How to Troubleshoot: Good Organic Rankings, No Google Places Rankings

Do you rank page-one in the organic results, but seem locked out of the Google Places (AKA Google+ Local) results?

If this situation looks something like yours…

…then you might have what I call “detached” local rankings.

In other words, you’ve got an organic ranking right above or right below the “7-pack,” and you’re wondering why you don’t also have a ranking in the 7-pack.

It used to very difficult to have both – long story – but now you usually can have the same page rank both organically and in Google Places.  (Emphasis on “usually”: something may be busted, or it may not even be possible in your case.)

It’s a common problem.  Business owners ask me about it all the time.

Here are what I’ve found to be the most-common explanations for why you may have good organic rankings but no Places / + Local / “7-pack” rankings:

Explanation 1:  Your business is too far from the city where you want the Places rankings.  There may be nothing you can do about this except to apply the best-practices I’m always harping on.

Explanation 2:  You show up in the Places results for other queries – just not the one you typed in.  This one’s complex: Why you’re showing up in Places for some queries but not others depends on factors like point #1, whether you include the city name in your search term, where you’re physically sitting when you’re searching, and how many local competitors you have.

Explanation 3:  Your Google listing has been penalized.  Make sure you’re kosher.

Explanation 4:  It’s too soon.  If you just created your Google Places page, just wait a couple weeks.

Explanation 5:  Your Google listing may have the wrong categories.

Explanation 6:  You may not be presenting your NAP info correctly on your site.

Explanation 7:  Your site may have no NAP info at all.

Explanation 8:  The “URL” or “website” field in your citations may be empty on some of your listings, or it may contain wrong or inconsistent URLs.

Explanation 9:  Your business may have no citations – or too few.

Explanation 10:  Duplicate Google Places listings.  Often these are caused by having messy citations.  (Hat tip to Linda for bringing up this point in her comment, below.  Also, check out this forum thread.)

Do you have any experience with “detached” rankings?  What worked for you?  Or do you have them now, and you’re stumped?  Leave a comment!

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Your Field Guide to “Barnacle” Local SEO

http://flic.kr/p/4ZqxrK

You know when you type in a local search term (like “auto repair”) into Google and you see a business’s Facebook page or Yelp page or YouTube video or channel (or even its YellowPages listing)?  Well, if your business has good rankings for one of those, you’ve just pulled off a bit of “barnacle” local SEO.

Will Scott coined the term “barnacle SEO” and explained the basic strategy back in 2008 (!).  It’s a clever but very doable strategy based on a fact you probably know already: that there are certain sites that Google consistently ranks really well for local searches.  It has favorites.

Of course, the Google+ Local and AdWords results take center stage.  But there are always the organic rankings.  A few of them belong to local businesses.  Most or all of the rest of them typically point to Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, CitySearch, even Yahoo, and other third-party sites.  In a way, you can mooch off their popularity (and the good job of SEO they do).

Your goal – as a humble barnacle – is to latch onto those big ships.  They can take you places.  There are a few ways to go about doing that.

I’m going to rattle off the approaches I’ve seen work for a few of my clients and for others.

(By the way, I’d like this to be an “evergreen” post.  So I’ll be adding strategies here as I discover more good ones.)

Let’s go over some basic strategy before getting into more-specific strategies:

 

Two species of barnacles

There are two basic types of barnacle local SEO:

(1) Get a given page for your business to rank well in the organic search results, or

(2) Be at the top of the rankings in a site that ranks well.

I like the example of Yelp:

So one opportunity is to get your business’s page in the organic results.  The other opportunity is to rank well within that high-ranking site’s search results (which, again, themselves rank visibly in Google).  Ideally you do both.

 

Three basic steps

The first step is just to have pages / accounts on all the sites that matter.  I’m talking about having basic and industry-specific citations.  And a local Facebook page for each location, and a YouTube channel with a few videos you created for your business, if at all possible.  Probably not news to you.

The second step is also pretty simple: Beef up those pages as much as possible.  First and foremost, pick every relevant category you can.  Add as much relevant “additional” info as you can: a short description, a long description, as many services as you’re allowed to mention, photos, etc.

The third step is the trickiest.  You have to activate each page (or listing, or profile, or whatever you want to call it).

I’m mostly referring to doing a combination of things with those pages: drumming up some followers / fans / shares, getting some reviews, and (to a lesser extent) getting a few links to those pages.

 

The best “ships”

Facebook

  • “Engage” with your customers and others.  I hate using that word, because it’s so clichéd.  I want to take a shower.  But I think it conveys my advice.  You want stuff on your page, you want people on your page, and you want the people to be consuming and commenting on and “liking” the stuff.  So my advice is to use your Facebook posts and the rest of your page not to talk about how great you think your company is, but to share useful info, even if it’s just an occasional morsel.  (Read this if you don’t know how to do that.)
  • Ask some customers to write you a Facebook review.  Yes, there is such a thing now.  (No, it’s not the same thing as a “like.”)
  • Link to your page whenever possible.  You probably already do so from your site, and that’s a good idea, as long as you have the link open into a new browser tab (you don’t want people leaving your site to see your Facebook page).  Also, many sites where you can get a citation ask you to specify your Facebook URL.  Do so.  Be on the lookout for other occasions to link to or get a link to your page, but don’t embark on some big link-building effort.

Yelp and other IYPs

  • Get reviews.  I talk all the time about how to do this, so I won’t dwell on it here.  I’ll just refer you to these posts:

Comparison of Local Review Sites: Where Should You Focus Now?

GetFiveStars Review-Encouragement Tool Goes from Good to Great

Get More Reviews without Becoming an Outlaw

  • Link to your more-important profiles.  Let’s say you’ve got some good HealthGrades reviews and you want HealthGrades to be your barnacle.  Link to it from your site, from the “Links” section of your  Google+ page (“personal” or non-local “business”), and wherever allowed on other listings of yours.
  • Get creative.  Let’s say you have a few microsites (tsk, tsk) and realize you shouldn’t link them to your main site.  Try linking them to one of those profiles – maybe use ol’ YellowPages as your test-dummy – and see what happens.
  • Encourage other activity.  Like check-ins, in the case of Yelp or FourSquare.  I wouldn’t put a lot of effort into this.  It also depends on your demographics.  But just see what you can do – how you can get customers to use your various pages.

YouTube

  • Name your video relevantly.  Yeah, that means there should be a keyword in there.  But it also means it should read smoothly.  If the video title sucks – if it’s written for Google and not for humans – nobody will click on it.  It needs to be catchy.
  • Feature them wherever possible.  Embed some videos on your site.  Upload them to your Google+ Local listing, if possible.  Link to them on your other local listings, where possible (many sites ask you for links to your videos).  Post them on Facebook, as appropriate.

