Juiciest Comments from the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey

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The annual Local Search Ranking Factors study is always a pleasure to contribute to, and even more so to read.  The numbers and charts that reflect local search geeks’ experience are more than worth the effort to read (and re-read), but the comments are where most of the forehead-slapper insights go to party together.

Darren Shaw (who ran the survey for the first time this year and did a killer job) received 33 pages of comments from the contributors.  I’m guessing most or all of those 33 pages made it into the survey, toward the end.

It’s all fascinating stuff, but even the comments alone are a lot to digest.

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That’s why I’ve rounded up some favorites.  They’re comments that either reflected what I’ve found to be true of local SEO, or that told me something new.  I’ve put in bold the parts I think have the most boom.  In some cases, I’ve also included links to relevant posts – which weren’t in the original comments – as well as my own comments on the comments 🙂

I’m confident you’ll get usable insights out of them, and make your local SEO strategy a little better as a result.

Anyway, here are my 16 favorite  Local Search Ranking Factors 2017 comments, presented in the order in which they appeared in the survey:

 

“It’s a very difficult concept to survey about, but the overriding ranking factor in local — across both pack and organic results — is entity authority. Ask yourself, “If I were Google, how would I define a local entity, and once I did, how would I rank it relative to others?” and you’ll have the underlying algorithmic logic for at least the next decade.

  • How widely known is the entity? Especially locally, but oh man, if it’s nationally known, searchers should REALLY know about it.
  • What are people saying about the entity? (It should probably rank for similar phrases.)
  • What is the engagement with the entity? Do people recognize it when they see it in search results? How many Gmail users read its newsletter? How many call or visit it after seeing it in search results? How many visit its location?”

David Mihm

Here’s how I often put it to clients and others: Google wants to know that your business is what you claim it is, and that customers do business with you and live to say good things about it.

 

“Businesses have to get the table stakes right. After that, it seems to be all about local relevant links. We are seeing a lot more sites that rank with lower quantities of higher-quality (read: local and industry-relevant) links. Even sites with very few pages and limited content still seem to win with enough quality links.”

Gyi Tsakalakis

Suggested reading: “One-Time Work vs. Ongoing Work in Local SEO.”

 

“Without a doubt, the biggest changes in local search during the last year have been associated with the Possum update. However, this algorithm update didn’t really affect in a major way the core factors everyone should focus their SEO efforts on, but rather improved the quality of Google’s local search results. At the same time, this update would hopefully curb the very negative practice of businesses setting up virtual offices (or using outright fake addresses) if their physical address is not near the centroid of the major city they want to rank for. Proximity of business to point of search (or to user) has been a factor whose inclusion in the LSRF I first suggested in 2012. It only made sense that Google would decrease the value of the “proximity to centroid” factor in their algorithm and at the same time would increase the value of the “proximity to user” factor.”

Nyagoslav Zhekov

 

“One of the greatest competitive difference-makers, especially if you are in a notoriously spam-filled industry, is developing an ongoing strategy to actively monitor and combat spam. I have worked with businesses that had more than seven spam GMB listings ahead of them in ranking; after having them removed (because they were totally fake listings), the business I was working with shot up in ranking to the first page. But this strategy needs to be ongoing. It will often feel like you are playing whack-a-mole, but it is a necessary part of any modern local SEO strategy. It’s also one of the few tactics that you can perform that has an immediate ranking boost (once the spam is removed).”

Colan Nielsen

Don’t hesitate to do “suggest an edit” edits.  They won’t all be approved, but many times Google will apply them.  Here’s a great guide.

 

“A clean citation profile at the major data aggregators and tier 1 sources remains essential. Beyond that, there’s no sense in paying for a bunch of weak sites that never rank on page one and get virtually zero traffic.  But citations won’t move the needle; they’re table stakes. Think of them as the basic molecule of the organism that is your local entity.”

David Mihm

 

“I think there is a huge difference when it comes to citation building between sites that need it and those that don’t. Businesses that need citation work are those which have moved addresses, changed phone numbers, bought another business, etc. The root of the need is that information is mismatched, and will need work to correct.  Established businesses that have made little to no changes over the course of their existence really don’t need much citation work. Optimizing listings is great to try and improve conversion rates (click-to-call, driving directions, leave a review), but it’s not going to move the needle as much, so time is better spent elsewhere.”

Eric Rohrback

Suggested reading: “Do You Really Need to Clean up That Local Citation?

 

“Spend 80% of your time on competitive difference-makers and 20% of your time on foundational factors. In competitive SERPs, foundational factors are the ticket to entry. That’s not to say that they’re not important; it’s just that everyone is getting better at implementing them. If you want to rank, you have to find ways do what your competitors aren’t doing or can’t do. Use your business’ competitive advantages in your local search marketing strategies.”

