local seo Archives | Catalyst Studio, Inc
Over the last few days, Google has moved to remove the right rail ads that you may have gotten accustomed to seeing (ads on the right sidebar). While they’ve experimented with this over the past few months, this time it appears to be a permanent move. So now, instead of a 3 ads on top, 5 ads on the side layout on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you are likely to see 3-4 ads on top, and another 3 ads down below the natural listings…no ads on the right side.
Why did Google do this?
As stated above, there were limited tests of this over the last couple of years, but the change we’ve seen over the past couple of days indicates that this is:
- geographically widespread
- affecting all types of advertisers (and verticals)
- here to stay – confirmed by Google
Our take in the search engine marketing space is that this is a move by Google to align desktop results with what mobile users were already seeing. In case you missed it, the volume of mobile searches overtook desktop searches last year, so a “mobile-first” search experience makes sense. This would be natural, given that a larger percentage of searches are happening on a mobile device that on the traditional full desktop experience.
What does this mean to you?
First, there are fewer spots available for your ads to appear in – and more importantly – only 3-4 that will display “above the fold.” This means more competition (and potentially higher bid costs) are possible for all advertisers. This may not play out in all instances, and we aren’t sure if the bottom spots will hold as much value for advertisers as the right rail positions did, so only time will tell. However, this change won’t necessarily price anyone out of the market.
The change in format may “give as much as it takes.” For example, right rail ads weren’t displayed with ad extensions (call-out extensions, location extensions or site links) in the past. Now all 7 of the ads that may be displayed top & bottom will have that functionality, making it a bit easier to stand out. Plus, we’ve all heard of “ad blindness” where users learn to disregard the obvious ad locations as they search. The right rail was easy to filter out, but now search marketers can count on a more “native” display in the vertical stacking.
What can you do to stay relevant?
If you’re still using a shotgun approach to search marketing, it’s time to move from a strategy of keyword “coverage” to one that is much more tuned into “conversion.” Advertisers should center their energy on the most productive keywords and make sure their ad creative, landing page copy and call to action strategy are unified. These elements must support a positive user experience, and ultimately, conversions. Whatever changes you make…test, test, test. You want to be able to optimize intelligently, so run split tests, monitor ad performance, and measure CTR and conversion rates.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, this also means that it’s more critical than ever to get listed in the “local 3-pack” – this is the map + 3 business listings that often appears for location sensitive searches. If you paid attention, you’ll remember that as recently as last summer, it was actually a “local 7-pack.” Then Google pared it down to only 3 listings. If you are looking to keep your position in the 3-pack, your focus should be on quality SEO. Continue to optimize for web visitors and search intent, obtain quality backlinks, optimize your citations (social networking, directory and other local listings), and focus on collecting reviews on Google, Yelp and other key providers in your space.
Search marketing has always been about adaptation. This case is no different…if you have a solid PPC and SEO strategy in place, we’re talking about a slight shift in focus so that you can continue to perform well, or even better. If you are new to AdWords, or trying to optimize a new website, read up on these changes and stick to best practices. Performance is tied to how much value your website can add, now more than ever.
At Catalyst Studio, we’re always looking for great ways to serve our clients. We recently became a Yext partner, which allows us to streamline our clients’ local SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. If your business has a physical, local presence, you probably know that you can make it easier for potential customers to find you by making sure you’ve claimed your business listing on directories. This includes social media networks like Facebook and Google+, as well as tons of local business directories such as Yelp, CitySearch and YP.com.
However, if you’ve tried it, you know that the process can be a tedious one… First you have to create a new account on each site, then wait to receive a PIN by phone call or postcard to verify ownership. Once that’s handled, you must go through each publisher’s slightly different process for submitting location listing information. This includes business Name, Address & Phone (collectively known as “NAP”) as well as other select fields they might make available, such as description, services, hours of operation, payment methods accepted, photos, etc.
Is Local SEO Important?
NAP / NAP+W (Name Address Phone + Website)
The “thumbprint” of a business online. Local search engines use NAP information found by crawling the web or received from data providers to judge the accuracy of the data in their own indexes. Consistent NAP information is essential to getting more citations and improving search engine rankings.
“Been there, done that…”
However, once you go through a few of these you probably start thinking about the Pareto Principle, or the “80/20 rule”….Which sites are the 20% you can cover to get 80% of the benefits? And conversely, which are the 80% you can ignore? Of course, this would be great in principle if the search engines didn’t have a problem with finding conflicting or out-of-date business information when comparing directory results. In studies, “external location information” like these directory listings can account for approximately 16% of your local ranking factor. That means that the consistency (part of moz’s definition above) can go out the window and negatively impact your location rankings.
Update Location Listing Info “Auto-Magically”
That’s where Yext comes in. We can run a scan across their network of over 60 publisher sites to find existing listings, determine inconsistencies and get a profile. As a partner, we then have the ability to publish a complete and consistent location profile across all of these publishers, so that everything from NAP to the type of parking available is updated. Need to add a new Toll-free number next month, or update the photos for your business? It’s the same easy process.
Curious about how your business listings look to Google, Bing and Yahoo? Run a scan of your business now.
On July 24, Google released what the folks at SearchEngineLand later dubbed the Pigeon update. This algorithm change was aimed square at refining local search, for example any search with terms such as “auto lube,” “coffee shop” or “hardware store” – where Google determines there is a local intent.
If you’ve paid attention, you know that Google will show what’s called a “local pack” in these types of searches. This is a set of up to 7 local business listings that Google deems relevant enough to plot on a small map right on the SERP. Aside from the mapping function, these listings also stand apart from normal organic listings by providing other actionable information within the listing: Name, Address and Phone number (NAP), and if applicable, a Google+ link and ratings and/or review.
What the Pigeon Update Did…
As a result of the Pigeon update, businesses have seen changes to the types of searches displaying (or no longer displaying) local packs, as well as a shift in the makeup of the local businesses being presented in these searches. One notable example is that searches in the Real Estate space (i.e. “real estate” or “realtors”) appear to be entirely devoid of local packs, at least as of this point in time.
…And What You Can Do Now
Has your business been affected by the Pigeon update? If you’ve seen improvements in your local search profile, this is a good time to continue building your online marketing strategy. If, on the other hand, you took a hit, there are a few things we’re recommending:
- If your business was previously in a local pack, but is no longer included after the Pigeon update, you are probably seeing a drop in calls and visits…and potentially revenue. If the drop is significant enough, you may want to start a limited, local Google AdWords campaign to make up for the difference in exposure. This will enable you to get back onto the SERP quickly, even if you have to use paid placement to achieve this in the short term.
- In addition to PPC ads, we are also advising clients to take control over their local business listings on sites such as Yelp, CitySearch, etc., since local directories appear to be factoring more favorably in the post-Pigeon world. In the quest for Local SEO, you want to make sure that these local listing sources are all consistent and optimized to help customers find important info for your business. This means making sure your NAP information matches across all platforms, and that you’re attracting customer reviews. If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business page yet (and a presence on Google+), you’re missing an opportunity as well.
As a Google Partner, Catalyst Studio helps clients leverage Google AdWords campaigns to meet their most important goals, whether it’s building brand awareness, increasing traffic and engagement, or driving sales (conversions). We also support clients with Local SEO services that simplify the process of claiming, managing and optimizing third-party local directory listings and establishing a social media strategy. Let us fix your Google ranking issues – contact us for a free estimate.