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Google’s At A Glance Snippets Now Show the Ugly Truth About Your Business

February 27th, 2014 by

Last week Google announced the global rollout of the new Google Maps layout.  The new layout, which many of us began using as a preview last May is much different than the traditional maps view many local businesses were used to.  Unlike the previous maps layout the emphasis is on the locations on the map and not the business listings that used to appear on the left.  For many local businesses that were less visible in the past this is a blessing, but what many businesses are learning is its also a curse.

Along with the new maps layout is the now more prominent at a glance snippets.  In the past these snippets would merely list words associated with your business, and in most cases these were pretty focused to what your business offered.  However, as Google’s methods for harvesting data get better and dive deeper many businesses are starting to see something more than their services.  They are seeing things that reflect their quality of service as well.

Last week while talking about the rollout of the new maps, a colleague of mine sent me the following result.  You’ll notice that Google not only associates MacMall with the macbook, but more prominently “horible customer service.”  Pretty painful to have on the map next to your business name if someone is doing research on where to buy their next Apple product.

Macmall Maps Listing with at a glance snippet

However MacMall isn’t the only victim of this.  Just today David Oremland posted the below image on Google+.  As you can see, not only is this particular BART station centrally located, but it’s known for its homeless people.

BART maps listing featuring homeless people as an at a glance snippet

When it comes to Google Maps and local in general, I have talked a lot over the years about just how crucial reputation management is.  The only way Google’s algorithm is going to pick up on stuff like this, is if there are enough people talking about these things in regards to your business.

Looking at this as an outsider, these can be a bit amusing.  But as a business owner this is terrifying.  No longer does a person need to click through and see your reviews to understand the sentiment people have about your business.  If it’s bad enough, it will be right there below your business name for all to see.

This is a short post, but I wanted to illustrate just how important reputation management can be, especially in the new Google Maps.  If you’re still not taking your online reputation seriously, and aren’t doing your part to make changes to improve these concerns within your business, let this be an eye opener for you.  These are just a couple of examples, but there are hundreds, if not thousands out there.  If you want to have some real fun, head over to the new maps and type in Walmart and then just browse the U.S. fun little snippets like “horrible service,” “white trash,” and other choice words pepper the map.

Posted in Local Search, Reputation Management having no comments »

How a Recent Change In Google Made Wikipedia A Crucial Part of Brand SEO

January 28th, 2014 by

The Knowledge Graph, it’s been all the rage with Google over the last couple of years, but a minor change made last week by the search giant might make businesses take the Knowledge Graph a bit more seriously, and more importantly their Wikipedia listings.

Last week Google announced a new feature in it’s search results to help searchers better identify if a search result is really what they are looking for.  If it’s available, Google uses data from the Knowledge Graph to add a small dropdown with the name of the entity associated with the page in the search results, giving the searcher more details about that particular website.  I’ve seen it in the wild for a number of queries and if you have a strong, accurate Wikipedia presence it’s a nice little addition to your ranking listing.  But what happens if you don’t have an accurate article, or no Wikipedia article at all for your business?  Yesterday, I found out.

Google search results featuring incorrect Knowledge Graph information

What you see above is an actual search result for an agency client I work with.  You’ll notice that instead of having information about the brand that controls the website, it is about a particular product the company makes.  If this were appearing on a page that features this particular product type I might be a bit more ok with this result, but what I uncovered was that this particular entity is associated with every page of the website that appears in Google’s search results.

After doing some digging I discovered that the company I am working with has somehow never had their company and brand information established on Wikipedia, despite being a major cosmetics brand.  Instead, Google was displaying this data based on a mention of the brand in an article about makeup primer on Wikipedia.

St. Louis Cardinals Knowledge Graph result featuring a gay slurThe cool thing about this is that it shows how powerful Google is at associating websites with brand names even when a link isn’t involved.  But sadly, it also shows that Google still hasn’t perfected the art of connecting entities using the knowledge graph.  As Google rolls this feature out to more websites, it is going to be increasingly important for businesses big and small to ensure that they have established themselves on Wikipedia and more importantly, that they are being properly represented on Wikipedia.  After all, Wikipedia and the Knowledge Graph have inappropriately represented a brand before in Google’s search results before.

