Archive for the ‘Local Search’ Category

Google Officially Launches the Local Carousel: What You Need To Know

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Like Bigfoot, Google’s Local Carousel had been seen in the wild but aside from random sightings no one could verify it’s true existence.  That is, until today.

Earlier this morning, Google made an official statement about the update on its Google+ Page confirming that the “carousel” was in fact real, and was rolling out to English local search results in the U.S.

The initial tests I have run, along with observations from other local SEO’s seem to indicate that at the moment these results are only appearing for restaurant, nightlife, and hotels.  My take is that it is currently limited to verticals that people tend to want to get quick “on the go” results for.  This may be why many people first started noticing these results on mobile devices as far back as December.

Local Carousel for Mexican Restaurants in Corona, CA.

Jade Wang, the Community Manager for Google+ Local, offered more insight into the update with advice for businesses wondering how they can benefit from the update in a post in the Google and Your Business Forums:

How can I get my business to show up in the carousel?

While we can’t guarantee inclusion in search results, we can say that the carousel will show results from listings in Google Maps using categories. Just as in regular ranking, Google’s algorithms take into account many factors to select the places and results that are most relevant to the user. This algorithm based approach is also used to decide which businesses are in the carousel.

Why is this feature only available for some business verticals?

We’re committed to providing users a high quality search experience for every query. The carousel filtering experience is a good fit for some categories of local businesses. We will continue to experiment with different designs and interfaces to make sure that users get the information they’re looking for, fast.

My business is on the carousel, but I’d like to change the photo. How can I do that?

The Google business listing is one of several sources we use for the photos in the carousel, and making sure high-quality images are posted to it will help improve your photo. However the image selection, like the actual ranking of businesses, is primarily decided by algorithms and so we can’t guarantee complete control over the image.

What You Need To Know, TL;DR

  • Currently the local carousel is limited to certain queries and verticals
  • Like organic and local search results before them, carousel results are generated via the algorithm, as are the photos selected for the business
  • The number of carousel results you get in your search results is determined by your screen size.  My 19 inch Dell monitor at 1280×1024 gives about 10 listings, as you can see in the screenshot above.  However, at the office I was getting upwards of 15 listings on a higher resolution widescreen monitor.
  • The rating system for carousel listings use the Zagat rating system, and not the recently announced star ratings.
  • The type of information provided by the carousel will vary based on query
    • Food related queries provide a photo, name, Zagat rating, number of reviews, type of cuisine and price range
    • Hotel and nightlife queries provide photo, name, Zagat rating, number of reviews, and address
  • When you hover over a carousel listing the pin on the map for that listing will get bigger, however hovering over a pin on the map does not provide any visual representation in the carousel
  • Clicking on a carousel listing will take you to a branded search for the business with your currently detected, or selected location tacked on.  (e.g. When I click on Miguel’s Jr in my example above it goes to a search for “Miguel’s Jr Corona”) Managing your reputation and your branded search space just got that much more important
  • The carousel will remain at the top of the page regardless of what listings in the carousel you click on. Clicking on the carousel result you are currently viewing results for will return you to your original query results

Update: Hat tip to Alicia Celeste for pointing out to me on Twitter that you can also generate a carousel with queries for ‘colleges in ____.’  She has apparently been seeing the carousel for these queries for the last six months.  What’s interesting about this carousel however is that it doesn’t necessarily focus on local, in fact the heading on the carousel reads “Universities frequently mentioned on the web,” as opposed to “Universities in…” the way the local carousel does.  If available these queries provide you with the school logo, the name of the school, and the school’s location.

Local Search for SMB and B2B Lead Generation

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

It’s no secret that I have a special love for local SEO.  It’s a field that is ever changing, often frustrating, but in the end can be very rewarding for small businesses and that, is rewarding to me.  Over the years I’ve written about, spoke about, and ranted about this crazy niche of SEO I love so much.  So a few weeks back when Terry Van Horne of SEOPros hit me up to do a Google+ Hangout on local SEO I of course said yes.

The Hangout featured myself, Adam Steele and Darren Shaw, who I’ve been fortunate enough to be a guest with previously on a local SEO edition of Search Geeks Speak a couple of years back, discussing all things local SEO.  The Hangout had some solid advice from everyone involved and did a great job at suggesting best practices and what local businesses should be paying attention to in today’s local search space.  As such I thought I would share the Hangout with my readers that may have missed the event.

So for now, take a load off, kick your feet up and if you have any follow up questions following the Hangout feel free to comment below or give me a shout out on one of the many social media channels I frequent.

