Jun 072012

Image courtesy of Aaron Weiche

I don’t have the chance to attend SMX Advanced in Seattle which is rolling right now. However, I am following everything that is happening via a number of sources - live bloggers, Twitter streams, Google+, recap posts, etc. The event that I am most interested in is the Local University Advanced, and particularly David Mihm‘s announcement of the Vol. 5 of the Local Search Ranking Factors in which I also took part (w00t).

David Mihm is focusing primarily on the evolution of Google’s local algorithm from the perspective of the changes in the rankings of the ranking factors over the years. Here is what he shares:

- The ranking factors haven’t really changed that much over the years (2008-2012) Tweet

- The factors haven’t changed even after the launch of Google+ Local Tweet

- Importance of the “distance to city centroid” ranking factor depends on the industry Tweet, but nevertheless, it is still a ranking factor Tweet

- SMB websites matter a lot in local search rankings and in building authority Tweet

- Ratings are not as important as reviews currently (but this might change); in future a trust factor will be added to reviews, so the more trustworthy the reviewer, the higher the value of the review Tweet

- The most negative ranking factor is inconsistent N.A.P. data, and especially an inconsistent (tracking) phone number Tweet

- Other negative ranking factors include multiple Places pages (Google+ Pages) with similar/same business names and addresses, as well as the inclusion of location keyword in the categories in a Google business listing Tweet

- David Mihm mentions me (second w00t) in relation to getting the Local University to Bulgaria? Hm :) Tweet

- Social circles will be a very important factor in local search in (the not very distant) future Tweet

- Quantity of reviews is more important than quality in the local search rankings Tweet

- According to people in the audience there is no way for a small business to do local SEO on their own Tweet

- Getting more reviews might help in overcoming the problematic “distance to city centroid” ranking factor Tweet

- There are cases in which the centroid isn’t really being taken into account Tweet

- Personalization and socialization of the local search results is going to be the trend Tweet

- Branded anchor texts is now more important than keyword anchor text (Hi, @Penguin) Tweet

And that’s pretty much everything I managed to get from the 30-minute presentation. This is really just a snapshot, so I am really looking forward to the next week’s official online announcement of the Local Search Ranking Factors, edition 2012!

  7 Responses to “Local University Advanced at SMX Advanced Seattle”

Comments (7)
  1. Nyagoslav: With regard to the comment during the meeting that smb’s can’t do their own seo these days, let me say this: I did it and still do it, and I generally agree with those comments. OTOH. There is incredible value to taking these capabilities in-house. Ultimately to do so you have to be a pretty big “small business” with enough revenues, resources, and personnel to pull it off.

    When I started around 2002/2003/2004 all you had to be concerned with was organic serps: Google.com Enough focus on google rubbed off positively on Yahoo and its then algo and Bing. Also, while smb’s might be reluctant to take on Adwords, its not that complex. We are selling off a business. I am training a staffer on the adwords component. (of course what is there took years of work to get to a certain point). Adwords, btw, is immensely more valuable and effective than adwords express. If you need help, get somebody with experience to set it up for you, guide you, refine the campaigns, explain it…and then turn it over to you. If the smb’s know their business, their customers, the motivations they will know how to tweak it or experiment with it far better than any outside consultant.

    Today you need to know Google.com, essentially maps.google.com, now google+, ppc (probably only adwords), the TOS and operations of the highly unstable Google+Local (formerly google places), social media, something about reviews, reputation management, etc.

    Additionally getting relative strength in just google.com is significantly more difficult today than it was years earlier (google’s filters, and penalties notwithstanding-they have improved the index, and more effectively fought spam, IMHO.). The net result though is that link building for an smb requires more creativity and imagination and skills.

    Here is the incredible advantage though when you take it in house. Your understanding of the impact of all this information is far better and you can make better adjustments with regard to your seo efforts and the efforts of operating staff in coordination with the web efforts.

    Outside efforts from an seo group don’t work their way inside the business in general. Its a missing component from the seo/client side IMHO.

    We operate a group of services of several different types. What is consistent about them is that the price point or the full level of services are such….that we end up speaking to virtually every potential consumer. Sales are not made simply via the web presence. We have to meet consumer expectations and deliver. Its not as easy as getting a reservation over the phone for dinner or clicking on a piece of inventory and purchasing it over the web.

