Archive for the ‘Local Search’ Category

Local Listing Setup in the New Bing Business Portal: As Told By Bing

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Earlier this month Bing announced that the Bing Local Listing Center had been transition to the Bing Business Portal.  The new system, which is in Beta, came with a new look, some new glitches, and individual comic frames as help tutorials for the process.  Below are the individual frames combined into on single comic strip in the order they appear during setup. These details give a brief insight into how to setup a business listing in the Bing Business Portal and the benefits of completing each section. Note: All comic illustrations belong to Bing.

Bing Business Portal Setup

Merchant Circle Makes Good On It’s Promise To Fight Spam

Friday, March 18th, 2011

It would appear that local directory Merchant Circle is making good on it’s promise to begin battling spam within its website. Following a harsh blow from Google’s “Panda/Farmer” algorithm update it was reported that the site had lost nearly 85% of it’s overall traffic. In an interview with Search Engine Land, the company argued that the drop was not that significant, but that the company was working to address concerns from consumers about the impact of the update on their site. One of which was doubling their efforts to fight span and low-quality content across their network.

In an email sent out this afternoon Merchant Circle began notifying subscribers that they would be “spring cleaning” and rolling out a site-wide system update to help the company identify listings that are not in compliance with their new Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. The email warns businesses that if they do not comply with the changes their page may be removed from search indexes like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

The three changes outlined by Merchant Circle as new violations are keyword stuffing, placing a URL or .com as your business name or address and using inappropriate characters such as pipes, commas, or backslashes in your business name.

Merchant Circle has been a key component in many local search optimization strategies, including the efforts carried out here at Nevermore Search Marketing so these changes are welcomed. Businesses who are uncertain if they are in violation can read more on Merchant Circle’s website in their guidelines about Keyword Stuffing, URL’s as a business name, and the use of inappropriate characters in a business name. They have also posted a “Do’s and Don’ts” video to help users better understand the guidelines.

Google Places: A Blessing and a Curse for Small Businesses

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Since the integration of Google Places search last October, the local search space has become a hot topic among internet marketers and small businessesalike. The need for a claimed, well optimized Google Places listing has never been more crucial, and yet at the same time it is perhaps at its most confusing and difficult state.

In late November I shared some information about Google Places sending review requests via email to small businesses. In many instances it was inconsistencies with address format, but often times it was business names and other quality guideline recommendations.  However the emails seemed short lived, and as quickly as we saw these emails they seemed to disappear.

Earlier this month a client’s listing went missing from Google Places. There was no warning, no email, the listing just vanished. When we logged in to the Google Places account we were greeted with a message that said the listings were disable due to quality guideline violations.  There was no explanation as to what was in violation and we were forced to guess what might be wrong and then submit a reconsideration request.

(Note: If this happens to you make sure you click on the request review link in the upper part of your dashboard, updating the listing and saving it does not submit the reconsideration request.)

After 2 weeks we received an email from the Google Places team that stated the following:

“Hello, Thank you for requesting a review of your rejected listing(s). Upon further review, we’ve found that your listing(s) complies with our Google Places quality guidelines. Your listing is now active and eligible to show for searches on Google. Cheers, The Google Places Team”

There were two problems with this email. First, it didn’t reference which Places listing was now active. In this particular instance both locations for this businesses had been deactivated by Google for a violation. Second, neither of the listings were actually active.

We received the email last Friday and as of the time of this writing both listings are listed as “Pending Review” in the Google Places dashboard and neither can be found via search. Then to add insult to injury, Google took it upon itself to generate a new listing for the business using aggregated content within 24 hours of the claimed listing being taken down. Meaning that as soon as this mess is sorted out, we are going to have to go in and clean up at least one duplicate listing generated by Google.

While the integration of Google Places into organic search results has been a blessing for a number of clients and the local search space as a whole, it would appear that Google took this leap prematurely.  Places adds some significant ranking factors to the local search space, and yet the infrastructure that supports it is in chaos leaving many small businesses and internet marketers wondering what to do and where to turn. It would seem in its current state a business would be best to list its information as cut and dry as possible without any sort of content that could be misconstrued as manipulation.

What are your experiences with Google Places as of late? Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear what other internet marketers are business owners are experiencing.

Google Places: You WILL Conform

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Google Places has been a hot button topic for internet marketers ever since the integration of Places listings into the organic search results.  Yesterday I reported that Google is now displaying Places listings on page two search results, and if that wasn’t enough change for you, Google has begun sending out emails to Places users that it feels have inaccuracies in their listings.

While the corrections seem to be varying in nature, and are in most cases minor, there are definitely some impressive fixes.  Google appears to finally be attempting to unify how you list a business address.  In the past you could list 123 Main Street or 123 Main St, now Google seems to be wanting the abbreviation.  In the past it was also sufficient to use Suite, Ste., or # to list your suite address, but now Google seems to be asking for just #.