Gyi Tsakalakis

 

“I think in the coming years, the SEO agencies and consultants that are going to be able to get real results for their clients are going to be the ones that don’t follow a cookie-cutter approach. It’s no longer good enough to follow the standard checklist of items to optimize your listing and then expect it to rank well. Google is going to continue to make it more difficult for one company to dominate the search results. As they do this, it’s going to take a lot more effort and strategy for businesses to remain on top. I think it’s going to be crucial for businesses to have not just a local strategy, but an organic one as well that involves having people actually see their content and bringing in other mediums like Facebook and Twitter. I also think backlinks are more important than ever and getting links outside of the standard citation-building will continue to make an impact in ranking.”

Joy Hawkins

 

“As part of your local SEO audits, and — to a lesser extent but still important — as part of your ongoing strategy, you need to be auditing all the other businesses that exist at the same address as your client’s business. Google is filtering business’ GMB listings in situations where there are multiple businesses with the same category at the same address. Develop a system for auditing this, and do whatever you can to ensure that Google chooses not to filter your client’s business over the others.”

Colan Nielsen

 

“…Possum hasn’t impacted my approach to local SEO at all, other than to tell people affected by Possum that they shouldn’t have put all of their eggs in the local SEO basket in the first place. If you breathlessly await each Google update with bated breath, you’re doing it wrong.”

David Mihm

Suggested reading: “Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?”  Also, work on your non-Google ways of rustling up customers – including some offline strategies, preferably.

 

“Links continue to be a strong factor for success in organic and local search results. In our experience, just a few high-quality targeted links can move the needle if you’re earning them to the page your Google My Business page is attached to. For businesses with a single location this seems to be the homepage pretty often, but for multi-location businesses it can get a bit trickier.”

Casey Meraz

Suggested reading: “Your Google Places Landing Page: Homepage or City-Specific?

 

“Google will continue to find ways to keep people from leaving Google as much as possible, so expect your organic traffic to decline in the coming years. Stop thinking of your website as a destination, and start thinking of it as a data feed. Utilize Schema.org and JSON-LD as much as possible to highlight important information on your website.”

Cori Graft

You’ve got to impress would-be customers before they even get to your site, to the extent they make it to your site at all.  As I often say, local SEO isn’t just about your site vs. your competitors’ sites; it’s also about your reputation vs. their reputation.  Cori was talking more about getting rich snippets to show up, though.  Here’s a great example.

 

“Google is headed toward making us pay for more clicks. My guess is that we are likely to see instances in which as many as the first five spots on Google are paid results (i.e. four AdWords ads and a paid local pack listing). We have seen instances in which the average click-through rate for a Google My Business listing that maintains an average position of 1.2 is less than 1%. Don’t overly rely on local pack positions for business. Diversify your Internet marketing strategies across channels. Measure the effectiveness in terms of goals and conversions, as opposed to impressions and rankings.”

Gyi Tsakalakis

 

“You can try to game the search results all you want, but if your business is consistently getting bad reviews, you have other issues to worry about. Focus on fixing any core problems in your business so that your clients want to talk about you. SEO experts can’t help you much if there are underlying issues preventing your business from thriving.”

Casey Meraz

 

“I think that local search is going to start getting shaken up as more and more brands start investing in local search. SMBs should be wary that lots of brands haven’t tried to flex their muscle in the local search space, and when they do they can potentially change the impact of an entire vertical. The ability to leverage technical SEO through internal links, widgets, and cross-linking pockets of large sites also can have a huge impact on a brand’s search presence while not costing an arm and a leg. This means that SMBs need to leverage their agility and ability to execute quickly to gain some traction in their local markets before the landscape gets too crowded. Especially with how Google seems to favor brands, and the huge positive impact that powerful organic SEO can have in local pack rankings.”

Dan Leibson

Most big companies are incompetent and disorganized at online marketing as a result of organizational bloat, but I agree with Dan insofar as some big companies “get it” and execute.  Those are the ones to worry about and to start outworking now.

 

“If I could drive home one topic in 2017 for local business owners, it would surround everything relating to reviews. This would include rating, consumer sentiment, velocity, authenticity, and owner responses, both on third-party platforms and native website reviews/testimonials pages. The influence of reviews is enormous; I have come to see them as almost as powerful as the NAP on your citations. NAP must be accurate for rankings and consumer direction, but reviews sell.”

Miriam Ellis

As I often say, rankings without reviews are a big waste.

What’s your favorite comment from the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors?

What’s a comment you wish the writer would clarify or expand on?

