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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 5 comments »

Infographics: You’re Doing It Wrong

July 22nd, 2013 by

With sites like Piktochart making infographics easier for marketers and businesses to produce, there continues to be a strong interest in infographics for building brand awareness as well as backlinks.  But as infographics continue to be a popular means of content marketing, I see a lot of problems with the direction this type of content is headed and how the content is being promoted.

Infographics for the Sake of Doing Infographics

Many of the infographics I see being produced these days are being created solely for the sake producing them and hopefully reaping some of their benefits in the process.  Unfortunately many of the graphics being produced are unrelated to the businesses producing them.  While this technically could have been added to my five reasons your infographic sucks post, I think it has a place here simply because it shows the direction the practice of creating infographics is headed.  If you’re going to produce an infographic make sure the data or at least some aspect or theme to the graphic ties back to your business.

A while back I came across a fun graphic called TV Living Rooms We Grew Up In, the graphic was a fun look at TV families over the years with some random facts about each of the shows they were a part of.  But at the end of the graphic I was surprised to discover the graphic wasn’t from an entertainment news site or the like, but a custom rug company. Sure, perhaps each of those TV living rooms had rugs, but once I looked at the graphic I had no desire to learn more about the company nor did I remember the brand.

TV Infographic by MyCustomRug

If you’re going to create an infographic, make sure it serves a purpose for your business and can be tied back to data that is important to your business or its customers and will help associate your brand with the data and the product or information it represents.  Ask yourself, if search engines and social networks didn’t exist would I spend time putting together this kind of data for my customer base?

The Rise of Infographic Submissions

There was a time when directory submissions were all the rage in SEO.  You paid anywhere from $10-$100 and some poor webmaster would review your website and then if you were approved your site would be listed within a relevant section of their directory.  Sites like these were a dime a dozen and were the goto for SEO link building in the early days.  Over time most directory links were devalued by Google, the sites that sold them were often penalized, and ultimately SEO’s more or less walked away from directory submissions as a means of getting valuable links for websites.

But while directories may be dead, the business model that surrounded these directories has found a new life in the world of infographics.  I realized it first when I read Paddy Moogan’s post early last year that featured a huge list of infographic sites that accepted both free and paid infographic submissions.  Since then many of the sites that have the most authority surrounding infographics now require a fee to review the graphic before it will be featured on the site or blog.  Sound familiar?

When Google’s Matt Cutts came out last year and said he anticipates infographic links will eventually be devalued, it is these sorts of infographic links that came to mind.  Submitting your infographic to a number of websites for the purpose of links and nothing more is essentially the same practice as the directory link building and in time I anticipate this will lose all of its value, or ultimately hurt you in the form of an unnatural links penalty.

Doing Infographics Right

If you want your infographics to succeed be sure to produce content that offers value to your business and your customer.  Remember infographics represent your brand, put the same effort into your infographics that you would any other piece of marketing or branding material.  Infographics that get the most shares and exposure are informational, provide value to the consumer, are visually appealing and are many times entertaining.

A lot of people feel that infographics are dead, but the slew of infographic pinterest boards, websites, and even a recent project from Google suggest otherwise.  Good infographics are here to stay and if distributed with the correct audience in mind and through the proper channels can be highly beneficial to a business and its SEO.  If you’re stuck creating junk graphics and distributing them to random sites across the net, chances are you’re going to be looking for a different strategy in the next six to 12 months.

Posted in SEO, Social Media having no comments »

Why a New Facebook Feature Means It’s Time To Get Serious About Blog Images and OpenGraph

June 24th, 2013 by

New Facebook feature which allows Pages to upload content preview imageOver the last couple of weeks, Facebook has been quietly rolling out a new feature to Facebook Page admins that is going to force content creators to start seriously thinking about their use of imagery and Open Graph protocol on their content.

What It Does

The feature, which I just discovered this past Friday allows Page admins to disregard the images suggested by Facebook for a shared piece of content and instead upload an image of their own.  The feature is useful, especially for folks trying to make their Page content look as presentable as possible even if they are sharing from another source.  Where this will be most handy however is when content creators refuse to use imagery in their content and Facebook shares are left with generic imagery from the website.

Why Images Are Important

Imagery not only helps to visualize your content to viewers, it can also help to break up large blocks of content and make your content easier to read.  We are a generation of skimmers, very few people read web copy these days, instead they skim to digest what they can out of content.  Images can help to break up content and make it easier to skim.

