Posts Tagged ‘google places’

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.

Google Announces Google+ Local Verification Rollout

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Earlier today Googler Jade Wang announced on the Google and Your Business Group that Google has finally rolled out the verification process for local Google+ Pages.

By becoming a verified business owner of your Google+ Page, your business’ presence across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ will be unified and you’ll be able to manage your information from the Google+ Page admin.  Verifying ownerships will combine the page you created in Google+ with the page in Google+ Local (formerly Google Places).

For now, only businesses in the “Local Business or Place” category can proceed with verification.  Rollout to other businesses will be available in the future.

To proceed with the verification you will need to click on “Verify Now” on the right side of the page.  Google will then send out a verification post card to your business to verify your information.  Once verified  your presence across Google+ and Google+ Local will be universal.


Google is doing a great job at answering questions from local businesses about the update and has a running FAQ that is being updated every couple of days.  If you have issues with your verification or have questions about particular challenges you are up against you can follow the Google and Your Business Group thread.  Additionally, if you need further instruction on how to verify your listing, local search expert Mike Blumenthal has put together a stellar step-by-step guide to the Google+ Business/Local verification process.

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.

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.