Paid directories

  • Pony up.  You’ll have to use your discretion, of course.  Many paid listings aren’t worth it.  But depending on your local market, there may be a site in your industry that ranks well, and that might itself be a place where a lot of potential customers search.  If your more-visible competitors seem to be listed there (one way to see this is with the Local Citation Finder), consider throwing a few dollars at it in the name of science.

 

Great posts on barnacle local SEO

Barnacle SEO – Local Search Engine Optimization for The Sam’s Club Crowd – the great original post by Will Scott

Barnacle SEO for Local Search Success – Mary Bowling

Learning Local SEO from the Ones That Do It Best – Nyagoslav Zhekov

10 Tips For Using YouTube To Kill At Local SEO – Chris Silver Smith

What ships have you latched onto?  What are some “barnacle” strategies you think are worth trying?  Leave a comment! 

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Are Google Business Photos a Trust Factor for Your Local Rankings?

I’ve never known much about Google’s Business Photos program.  But it’s always sounded cool: If you have a bricks-and-mortar business location, you can pay a Google Trusted Photographer to come in and take photos that allow customers to take a virtual tour, right from your Google+ Local page.

Jeff Finkelstein’s great recent post on Moz stirred up a couple questions for me.  Jeff offers Google-approved photography to businesses in the Boulder, CO area.

Yesterday I emailed him a question:

I’m wondering how the process of your sending in the photos to Google ties in with their effort to verify a business’s info.

For instance, does Google make you fill out a form with the name, address, phone, etc. of a business, when you send in the photos you took of it?  Do they ask you to report any  inconsistencies you see (like if a business is using a fictitious DBA on its local listing, but another for its front sign)?

…Just to follow up on the question of whether Google might give a slight bump to businesses that hire a Google Trusted Photographer, to me it makes sense that a GTP would help verify the accuracy of a business’s listing info – which could help its rankings.

-Phil

Jeff kindly took the time to write back, and to give me a little peek behind the scenes:

Due to some of the huge amounts of paperwork that I did have to sign, I can’t verify a lot of the methods publicly.

But I can answer the question as it might pertain to me photographing a business location for you.

So, if you wanted to hire me (or another trusted Google Business Photographer), we would require the following in order to be able to create the panoramic (street view) photos:

1. You need to have a physical location for the business, where customers can go in and interact with your organization.  Home-based businesses are not able to be included in Google Business Photos.  We do make sure that the business address listed matches the Google + / local listing.  Especially so that we can go to the correct place to make the photographs!

2. We do need to get a written signature from the business owner, giving permission to Google to publish photographs of their business.  This does require the physical location of the business to be listed on the printed contract.

3. We are required to make sure that the photographs are positioned correctly in the world, so that maps and directions work properly.

-Jeff

My takeaway: you can’t really put fake business info on your local listing if a Google-approved photographer crawls around in the guts of your business and sends the endoscopy photos to Google.

My other takeaway: I wouldn’t rule out Google Business Photos as a factor that might help your rankings a little.  Jeff took a good swing at the question in his post, but we’ll probably never know for certain.  What we do know is the photography program is another “checkpoint” at which Google can make sure your online business info is accurate.  And as we’ve seen in areas like citations, the “trustworthiness” of your info matters probably more than anything.

Doesn’t really matter, though: getting professional photos taken of your business might be a nice way to appeal more to customers, and to get more calls out of whatever rankings you do already have.  My advice: contact a Trusted Photographer like Jeff and see what he/she can do.

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"Will Google Devalue Local Citations?" My Short Answer

Hendrik Vos of Online Business Builders asked me a great question yesterday:

“I wonder how far off 100% is the probability that Google eventually ends up treating all these manufactured citations/ links in the same way they did manufactured backlinks to websites.”

The question came up because of the giant post on citations I did on the Whitespark blog the other day.   It’s come up before.  Mike Blumenthal wrote a post on this question last year, and hit the nail on the head.

But because citations have been on my mind – and on others’ minds, apparently – I just thought I’d share my off-the-cuff reply to Hendrik:

“I’d say there’s about a 5% chance that will happen.  I say that for many reasons – but just to rattle off a few:

“First of all, there’s nothing sneaky or below-board about listing one’s business on a directory of businesses.  It’s not an attempt to “game” Google, partly because there are very tangible reasons to list your business on various IYPs: you want users of those sites to be able to find you, and you want reviewers on sites other than Google to be able to review you.  As opposed to link exchanges and the like, where the links have no purpose other than to try to puff up one’s rankings.

“Second, Google needs the data that’s on the most-important sites (where you can get citations).  It relies on them in order to populate its results.  Without them, Google’s local-business data would be incomplete at best, or – more likely – an absolute train-wreck.

“Third, most businesses have citations that their owners didn’t even build: They grow naturally over time.  The citations profiles of those businesses are usually indistinguishable from those of businesses for which someone has been proactively working on citations.

“If it sounds like I’m absolutely certain Google will never treat citations differently, you might be wondering: “Where does the 5% come in?”  Well, Google is full of surprises :)”

Your thoughts?  Leave a comment!

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Private Local Citations: Where Can You List Your Business But “Hide” Your Address?

You might be thinking that this sounds a lot like my post titled “Can You Rank Well in Local Google without Revealing Your Street Address Anywhere?

That’s because this is an unofficial “sequel” (for good reason, as you’ll see).

How about taking a few minutes to read that older post.  Then come back here.

Done?

If you just buzzed through the first post because you’re hanging on my every word in this one – or if memory is your weapon of choice today – it’s time for a quick recap of the older post on “private citations”:

1.  Some business owners want to rank well in Google’s local search results and beyond, but don’t want their street addresses to be easily findable online (most likely because they work from home).  Maybe you have these privacy concerns, or know someone who does.

2.  Unless your business is listed on a variety of online directories (AKA citation sources), you probably won’t rank well in the local search results.  But you don’t want your address to be easily findable on those sites.  Now you’re feeling stuck.

3.  Turns out you’ll probably be able to rank well locally after all, because most of the important online directories actually do allow you to “hide” your street address – that is, to keep your address from showing up publicly on your business listing.

Where to "hide" your address on a business listing (as seen on Local.Yahoo.com)

On the last point, notice that I said “most” of the important directories let you hide your street address.  In that older post I did on “private citations,” I only looked at the sites that you see when you do a free GetListed.org scan of your business.  At the time, those totaled 12 sites.  A great start, sure.