Last October a Knowledge Graph incident featuring the St. Louis Cardinals showed just how vulnerable the Knowledge Graph can be.  During their World Series appearance against the Boston Red Sox pranksters rewrote the team’s description using gay slurs on their Wikipedia entry.  Despite being live on Wikipedia for only minutes, the slurs appeared in Google’s Knoweledge Graph results for days.  Needless to say, there are worse words that could appear next to your search results listing than “Primer.”  Regardless, now is a better time than ever to ensure that what Wikipedia and the Knowledge Graph say about your business are as accurate as possible,

Posted in Reputation Management, SEO having 2 comments »

How a Recent Yelp App Update May Impact Your Business

August 22nd, 2013 by

Yelp Mobile ReviewsYelp; most local businesses have a love/hate relationship with it.  On one hand it’s a great site for getting your business found and assisting in building up your sites local citations.  On the other hand, one bad review could have a significant impact on the reputation of your business.  Until recently, business owners who were afraid of negative reviews being posted felt some comfort in the fact that reviews could be written via the Yelp mobile app, but not posted.  Oftentimes this would result in a negative review being delayed, or perhaps never posted at all.  But a recent change to the app has removed that roadblock.

Last week Yelp announced an update allowing users to post reviews straight from their mobile device.  Recognizing the evolution of its user base and its dependence on mobile devices, Yelp decided it was time to allow users the ability to write and publish reviews directly from their mobile device.  Previously, users could write a draft of their review from their phone, but would have to wait until they logged in on a desktop computer to publish the review.

Why This Matters To Businesses

While this may seem like a minor change, it has the potential to have a major impact on local businesses and how customers interact with them on Yelp.

A Change In User Behavior

This app update has the opportunity to change the behavior of Yelps user base.  Even Yelp admits most users don’t post reviews, but with this change many users who were turned off by the two step posting process may start using the review feature more.  I know a number of people I have talked to over the years have complained about the two step process and have stated that its the number one reason they don’t post reviews.  With the second step removed, there’s a strong chance those users will begin freely posting reviews.

Fullfilling the Need To Be Heard

If there’s one thing social media has taught us, its that we as a society love to be heard.  We tell you where we are, what we’re eating, what we’re doing, and sometimes we even snap a picture of it.  With the ability to post a review on the fly, your customers now have the opportunity to share with their friends and the public how much they love your business or how much they hate your business during the exact moment they are feeling that emotion the most.  This means that if you’re a doctor’s office and a member of your stuff goes out of their way to make me, as a patient, fee more comfortable or cared for I might post an amazing review about how much I love your practice and your staff.  On the flipside, if your staff is uncaring and treats me like an inconvenience more than a patient chances are I am going to spend that few minutes in the exam room before you come in ripping apart your practice and its miserable batch of employees.

Because this is written and published in the moment, chances are it is going to reflect the extremes I am feeling in that moment.  So if I love you in that moment I am really going to love you, and if I hate you in that moment…well chances are I’ll use a few choice four letter words to describe my experience.

A Need For Quality Service

Unless you’re this moron, chances are you recognize the importance of treating your customers well and providing quality service.  That said, business owners are often so disconnected from the day-to-day of their business they don’t really see what’s going on at the point of contact with their customers.

I personally worked with a client who thought his office staff was exceptional.  It wasn’t until he began recording incoming phone calls that he discovered his staff was often rude and would leave callers on hold for unreasonable amounts of time.  In the end we were able to tie poor phone conversions back to how the staff handled phone calls.

Now more than ever business owners need to be checking the pulse of their business and really understand how their customers are being treated.  While Yelp has been around for years, and people have used it for years, this new feature enables its users to be more in the moment and depending on how they feel about your business that could be good or bad.

I don’t believe that this change will generate a sweeping change in how users navigate reviews on Yelp, but I do believe that for a certain percentage of users this is going to enable them to post a number of reviews they may not have posted prior to the update.  As a business owner, now is the time to make sure you have all your ducks in a line when it comes to managing your reputation and making sure that the quality of service you provide your customers is truly meeting their needs.

Posted in Local Search, Social Media having 3 comments »

How Google’s Local Carousel Made Local Reputation Management More Important Than Ever

August 20th, 2013 by

Back in June Google launched the local carousel.  It had the internet marketing industry and local SEO’s all abuzz for a few weeks, but then the hype more or less died down.  During that time people were talking a lot about changes to local layout, changes to reviews, and the possible decline in clickthroughs to a company’s local page.  That said, one of the things I haven’t seen a lot of talk about is the impact of the local carousel on reputation management.