Leave a comment!

Best Mike Blumenthal Blog Posts (So Far): a Poll of Longtime Fans

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Mike Blumenthal needs no introduction to anyone who pays close attention to Google Places and the rest of the crazy world of local search.

If you’re reading this, either you’re already a fan of Professor Maps (as he’s known) and his blog, or you’re becoming one.

I’ve read his posts throughout my local-search career so far.  I’m not alone when I say they’ve been a huge influence on my thinking, to say the least.

The only trouble is: of the 2400+ posts Mike has done so far, it’s hard to know where to start, or which posts are the most evergreen.

That’s why I asked some of the longest-time / hardest-core readers of Mike’s blog what their all-time favorite posts are.  They also added some great commentary.

Even this list of favorites probably has the shelf life of sushi, given how much Mike publishes (see the July 2014 storm of posts). But it’s still worth a try.

Here are the top picks of some long-time readers:

 

Miriam Ellis

 

1) In the Trenches: The Reality of Smb Marketing – Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview

This is an oldie from 2008. I’ve always remembered this post for the picture it painted of how marketing looks and feels to a small business owner. The story told in this interview should help any marketer to act with empathy and great respect when supporting hard-working SMBs. I admire Mike’s ability to surface interesting man-on-the-street stories like this one.

2) What Should You Tell a Client When Google Loses Their Reviews – a 4 Part Plan

Remember the great Google review loss fiasco of 2012? Mike not only wrote great posts like the above helping marketers to support clients who had lost reviews, but he also came up with the idea of consolidating as many complaints as possible onto a Google And Your Business Forum help thread. I would bet I’m not alone in saying that Mike’s work has made me feel less alone during many Local crises!

3) What Does My Business Tell Us about the Future of Google Plus?

Years of experience in Local and Mike’s one-of-a-kind insight are beautifully showcased in this piece. This is what we’ve all come to rely on Mike for, over the years. Just fantastic! Hats off to you, Mike – it’s been a privilege learning from you for the better part of a decade!

 

David Mihm

 

No one, and I mean no one, has chronicled the evolution of Google’s local and mapping products more closely than Mike Blumenthal.  The man probably knows more about legacy systems and rationale for why things are built the way they are than all but a few product managers at Google.

Small business owners and the search community — possibly even the world of local searchers — owe Mike a debt of gratitude for helping make local search at Google what it is today.  He has been a positive thorn in Mountain View’s side, exhorting Google to improve their products to a level where they are actually usable by small business owners and searchers — a task that continues even today in the aftermath of the “crappy” Pigeon update.

The fact that business owners finally have a usable interface from which to manage their listings, the option of phone support, and countless other amenities is due in no small part to Mike’s direct and indirect feedback to Google (and the tireless efforts of internal SMB advocates like Joel Headley and Jade Wang).

I’m proud to call Mike a friend for almost seven years (!) since first discovering his blog.

Here are some of my favorite Blumenthal articles:

Yelp: Real People. Real Reviews. Deceptive Sales Tactics.

29prime – Would You Buy A Used Car from These Guys Let Alone SEO?

Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction

Which Review Sites Should You Use?

10 Likely Ranking Factors of Google’s Local Search Algorithm

Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Cracking The Code SMX Local

 

Dave Oremland

(aka Earlpearl)

 

Favorites:

1.  Early articles about the Google local patent.  Bill Slawski might have initially written about them but Mike studied them and drilled down into them with greater degree and specificity.

My experience is that in the early years after a new patent one often sees the most dramatic impact of those patents.  Before Google makes algo changes.   They are crucial to follow.  Mike has done a great job on those issues.

2.  The annual Loci articles.   Very thoughtful pieces from guest authors.  A worthwhile element of his blog.

3.  In a general context Mike jumped on the review issues early on.  He’s covered it and dissected it with clarity.   Of the many many articles referencing reviews the one that stuck with me were the two articles about the dentist in Washington State.   Those stories added an astonishing human element to the overall review saga, in particular, if one believes the dentist’s side of the story it revealed a “fatal attraction” kind of element to reviews. Really amazing human drama connected to the business function of trying to respond to reviews.  That was fascinating.

 

Nyagoslav Zhekov

 

Chances are I have missed A LOT of extremely important posts, but I tried very hard to keep the number under 20

What Is Location Prominence?

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in Encouraging Customer Reviews

Google Places and Their New Rejection Algo – It Is Like 7th Grade All over Again!

Graphic: How an SMB Solves a Problem in Google Places

Review Management: 7 Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews

An Imagined Conversation with Google about Reviews, 29Prime & Sock Puppets

The Untold Story of 2011: Google’s Significant Investments in a Google Places Support Structure

Will Citations Stop Being Effective for Local Optimization in the Future?