But an effective citation-building effort – again, which is crucial to your rankings – takes more than listing your business on even those 12 sites.

That’s why I’ve looked at more sites and have learned even more about where privacy fits into local search.

I’ve looked at a total of 31 of the most-important sites for your business to be listed on, and I’ve seen which sites let you keep your address private.

 

The breakdown: which sites are (and are not) “private”

(You can also get the breakdown on Google Drive, or as a PDF or Excel doc.  Just in case you want to see all the sites at a glance.)

AngiesList.com: yes.  There is not a checkbox for this; the “address” field is optional, so you can simply choose not to specify your street address.

Bing Business Portal: yes.

BizWiki.com: no.

BrownBook.net: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

City-Data.com: no.  The rules specify that the site is “only for brick & mortar businesses.”

CitySearch.com: yes.  (See my instructions for adding or claiming your CitySearch listing.)

CitySquares.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

DexKnows.com: maybe.  If you’ve hidden your address on LocalEze and suppressed your ExpressUpdateUSA listing, your address most likely won’t show up on DexKnows.

DirectoryCentral.com: no.

DiscoverOurTown.com: no.

ExpressUpdateUSA.com: no.  AKA InfoGroup, this is one of three main “data-providers” – in other words, a really important site to be listed on.  As I noted in my post from 2012, “you can’t simply ‘turn off’ the display of your address on your ExpressUpdate listing.  But you can search for your listing on the site and request its deletion, OR you can call up Customer Service and ask them to suppress your listing.”

EZLocal.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

FourSquare.com: no.  (Hiding your address would defeat the main purpose of being listed on FourSquare in the first place: getting customers to “check in” to your business on their phones.)

HotFrog.com: yes.

iBegin.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

JudysBook.com: maybe.  If you pay the monthly fee to claim your listing, you may be able to leave off your street address.  The other way to get your business listed on JudysBook is for a customer to find the hidden “submit” area and then to post a review of your business, although in this option the street address is required.

Kudzu.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

Local.BOTW.org: yes.

Local.com: yes.

LocalEze.com: yes.  (This is a major “data-provider” and an extremely important site to be listed on.  See my recent post for more detail.)

Manta.com: yes.  On one screen you’re made to provide a street address, but on the next screen you can check a “hide address” box.

MapQuest.com: yes.

MerchantCircle.com: yes.  The “address” field is optional; simply choose not to specify your street address.

MyBusinessListingManager.com: yes.  AKA Acxiom, this is a major “data-provider.

Nokia (here.com/primeplaces): yes.  You have to specify your street, but you don’t have to specify your number.

SuperPages.com: yes.

Yahoo: yes.

YellowBot.com: yes.  But only once you’ve claimed your listing.  (See comment below from YellowBot co-founder Emad Fanous.)

YellowBook.com: maybe.  You can only edit the address by calling 1-800-929-3556; they may allow you to hide the address if you ask.

Yelp.com: yes.

YP.com: yes.

 

A few takeaways

Takeaway 1. The biggest directories (e.g. Yelp, YP) usually let you hide your address.  If you do nothing else, make sure you’re listed on these.

Takeaway 2.  The smaller directories (e.g. BizWiki, DirectoryCentral) aren’t as likely to let you hide your address.  Whether you want to add or keep a listing on these sites depends on which you’d rather have: a little extra “citations juice” or a little extra privacy.

Takeaway 3.  Your biggest challenge in juggling citation-building and privacy is to determine how you want to handle your listings on two of the three “primary data-providers”: ExpressUpdateUSA.com and MyBusinessListingManager.com.  The other main data-provider (LocalEze.com) lets you hide your address, so that one isn’t an issue.  But the former two sites make you list your address, and they feed your business info to lots of other sites.  You should be able to strike a good balance of local rankings and privacy if you’re listed on these non-private sites but make sure your address is private elsewhere.  But if you’re really concerned about privacy, you’ll need to contact the people at ExpressUpdateUSA (AKA InfoGroup) and MyBusinessListingManager (AKA Acxiom) and ask them to suppress your listing.  (I know the former allows you to do this, but I’m not sure about the latter.)

 

Some notes

Arguably a good citation-building campaign involves your creating and managing even more than 31 listings.  So does my list only get you only partway down the road?

No, because there are two “buts” that mean now you’ve probably got all the info you need to build citations effectively but privately:

1.  Several of those 31 sites feed business info to other sites, which means that over time the number of citations your business has will grow naturally and without your needing to do anything.  Meanwhile, to the extent you’ve made sure your address isn’t listed on those sites, it won’t get spread all over the web.  Win-win.

2.  If those 31 sites are the only ones you’ve listed your business on, then you’ve got a very good citations profile.  But to take it from “very good” to excellent will probably involve digging deeper (probably with the Local Citation Finder) to find citations that Google places extra “trust” in: either directories that are specific to your industry, or specific to your city/region, or both.  Because there’s an infinity of these industry- and location-specific sites, I’ll never be able to research which ones are “private” – at least before I’m using dentures and a walker.  So I’ll leave it up to you: whether you’d rather be listed on “niche” sites that may or may not require you to list your address.

Still, I want to learn about the privacy levels of even more sites.  That’s why this is an evergreen post: I’m going to update it as I learn about more sites.

 

What about non-US sites?

One obvious limitation of my current list is that I haven’t researched all that many non-US sites.

True: some of the sites (like Manta.com) are available outside the USA, or have a network of “sister” sites (like YP.com) in other countries.

And yes, if you download the list, you’ll notice that I’ve indicated which sites are “international.”  That should help you if you’re located outside the US.

But…if you have some time to spare and want to go through Nyagoslav Zhekov’s two great posts on important non-US citation sources and want to let me know what you find, I’d more than appreciate it (and will cite you here :)).

Once again, here are the download options for the list of of “private” citations:

Google Drive
PDF
Excel

Got any questions or suggestions about juggling local rankings and privacy?  Go ahead – leave a comment.

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My SMX West 2013 Presentation on Customer Reviews

Today I had the honor of speaking on the “Local” panel at SMX West.

Just thought you might like to see the slides from my presentation on customer reviews – more specifically, how to get them using what I call the “zigzag” approach to requesting reviews.


Any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment!

 

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Google MapMaker 101 for Local Business Owners

Google MapMaker is like the NSA: Many people know it exists or at least have heard of it in passing.  But few know much about it or what goes on there.

MapMaker is one head of a two-headed monster.  It’s oddly intertwined with the Google+Local (AKA Google Places) search results.  The accuracy of much of the “local” info about cities and businesses depends on thousands and millions of little changes that people make to Google’s maps.  Many of those changes are made in MapMaker.

