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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Methodology and limitations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observations (beyond the numbers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good further info on GMB posts

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

12 Things to Know to Succeed with Google PostsJoy Hawkins

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

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

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

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

Any success stories?

Leave a comment!

Should You Make It a Page or a Post?

You’ve got content you want to stick on your site.  Maybe it’s about a specific service or product you offer, or it’s in-depth “educational” info, or it’s your answer to a frequently asked question, or it’s some attempt to reach people in a specific city, or something else.

You know what you want to put on your site, but aren’t as sure how best to weave it in: Should you create a static page or a blog post?

That depends on many factors – your goals, your preferences, and other specifics of the situation.  More on those in a second.

You might have heard soundbites like “Google likes fresh content,” or “blog posts are search-engine-friendly,” or “every small business should have a blog,” or “blog posts rank better” (especially if you use WordPress or are considering it).  Not necessarily.  Those statements are true to one degree or another, depending on the situation, but in my experience reality is a little more complicated.

It’s complicated partly because the goal isn’t necessarily to get a page or post to rank, but maybe instead for it to (1) drive leads, (2) to impress however many people find it, or (3) to get shared and linked-to and help make your name.  Or some combination of the above.

If you pressed me to suggest one to err on the side of using more, I’d go with pages.  At least in my experience, static pages tend to rank a little better than do blog posts, and often go farther in converting the right leads into the right kinds of customers/clients/patients.  If that’s true, I can only speculate as to why.  That’s a topic for another day.

Anyway, if the question is “Should I create a page or a blog post for this info I want to put up?” and the answer is “It depends,” then what does it depend on?  Well, here’s how I decide when to make a page vs. a post:

Make it a page if you:

  • Want to convert readers to customers/clients/patients right away (if possible). If your content has “commercial intent” it should probably be a page, rather than a post.  People expect posts to be educational.
  • Want most or all visitors to see whatever you’ve written. Posts usually are a little harder to navigate to.  Even if you have a prominent “Latest Posts” display, the posts you want everyone to see will probably get buried by more-recent posts sooner or later.

  • Plan to make it an evergreen resource – one you may significantly edit or add to later. Posts tend to have at least one indication as to when they were written.  An old post with new, up-to-date info may confuse people.
  • Want it to rank for very specific keywords. Again, people generally expect blog posts to be informational.  There’s just a little more footwork you can do on a page – and not have it look weird – from the title, to the name of the page, to the internal links you can weave in, and so on.  Even more important: it’s possible any link-rustlin’ outreach you do will result in more links, if ultimately you’re asking people to link to your “resource” rather than to your “latest blog post.”
  • Want it to rank in a specific city, or for certain city-specific search terms, or both.  (See this.)
  • Want to point AdWords traffic to it. If you’re running AdWords competently, most people who click on your ad have an imminent need for what you offer.  Don’t confuse them by using a blog post (meant to appear kinda-sorta educational) as your landing page URL.
  • Need to be able to tell people the URL verbally. Blog post URLs tend to be longer and messier (example).
  • Need people to be able to type the URL.
  • Created it as a post already and now want to revive it. Let’s say you created a post 3 years ago, and it didn’t accomplish what you wanted it to, or it’s slipped in the rankings.  Simply updating the URL and timestamp to reflect the current year won’t help you.
  • Care much which subdirectory it’s in.

  • Care much what’s in the URL slug.

  • Want it to appear as a sitelink in the search results for your brand name.

  • Don’t want people to leave comments, as they can on most blog posts.
  • Aren’t yet sure what to call it.
  • Plan to migrate to a new CMS soon.

Make it a post if you:

  • Want mostly non-customers and non-leads to consume your info. Sometimes the people who read and share and link to your posts aren’t people who will ever pay you a dime for anything.  That’s how it is on my blog, for one: Many of the people who “spread the word” about my posts, site, and business aren’t my clients.  That’s a good situation, and it’s a good situation for you, too.  You want “cheerleaders” in addition to customers.
  • Feature news or other info with a shelf life shorter than that of a Slim Jim.

  • Think it will still look good in the search results even when the timestamp is 5 years old.