9 Questions to Assess Your Review Management Stress Levels

Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 1)

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 2)

Video Snippets vs. Author Images – Which Have Higher Click Through Rates?

10 Reasons That the Google Knowledge Graph Sucks More Than the Local Graph

Yahoo and the “Everybody But Google” Realities of Local Search

Mike Blumenthal is rightfully the top authority in local search in the last 5+ years. His infinite energy and will to look for answers, to share thoughts, to inform the community, and to urge development where improvement is needed are hardly matched by anyone in the Internet marketing world. Mike’s articles on local search, Google Maps, Google Places, review strategies, small business marketing, and Google-related issues have been the first ones I started reading while I was still “learning how to walk” in the industry. As I joined the game a little later (early 2011), the majority of my favorite articles of Mike are naturally from the period after that.

Mike’s articles are both informational and raising questions and topics for discussion. His word is so influential that he has frequently provoked revisions of strategies in the SEO world, as well as urgent processual or technical changes within companies such as Google, for instance. I believe our industry is happy to have him, and I hope he will stick around for many more years.

 

Andrew Shotland

 

I have to start with one of Mike’s very first posts – The Basics of Listings Success. As he put it back then:

“Unlike optimization for organic search, optimization for local search at the major engines is in a much less developed state. It seems to have many fewer people poking, prodding and testing the hypothesis of local search and coming up with a definitive set of best practices. This is list is an attempt to create that model that we can all test. Have a go and let me know.”

Every couple of years a new wild west emerges via the Web. This post documents a time when Local still had room in it for wide-eyed optimism and Mike’s eyes proved to be both the widest and the narrowest at the same time. Getting a bit misty…

Of course I loved when he first started acknowledging how screwed up this Local stuff was for small businesses, in his own inimitable style. From the classic “Local Data Accuracy – a Veritable Beehive“:

“The group is a regular beehive of activity with a surprising amount of input from small business owners. But it is a beehive in which the keeper just stuck his hand into the hive and stirred things up by sticking the bees in the wrong place and the bees are mad!”

I think Mike’s post about the difference between ValPak’s coupons and everyone else’s in Google Maps was when I first started to be in awe of Mike’s obsession with the minutiae of Local. I mean who else was writing about the pixel size of fucking coupons at that point?

If I had to pick a favorite, it probably has to be Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction. Mike seems to be pretty tight with the Google Local team, or at least as tight as they can be with anybody. And still Mike cannot stop speaking truth to power as it were. While there have been plenty of SEO bloggers bitching and moaning about Google Local’s shortcomings, this post solidified his rep as perhaps its finest critic.

And of course any post mentioning Barbara Oliver, one of Buffalo’s finest jewelers, is always a winner.

 

Andy Kuiper

(late addition)
 

Mike Blumenthal’s blog is the go-to place to find out what’s what when it comes to Local search & Google. Every day I look forward to seeing what Mike and his followers (several of whom are the top Local SEO ‘gurus’ in North America) have to say. Mike’s blog, and his follower’s comments have helped so many SEOs and SMBs understand what’s going on in Local… and there is always something strange going on in Local 😉

Here are three posts that may be of help to SMBs:

How Does Google Choose a Profile Photo? It’s the Algo Dummie!

Google+ Custom URLs – Facts, Tidbits and Concerns

Google+ Local Quality Guideline Update Allows for Multiple Departments

(Note: I asked Andy at the same time I asked everyone else for top picks. He just took a while :))

 

Me

 

This is too tough.  But I’ll channel my inner monk-like ascetic powers and name only 7 posts (in no particular order):

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in Encouraging Customer Reviews

Infographic: Citations – Time to Live – a joint research project / post with Mr. David Mihm

Asking For Reviews (Post Google Apocalypse)

Which Review Sites Should You Use?

What Does My Business Tell Us about the Future of Google Plus?

Yext & Local SEO

What Does a Link Campaign Look Like for Local?

 

To sum up all thoughts on Mike’s posts:


What are your favorites so far?

Leave a comment!

Overlooked Local SEO Posts of Early 2014

The first 4 months of 2014 brought some big posts that got plenty of attention in the “local” space (and for good reason).

But then there were some great posts that didn’t get as much fanfare.  Not that they were ignored; I just think they’re widely useful.

Here are some posts worth reading:

Why You Should Check Facebook and Foursquare Frequently for Duplicates – Nyagoslav Zhekov

3 Local SEO Secrets Learned Over Time – Mikel Zaremba

7 Deadly Sins of Responding to Negative Reviews – Gradiva Couzin

Checking Google Places Penalties – Ben Roland

New Way to Measure How you Stack up to Competitors on Google Plus: View Counts – Joy Hawkins

Of the above, do you have a favorite?