These little changes can determine whether your business is listed accurately in Google.  Ultimately, they can determine how visible your business is in the Google+Local search results.  That’s why you should care about MapMaker – or at least know a little bit about it.

MapMaker won’t help you win the potato-sack race with your local competitors.  But knowing about how it works can help you avoid a faceplant that can cause you to lose that race.

The only trouble is that practical, real-world info on MapMaker is hard to come by.  It doesn’t get much attention even in local-SEO circles.

Because of that and simply out of my curiosity, I decided to interview two people who know a lot about MapMaker: Andrew Sawyer and Saikrishna Arcot.

These guys are “Regional Expert Reviewers.”  Also known as “RER’s” or “editors” or “reviewers,” they’re among the people who volunteer their time to make the endless number of changes to Google’s maps – and to the local-business info in them.

I did my best Mike Wallace, and they did a phenomenal job of answering my questions and providing a TON of insights.

To get the inside scoop on how MapMaker affects your business’s visibility in Google+Local and what you can and cannot do with it, read the interview.  You’ll want to pull up a chair for this one.

How would you describe MM to someone who’s never heard of it before?

Andrew:  MM is a way for people to provide their local knowledge to update physical features in Google Maps. This takes the form of parks, roads, shopping malls, rivers, etc. MM is the public editable version of Google Maps that is incorporated to provide accurate and up-to-date information from users.

Saikrishna: Map Maker is a tool for users to either correct incorrect features (roads, business listings, parks, schools, shopping centers, etc.) or to add new roads or features that they may not own.

 

Under what circumstances would a business owner EVER need to deal with MM personally?  To what extent should a business owner care about what goes on there?

Andrew:  Business owners should take care in using MM, especially if they are looking to use it to gain an edge on their competition. MM should be used by those who feel comfortable using it to make accurate edits that affect physical features. Some reasons a business owner would want to use MM:

Providing an accurate address – Places/Community Edits will abbreviate addresses which is not the format desired for Maps. MM feeds/edits the addresses, road names, cities, states, countries for Maps (some of these are locked from editing). While abbreviations may be rendered on the map, the full name is used and required for addresses.

If there is an issue with an address, a new geolocated point for the address can be manually entered via MM. By adding a point feature in MM with the category “Address” can be used with just the street address (no names of features) to help set where a particular address is. If an address is already present, but uses abbreviate names “Rd.” the full name of the street name/state/etc. should be selected from the drop down when editing to help locate the place.

Checking on the history/troubleshooting their businesses’ feature – Most edits, even those from Community Edits and Google editors, will typically show up allowing any user to view if a feature had anything which would cause issues with bots or other automated edits. Some things that can affect a feature are duplicates/merges, improper name change and/or hijacking another business feature, changing a professional listing (person) to a business feature,  issues finding when and/or who made a change to the feature. The Places/G+L cid# it can be used to find the MM feature associated with the one in their dashboard.

Adding/editing physical features nearby the business – By watching the MM YouTube videos, reading some MM Help Center articles and asking for help in the MM forum you can quickly gain the knowledge to make edits that will provide more detail about the area surrounding a business. Some features that can be added are parking lots, shopping centers, buildings, access roads, paths, etc. Many businesses are located in a shopping center/strip mall/etc. and if the shopping center is added to the map with a boundary drawn on the map features will be associated with the shopping center in Maps. When a business owner isn’t comfortable making an edit, they can always seek out experienced MM users to help/make the necessary changes.

Saikrishna: Business owners should generally stick to Places, since they have a lot of control over their place in Places. In most cases, the only reason a business owner would absolutely need to go to Map Maker is possibly to delete incorrect names that are showing up in Google+ Local.  However, in some cases, if their business disappears from either Places or Google+ Local, they may need to go to either the Places forums or the Map Maker forums or to their feature in Map Maker to find out why their business might have disappeared. If there are sudden changes between what they had and what is there now, or if what they see in their Places dashboard is significantly different from what they see in their Google+ Local page, then they might want to go to their Map Maker feature to see recent edits made.

That being said, there are a couple of features that are in Map Maker, but may or may not be in Places. One of these is the ability to associate their feature with a building. If the business is located inside a building, and the building is mapped in Map Maker, then they can edit their feature to indicate that their business is located in a building. If the building isn’t mapped, they can draw a new building, and after that is approved, link their feature to the building. Currently, this will have no effect in Places or Google+ Local, but I’m hoping that one day, we’ll be able to tell the businesses that are in a specific building.

Some business owners may see in Google+ Local that their addresses were changed to expand all abbreviations and have the suite number (if applicable) places at the start of the address instead of right after the street name. The reasoning for this is that Map Maker has defined data fields for the address line (where the suite number goes), street name, city, state, and zip code, and Places doesn’t follow this format. In addition, when editing, Places / Google+ Local abbreviates where possible, whereas the data (street name, state name, etc.) is not abbreviated. In order to follow this format, the addresses are changed in Map Maker to match existing data.

[Phil: If you’ve wondered why the address that you see when you visit your business’s Google+Local page doesn’t look like it has the same formatting as what you entered in the “Street Address” field(s) of your Google Places dashboard, the above answer explains why.]

 

For whom or what is MM most useful? 

Andrew: MM is most useful for addressing/routing in Maps; changes in MM will eventually affect Maps (this ranges from days to weeks depending on the type of edit and the different iterations of Google the change impacts)

MM is also most useful for making changes to one’s local area to convey the most accurate information; marking a business as closed, adding a new name for a street (or part of one), correcting the location of a business to its front door, etc.

Saikrishna: In my opinion, Map Maker is most useful for general Maps users who have some spare time on their hands, who are fairly familiar with a region, and who are willing to improve features in that region.

In addition to end-users, Google Trusted Photographers also use Map Maker either to add a business that is not already on Maps or to correct information about a business in preparation for a photography tour for the business.

 

Other than editors and people trying to spam Google, who uses MM?  Tell me a little bit about the typical end-user.

Andrew: MM is typically used by people who have a love for maps (Geo majors, Scouts, backpackers), people who rely on maps for their job (public safety personnel, truckers, taxi drivers) and technically inclined people who want to see their “home area” properly mapped in Google

Saikrishna: From what I see, the typical end-user are those who want to make a few changes to businesses here or there.

[Phil: Hey, maybe you could make it onto this list.]

 

Can people also use it to create “personal maps?

Andrew: MM should never be used to make personal maps, that should be limited to “My places” in Google Maps.