Additionally the attack on business name spam seems to be in full swing as it appears that Google is also making recommendations to your business name.  Do you list yourself as Cosmetic Dentist Doctor John Doe?  Google is probably going to ask you to change it to John Doe DDS.

Below is an example of the emails being sent out, I’ve blacked out the address to protect the client, but wanted you to see exactly what sort of changes are being rolled out.

As you can see in the email, not only does Google make the changes VERY obvious to the user, but it warns that if you refuse or disregard the change your listing will automatically be edited at Google’s will.  By accepting the changes you are redirected to a screen to edit your listing.  Once you correct the change it is then sent to Google for further review.

I see this as both a positive and negative shift for Google Places.  I like the idea of uniform business addresses to prevent confusion and duplicate listings, however I have seen some emails where the change requested doesn’t actually have a change, or it is recommending a change of address that changes things from street to drive or trail to drive, etc.  Additionally some requests are telling people to change from the state abbreviation to the full spelling of the state, however Google auto fills in the abbreviation when you create your listing.

While imperfect, this change shows the continued emphasis on local and a continued dedication from the search engine juggernaut to clean up Google Places.

A Closer Look At Google Maps Community Edits

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Last week I caught a good read over at the Huomah SEO Blog called, A small business guide local web marketing.  Author Charles Stankovitch did a thorough job of teaching readers how to tap into the local market on sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp, as well as a handful of other local sites.  But the irony of the situation was that shortly after the post went live, Google had gone in and made some new changes to the local interface.  Charles quickly commented on his post alerting readers of the changes, as well as some other current findings, but I thought I’d take a moment to outline some of the changes in regards to editing live business listings in Google Maps.

Google Maps Business Listing

Above is a typical Google Maps business listing as it would appear in any typical business search. To most it probably looks no different than the listings looked prior to the change, but if you look a little closer you’ll notice below the business name that it says “Edited”, meaning that someone has made changes to this business listing.  You’ll also notice that at the bottom of the listing it tells you when the listing was last edited and gives you the option to view the original listing.  These changes seem to be merely aesthetic to give insight into some of the new internal features, since I really don’t see how they add any additional value to the average searcher other than to say, “Hey something’s changes, this may or may not be reliable”.

Edit Local Business ListingThe major changes come in once you click on edit.  In the past clicking on edit would give you one of two options.  You could either claim the listing or it would tell you to login to make changes to the listing.  There really wasn’t any true editing option.  But with the introduction of what Google is calling “community edits” you can now make a number of adjustments to a business listing, so long as it isn’t already claimed by the business.

Move Marker

Move marker is pretty self explanatory.  It allows you to change the location marker of the specific listing.  If you feel that Google’s marker placement just isn’t quite accurate enough for your liking, you as a Google Maps user can go in and adjust it’s placement.  These changes are instantaneous assuming you didn’t move the marker more than 200 meters.  The great thing about this feature is if the business is in a large building with multiple offices or entrances, you can click and drag the markers to the specific entrance or location associated with the business listing.

Edit Details

Edit DetailsThis new feature allows you to instantaneously edit any details about a business on the fly.  Signed in or signed out Google maps users can change the name, physical address, phone number, website, and type of business all from within the Google Maps window.  The plus side to this of course is that if you are loyal to a business and wish to help them out a bit if they haven’t claimed their listing you can make sure they are being properly represented on Google Maps.  That bad thing about this is that people can maliciously change your information with a single click of a mouse.  Imagine having your competition change your company website to theirs or changing and removing information to make it harder for potential customers to contact you.  It’s not clear if Google has safeguards in affect to prevent this, but it’s definitely something to consider and one more reason why you should make a point of claiming your business listing in Google Local and the other local platforms.

View History

Google Local Business Listing HistoryAre you finally getting around to claiming your business listing and you’re curious to know what people have done to your listing up until this point?  Google is now letting you see the details about your listings history, including when it was changed, where markers were moved from, and even who edited the listing.  The last part I found to be the most interesting and made me wonder if there was some way to opt out of this aspect of the new “community edits”.  For instance I made an adjustment to a listing just for the sake of this post and then reverted the listing back to it’s original state and would rather Google not display my information.  At this point it doesn’t appear to be showing my information, and the only Google profile listed is for the person who last moved the marker.  At this point I am uncertain as to whether or not Google will display your information for ALL local edits or just users who have changed a marker.

Overall I think the changes are minor in terms of impact for users who have already claimed their listings.  The only new golden feature provided to Local Business Center users is the opportunity to link to your business coupons.  Businesses who haven’t claimed their listings on the other hand have a lot more here to consider.  If you haven’t claimed your listing you are leaving yourself open to tampering or adjustments that could impact how potential customers may find you not only on the web, but in terms of physical location.