Any other “overlooked” posts you’d recommend?

Leave a comment!

Business Categories Lists for Major Local Search Sites

Categories are the forgotten child of local SEO.

Though they don’t get much attention, categories do get respect: “Proper Category Associations” is the #1 “Foundational Ranking Factor” listed on 2013’s Local Search Ranking Factors study.  (I was one of the people who ranked them up there, and I’m glad other local-searchers agree.)

Picking as many relevant categories as you can is probably the easiest way to make progress on your Google+ Local, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp, and other rankings.

Choosing the right ones is sometimes easier said than done.  Google no longer allows “custom” categories.  That’s nice in a couple of ways: You can choose up to 10 categories, and it’s nice that it’s much harder now to get penalized by accidentally specifying a custom category that Google doesn’t consider kosher.

Still, the categories you want to pick are either on Google’s list or they aren’t.  Which may leave you feeling hamstrung if your business is specialized or “niche.”

Fortunately for us, the categories you can pick on other sites seem to help Google determine what type of business yours is – and what terms you should rank for.

They’re also a huge factor in your rankings on pretty much every other site worth being listed on.

The name of the game is to know your options for categories, on as many sites as possible.  Most of them don’t make it easy to browse all your options.  That’s why I’ve rounded up a bunch of category lists, so you can find the relevant ones easily.

Check out these lists and see if you’ve listed your business under the best categories possible:

Search engines

Google – Browse Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool

Bing Places – See my list of Bing business categories (new)

Apple Maps – Dig through this monstrous list put together by Andrew Shotland

Data-aggregators

ExpressUpdate – Pick from OSHA’s Standard Industrial Categories

LocalEze – See my post on LocalEze categories

Factual – Refer to this list when submitting your Factual listing

IYPs

Yelp – Dig through Yelp’s somewhat-buried list, or see my post on Yelp categories

InsiderPages – See this

AngiesList – Here you go

Those are just the category lists I’ve found so far or put together myself.  I’m sure you or I could easily find full lists of categories for rinky-dink sites that nobody’s ever heard of.  But there are a few category lists I’d still like to have.

The sites on my wish-list at the moment are CitySearch, YellowPages, Local.Yahoo.com, and Acxiom (MyBusinessListingManager.com).  Please let me know if you find or make a list of all the categories allowed on those sites!

10 Best Local Search Posts: January – June 2013

Why should “best of the year” roundups only come out once 12 months have passed?  Why are they all in December – and none in July?

And why are they always so retrospective?  “OK, here’s the stuff that mattered in case you were backpacking through the Gobi for the entire year – but you’d better absorb it fast, because it’s all going to be old news in a few days when the calendar flips to the new year.”

The first 6 months of 2013 have been pretty eventful in the world of local search.

In terms of “news,” a few highlights have been Google’s improved support system, the rollout of Facebook Graph search, the new Google Places dashboard, the Bing Places rebranding, the new Google Maps, and Google’s local “carousel.”

Even more important are the insights that many of my fellow local-search obsessives have offered.

I think all of that calls for at least one tally before December – don’t you?

Below are 10 of my top picks.  They’re posts that are really useful and actionable, or that give you a better sense of the current local-search “landscape” and how it’s changing (or both)

Starting from January and going through June:

Is the Google+ Local Dashboard Moving Towards a Freemium Model? – Mike Blumenthal

Facebook Graph Search and Local From Across the Web- Let the Fight Begin – Mike Blumenthal

Determining the Best Local Citation Sources for Any Market – Nyagoslav Zhekov

Google: Your NAP Should Be Consistent Both Online and in the Real World – Nyagoslav Zhekov

The Nitty Gritty Of City Landing Pages For Local Businesses – Miriam Ellis

The Place of Review Filters in Local Search – David Mihm (via Moz blog)

What is Local Search? – Mary Bowling (via LocalU blog)

A Guide to Call Tracking and Local Search – Mike Blumenthal

A Tour of the New Google Maps [15 Screenshots] – Matt McGee

Google’s Local Carousel – Trapped in Google’s World? – Mike Blumenthal

What are some other really important, insightful, or useful posts?  Leave a comment!

Local SEO Posts That Inspired My Best

Many of my best ideas have come to me while I’ve been puffing on a cigar on my porch around 3am.

But even more of (what I consider) my finest posts were influenced by what other local SEOs have written.  Their insights spurred my lethargic brain cells – and my typing fingers – to start hustling.