Saikrishna: Actually, if users want to create a map that only relates to them, but is not for anyone else, or the feature they are adding is personal or private, they will need to use My Places in Google Maps instead.

 

What type of person generally becomes a “trusted” (AKA “Regional”) MM editor?  What does it take to become one?

Andrew: Regional Expert Reviewers, those with enhanced publishing powers for Review (not edits), are typically selected from the most active editors using MM, in the forum and demonstrate a commitment to reviewing/mapping in accordance with MM guidelines.

Saikrishna: A trusted Map Maker editor should be familiar with Map Maker guidelines and know how to do things in Map Maker. He/she should also be familiar with his/her area enough to be able to review other people’s edits.

 

Has someone ever hired you specifically for your help in fixing a MM problem?

Andrew: No, as a MM user and RER I feel a personal obligation to help people map in a way that improves the map and is in accordance with Google’s policies. While I already have helped many people on the MM, Google for Business and other forums fix problems for free, I am available for consultation.

Saikrishna: No (unless you count those asking for help on how to do something in the forums).

 

How do MM problems usually come to your attention?

Andrew: I learn of “Problems,” which I define as bad data, from my own personal use of Google Maps and MM, friends who tell me they can’t find an address/business or that it’s mislocated, the MM forum, the Google for Business (“Places”) forum, the Local Search Forum, and news articles.

Saikrishna: Mainly through both forums and Map Maker itself. I typically edit businesses in my area and sometimes find problems with features.

 

What kinds of local search -related problems have their roots in MM?

Andrew: Merges and/or duplicates.  This is one of the big offenders I see with business owners claiming a feature thinking it is “Dentistry Unlimited” because that’s what the primary name on Maps said it was, or marking that feature as a duplicate of the existing “Dentistry Unlimited” feature associated with a claimed feature in Places. Google allows dentists to have ‘Professional Listings’ as a way for people to locate the doctor directly instead of the business; unfortunately people or bots will place the business name in the name of the feature instead of the person’s name which sometimes will be modified in a manner that conflates the professional listing with a business listing.

Because name changes to businesses, etc. require closing a feature and creating a new one, bots will mistakenly add information to what should be a professional listing but has been claimed by someone representing a dental practice. This is especially problematic when someone retires and another professional comes into the same practice and the same professional listing is used. Business owners and others should take the time to check a feature’s history in MM to go all the way to the beginning to see if it was improperly renamed or marked as a duplicate in a manner that would present problems with bots.

Saikrishna: If their business is not appearing in the search suggestions, it may be that the business has been marked as a duplicate of another feature or marked as closed. However, this could be attributed either to Map Maker or to Places, as a bot there may have marked a business as a duplicate of another.

If their business is not appearing in Maps at all, then it could be that their business was removed, either from Places or Map Maker.

 

What checks can a business owner perform in MM to tell whether there’s a problem that affects his/her business?

Andrew: See earlier comments [answer to question #2].

Saikrishna: A business owner could check to see if there have been major changes to their feature (if their feature is removed, marked as closed, or marked as a duplicate of another feature). These three changes could be an indication that their place may no longer be searchable in Google Maps. If their feature is removed, it may be because the feature was in violation of Places guidelines. If their feature is marked as a duplicate, or if your feature is not appearing at all in Maps, then I would recommend going to either the Map Maker forums or the Places forums.

 

If a business owner has concluded that his/her business has a problem in MM, what course of action would you suggest for that person?

Andrew: Business owners should only turn to MM when using the Places Dashboard is ineffective or MM is better at accomplishing the desired result (in accordance with Places and MM guidelines).

For business owners wishing to use MM, the best course of action is to start their own thread in the MM forum, including the city/state/country in the subject line. They should describe their issue in a factual manner (avoiding blame accusations, etc) and being straightforward about their business and the feature.

The MM forum is largely user-to-user, and more experienced users like myself only have a certain amount of time and energy to contribute. If someone is being belligerent and/or shady they are likely going to not receive as much assistance as if they were honest and forthcoming. I have helped give people advice on how to bring their non-compliant features into compliance because they were able to provide me the information I needed to give them proper advice. Others, I just moved onto the next person and/or just reported their feature to Google for internal review.

Saikrishna: If it’s a simple change (incorrect address number, incorrect marker location, etc.), and their Places Dashboard is correct, then editing in Map Maker would probably be fine. If it is more complex (missing in search results, marked as a duplicate, etc.), then I would recommend going to either the Map Maker forum or the Places forum.

 

The rest of Google’s maps / local search system is notoriously full of problems.  What are the big problems in MM?

Andrew: Bots making edits that combine information from a variety of places into one feature and/or merging features incorrectly. This is predominant on college campuses with the main college feature having the names and phone numbers of departments and organizations added to the main feature.

Saikrishna: Some of the problems in Map Maker (which is also shared in Places) is that a feature may be marked as a duplicate of another feature by either a Places bot or a Map Maker bot when it’s really not, possibly because of similar names or similar phone numbers. This causes the “duplicate” feature to eventually disappear from Maps, and a new feature may have to be created.

 

What are some common shenanigans that some people – particularly business owners or marketers/SEOs – try to pull in MM?

Andrew:

  • Hijacking features of competitors and changing the name or phone number to their own/someone else.
  • Having multiple features at different addresses for one business.
  • Using a UPS store, USPS post office, Private Mailbox location, or Virtual/Rented Office location like Regis as their physical address.  [Be sure to review the list of acceptable locations in MapMaker.]
  • Trying to game the system by making edits/reviews in MM to build trust within MM to gain an advantage. Power users and other experienced editors usually spot these pretty easily and report them to Google. Such schemes usually result in someone having their trust level manually reset by Google or their account suspended/deactivated.

Saikrishna: While this isn’t specific to Map Maker, one fairly common shenanigan is having too many categories. Some businesses type in categories that are not among Google’s list of categories. Some businesses also have the name of the city as part of a category, which isn’t allowed. There are very few cases in which a business should have a category that’s not already included in Google’s list of categories.

Another shenanigan I occasionally see is business owners not entering the proper name of their business in the name field. For example, instead of entering “Remax,” they enter “Best Real Estate Office.” This is not allowed, and may lead to problems down the line in regards to their visibility in Map Maker.

Another “attempted” shenanigan I see is people entering information about the business in the Description box in Map Maker. They may believe that the description they enter will be visible in the Google+ Local page; however, the description box is essentially notes that don’t go anywhere. The description that is in Google+ Local can only be edited in the Places Dashboard.

 

What do you think the average business owner should do with MM?

