Yelp page for 7-Eleven, as I do from time to time.  I’m not big on convenience stores, and I’m even less big on pro bono enterprise local SEO, but my grand act was borne of curiosity: I had occasion to look up the hours.  Recently, a drunk guy crossed the street to ask if I knew how late the 7-Eleven was open.  I told Otis 11pm sounded right, but that I didn’t know for sure.  I looked it up when I got back from my stroll.  Turns out Google My Business didn’t have the hours, so I checked Yelp, which also didn’t have the hours.

On June 11th I created a Yelp page for 7-Eleven (minus the hours).  When I checked it on June 18th, a week later, it ranked #4 for a brand-name search. (It probably ranked on page 1 even sooner than that.  Wish I’d checked.)

So what?  Well, I suggest you patrol Yelp occasionally for “unofficial,” unclaimed, in many cases user-submitted (or competitor-planted) pages for your business.  You may or may not want that page, and it may or may not make your business look good, and it probably will be mighty visible when people search for you by name.

Keep an eye on competitors’ Yelp pages, too.  Those may rank well, even for competitive search terms, but you can probably get them removed or fixed without too much heartache.

How Long Does It Take for a User-Submitted Yelp Page to Rank on Page 1 for a Branded Search?
Source: Local Visibility System

Scraping Gray SEO Barnacles off the Local Spam Flotilla

Scraping Gray SEO Barnacles off the Local Spam Flotilla

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hotmeteor/4082689948/

“Barnacle” SEO, or the process of getting a page other than a page on your site to rank well in Google’s local organic search results, can be a great way to grab extra local visibility.  If your competitors get barnacle SEO to work for them, more power to ‘em – if they do it in a fair and square way.  If they don’t, you shouldn’t let it stand.

Yelp is the great-granddaddy barnacle site.  Your competitors may use it in a gray-hat way, though.  If your competitors use a fake or keyword-stuffed name in Yelp, and appear to have that page ranking well in Google as a result of that name, the chances are good you can scrape off some of that visibility.  You probably know the real name of their business (or you can find out easily), and you can be pretty confident that the name has propped up their Yelp rankings artificially if they’re outranking businesses with many more or much-better reviews.

I dealt with that recently for a client of mine.  One of his competitors had a Yelp page named simply “iPhone Repair.”  That was not the real name of the business, but that didn’t stop the Yelp page from ranking #1 in the local organic results for “iPhone repair.”  Well, I submitted an edit on that Yelp page.  In the optional “comments” you can include in your edit I mentioned what the real name was and how I knew (it was on their site).

Yelp fixed the name a couple days later, and the page ranked #1 for a while longer: It took Google probably 10 days to re-index the Yelp page, at which time it dropped from #1 to #6 in the organic results, and fell off of page 1 completely a few days after that.

Sure felt good to scrape that barnacle off.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dickdotcom/13971900011/

For all of Yelp’s MANY flaws big and small, it is better at policing spam than Google is.  Plenty of spam still gets by Yelp, of course, but at least your anti-spam edits are less likely to be ignored.  As SEOs and business owners, our first impulse is to go after spammy Google My Business pages.  Which is fine and smart to do – as long as you also try to clean up spammy competitors’ Yelp pages.  May not work in your case, but your chances are better.

A few other, less-obvious upshots of trying to fix spammy Yelp pages:

1. Unlike in Google My Business, it’s harder for spammy competitors simply to change back to their fake or keyword-stuffed names. Yelp can and perhaps will lock the “name” field of their page, even if it’s been owner-verified. Less potential for whac-a-mole.

2. Those competitors are less likely to rank well IN Yelp’s search results.

3. Those competitors probably benefit from the same fake-o name in Google My Business. If you can get Yelp to fix the name, Google may be more likely to fix the Google My Business name, too.

4. Because Yelp is the main data-provider for Apple Maps and Bing Places, getting a competitor’s name fixed on Yelp may undo any ill-gotten rankings they’ve gotten in Apple or Bing. (For what that’s worth.)