If that wasn’t enough, social media has made us an extremely visual culture.  Sites like Facebook and Google+ are automatically pulling imagery from your website to help make content shared on their sites more appealing, so why not make sure its an image that makes sense with your content as opposed to an ad or some other random image off of your website.

By adding relevant imagery you can not only make the content on your site more engaging, but you increase the probability that users who see your content on social networks will click through and view your content.

Adopting the Open Graph

The Open Graph protocol has been used by Facebook for a few years now.  Like the structured markup that can help local SEO, it is a means of helping machines and systems, in this case Facebook, understand more about your content.  With Open Graph you can tell Facebook specifically what the title of your content is, what description to use when it displays your content, and best of all what image it should use when people share your content on Facebook.

By telling Facebook what title, description, and image to use with your content when it’s shared, the odds of people seeing your content exactly as you want it represented when seen on Facebook is that much greater.  Even if you’re using images in your content, this ensures that Facebook can properly access the imagery and use it alongside your content.

This weekend I tried to share a piece of content from a site that was using images in its content, but for some reason the main image that was most relevant to the post wasn’t suggested as an option from Facebook, instead it was pulling irrelevant imagery found in the sidebar of the page.  Had the site been using Open Graph I wouldn’t have had to upload the picture myself before sharing it on my Page.

Image options for the content before and after

Implementing Open Graph

There are a number of ways to integrate and implement the Open Graph protocol into your content.  If you have to hard code the tags into each piece of content I would highly recommend Neil Patel’s piece on social media meta tags.  On the other hand, if you’re a WordPress user like me, you can simply install WordPress SEO by Yoast.  It not only gives you a ton of great SEO functionality, but has Open Graph protocol features built into it that can help ensure your content is seen properly by Facebook.

TL;DR What You Need To Know

  • Facebook is rolling out a new feature that allows Page admins to upload an image of their choice to represent content they share on their page
  • If you want your content to be properly represented visually on social networks you need to make sure you are using images in your content
  • If you want to make sure Facebook is using the right images for your content implement the Open Graph protocol on your content to help Facebook identify the right image to use for your content when its shared
  • If you don’t take this seriously, Pages can choose imagery for your content that may not align with the message or theme you were hoping to convey

Posted in Blogging, Social Media having no comments »

The Biggest Change Surrounding Google’s Local Carousel That No One’s Talking About

June 19th, 2013 by

Yesterday I shared some insight regarding what you need to know about Google’s local carousel.  Over the last 24 hours or so I have been observing various results I come across, looking for differences, changes, etc.  And then earlier this morning something major stood out.  A change that came with the local carousel that no one seems to be talking about, yet it has a major impact on local businesses.  Look closely at the image below. Do you see anything missing?

Google Local Carousel results for sushi in Los Angeles

If you said ads, you’re right.  Strangely, with the launch of the local carousel Google appears to have cut out a chunk of revenue for itself as well as some prime paid real estate for local restaurants.

What’s interesting about the change however, is that this only appears to be impacting restaurants and night life.  Searches for hotels still display ads from the big players both below the carousel and on the right hand side, as you can see below.

Google Local Carousel results for hotels in Los Angeles

When I first ran some test queries they were in Corona and Costa Mesa.  Since I wasn’t very familiar with the restaurant search space I initially thought that maybe there just wasn’t enough PPC competition in the area.  So I decided to take a stab at Los Angeles, after all someone in L.A. has to be dumping some cash into showing up at the top of the search results for sushi.  Again, no ads.  So I head over to AOL and ran the same query.  Thankfully it doesn’t appear that all the sushi restaurants in Los Angeles have pulled out of paid advertising, Google just isn’t giving them any love in their search results. But why the change?

I have a few theories about this.  The first, Google slipped up.  Perhaps this is just glitch and the feature is so new that nobody is going to notice until the payments from local restaurants stop rolling in to Google at the end of June.  The second, Google’s got something big and paid planned for local businesses.

The reason I suspect something big and paid is in the cards is that this is the second product in the last few months with local flavor that has been unusually ad free.  First, the new Google Maps rolled out sans the search listings and ads.  Now, certain queries in the local carousel remove ads completely.  This creates a prime opportunity for Google to release a new paid advertising product aimed at local businesses that integrates with the new systems.

Ultimately only time will tell what Google’s end game is, but if you’re in the restaurant or nightlift space and you were throwing money into paid advertising, chances are your bill is going to be a bit smaller this month.

What do you think of the change? What do you suppose Google has up its sleeve for the restaurant and nightlife market?

 

 

 

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