  • Can’t figure out a good way to incorporate a static page into your navigation.
  • Have a dedicated audience of people who expect posts from you. That’s why what you’re reading now is a post, and not a page 🙂
  • Want to make an announcement.
  • Offer a discount or make a special offer.
  • Are just testing out an idea and aren’t sure you want it to be a permanent fixture.  A blog post can make a fine Petri dish.
  • Want to serialize your work.

What are some criteria you use to decide when to make a page vs. a post?

Do you have a resource where you’re not sure you got it right (and want a second opinion)?

Leave a comment!

Top-3 Local SEO “Content” Wins for People Who Hate to Write

You shudder at the thought of having to write content for your site or pay someone to write it until the day you sell your business or buy Depends.

Don’t get me wrong: writing and sharing your best info over a period of months or years can have enormous payoff.  My post “100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts” and its follow-up can help you on that.

You’ll probably find a way, if that’s what it takes for better local rankings and more customers.  But must creating “content” feel like a trip to nowhere?

Img. credit Ratha Grimes https://www.flickr.com/photos/ratha/4833010513/

No.

Is there another way to make progress?

Yes.

Focus on one-time content first.  Build on the content you have, the knowledge you have, and the site you have.

You’ll still have to write or get someone else to, but the point is you’re focusing on the highest-payoff work.

So, before you worry about what to create and share long-term, here’s what you should do on your site to make the most of a limited tolerance or budget for writing:

Priority 1: Perform “content CPR.”

Find short, undetailed pages on your site and beef them up with all the info a potential customer might want to know.  Focus on pages where you describe a specific service you offer.  If possible, find pages that rank very low on page 1 or somewhere on page 2.  Those pages may just need a little life breathed into them to start moving in the rankings.

Not sure what to put on those pages?  My post on “25 Principles of Building Effective City Pages for Local SEO” might get the juices flowing (even if you’re not creating “city” pages).

Priority 2: Fill in the gaps.

For example, do you have a giant “Services” page with one paragraph on each service you offer?  Break it up.  Create a separate page for each service, and go into more detail on each of those pages.  You can keep the main “Services” page if you want: just add some links to the more-specific subpages.

In general, is there a service you want to promote that doesn’t have a page you’re really proud of?

That’s low-hanging fruit, especially if it’s a less-popular search term.  The benefits of getting really granular with your pages are that (1) it’s an easy way to pick up rankings for niche terms (e.g. “blower door test Atlanta”), and that (2) the people who’d type in those niche terms probably aren’t tire-kickers, know exactly what they want, and are just looking for the right person or company.

(For more suggestions on busting out more pages, this other post of mine might help: 21 Pages a “Small Local Business” Site Needs for Tip-Top Local Visibility.)

Priority 3: Cannibalize your other resources.

Do you have underperforming microsites or old websites that have some decent info in them?

Did you put a lot of time into writing a blog post that not even your mom would read?

Did posters on your Facebook page ask questions that you get asked all the time, and that should maybe go on an FAQs page?

Do you have customer reviews that would be a shame not to show off on your site?  (As I’ve explained, it’s OK to do that.)

Was the “about us” section on your Yelp page a labor of love?

If you think your site would be a higher-payoff place for anything you’ve written, online or offline, bring it on home.

Only once you’ve taken those 3 steps as far as they’ll go should you turn to creating blog posts, videos, or whatever other content on an ongoing basis.  The timing matters.  At least the one-time stuff can start paying off while you’re wrestling with the ongoing content-creation.  Or you can just conserve your energy.

What are your “content priorities”?

Any you’d add to the list?

Leave a comment!

 

20 Local SEO Techniques You Overlooked (Almost)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/

We local-SEO geeks talk about the same old basic principles a little too much: clean up your citations, don’t get penalized by Google, be mobile-friendly, earn “local” links, create “unique” content, deserve reviews, ask for reviews, etc.

It’s all good advice.  I’ve devoted many of my blog posts in the last 4 years to unpacking that advice so it’s easy to act on.

The trouble is we’re repetitive.  We’re almost as bad as the talking heads at CNN.  We rarely move on to what you should do once you’re pretty solid on the basics – and there is a lot you can and should do.

(In fact, many of the overlooked wins can also help you even if you just started working on your local SEO.)