Andrew: Learn how to use MM before jumping in with both feet; reading the Help Center articles, watching the YouTube videos for MM and reading the forums is a great place to start. Use MM only to accurately fix issues that cannot be done via their own Dashbord or Community Edits (address, name types, or others).

Saikrishna: They can keep an eye on their Map Maker feature to make sure that there are no major changes that are incorrect. If there are any incorrect changes, some of them may be easy to fix, while the others may or may not be able to be fixed.

 

What do you like most about MM?

Andrew: I like the ability to make changes that update Google Maps allowing its users to get directions, locate a business or discover what is around them more efficiently and effectively. As an RER, I also enjoy the ability, to quickly push through edits in order to keep Maps up-to-date as possible.

Saikrishna: I like the idea of Map Maker itself, that the common man can help in making a better map for their neighborhood, either by adding new roads or adding a new store that’s recently opened.

 

How do you see MM evolving in the future?  (Pure speculation is OK!)

Andrew: In the future I see Trusted Reviewer being added for smaller areas (cities, college campuses) to people in those communities such as planning officials, police dispatchers, etc. who demonstrate proficiency in MM to have better control over correcting inaccurate or abusive edits. Currently most RERs have enhanced publishing powers for reviews on a country-wide basis.

 

Any other comments you’d like to add?

Andrew: Android users should go sign up for Ingress, which is currently in beta. It reportedly is a fun game and will help improve Google Maps!

About the MapMaker Experts:

Andrew Sawyer

Google+

MapMaker Regional Editor profile

Saikrishna Arcot

Google+

MapMaker Regional Editor profile

 

MapMaker resources referred to in the interview:

YouTube channel

Forum

Help Center

 

Great posts on MapMaker:

Interview with Dan Austin, a Google Maps Spam Fighter – Nyagoslav Zhekov

Google +Local NAP Info Pulling From Mapmaker (not Places?) – David Mihm

A Step By Step To Recover Your “We Currently Do Not Support This” Location in MapMaker – Mike Blumenthal

What Should Your Business Listing Categories Be in MapMaker – Mike Blumenthal

Google+ Local vs. Map Maker. Is Your Business Eligible? – Nyagoslav Zhekov

MapMaker Bots and What They Do – Mike Blumenthal

Any questions for Andrew or Saikrishna (or me)?  How about a great big thank you to these guys for taking the time to share some insights?  Leave a comment!

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Local Citations / Business Directories for Specific Ethnicities and Identities (US)

Any business owner who’s tried to get visible to customers in local search has noticed the huge number and variety of citation sources out there (AKA places to list your business).

We all know that people who own businesses in America are of all different stripes – some who identify as a minority, some born in other countries, some multilingual, etc.  That’s one of the very best things about this country.

What most local business owners and local SEOs don’t know is that there’s also a variety of local-biz directories geared toward many of the different ethnicities and identities of people who’ve built businesses here.

These sites are important for two reasons: Because “local” business owners (1) want to attract the “right types” of customers and (2) need to gather as many local citations as possible in order to get visible to those customers in the local search results (mostly Google+Local and Bing).

I’ve rounded up a list of ethnicity-specific / identity-specific sites, some of which you may want to list your business on.

I didn’t know about these sites, partly because this topic gets zero attention – even in local-SEO circles.  But that doesn’t mean your customers don’t know about them and use them.  Plus, chances are good Google views them as high-quality citations, which could help your local rankings.

This post is for you if your services cater to people of a particular origin, or if you’re trying to find more customers who have a similar background to yours – and who might be looking for someone like you in the same way.

A couple of notes:

1. I’ve only included directories that are (a) free, (b) available to people in any city in America, and that (c) don’t require you to place a reciprocal link on your site.

2.  There’s no good way to categorize the sites, so I’ve simply listed them alphabetically.  Most of the site names are self-explanatory, but I’ve added little side-notes to the ones that might not be.

 

Sites:

AlbanianYellowPages.com

AmericanIndianBusiness.net (Native American)

AsianBizOnline.com

BizPronto.com (Latino)

BlackBusinessList.com

BlackDollar.org

BlackOwnedBiz.com

BlackPagesOnline.com

Chinese411.com

CopperPages.com (Indian & Southeast Asian)

DesiWebUSA.com (Indian)

DoJewish.org

FilAmBizPages.com (Filipino)

FilAmPages.com (Filipino)

GreekAmericanBiz.com

HispanicSMB.com

IndianVillage.com (Native American)

IndoUSListing.com (Indonesian)

IranianHotline.com

iZania.com (Black & African American)

Jewocity.com

LatinaMarketplace.com

Latin-Businesses-USA.com

LebaneseinAmerica.com

MakBiz.net (Macedonian)

MinorityProfessionalNetwork.com

MuslimBusinessUSA.com

MuslimDir.com

NAOTW.biz (Native American)

RUList.com (Russian)

RussianImpact.com

SaigonNet.net (Vietnamese)

SupportBlackBusinesses.com

ThaiYellowPagesUSA.com

TurkishBiz.com

US4Arabs.com

Yasabe.com (Spanish speakers)

YaSas.com (Greek)

 

And a couple of good sites for US Armed Forces veterans:

VeteranOwnedBusiness.com

VeteransDirectory.com

(If you’re a vet or know one, check out my pro bono Visibility for Veterans program.)

 

By the way, you can find paid-membership sites if you do a search in Google along the lines of “[ethnicity] american chamber of commerce”.  There are also a ton of LinkedIn groups, which you can find if you type things like “[ethnicity] American business network”

If the list doesn’t have a directory geared toward a particular type of person, it’s either because I simply couldn’t find such a directory (possible) or because I didn’t think to look (not likely – I spend 2-3 hours combing the web).

In any case, I’m sure there are some great sites out there that I missed.  And I just know there must be a lot of non-US sites similar to the ones on the list (I’ve stumbled across a few so far).  I’d really appreciate any suggestions.

How many of the above sites apply to your business (or a client’s business)?  Any thoughts on how to make the list a little better?  Leave a comment!

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Low-Hanging Fruit on Google+Local Pages

Google Places has been gone for 6 months now, and “Google+Local” has been its replacement ever since.  This has been the first phase – and probably the longest phase – in Google’s effort to move everyone’s business onto Google Plus.

The transition to Plus isn’t complete, as you may know.  Many businesses have access to the newer, “fancier” type of Google listing (more on this in a second), while others aren’t eligible to use it just yet.

Some business owners have decided not to bother “upgrading” manually and choose instead to wait until Google finally rolls out the upgraded version for everyone automatically.

But here’s why I’m writing: extremely few business that have access to the (relatively) new bells and whistles have actually been using them.