Local SEO barnacles grow easily, but that also means they’re low on the food chain.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trishhhh/2515019389/

What’s been your experience with anti-spam edits in Yelp – particularly of competitors’ names?

Any non-Yelp sites where you’ve been able to clean up competitors’ spam?

Any other war stories?

Leave a comment!

Scraping Gray SEO Barnacles off the Local Spam Flotilla
Source: Local Visibility System

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/12407730413/in/photostream/

Some local SEO companies tout “contacts” at Google who can straighten out problems (like competitors’ spam or a penalty you think you’ve received).  Sometimes that suggestion is plain untrue, other times it’s an exaggeration, and most times it’s irrelevant and won’t help you.

Knowing the specific type of “contact” your company has (or claims to have) at $GOOG can help you avoid wasting time, and it can help you determine how aboveboard your company or consultant is.

If your local SEO people (current or prospective) hint they’ve got any kind of “in” at Google, ask for specifics, like what department that person is in, and how your company or consultant knows him or her.  Your local SEO-er may be referring to one of several kinds of Google connections:

1. Google Analytics or AdWords Certified Partner status.  Based on the number of mangled local SEO campaigns I’ve seen run by “Certified Partners,” I can say with confidence that any benefits of working with a “Partner” company don’t translate into a better-policed Google Map.

2. Dedicated AdWords rep (unlikely).  If your SEO people do AdWords, and if they have enough ad-spend in the accounts they manage, they may have what resembles a relationship with an AdWords rep.  How’s that relevant to Google Maps and your plight there?  Well, you may have spent a chunk of dough on ads for keywords  for which your competitors rank well as a result of obvious Maps-spam.  In that case, an AdWords rep might escalate the issue with the Google My Business department more quickly than you (or your SEO company) could through the usual channels.  But that may happen even without a dedicated rep (see next point).

3. Random AdWords rep.  If your SEO company doesn’t manage Rubenesque accounts, they (and you) probably will probably get a different AdWords rep every time you’ve got a problem.  So your ability to contact a rep doesn’t mean your SEO-ers have what I’d call a “contact” at Google.  Still, that Googler’s limited usefulness for Google Maps concerns is the same as what I described in my “Dedicated AdWords rep” point (above). 

4. Google My Business support rep du jourMaybe your SEO people have tweeted at Google My Business support, or posted at the forum – maybe more than once – and perhaps got some issues resolved.  That doesn’t mean they’ve got a special “in” at Google, or that he or she can or will help you now or in the future. 

5. “Top Contributor” at the Google My Business forum.  For the most part, TCs are extremely generous with their time and provide a valuable service.  But they are volunteers, and not Google employees.  TCs interact with Googlers semi -regularly, but those Googlers have very limited power to work on Maps issues big or small, partly because the Maps department sees high turnover.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenpisano/17255430203/

6. Googler acquaintance.  Does your SEO person play squash with a Google employee?  Did they go to high school together?  Did they have a 5-minute conversation at a conference?  That’s nice, but it’s not an “in” that will help you.  Google handles (or neglects) damn near every problem algorithmically, on a scale that can squash whole industries and local economies.  One lowly, Google-bus-riding employee can lob only so many thunderbolts from the skies.

7. No “contact,” but a good track record of getting Google Maps edits approved.  Even in full-on embellishment mode, your SEO people probably wouldn’t characterize a good edit-history as a “contact,” but rather as “having sway” or as “Google listens to us,” or some such thing.  Perhaps the SEO people don’t have that track record, but know someone who does.  In any case, though that kind of puffery would concern me, a good spam-fighter may be the most-useful “contact” you can have in this age of shrinking Google employees and planet-eating algorithms.

Is there a type of contact at Google I forgot to mention?

Any war stories about a Googler who was surprisingly helpful (or useless)?

Leave a comment!

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?
Source: Local Visibility System