Therefore, I’m writing this because:

(1) I’d like to say thanks to the people who wrote these posts, and because

(2) I’d like to round up and highlight their posts – which I really suggest you read and use in your quest to get more visible in the local search results.

(I wasn’t sure of the best order to present the posts in, so I’m just listing them in the order of my newest to oldest.)

 

Matt McGee’s
How to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities

 

16 Ways to Create Unique “Local” Content for Cities Where You Want to Rank

 

Mike Zaremba’s
Ultimate Local SEO Guide &

Jon Cooper’s
Complete Guide to Link-Building Strategies

 

Complete Guide to Google+Local Reviews

 

Miriam Ellis’s
The Zen of Local SEO

 

Why Slow Local SEO Rules

 

Nyagoslav Zhekov’s
Interview with Dan Austin, Google Maps Spam Fighter

 

Google MapMaker 101 for Local Business Owners

 

Chris Silver Smith’s
9 Common Ways to Bork Your Local Rankings in Google

 

7 Ways to Kill Your Local Search Rankings without Touching a Computer

 

David Mihm’s
Local Search Ranking Factors

 

How Long Does Local-Search Visibility Take?

 

A conversation with my dad, Jon (ace copywriter and conversion-rate wizard)

 

50 Local SEO Lessons from 50 Clients

 

David Mihm’s
Local Search Ecosystem

 

Local Business Reviews Ecosystem in the US & Canadian Reviews Ecosystem

 

Mike Blumenthal’s
Listing a New Business – A Timeline for Launch

 

12-Week Action Plan for Google Places Visibility

(You want to know what else inspired my “12-week action plan” post?  Go here and scroll about halfway down.  I kid you not.)

What posts have you found really useful or insightful?  Leave a comment!

Best Local Search Infographics, Charts, and Doodles

If you read everything that’s been written about local search, you’ll know a lot.

Easier said than done.  There’s a ton to read because there’s even more to know.  It can be overwhelming.

It never stops being overwhelming.  The longer I do local SEO, the more questions I have.  For me, the questions reproduce like rabbits.

Still, every now and then someone picks up the crayons and communicates volumes in just a few square inches.  Local-search enthusiasts do this better than most people who attempt to make infographics (most of which are confusing and useless).

Here are my favorite infographics and other visuals on local SEO.  Except for the top 3, I haven’t listed them in any particular order.

 

The Local Search Ecosystem – David Mihm

(accompanying blog post here and more info here)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEO Success Pyramid – Matt McGee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web Equity: Owning Your Web Presence – Mike Blumenthal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infographic: Citations – Time To Live – Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page – Mike Ramsey and Avalaunch Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Details Information Sources for the Business Listing “Cluster” – Mike Blumenthal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Primary Data Providers in Local Search – David Mihm via GetListed.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History of Google’s Local Efforts – David Mihm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apple Maps Ecosystem – David Mihm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Local Reviews Ecosystem – Andrew Shotland

(Note: Although I’d seen Andrew’s graphic long before I published my similarly-named “ecosystem,” I forgot the name of the former by the time it came time to name the latter.  Major head-smack moment!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I won’t put my own infographics on the same list as the great ones above, but here they are anyway, bringing up the caboose:

 

12-Week Action Plan for Google Places Visibility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Local Business Reviews Ecosystem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada’s Local Business Reviews Ecosystem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Long Local SEO Takes: the Short Version

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you think of any handy graphics I missed?  Let me know – leave a comment!

My 10 Favorite Local SEO Posts of 2012

I know there’s still time left in 2012 for people to write great posts on local SEO…but it’s gonna be hard to top the crème de la crème.

Much like one of those snore-fest radio countdowns, I’ve picked what I consider the 10 best posts of the year.  Except my picks are exciting and useful…and I’m not counting down (or up)…and I’m not a DJ.

What I love about these posts is they can help you no matter how much or little you know about local search.  Many of them deal with tough topics but do a magnificent job of breaking it all down into insights or steps you can easily apply to get your business more visible in the local rankings.

As you can see, I don’t include my own posts – as was the case on the only two occasions I’ve done roundups so far.

Enjoy, bookmark, apply…and grab some better local visibility.

March

Understand and Rock the Venice Update – Mike Ramsey

New Google Places Guideline – Hide Your Address or Risk Losing Your Place Page – Linda Buquet

April

The Real Meaning of the Google Places Statuses – Nyagoslav Zhekov

May

Rankings on Google+Local: Some Observations – David Mihm

Google+Local: Q’s and Some A’s – Mike Blumenthal

June

Rethinking the Title Tag for 2012 (and Beyond) – Matt McGee

September

Asking for Reviews (Post Google Apocalypse) – Mike Blumenthal

October

How to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities – Matt McGee

The Zen of Local SEO – Miriam Ellis

November

Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction – Mike Blumenthal

What do you like about these posts?  Any words of appreciation for the authors?  Leave a comment!