Your Google+Local listing is one of the “fancier” ones if it has four tabs AND a blue “Write a Review” button (among other indicators).

A Google+Local page with the features of Google Plus (confusing, huh?)

If your Google page looks like the above, this article is aimed right at you.

Even if your business is service-based (where you travel to your customers rather than the other way around) and therefore isn’t eligible for the above type of listing, you should still give this a quick read.  Why?  Because sooner or later your Google page will have the new bells and whistles, too – at which time you’ll want to use them to the fullest.

There are 3 Google+Local features I’ve seen few to no businesses use.  I consider them low-hanging fruit because they’re easy to put into action and benefit from.

Do I consider these suggestions revolutionary?  Of course not.  None of these things is likely to get your rankings up if they’re down in the dumps.  But are they slight edges that may make you a little more visible to local customers?  Damn straight.

Low-Hanging Fruit #1:  Beefing up your “Introduction” section under the “About” tab by writing a detailed description of your business / services and including links to relevant subpages on your website.  Here’s a nice example of this put into practice by Mike Blumenthal’s flagship client, Barbara Oliver Jewelry: 

Your business description now can be more detailed and can include links

Low-Hanging Fruit #2:  Reviewing other businesses – and seeing whether they’ll do the same for you.  Yes, you can do this.  David Mihm wrote about this immediately after Google Places became Google+Local.  ‘Fraid I don’t have a real-life example to show ya, though: I’ve yet to find a business that uses this smart approach to getting reviews.

 

Low-Hanging Fruit #3:  Asking customers to add you to their “Circles.”  This doesn’t seem to affect local rankings, at least at the moment.  Probably will in the future, but not now.  So why bother asking customers to add you to their circles?  Well, because you’ll be a little more visible in Google’s “personalized” search results to the people in your customers’ circles.  Because birds of a feather flock together, and because friends talk with each other, some of those people actually may be potential customers.

But here’s probably the stronger reason: IF you’ve asked some customers to write Google+Local reviews for you but those reviews have been filtered by Google, you might as well ask those customers to add you to their circles.  (And why not…they’ve already created Plus pages.)

Get into some customers' "circles"

As hard as it can be sometimes to ask (or remind) customers to review you, once they’ve gotten around to doing it, they do NOT like going to that effort only to have the review get filtered.  I think there are several reasons for this, but just to speak for myself, I know that when that sort of thing happens to me, I feel like I didn’t make good on my “word” to leave some helpful feedback.Even a customer who’s frustrated by Google’s filter will probably still be glad help you, the business owner, in some way – if he/she knows what to do.  Adding you to circles obviously isn’t as good as getting a review, but it helps in the ways I already described, and it helps maintain the feeling of a good quid pro quo.

(By the way, in case you’re not sure how customers can add you to their circles, here’s what you’d tell them to do: tell them to go to your Google+Local page, sign into their Google+Local account (if they’re not already signed-in), hover over the big red “Follow” button, and click on any one of the checkboxes.)

Can you think of any other Google+Local features that more business owners should be using?  Leave a comment!

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17 Questions with Darren Shaw – Creator of the Local Citation Finder

Whitespark.ca - home of the Local Citation FinderRecently I had the pleasure of grilling Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca about his “Local Citation Finder” – the ultra-handy local-search optimization tool he created.

If you’ve spent more than a few minutes grappling with local SEO, you’ve probably heard of the Local Citation Finder – and there’s a good chance you use it, too.  It’s one of my very favorite tools for building up my clients’ local search rankings.

I’ve used the LCF since it came out in 2010.  Since then, I’ve had some questions I’ve been itching to ask – mostly about how to use the LCF to glean every last bit of local-search visibility for my clients.  For that there’s no substitute for “insider tips.”

Plus, the LCF is a really popular tool, so I also wanted to learn more about some of the secrets behind its success.

I went straight to the horse’s mouth, and Darren was kind enough to answer my questions

In case you didn’t know, Darren is kind of a big deal.  In some parts of the world he enjoys the spoils of an emperor:

Darren Shaw: ruler...er, creator of the Local Citation Finder

If you have any interest in getting your business more visible in local search, or if you just want some tips on how to launch a successful venture…read on.

Phil:  If you were in an elevator with someone who knows nothing about local search, how would you explain the Local Citation Finder?

Darren:  The Local Citation Finder is a competitive analysis tool for finding out where the top ranking competitors are getting citations, and for seeing where you already have citations. It will automatically tell you which ones you don’t already have, and includes SEOMoz’s Domain Authority and Majestic SEO’s ACRank metrics so that you can identify the best possible citation sources that are helping your competition rank locally.

 

Phil:  Why should a business owner—as opposed to a local SEO junkie—get the Local Citation Finder?  It’s not like that person necessarily needs to build citations every day.

Darren:  Currently, I don’t think a business owner would need to use the LCF for more than a month. I think it’s pretty typical for a business owner to sign up for a month, use the tool, export a CSV for all the citation opportunities they found, and then cancel. They can then work through that list when they have time.

We are working on citation monitoring services though, so a business owner will be able to track when new citations come live, and also get notifications when their competition gets new citations. When those features roll out, a monthly subscription will make more sense for a business owner.

 

Phil:  What would you say to someone who has all the basic citations (Yelp, SuperPages, etc.) and isn’t sure why he/she needs a tool to find more?  When is “good enough” good enough?

Darren:  The basic citations are an important starting point, especially the key sites you mention and the primary data aggregators, but we find that smaller city specific and industry specific sites strengthen your business’ association with your location and your niche and provide a noticeable rankings boost. The LCF helps you find these sources.

 

Phil:  Let’s say I need to build 50 citations for my business.  How much time could the Local Citation Finder save me, roughly speaking?

Darren:  I suppose we need to think about what the tool does, and what it would take to do that manually.

First you would want to run a keyword search and record all the businesses that are ranking locally.

Then you would want to find and record all the sites that the first business has a citation on. You could do this through various Google queries and then paginate through the results

Repeat for each of the other ranking businesses. You would then combine the lists, cross-referencing to make sure you’re not listing the same site twice.

Finally, you would repeat the process for your own business and then make note of which sites you’re already listed on, and which ones are opportunities.

Oh, and then you’d also look up SEOMoz Domain Authority and Majestic ACRank metrics for each site.

For an efficient and focused worker, I’d guess that this manual process would take at least six to eight hours

Our tool typically returns results in one or two minutes, and this is just one keyword search. At our lowest plan level you can run up to twenty different keyword searches per day.