    We are aware of some, mostly rare businesses with terrific web only services that have moved significant levels of the complex sale to a web only process. But we know its rare.

    In any case, I couldn’t do it as easily again in todays environment. I couldn’t do it as well without ample revenues from the various sources so that I am mostly (not entirely) removed from operations. None of our operating partners on site could do it in their different locations. If they spent time doing SEO they would detract from the day to day operations.

    A couple of other observations: Its incredibly easy for SEO businesses to create flashy marketing, sell on glitter and not deliver tangible results. The entire package of SEO and its potential benefits are hard to discern. From the SMB perspective, it should simply be sales. (okay…you could focus on “visibility”)

    To really get and appreciate value an smb should be educated in the metrics that are being delivered with the seo efforts. FB metrics, by example, imho, are a lot of hype about little real impact. If I were getting these pieces of metrics that accompany SEO I need to keep bringing it back to sales and revenues. Otherwise its worthless, IMHO.

    If you do outsource seo services demand a lot of time from the provider to better understand the implications of the metrics they are delivering to you.

    If the business is large enough, bring a significant level inside. Keep that inside portion focused on how the seo results assist with sales.

    I’m also eagerly awaiting the published results of David’s study. This year, I submitted my “results” before google+local came out. HA HA. I wanted to redo the results right then!!!!

    • Thanks for the great comment, Dave!

      I agree with you on many of the points you made. Including the one that it is always better to do SEO in-house, as SEO is nothing different than simply a part of your overall business marketing and advertising. That is why it is becoming more difficult not only for SMBs but for SEOs, too. Now the line between just reading about SEO, and actually offering the service SEO is becoming broader then before. Previously, it was pretty much enough to get a couple of your friends’/relatives’ sites ranking, get a simple site down with a couple of reviews from your friends + a couple of examples, start cold calling… It’s going to be much, much more difficult than that. You actually need to work together with the business in order to deliver some good, sustainable results.

      I believe when Greg Sterling tweet that about SMBs not being able to do their SEO by themselves, he meant these small businesses that struggle in getting their daily tasks done, let alone spending some time on educating themselves and actually doing SEO.

      Another good point you made is regarding Facebook metrics that are being presented as important. They do have their importance, but they are definitely not that valuable for a small or medium sized business as they would be for a large company. The SMBs have a limited circle of clients/contacts and these could very easily reach even directly the business owner via phone. Why would they use social media to stay in touch? Doing some promotions, giveaways, competitions, etc, would be a good fit for Facebook, but producing sales at normal rates is rather rare.

      I also sent my answers to David before the roll out of G+ Local. However, I think the factors haven’t really changed, other than probably now Zagat is a much more valuable citation/reviews source probably :) In future things will change though.

  2. ” Social circles will be a very important factor in local search in (the not very distant) future” - do you think the locality of the people in those circles will carry weight? Like a smb in LA is “circled” by people outside of Los Angeles?

    • Hm, I’m not sure about the locality, but I believe a system of “local leaders” might be established. Similar to the Map Maker system - people that make good contributions for particular area are more trusted when they make a new edit at this area, in comparison to making an edit in another area. Thus, review from a user that reviewed a lot of LA businesses would be much more valuable if the business is also located in LA. But that’s probably to come up. It doesn’t seem to be valid right now.

  3. Nyagoslav,
    Thanks for your summary coverage. You’ve highlighted some really good stuff here! I appreciate the time you took to do this.

  4. Nyagoslav,

    Nice summary here.

    Re- Dave’s comment. I think he may be the except to the rule. Most SMB’s would have a very very hard time digesting and implementing local SEM strategies on their own.

    In addition, it’s not always best to do it on your own nor as cost effective. Time is money and if you do not know what you are doing or where to start it can cost you a ton. For example even in something like tools.

    I know at our small boutique agency as soon as a SMB comes on board they get access to ALL our tools. That is like $4000/month in tools, they’d never be able to afford that on their own nor have access to that data.

    Or getting access to an agency’s database of guest posting opportunities, or citation opportunities. etc…. this is in-valuable info to get access to that can propel a small businesses online marketing efforts. It can take years and tons of $ to build a database of opportunities like that.

    Then there is the whole “having enough experience” to understand that data and knowing where to focus first to get the fastest ROI. If you don’t know, it can make the process very expensive.

    It’s not question that a SMB can do their own local SEO, but rather the question of “should” they be doing their own local SEO?

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