Best Old Posts on Local Search: the Classics

Even in local search, there's such a thing as time-tested wisdomThe trouble with most “best-of” roundups is they have a shelf life.  They’re fresh and they’re current – which is good.  But they also age fast.

Not this one.  This roundup is like Cher: Even years from now it’ll look pretty much the same.

I’ve gathered what, in my opinion, are the best old posts on how to get visible in local search – particularly in Google Places (before it was called Google Places).

Many of these I first read when I was just getting started (‘08-‘09, before I created this blog).  Technically they’re from the last decade (!).  They’re oldies but goodies.

Why do I care how old these posts are…and why should you care?  Well, because the insights in these have held up since 2006-2009 – which is a mighty long time in “local search years.”

All the idiotic “SEO is dead” –type posts have fallen by the wayside and nobody remembers them.  And rightfully so.  But many of the below posts are still frequently linked to, commented on, and read and re-read because they’re still accurate, insightful, and useful.

True: Google and the rest of the local-search world is constantly morphing, so you need to stay abreast of all the changes.  But if you want to stay afloat in the local rankings, you also need to know what’s not changing, because that’s the stuff at the very core of local search – what it is, how it works, and what steps will get you visible to local customers regardless of what year it is.

I also suggest you follow every single one of these experts if you don’t already.

So, here’s my selection of the best old posts on local search:

2006

8 Simple Steps to Make a Page More “Local” – Matt McGee
Your website and landing pages have become even more important to your local rankings since Matt wrote this – making these best-practices even more important for you to follow.

Authority Documents for Google’s Local Search – Bill Slawski
Superb breakdown of one of Google’s local-search patents, with insights into how Google determines whether your pages are “local.”

Study: Search Driving Offline Conversions for Local Service Businesses – Greg Sterling
Ever wonder exactly why you need to bother getting visible in local search – and whether it’s all worth it?

 

2007

10 Likely Ranking Factors of Google’s Local Search Algorithm – Mike Blumenthal
Before we had nifty terms like “citation,” Professor Maps explained what mattered – and still matters – in local search in super-simple terms.

Don’t Forget…Business Reviews Are Searchable – Tim Coleman
Why customer reviews matter, plus a straightforward plan for gathering them.

Is Google Filtering Reviews or Reviewers? – Tim Coleman
Tim puts his finger on some of the stuff we still don’t know about how Google deals with customer reviews.  (Note: in 2011 Google stopped including third-party reviews in the Google Places search results, so that part of it is no longer applicable, but Tim’s overall points and methodology are why this post is still a must-read.)

Anatomy & Optimization of a Local Business Profile – Chris Silver Smith
This one’s got it all: some great explanation of basic local search ranking factors, detail on some of the more-advanced and lesser-known ones, and a really straightforward layout that helps you see how it all fits together.

 

2008

How to Create Effective Local Business Landing Pages – Dev Basu
The title pretty much says it all.  Dev’s advice also holds true for any good landing page – whether or not it’s tied to your Google Places page.

Does Local Need to Be Held to a Higher Standard? Greg Sterling Responds – Mike Blumenthal
Let’s just say I agree with this.

Local vs Traditional SEO: Why Citation Is the New Link – David Mihm
This is where I first learned what a citation is.  Even after a number of years, it’s still the best explanation of what citations are and of their place in the wild world of local search.

The “BCS” for Local Search Engine Optimization – David Mihm
Do citations overwhelm you because you’re not quite sure where to begin in gathering them?   This is a superb rundown of which third-party sites affect your local rankings the most, as well as how each of these sites matters in the grand scheme of things.

SEO for Businesses with Multiple Locations in the Same City – Andrew Shotland
This very well may not apply to you, but if you do have multiple locations in one city, Andrew’s advice remains rock-solid for (1) avoiding the dreaded problem of merged Google Places listings and for (2) getting your listings highly visible in Places.

 

2009

Google Maps LBC: How to make % Complete = 100% – Mike Blumenthal: 
An awesome pie chart that shows you how to make your Google Places listing 100% complete, according to Google’s standards.

What Would a Local SEM Do? – Mike Blumenthal
Whether this anonymous letter is made-up or a true story, it’s a sad reminder of how a Google Places campaign needs to be part of an overall visibility strategy, but not the entire strategy itself.  In other words…epic fail.