In addition, the tool provides direct links to the “add your business” form for thousands of sites that get returned in our results. No need to spend time hunting through the websites to find the place where you can submit.

So, roughly, I’d say that the tool saves days of work.

 

Phil:  A lot of great tools are created by people who are fed up and just know there’s a better way to do a particular task.  Before the Local Citation Finder, how many hours would you typically spend gathering citations for a given client?

Darren:  Surprisingly, we didn’t do much citation building prior to developing the LCF. I was just getting interested in the topic, read a post by Garrett French about a technique you could use to find citation opportunities, and figured we could build a tool to automate the process.

 

Phil:  Did you have a prototype that you used for your own clients, before you realized “Hey, this might make a good tool for sale”?  In other words, was there an “ancestor”?

Darren:  No ancestor. The first version of the tool was developed and released in three days. It was an extremely simple tool that would just email you lists of potential opportunities. You can see some screen shots of the first version of the tool on Matt McGee’s post, “Local Citation Finder: Must-Have SEO Tool”.

 

Phil:  Yeah, I remember using it at that early stage.  Why did it come along when it did (summer of 2010)?  We’d known for a couple years beforehand that citations were important.  There was a niche and a need for it before 2010.

Darren:  The existence of the tool needed Garrett French’s brilliant idea for citation finding to spark the idea. :)

 

Phil:  Roughly how long did it take you to develop the LCF— from when it was a few neurons firing in your brain to when you put the “Order” button on the site?

Darren:  The free version we developed in three days was up for about six months before we rolled out the full-blown system that exists today. A few months of solid development went into taking it from simple/free to awesome/paid. It has evolved considerably since then as well.

 

Phil:  What’s a complaint or suggestion you’ve received on at least a couple occasions about the Local Citation Finder?

Darren:  This one comes up all the time:

“Why are there so many sites that I can’t submit to?”

The answer is because the tool performs a competitive analysis to find ALL the places that the top ranked competition is getting citations. A site doesn’t have to have a “submit your business” form on it to be a good citation. In fact, just like in link building, the harder a citation is to get, the more valuable it may be.

For example, the New York Times doesn’t have a “submit your business to our local business directory form”, but if your competition has done something newsworthy and has received a citation from the NYT, that’s a great thing for you to know about so you can look at what they did to get that citation.

 

Phil:  What’s a favorite “secret tip” of yours for getting the most benefit out of the LCF?

Darren:  We use the LCF in our client work to find “hyper local/niche” citation sources that we think have a significant impact on rankings. Here’s the process:

Create a new project. Call it something like “Local-Niche citations for __business-name__”

Run a bunch of different keyword searches in your specific city and industry, and assign each search to the project you created. So, for a plumber in Denver: Denver plumbers, Denver plumbing, Denver drain cleaning, etc. Try to be exhaustive.

Go under “Your Projects”, select “view sources” for the project you created, and ALL the citation sources from all of those different queries will be listed on a single page.

Hold down Ctrl and press “f” to bring up your browser’s search function. Now search for “plumb”, “drain”, “Denver”, “Colorado”, etc. Any words, or portions of words, that are related to your location or industry. The browser search feature will find sites with these words in their domains. These are going to be some very targeted sources that should help your rankings.

 

Phil:  How much room for improvement do you see for the LCF?  Any features you’re dying to add?

Darren:  Yeah, I’m dying to add the citation monitoring features I mentioned above. We’ve been super focused on our latest project, our local rank tracker, but it’s almost done, finally! Once it has launched and is stable, we’ll be jumping back to those LCF features. I also have plans for a NAP consistency tool that will complement the LCF nicely.

 

Phil:  Tons of people in the local-search community—and many people outside of it—use or at least know about the LCF.  What’s been the most important part of your strategy for “getting the word out”?

Darren:  Honestly, it’s just been dumb luck. We built a tool that the community needed, and word spread naturally. People liked what we built and started blogging.

 

Phil:  I’ve never encountered another tool that’s specifically designed for citation-gathering.  There doesn’t seem to be much competition—or even any knock-offs, for that matter.  Why do you think that is?  Why aren’t there any Pepsis to your Coca-Cola?

Darren:  Hmm. I don’t know. I suppose it’s just so narrowly focused. Citations are just one piece of the local SEO puzzle, and local SEO is just one niche within SEO overall. People that can build quality tools probably prefer to focus on bigger opportunities.

 

Phil:  The LCF has been around for long enough that the kinks have pretty much been smoothed out.  At this point, how do you spend your time on it?  What work do you have to do regularly on the LCF?

Darren:  Our time on the LCF is mostly support and troubleshooting at the moment. Kinks and edge cases do continue to come up, and as our user base has grown we have run into minor scaling issues here and there.  There are a fair amount of behind-the-scenes processing performance and monitoring tweaks we’ve made over the past couple years. The end user doesn’t see anything different, but these tweaks keep everything running well.

 

Phil:  What’s a tool that you, personally, would love to see someone create?  (Unless it’s something you’re working on and can’t spill the beans!)

Darren:  I’ve got IDEAS man! So many tool ideas. There isn’t one tool that I would love to see someone create that I don’t eventually plan to create. Sorry, nothing I can share.

 

Phil:  What advice would you give someone who has a great idea for a local-search tool and just wants to get it off the ground?  Or, for that matter, what general advice do you have for someone who has a good idea but isn’t quite sure how to develop it?

Darren:  I’d advise anyone who has a great idea for a tool to email me with all the details. ;)

Really though, you just have to do it. Have an idea? Don’t sit on it. DO IT. Millions of people are sitting on great ideas and they’re all on the back burner because they’re busy with the regular day-to-day of their lives. Block out some time and force yourself to dedicate it to developing your idea.

 

Phil:  Whitespark offers local search optimization and a bunch of other services, but you’re not some ho-hum SEO / SEM agency.  You create tools.  That’s kind of your niche.  In general, what advice do you have for someone who’s trying to develop his/her niche and stand out from the pack?

Darren:  If you want to stand out you need to do something to stand out. Building tools is one way to do that. You can also do it by picking one specific area and becoming an expert on it. I think you have done that with reviews, for one thing. You are regularly publishing excellent advice about review acquisition and that makes you stand out. I often think of you as “the review guy.”

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, Darren Shaw [applause]A HUGE thanks to Darren for his tips and insights, and for tolerating my questions :).

I highly recommend you follow him on Twitter (@EdmontonSEO) and Google Plus.  While you’re at it, it’s also worth following Whitespark on Twitter (@Whitespark).

If you’re not already a hardcore LCF user, check out the excellent free trial of it.

Any questions for me or Darren?  Leave a comment!

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