The Two Click Query

One of the biggest changes with the local carousel, is the new two click query.  Previously when you searched for a local business and clicked on their listing you would either wind up on the business website or their local Google listing.  Now, clicking on a local listing will trigger a second query using the business name and the location (e.g. “Yummy Chinese Food Your Town, USA.)  So now, rather than seeing your business information and website for a query like “Chinese Restaurant,” viewers are taken to a page of search results all about your specific business.

A query for Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant triggered by Google's local carousel

As you can see in the example above, these sorts of queries generate not only information from your local listing, but also information from a myriad of other sites like Yelp, Facebook, and various other local portals and review sites.  In the past many businesses only worried about how they appeared for their top local search queries, but now more businesses are going to have to focus on how they appear for localized branded queries as well.

Local Reputation Management

Reputation management has always been important when it comes to running a business, you need to be able to control and respond to what is being said about your business and brand whenever possible, but with the introduction of the two click query, users using the local carousel to interact with your business are going to see not only your Google listing reputation but the overall reputation of your business online.

This means that even if you’ve managed to rack up a decent number of positive reviews in Google they are still going to be exposed to the various other websites that feature or talk about your business.  Have your Yelp customers given you scathing reviews? Chances are they are going to show up on the second query.  Has someone dedicated an entire website to how much your business sucks and how much you wronged them? Chances are if they did enough to use your brand and location in the content it’s going to show up in that second query.

Own Your Local Search Presence

If you’re not already now is the time to ensure that you are owning and monitoring your local search presence.  That means you need to make sure your business is claimed and optimized in some, if not all, of the local business and review sites that are pertinent to your niche.

If you’re not sure where to start, run a query like in the example above and see what websites show up for your business. Claim and complete any of the listings out there for your business that you’re currently not managing.  If you want to take it a step further and do some deep diving into local citation building, take a look at my Ultimate List of Local Citation Sites I did for Search News Central, though its a couple of years old, most of the websites are still in operation and are vital to a local search presence.  If you can’t tackle something that huge, then at least go after the sites that make up the local search ecosystem, as those sites will most likely be the most common sites found with a branded query.

GetListed.org's Local Search Ecosystem

 

If you’re not already monitoring your reputation online now is a good time to start.  Engage with reviewers where you can, and do your best to try and make the situation right if someone has a complaint.  Oftentimes people post a complaint online simply because they want to be heard.  If you take the time to hear them out and try and make the situation right you may be able to turn an angry customer into a lifelong customer.  Best of all, if you can make things right and regain the customer’s confidence you can always ask them to update to the review.

How has your business weathered since the recent local carousel update? Does your branded local search results page look decent, or do you have some work to do?

Posted in Local Search having 1 comment »

What You Need To Know About Google’s Latest Link Guidelines: AKA How Google Is Ruining the Web They Created and What You Can Do About It

August 14th, 2013 by

Matt Cutts - Nofollow All the Links!!!

The last few years have been rather painful for some SEO’s when it comes to links and link building.  In 2012 many were hit by Google’s “Penguin” algorithm that went after manipulative linking schemes.  Many others have been hit in its subsequent refreshes or the infamous “Penguin 2.0” update. But in the wake of all the recent algorithm updates, Google has recently made some changes to the way it defines “link schemes” and many practices that have been used by businesses and marketers to build authority in websites have many SEO’s and small businesses wondering where they should turn to next.  Here’s what Google is saying and some ways you can continue to reap the benefits of these methods, while remaining on Google’s good side.

What Are Link Schemes?

In Google’s eyes, link schemes are basically any means of gaining links unnaturally.  In other words, if you’re “building links” you’re technically engaging in a link scheme.  That said, its obviously not that black and white and working to build links to your website is obviously not going to get you in too much trouble if you go about it the right way.  But what has businesses and marketers nervous is the changes Google has made to classify certain practices as “link schemes.”

Guest Blogging

Over the last few years guest blogging has been a popular way for people to earn new links to their website.  It gave them the ability to promote their product or business and also score some decent backlinks to their website because they could control the anchor text.  However, the recent updates to Google’s link scheme guidelines call out article marketing and guest blogging as link schemes.

