Does Your Business Need Local SEO?
Approximately eighteen months ago, the agency I was with at that time was hired by a company in the vacation travel space. They were seeing a twenty percent drop in traffic from Google, and a nearly twenty-five percent drop in sales from Google.
Meanwhile, their internally-developed ranking tools were telling them that everything was fine. They were third on Keyword A that month, and they had been third on Keyword A the previous month. This was substantively the case for the several thousand keywords they watched.
Among other things, they hired us to determine what had happened.
The change was that Google had started returning a map with ten business listings for the majority of their keywords, which referred to specific geographies around the country. This map was pushing down the traditional, organic search listings to the point that unless you were the first or second listing, you were “below the fold”, meaning one had to scroll down one’s monitor to see the listing.
This map became known as the “10-pack”, and are driven by the Google Local Business Center. (Note: the 10-pack has recently become a 7-pack.)
One of the constants in SEO is that the further down the page you are listed, the less traffic you receive. Consequently, the addition of the 10-pack was a substantial change to Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). I would argue that it’s the biggest change since Google started placing paid listings above the organic listings on certain queries.
Most disturbing for my client was that not only was traffic from Google dropping, but sales from Google were dropping at a higher rate. Clearly, it was the most valuable traffic that was being lost.
Local SEO (aka Google Maps optimization is a new type of SEO that focuses on causing companies’ Google Local Business Center listings to be returned for particular queries.
So, does your company need local SEO?
If you wish to generate website visits, phone calls, or foot traffic from people in particular geographies, then local SEO is likely appropriate for your business.
To test this theory, you might search on Google for your most important keywords. Is the 7-pack (or one of its cousins) coming up? Even if it isn’t, if your keywords contain local intent, the map will likely be added in the future.
You even might be able to cause your Google Local Business Center listing to be returned for particular keywords, if you work the system correctly.
But that’s a topic for a later post.
Guest Post: Using the Internet to Tell Your Customers About Special Offers
Thanks to the Internet, there’s no longer any need to spend money on mailing postcards to your customers to announce sales and special offers.
If you have set up your web marketing capabilities, you can simply tweet on Twitter and send an email blast through your email marketing service.
Let’s look at an example:
Imagine you own a local fabric store and you have just received a much larger shipment of cotton plaids than you expected. Where will you store the inventory? (And we’re not even talking inventory carrying costs.)
Instead you tweet in 97 characters (leaving you 140 more characters to add your website URL, etc.):
Large shipment of cotton plaids with no place to store. Come in today for 50% off these fabrics.
Then you send out a somewhat longer email message explaining your predicament with the same offer. And how have you gotten the email addresses to which to send out this message?
You’ve gotten the email addresses through an email opt-in system on your website in which you offer, for example, a 10% off coupon if the person gives you his/her email address. And the email marketing software system you use stores the addresses in a database, helps you format your email message so that it more easily gets through spam filters, sends out the message for you, and keeps track of open rates.
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a website for which you can easily make changes, you’ll also post the announcement in large type on your home page. Anyone clicking through to your website after seeing the tweet or getting the email message will be reminded of why he or she is visiting the site.
By using your website and email marketing system and by sending tweets on Twitter, you can easily make special offers that help you out and make your customers happy.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is an Internet business consultant whose company website is www.MillerMosaicLLC.com. If you liked this article, you’re going to love her free report on “The Top 3 Internet Marketing Elements” – download the report now from www.WeTeachWebMarketing.com.
All opinions expressed in guest blog postings are those of the specific post’s author, and may or may not reflect those of Brian Combs or ionadas local.
White Paper: Avoid Local SEO Mistakes
A quick glance at the Google Maps Help Pages shows how easy it is to run into problems when optimizing your local business listings.
A few of the current entries include:
- What happened to my business listing in local results?
- Rec’d Postcard from Google: Password Entered in Invalid
- Problem With Local Business Listing…
- Address shows the wrong place now
- Our business has disappeared from Google Maps. What happened?
While many of these problems are not the fault of the business, some are certainly self-inflicted, whether due to violating Google’s terms and conditions or due to sending confusing signals to the system. Local businesses of all sizes should read our new white paper on Avoiding Local SEO Mistakes so that they don’t have to wait fruitlessly for a reply from the understaffed and overworked customer support department at Google Maps.
Are Google Local Listing Ads the Death of Internet Yellow Pages
Last week, Google announced Local Listing Ads, a paid alternative to the free business listings within Google Maps. The ads sit above the free maps listings, but are smaller than traditional AdWords, and are below the top AdWords listing, at least in many cases.
In the above example, the listings marked with bubbles #2 and #3 are Local Listing Ads.
Currently, the test is running in San Francisco and San Diego only, but I expect the test area to spread quickly, if Google views it as a success.
Google Local Listing Ads represent a significant threat to Internet Yellow Pages such as CitySearch and Yelp. The IYPs rely heavily on organic search traffic from Google that is directed to their advertisers. In fact, in many cases they sell on the idea that advertising with their service is a way to have one’s company come up in the organic listings (albeit a page from the IYP’s site, not a page from the advertiser’s site).
And, for a few years now, this model has worked well. The IYPs have well established sites with lots of links, and they know how to optimize their pages for the search engines. Advertisers with the IYP have received a great deal of targeted traffic.
But with the Google Maps listings being added to Google Universal Search, the organic listings are generally pushed below the fold (even on a large monitor).
The IYP countered this by purchasing AdWords to continue to push traffic to their site.
Google Local Listing Ads could be a major problem, however. If they work as Google hopes, small, local businesses will go directly to Google to purchase advertising. And if the traffic at the IYP drops, the advertisers may drop that channel.
There is no guarantee that they will work as Google hopes, however. Small businesses require definite hand-holding when it comes to advertising, and customer service has never been Google’s strong point. The IYP’s however, are generally quite good at customer service.
They are also out in the community actively selling, while Google has always relied on its advertisers coming to Google without much individual enticement.
It’s too early to say where this all will go, but hopefully the IYPs will view it as an object lesson in the dangers of relying solely on Google for your business model.
Has the 10-pack become a 7-pack?
On Thursday, October 8th, something new started showing up on Google’s local blended SERPs:
What previously showed ten local listings now shows seven! Reports are that the 7-pack is showing for local queries in Canada and the United Kingdom.
It’s unclear whether this is a permanent change or simply something Google is playing with, but the fact that I am having trouble finding any 10-packs now suggests the former.
Some say that Google may be making space for its coming Local Listing Ads, while others believe Google is just cleaning up its interface, but the impact on those of us in the Local SEO game is substantial. A reduction in top page listings of 30% means we all need to work a bit harder to get the results we want.