Why Giving Some Direction Might Help Your Local SEO and Your Customers

Monday, April 8th, 2013

GPS, Smart Phones, Google Maps…its hard to believe that we needed a map or a Thomas Guide to get from point A to point B not too long ago.  But unfortunately we’ve become too reliant on the digital age, so much so that our dependence on new technology to navigate us can hurt not only consumers, but also the businesses that serve them.

This past weekend my family and I headed out to the Louis Rubidoux Nature Center for the annual butterfly festival.  We’ve been to the nature center in the past, but its been about a year and so our directions were fuzzy at best.  So we did what most people do and turned to the center’s website for some direction.

When we reached the site they had both an address, and what was supposed to be directions.  Unfortunately the directions widget on the site wasn’t working so we had to rely solely on the address provided and Google Maps on our phones.

We plugged the address in and when we “arrived” at our location we were actually in the middle of a nearby residential neighborhood.  Needless to say, Google Maps didn’t get it right.

Where Google thought our destination was and where our actual destination was.

The Benefits of Providing General Directions On Your Website

Getting us to where we needed to be proved to be a bit difficult.  Google struggled to find the address and it was really hard to navigate from satellite imagery on our phones. Ultimately I had to try and remember roughly where the Nature Center was located in order to get us there.

There’s benefits to including general directions to your location within your website.  First, it helps lost visitors like my family and I find your location in the event our means of navigation fail us.  Additionally it can generate some additional localized content for your website.

By including directions from different regions in the area you can help to build local content around other areas you may be interested in targeting, as Doug Antkowiak of Portent suggested in his Local Business SEO Q & A late last year.

Riley's Farm DirectionsA great example of this is the directions page from a seasonal favorite of mine, Riley’s Farm.  While the site itself is a bit dated, and they lack the latest mapping technology to help you find your way, they do an awesome job at explaining how to get to their location from nearly anywhere here in Southern California.

As you can see in the image from the site, Riley’s Farm does a stellar job calling out major cities in the surrounding areas and calls out specific landmarks and street names in its directions.  This helps build additional local relevance by referencing locations located in and around the location.

Takeaways

  1. If you use a Google Map on your website for the purpose of directions, make sure the widget works.
  2. If its working, make sure that it is giving people accurate directions to your location
  3. In addition to giving people a means of getting directions from Google on your site consider adding additional written directions to help grow local content and help visitors in the event their means of navigation fails them.

Digging Up Local SEO Keyword Gold with the Google Places Dashboard & Google Analytics

Monday, August 6th, 2012

As a local business there is always the desire to drive business from neighboring cities.  When it comes to local search, its no different.  In most cases the clients I talk to would target every city within a thirty mile radius for their local SEO efforts, but as we all know, this probably isn’t the best strategy.  But how do you know what local areas to target, especially when keyword tools struggle with low volume searches in local search?

The first and most obvious choice is to look at your analytics.  Are you driving search traffic for keywords that include neighboring areas already?  This will oftentimes turn up some exciting opportunities that you can imrpove upon and gain more traction for.  But if you’re not quite ranking and drawing traffic from neighboring areas, how can you get a feel for what areas you should be thinking about?  One option would be to use the Local Marketing Source Local Keyword Tool, which will give you an extensive list of zip code and city based keywords based off a set radius to work with.  But unfortunately there is nothing to back whether people are actually searching from those areas, or if those keywords would drive traffic.

Enter the Google Places Dashboard

When it comes to localized keywords there is a high probability that Google probably isn’t reporting data for them, but Google Places has a feature that can give you some ideas on where to target simply based off of where people are getting driving directions from.  If you look in the bottom of your Google Places dashboard you will see a section called, “”Where driving directions requests come from”.

Where driving directions requests come from in Google Places

This section displays the top ten cities/zip codes that were used when getting directions to your business.  By using this information you can get a feel for some additional cities worth targeting simply based off of existing interest from customers visiting your location from outside your city limits.

Google Analytics for Local Keyword Ideas

A Demographic Location Report from Google Analytics featuring the state of CaliforniaIn the beginning of this post I mentioned Google Analytics is a good place to start when it comes to finding opportunities for localized keywords.  The initial suggestion was to look at existing traffic data over a period of time and see if users are already finding your site when doing searches for neighboring cities (you can do this by filtering results using the name of the city), however there is another section of Google Analytics that features some juicy local keyword ideas.