The Local New Year’s Resolution I Wish Eric Schmidt Would Make – Miriam Ellis
We’ve burned through several years and a Google CEO since Miriam wrote this.  But it’s still a dead-on take on what’s wrong with local Google and why Google has an obligation to fix its problems.  Gee, maybe they’ll make a New Year’s resolution this year…you know what a sign of resolve and commitment that is…

5 Ways Negative Reviews Are Good for Business – Matt McGee
Huh?  You actually want some negative reviews?  Yes, you probably do.

Blocking and Tackling: 10 Fundamentals of Local SEO – David Mihm
David does a great job of telling you what to focus on in your local-search efforts.  He even compares it to football.  If we’re going to stick with that metaphor, the only thing I’d add is: wear a cup.

The “Other 20%” Of Local SEO: Advanced Ranking Factors – David Mihm
Kind of a follow-up to the “10 Fundamentals” post.  The focus here is on slightly more-advanced techniques for grabbing the extra edge locally.

Secret Local Search Rankings Facts for Free – Mike Ramsey
Too many different kinds of great insights to sum up here…just give it a read.

How to Do Local SEO for Your Website in Five Minutes (or So) – Andrew Shotland
So…it’ll take you about 3 minutes to read this post…which leaves you about 2 minutes to do local SEO on your site.  Can you do it?  Can Andrew explain how?  The clock starts now

 

Honorable mention: local search posts from 2010

Local-search years are like dog years.  In not too long, posts from 2010 will also become what I consider time-tested.  They’re still a little recent as of 2012, but I’m guessing the following posts will still be as useful and insightful a couple years from now as they’ve been for the past couple of years:

Transferring Google Local Business Center Accounts – Steve Hatcher

Why Local SEO Is Harder than SEOs Think – Matt McGee

An Extremely Nifty Guide to Reviews and Local Search – Mike Ramsey

The 3 Major Causes of Duplicate Listings in Local Search – Mike Ramsey

Can you think of any great posts I forgot?  Leave a comment!

(Remember: they’ve got to be old, and they’ve got to be written by someone else 🙂 )

Best Google Places Troubleshooting Posts (2011 – Early 2012)

Having problems with Google Places?  Of course you are!

Like Frogger, Google Places is full of hazards and problemsLocal Google is a minefield of bugs, glitches, often-murky “Quality Guidelines,” sudden algorithm changes, and possibly unethical competitors. Tiptoeing your way around all the hazards requires luck or know-how.  If you don’t feel like playing Russian Roulette with your business’s local presence, then you’d probably prefer the extra know-how.

“But Phil, I’m not having any problems in Google Places…I just want to rank higher.”

Well, if you want to rank more visibly, you first need to make sure your wings aren’t being clipped by a host of particularly common hazards.  Even if you’re already ranking well in Google Places, you need to know how to identify, fix, or prevent these problems.  Just because you haven’t encountered them doesn’t mean you won’t.

That’s why I’ve rounded up 7 posts that help to troubleshoot some difficulties you might encounter—or maybe have encountered—in Google Places.

Taking a few minutes to read these posts might just be enough to get you out of whatever Google-related jam you’re in—or to prevent future troubles.

Problem: Merged Listings
If your Google Places listing has a bunch of incorrect info on it, it might be “merged” with another business’s Google listing.  Mike “Professor Maps” Blumenthal shows you how to deal with a merged listing.

Problem: Spam Reviews from Competitors
Are your competitors spreading lies or talking smack about you—on your own Google Places page?  Here are some great tips for handling spam reviews.  By the way, I suggest you read all the comments on that post; there are some great suggestions in there as well.

Problem: Sudden Drop-off in Rankings
If you’ve had a decent—or very good ranking—vanish all of a sudden, this post from Linda Buquet might light the way for you.

Problem: Frustrating, Unclear Error Messages from Google
Nyagoslav Zhekov tells you what to do when you have no idea why you’re receiving an error message from Google.

Problem: Other Puzzling TARFU Situations in Google Places
A “part 2” to the above post, this deals with other common Google problems you may encounter.

Problem: Duplicate Google Places Listings
“Duplicate” listings are a huge problem in Places.  They’re also one of the most annoying and tricky issues to solve.  An excellent step-by-step guide for how to unravel duplicate listings.

Problem: Worried about Getting Ripped off by SEO Scammers
In addition to being a crackerjack troubleshooter, Nyagoslav has some great tips for how you can sniff out and avoid unethical local SEO companies.

Any questions that aren’t answered by these awesome posts?  It’s hard to imagine that’s the case, but if it is, just leave a comment and I may be able to take a crack at it.

Got any suggestions for a great Google Places troubleshooting post I should know about?  Email me, tweet to me, or (again) leave a comment.