Experts Blog

What’s New in Local Search November 2012

By Mary Bowling on Nov 06, 2012 - 11:54 AM

Here is the November 2012 installment of 'What's New in Local Search'. It's been another busy month so I won't waste your time and am just going to dive right in.

  • A survey entitled How Long Does Local Search Visibility Take? rounds up the opinions of a sampling of Local SEO's, thanks to Phil Rozek. You'll get some great tips from people with a lot of experience in the trenches.
  • Locu expand its offerings beyond the restaurant space to help retailers better push their product and pricing information out across the web. If you are a small business or represent a small business that thinks this process is too difficult or too expense for them, check out
  • Smart retailers are getting ready for a surge in mobile-phone enabled holiday shopping. Many of those who have been dragging their feet on getting up to speed on mobile will be shocked when the season's over and sales numbers are revealed. Read more in our featured report, Google Releases Stats on First ‘Non-Line’ Holiday in History!
  • Owner review responses at Google+Local experience a bug that is quickly resolved.
  • Service area businesses with addresses in residential areas are still feeling an enormous amount of pain at Google+Local because their listings were lost in the Google+ changeover. Google's previous advice to recreate missing listings does not seem to be working for many of them. The only recourse right now is to ask Google support for help, which seems to be a rather slow process, since 5 months have now passed without a good solution.
  • Telemetrics tells us that finding a nearby restaurant serving the food someone wants is more important to mobile users than reviews are, while tablet users incorporate reviews into their decisions more often.
  • Google updates its Webmaster Tools Guidelines regarding wasting our time expecting rich snippets to be triggered when marked up on low quality pages. If the rich snippets markup is on a page that is: "spammy, misleading, or otherwise abusive, our algorithms are much more likely to ignore the markup and render a text-only snippet. Keep in mind that, while rich snippets are generated algorithmically, we do reserve the right to take manual action (e.g., disable rich snippets for a specific site) in cases where we see actions that hurt the experience for our users."

    The new guidelines also caution against something we see quite often in Local Search: Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for. If you're doing this, stop it right now. This is easy for Google to identify and you've been warned!
  • implements a verified review system to insure that diners have actually eaten at an dining establishment before they can review it. Every Web site needs to find some way to either combat review spam or accept it. And if they accept it, they and also accept that it hurts the credibility of all of the reviews they publish.
  • The topic of Top Reviewers on Google is dissected by Mike Blumenthal, who gives us some hints for using a business profile to achieve this elite status.
  • Apple's new iOS6 comes with an new app to watch, Passbook , which allows brands to deliver mobile coupons, loyalty rewards and even tickets directly to iPhone5 and iPodTouch users. Companies like Walgreens, Target, American Airlines and Ticketmaster are already on board. These 'passes' are delivered to the shopper as scannable barcodes, which can be saved. They can also be delivered via alerts triggered by the user's location-you walk past a Walgreens, for example, and you're notified that a coupon has been automatically delivered to your iPhone.

    Small businesses are given the opportunity to have their own loyalty rewards program included by using the PassRocket app . The future has arrived, just as we knew it would. Personalized, location-targeted advertising is now an available reality via Passbook and the Android app, FieldTrip. Are you ready?
  • Hubspot releases a significant study (7000 businesses) that should convince any Web site owner that blogging is a worthwhile investment of their resources whether they are in the B2B or B2C space. The study results are presented as graphs, making it useful for sharing with business owners who might need a push on blogging.
  • There's general consensus among those that might know and might tell us the truth that +1's and numbers of people that have you in their Plus circles does not impact rankings, yet. The key part of this sentiment is "yet". There is no doubt in anyone's mind that they will effect Google rankings in the future, so get prepared.
  • Google alters the confusing Zagat system to allow those rating businesses to choose from Poor-fair, Good, Very Good and Excellent, instead. Nearly everyone except high end hospitality businesses and foodies are turned off by the Zagat ratings. While this is an improvement, IMO Google would have been smarter to enable 5 ratings (what happen just to Poor?) which we are used to, rather than 4.  This may mean more confusion with ratings at Google, not less.
  • Google+ fails the Minnesota Lynx team just when they need it most - as they move into the WNBA finals. The team, with 30,000 followers on Plus, was told to start over after the person that set up its Google+ pages using an email account the business does not have control over left the company. This clearly illustrates the pain that the early adopters of Google products regularly face. Make sure you have complete control of your Plus pages before investing too much time in building them up and/or gaining a following there. Google later restored the Plus pages in this high profile case after it made the news with some bitter comments regarding Plus.  Do you think Google will restore your pages if they same thing happens to you?
  • Cheap call tracking ($1) is enabled on AdWords Express. Call reporting, as it's been dubbed, is different than the Click to Call and it's different than the call tracking that can be enabled in regular AdWords accounts. After seeing how call tracking has been dealt with in AdWords, I bet that it's cheap now to get us hooked and that the price will rise considerably once that's accomplished.
  • comScore tells us that maps search on smartphones is increasing (up 24% in 6 months) while it's decreasing on PCs (down 34% in 6 months.) No surprise there!
  • Google's enhanced voice search app for the iOS6 is approved by Apple. Google's voice search is backed up by its Knowledge Graph. The iPhone's Siri relies on Yelp and Apple Maps. The battle for voice-powered search assistance is now in full swing!
  • Rumor has it that a new version of Google Wallet is on the way. The way the mobile payment space has been heating up, this is no surprise. Google needs to get that Wallet working for more people on more devices and it needs to do it soon!
  • 8 local business are outted by Yelp for trying to buy great reviews on Craigslist from power-Yelpers, aka Elite reviewers. Their Yelp profiles are now branded with Consumer Alerts, some of which link to damning correspondence from the business owners. The warning will remain for 3 months. This seems like a fairly light punishment to me and not nearly enough to truly discourage the practice. Read more here.

    yelp review buying
  • We see a lot of the categories that had been published on Google+Local pages for businesses disappear. But on other pages, we still see all kinds of categories. Google tells us in the help forum that 'uncommon' categories are no longer supported. I interpret this to mean custom categories, but who really knows right now? The categories available to businesses in Mapmaker are much different and many fewer than the categories that have been available to us in Places. This may make getting plenty of relevant categories right in directories like the IYPs much more important for longer tail terms.
  • Marissa Mayer, formally of Google Maps and currently in charge of Yahoo everything says of Yahoo Local: "And so, while we don't intend to make significant changes there in the short term, I do think that it's probably not an area where we're going to invest heavily moving forward." I read that as we're not really going to make improvements to Yahoo Local now or later. Her comments make it sound like she is skipping over Local and aiming directly at Mobile, which sounds like a good idea until you think about how Yahoo can possibly deliver a good Mobile product without a good local foundation. Then, she acquires Stamped and its team of ex-Google engineers  to develop something "big, mobile, and new - but we can't discuss the details just yet."
  • The categories of information cards that Google is using to present the right information to us at the right time has expanded. If you're a local business, be certain to pay attention to this stuff:  

    "So today we're adding more cards that we hope you'll find useful. Flight information, restaurant reservations, hotel confirmations and shipping details—how often have you found yourself wading through your email to get this information at the last moment? So next time you book a table for dinner, you'll get a reminder with all the details without ever having to lift a finger. You'll also get cards for nearby attractions, interesting photo spots, movies times at nearby theaters or concerts by your favorite artists".