Under the “Demographics” report in Google Analytics you can drill down to the city level of where people who have visited your site are searching from.  This is another tool that can give you a starting point when trying to come up with other areas to target.  If there are already people visiting your website from neighboring cities, these might be opportunities for local areas to target on your website or in your marketing efforts.  As an added bonus you can set the secondary dimension to “Keywords” and find out exactly what term they used to find your site (assuming its not listed as “not provided”. Grumble, grumble.)

Local keyword discovery can be difficult since even tools from the search engines can be unreliable due to low volume searches, but by utilizing local data from a couple of Google’s location based tools you can get a decent starting point for your research and test a few different areas surrounding your business to work with.  You can test these on your website, or even better, run small pay per click campaigns to test the traffic and conversion of these keywords.

Why Google Search Plus Your World Won’t Impact Local Search…Yet

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Yesterday I outlined why Google+ matters regardless of user engagement thanks to Google Search Plus Your World.  Today I want to look at how Search Plus Your World is impacting local search currently and why we probably won’t see much of an impact on localized search in the short term.

Earlier this month Greg Sterling did a post on Search Engine Land that talked about the limited impact of Google Search Plus Your World on Local.  As I mentioned in my comment on Greg’s post I think in the short term we will see little impact on local results, especially when it comes to some of the more obscure searches he ran like “Toyota Dealer” or “Window Replacement, Walnut Creek”.  I feel part of this is due to the fact that most of us probably don’t have a tight knit social network made up of users within close proximity to us, as Andrew Shotland pointed out yesterday in his post “Google Plus Connections Are the New Link“, but also because people simply aren’t engaging content around these topics.

The impact Google Search Plus Your World has on local search in it’s current state is fragmented and useless at best.  I ran a search for “Chinese Restaurants” on Google this evening and in the results I received a share frome a friend via Yelp for a Chinese restaurant nearly 45 minutes from my house.  Not exactly close enough for take out…  I ran another search for “night clubs” and received personalized results for for the top ten Los Angeles night clubs, the other was for dress codes in New York night clubs.  Not exactly relevant to where I am in Corona, CA nearly fifty miles away from the heart of Los Angeles and on the opposite side of the map from New York.

In order for Google Search Plus Your World to become relevant in the local search space, Google has to capitalize on what they did well with local in the beginning and focus on location, location, location.

Google Places+

In my predictions for local search in 2012 post, myself, Andrew Shotland, and Mike Blumenthal all agreed that 2012 will be the year that Google+ and Google Places would become integrated and I feel in order for Google Search Plus Your World to become relevant in local search, this has to happen sooner than later.  By integrating Google Places into Google Plus Business Pages, Google can ensure that the right local data is associated with a Page, making it more relevant to local searchers.  By having this information connected it would allow for local pages to have more clout than other pages in my circles.  Additionally, the most locally relevant businesses could appear in the Search Plus Your World page recommendations.

Friends In Local Places

Google+ profiles allow Google to know where a user lives.  It would only make sense for them to provide content from friends in the city I am searching from more prominent than someone out of the area unless the content directly relates to a local business or service.  If I’m doing a search for Chinese food in Corona, CA chances are users from that area are going to be the experts and ultimately have more relevant input that someone in Los Angeles, CA.

“We all turn to people we know and trust for great recommendations…”  

Straight from the horses mouth, Google says the focus of search plus your world is to turn to people you know for great recommendations.  Google put a significant focus on Google reviews on Places pages last year, I would imagine that along with integrating Places and Pages Google will likely showcase reviews of local businesses somewhere in localized search results from people within your circles.  Perhaps something similar to the share on Google+ from Todd Mintz below, but with the actual review instead of the Google+ post about it. On a side note, Beaverton is in a totally different state…way to go Google!

Excellent Chinese Food in Beaverton #rwx

Just Checking In

Another prominent feature Google could utilize is the check-in feature.  If individuals in a circle are checked in to a local business during the time of a related search, it could show up in the search results telling you that someone you know is currently at a location in your area.  Sure, it’s extra creepy/stalker like, but it’s also extremely relevant and engaging not only for Google, but for local businesses.  Knowing that someone you know is currently at a location may be enough to make you join them, or simply follow in their lead.

Ultimately nobody knows the next move but Google, but I can almost guarantee that Google is working on some strategy to strengthen Search Plus Your World in the local search space.  Local is the one area that Google still has a lot of pull with small businesses.  By making Search Plus Your World more useful to local businesses, they can help capitalize on the invovlement from local businesses and ultimately their customers.  Will it create more Google+ users or greater Google+ engagement?  Probably not, but as I outlined in yesterday’s post, perhaps it doesn’t matter.