Here are 20 stones I find unturned way too often:

1.  Nail the categories on your non-Google listings: Pick out the most-relevant ones, and as many of them as are applicable. Dig them up with Moz Local’s free “Category Research” area and with my category lists for Apple Maps and Yelp.

2.  Do a second round of work on your citations. Do it a couple of months after the initial blob of work.  You might be amazed at how many stragglers you find.  Might be enough to motivate you for a third go-round.

3.  Try to find and possibly hire a MapMaker editor to join the Forces of Good in your local anti-spam war. Of course, there’s no guarantee that even a MapMaker editor can stop your competitors’ spam offensive, but it’s worth a shot.

4.  Become or get to know an “Elite” Yelper (like this recruit). Got a review that’s viciously personal, un-PC, or is obviously from an imposter?  The Elite Yelper may know just how to phrase the takedown request for the best chances of a takedown.  Also, because most Elite Yelpers don’t really have lives, Yelp seems to expect them to report data-errors (like wrong addresses), and usually acts on them.

5.  Embedding on your website the Google map that’s featured on your Places page. Don’t embed a map of a generic address.  You want Google to know people are looking up directions to you.

6.  Get a Google Business View photo shoot. (10 reasons here.)

7.  Pick the right itemtype for the blob of name / address / phone info that you’ve marked up with Schema.org markup. Or take a few extra minutes to go bananas with your Schema.

8.  Join a couple of local and industry associations. I’m talking about your local Chamber of Commerce and the sorts of organizations you’d find if you Google the word that describes your business + “association” or “organization.”  They’re often worth joining for the offline benefits, and you’ll probably get a good link.

9.  Diversify the sites where you encourage customer reviews. The benefits are many.

10.  Create a “Reviews” page. Use it to showcase your reviews (possibly with widgets and badges) and to ask any customers who visit the page to put in a good word.  You can pretty easily create a page from scratch, or you can make a nice one with a service like Grade.us.  Link to it in the signature of your emails, as a gentle way to encourage any customers you email to pick up a quill.

11.  Write blog posts to answer super-specific questions that a customer might type into Google. Don’t try to rank for your main keywords (“How to Pick the Best Dentist in Cleveland: a Guide by Cleveland Dentists for Cleveland Dentist Patients”).  It won’t work and you’ll look stupid.  (Refer to this post and its follow-up.)

12.  Get some barnacle SEO happening. By now, Will Scott’s concept isn’t new, but most business owners still don’t even try to do it.  But just start with the basics: if you pick out all the right categories (see point #1) and encourage reviews on a variety of sites (see point #9) you’ll be in pretty good shape.

13.  Use wildcard searches for keyword-research. (This one was new to me until very recently.)

14.  Lengthen pages that aren’t ranking well – including and perhaps especially your homepage. Yes, this sounds old-school, and about as cool as a pocket protector.  But I’m not telling you to add gibberish.  Go into detail about what makes you different, describe your service / process, address concerns the reader might have, etc.  Google likes having meat to sink its teeth into.  One-paragraph Wonder Bread pages tend not to do as well.

15.  Ask for reviews twice. People forget, and it’s a nice excuse to keep in touch.  Follow up with customers you asked for a review – especially if they said they would.  It’s easy to avoid making yourself a pest: just say you’d still appreciate their feedback, ask them if they have any questions for you, and thank them in advance.

16.  Include links to sites where you have reviews. (Be sure to have those links open into a new browser tab, so nobody’s leaving your site.)  Use review widgets and badges when you can.

17.  Cannibalize underperforming microsites, bad blog posts, or other online carcasses. Grab (and edit as need be) any content that’s redeemable, and use it to make your site bigger and better.

18.  Get listed on Apple Maps. Yes, everyone knows about aMaps by now, but I’m amazed at how many times I start working for clients and see only their competitors on Apple.

19.  Try hard to reach non-English speakers, if applicable. Don’t just stick Se Habla Español (for example) in your footer as an afterthought.  Include a paragraph in that language on your homepage and on your “Contact” page.  Maybe create a whole page geared toward those customers.  Be sure to use the hreflang tag if you have more than one version of the same page.