How To Guest Blog Moving Forward

  • Become a regular contributor – Instead of creating one post on dozens of sites, become a contributor that creates dozens of posts for only a handful of sites. This can help to build audience, authority, and is ultimately safer than traditional guest blogging since you become an author on the site. As an example, I am a contributor at both Search News Central and Search Engine People and earn links in the body of my content as well as my author bio.
  • Scale it back – One of the overlooked elements of Google’s update about guest blogging is the use of the word “Large-scale” at the start of the guideline.  Many communities have popped up over the years allowing you to accept/pitch guest posts at scale. Instead of finding every opportunity to post, identify only the most relevant, authoritative sites to post on.  This will keep the scale smaller and offer greater rewards.
  • Keep it natural – One of the biggest issues with unnatural links is the anchor text used to link back to a website.  Too many links with the same anchor text can set off spam signals at Google. If you are doing larger scale article marketing or guest blogging, stay away from exact match anchor text and keep your links a bit more natural.  Find modifiers that can be added to the keyword you’re targeting or better yet, incorporate branded links in place of exact match anchor text as part of your efforts. The key is to shy away from creating linking patterns that can trigger the algorithm, or even a manual penalty from Google.

Press Releases

Historically, press releases were used to help alert the media of newsworthy announcements from your business or organization.  Fast forward to the digital age, and businesses and marketers found an opportunity in the links provided by press releases.  Not only would you earn keyword rich anchor text links from press releases, but every site afterward that picked up the release.  Because of this, Google is now warning against the use of “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.”  In a Google+ hangout following the update Google’s John Mueller recommend nofollowing links in a press release to be safe.

Press Releases Moving Forward

  • Drop the spammy low quality press releases – One reason I believe this guideline came to light is because of the amount of pure crap that is distributed as “news.”  Only submit press releases that are truly newsworthy and might actually be of interest to a news outlet.  Not only does this cut back on the amount of spam in Google’s news results, bu it might actually earn you some decent media coverage that could earn you some even stronger links.
  • Keep it natural – Again, like in the case of guest blogging try and keep your anchor text as natural as possible.  If you really want to play it safe consider using brand or just your url as the anchor text and hopefully earn the more relevant links on the backend when a reporter reaches out to you to cover your story.
  • Nofollow where you can – While in most cases you won’t have any control over this, if you have the option to nofollow your links consider doing it where possible. Again, the goal of a press release is not the link, but the exposure and the hope that it may earn you some separate press coverage.

Infographics

If you’ve been online at all these last few years you’ve probably seen a few hundred, hell maybe even a few thousand infographics. They’re a great visual means of displaying data and if done right they can earn you a ton of links.  Hell, even I’ve written on ways to get more links for your infographic, but in SEO, as in life, too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

Google and the SEO industry has had its eye on infographics ever since Google’s Matt Cutts commented on how they may lose their value in an interview conducted by Eric Enge.  Then earlier this week Matt Cutts mentioned in the below webmaster help video that perhaps now is a good time to start nofollowing your infographic links as well as links embedded in widgets.

Infographics Moving Forward

  • Rely on the value of the page your linking to – If you’re not quite ready to nofollow those awesome infographic links consider keeping your anchor text a bit more generic when you link back to your website and then link from the page on your site using strong anchor text and hope some of the value of the links funneling in to that page will help fuel your efforts.  I did this with a project a while back and we had the infographic link back to the blog post that first shared the infographic and then in the blog post we added keyword rich anchor text links within the page about a month later. It may not have had the same impact, but we still saw a bump for the efforts in the end.
  • Nofollow your links and hope for the best – Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday infographic links are going to most likely trigger some sort of penalty or manual action on a site.  I alluded to this in my post on how to do infographics right.  In the end if you have a solid infographic that people are actually interested in it can earn you links naturally and even earn you some love in the social media realm.

This is the Web That Google Weaved

Despite its best intentions the mess we face as digital marketers and business owners is a product of the exact company that is trying to stop it.  Links are the life force behind rankings in Google’s search results and as such SEO’s and business owners have sought any method possible to drive links to their website in hopes of earning that coveted spot at #1 in the search results.  What was “ok” in SEO a year ago is quickly becoming an SE-no and could potentially harm your website.  As such, its time for SEO’s and businesses to really start thinking about how they are going to build, or even earn links in the future.  The above are just short term fixes to a long term problem.  In the end how SEO’s and businesses get links to their content is going to get harder and harder unless you start investing time and effort into things that will drive not only links, but an audience and eventually profits.

Posted in SEO having 4 comments »