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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/smallbusinesssem/5485107542/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/smallbusinesssem/5485107542/

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!

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!

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 🙂 )