20.  If you’re a local SEO-er, find steps your clients might be able to do better than you can. Don’t just look for more billable hours; look for the best person for the job, or the best combination of people.  Don’t spend hours trying to dig up all their old phone numbers and addresses; ask them first.  Whenever a writing task comes up, pump your clients for info.  When you need to find link opportunities, send them my link questionnaire.  They know the business better than you do.  If you don’t get much cooperation, fine.  At least you tried, and you’re giving them options.  But I’ve found that most clients recognize when they’ve got just the right wrench for the oddly-shaped bolt.

What’s an “overlooked” local SEO tip you like?

Any that you’re considering but not sure about?

Leave a comment!

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!

3 Nimble Moves for Local-Review Ninjas

It pains me to say this, but these review-encouragement ideas aren’t mine: Other people told me (or reminded me) about them recently.

We’ve walked step-by-step through what your strategy should be.  We’ve looked at which review sites you should focus on.  I’ve even breathed down your neck to keep you motivated.

But maybe you’ve got the basics covered and want some next-level ideas – ways to get more out of your current efforts to get reviews.  I’ve got 3 of those for you.

They’re “advanced,” but they’re not hard.  You can work them into your current strategy quickly and almost invisibly (without having to change your strategy).  That’s why I call them “ninja moves.”

Ninja Move 1: Feature your Google+ reviews in posts on your local page.

Darren mentioned the Blue Plate Diner in Edmonton in a recent comment, at which point I noticed the review they showcased in their “posts” stream.

This is a subtle way to encourage any customers who see your “posts” stream to write you a review.  But it’s more important as a way to broadcast your existing reviews a little more.

It’s also wise to showcase your reviews in your posts because anyone who clicks on the link to your Google+ page in the main search results will be taken straight to the “posts” tab of your page.

How do you feature a review in a post?

Assuming you’ve got the “upgraded” type of Google+ Local page, you first go to the “About” tab on your page and find a review you’d like to share.

Let’s use my poor, neglected local page as an example, and let’s look at the overly generous review by Angela Wright MBE.

If I were smart, I’d click the “share this review” arrow, and put the review in my “posts” stream.  That’s it.

Oh, and in the post you’ll want to thank your reviewer, as Blue Plate Diner wisely did.

 

Ninja Move 2: Hard-laminate any printed instructions you give to potential reviewers.

“But lamination is expensive.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have a laminator.”

“Why can’t I just email customers to ask for a review?”

“Get with the times, Phil.  If it’s not an app people don’t use it.”

Phooey.

Texas dentist Mike Freeman told me about this approach, and it’s brilliant.  Simply laminate whatever paper instructions you use to show your customers, clients, or patients how to leave you a review.

(Dr. Freeman ordered my battle-tested Google+ review handout, but you can laminate whatever instructions you like.)

You don’t need to laminate hundreds of copies of whatever instructions you use.  Try it with a few and see what happens.

The lamination accomplishes three things: (1) it makes the instructions hard to crumple up or fold up, (2) it makes them harder to lose in the sea of papers and bills on the kitchen table, and (3) it makes your request seem better-planned-out and more sincere.

It may be a professional touch, but it’s not expensive.  As Dr. Freeman told me:

“Laminators can be purchased on Amazon for roughly $30 and the plastic pouches cost about $20 for a pack of 100. A very low investment on what could potentially help a small business gain a lot of reviews.”

 

Ninja Move 3: Use Yelp’s “Find Friends” feature to identify active Yelpers.

This is another stick of Darren dynamite (see this and this).  As he, I, and others have written, the big factor that determines whether Yelp reviews get filtered is how active the reviewers are.  Anything written by a first-time reviewer probably won’t see the light of day.

So how do you find customers who at least already have Yelp accounts?  Log into your Yelp account and go to go the “Find Friends” area (https://www.yelp.com/find_friends/address_book).

This feature won’t help you much if you have no contact with your customers – by email or on Facebook.  But if you don’t have any means of reaching them, you’ve got bigger problems than reviews.

Yelp doesn’t want you even to ask for reviews.  I’m not alone when I say that’s a stupid rule, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  What you do with any “active” Yelper-customers is up to you.  This is just the best way to identify those people.

Have you tried any of the above?  How’s it worked out?

What are some “ninja” review moves that have worked for you?

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 🙂 )