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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ Joy Hawkins – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Mon, 17 Feb 2020 14:36:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.1 No, the Google My Business description does not impact ranking /no-the-google-my-business-description-does-not-impact-ranking-329176 Thu, 13 Feb 2020 15:35:05 +0000 /?p=329176 After a lot of testing by many since the help center update, we can safely say the description has no impact in the 3-pack.

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Yesterday, there was a ton of discussion on Twitter about an update in the help center that suggested the description field in Google My Business will help you rank better.

We’ve done testing on this, along with many others, and can safely say that we have found that the description field has no impact on ranking in the 3-pack. This is what I would expect to see. If Google made it that easy to rank, the results would be full of garbage that would be both bad for users and Google.

I spoke to Google yesterday and asked them to update the document as it was misleading.  As of this morning, some of it has already been removed.

Yesterday, the document said this:

Today, the part at the top has been removed. The part that was removed was:

“Think about the words customers would type to find your business, and make sure that your listing actually includes those keywords within it.”

The new text reads as-of today:

I think it still looks misleading so hopefully, Google will continue to edit it and make it more clear that shoving tons of keywords into your business description is not the key to ranking high on Google.

Big thanks to Stefan Somborac for catching this.  

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A wishlist of improvements for Google My Business in 2020 /a-wishlist-of-improvements-for-google-my-business-in-2020-327142 Fri, 03 Jan 2020 15:52:59 +0000 /?p=327142 Joy Hawkins shares the top 5 features she’d like Google My Business to update or change this year.

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There was a LOT of changes in the Local SEO world in 2019 – 94 that I’ve tracked (most are listed here). I have to first give Google credit for working so hard to improve the Google My Business product so much. That being said, there are definitely still some items that I think are in drastic need of change.

Here are the top 5 things I’d like Google My Business to update or change in 2020.

1. Customization inside GMB Insights. When you log in to the Google My Business dashboard, the options for Insights are pretty limited. You can see a week, a month, or a quarter on the graph. I would love it if Google would allow you to customize the date range. They already have this option in the GMB API but it has yet to make its way into the dashboard. I’d also love to be able to visualize the data by month or by week instead of daily. With so many businesses having high or low peaks on weekends, it can be very difficult to analyze the graphs when the option is always set by default to show daily.

2. Add Questions and Answers to the GMB dashboard. This is long overdue. Many businesses still don’t monitor the Questions and Answers section on their listing because it simply doesn’t exist inside the Google My Business dashboard.

3. Make event posts show chronologically. Currently, when you add an event post inside the Google My Business dashboard, it shows the events in order based on when you posted them, not based on the date of the actual event. This has been confusing for users and I’d love it if Google could change it.

4. Make service areas in Google My Business actually impact ranking. Currently, the ranking of a service area business listing is based on the address the listing used for verification – not the service areas they enter onto the listing. This is really troubling for tons of contractors who work from home and don’t live in the city they service.

5. I’d love Google My Business to devote more resources to stopping known spammers.  Spam is something that has always plagued Google Maps for as long as I’ve been in this industry. The frustrating thing is watching the same spammers continue to game Google over and over again. I would love it if Google could actually put in place some actual penalties for repeat offenders of the guidelines. Unlike organic search, there isn’t really any concept in the local search world that is similar to a manual penalty.

This is part of a special feature from our community of experts on what successful marketers will do in 2020. Read more >>

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Local SEOs still seeing volatility in ranking with Google’s latest algorithm update /seos-still-seeing-volatility-in-ranking-with-googles-latest-local-algorithm-update-325300 Mon, 18 Nov 2019 16:43:28 +0000 /?p=325300 The local search updates this month seem to be about relevance and how Google understands search terms for a business. But a lot of new spam is surfacing as well.

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November has been a crazy month for the SEO industry. Although there have been a ton of changes on the organic side, I’m going to be focusing on the changes we’re seeing in the local results (Google Maps packs).  

Starting on Nov. 5, we started seeing huge changes in the local results. A lot of these changes got updated further (many reversed) on Nov. 10. I named the update “Bedlam” based on the utter chaos I was seeing everywhere. However, last week the changes continued and we saw another big update on Nov. 13 that was mostly reversed a couple of days later.

BrightLocal’s Local Flux tracker is helping us keep track of the changes. If you work in Local SEO, I’d suggest keeping a close eye on it to make sure things actually settle down.

This update is about relevance

This update seems very different from the last major update we got in Local SEO. I haven’t seen this many drastic changes since Possum in 2016 which was a huge change to the way Google treated proximity.

For this update, the changes I’m noticing are mainly related to relevance.  Specifically, I’m noticing that Google is doing a lot better job of understanding a broader set of search terms that apply to a single business. Previously, Google has always weighted Google My Business categories extremely high. Having the right categories could either make or break your ranking. Similarly, the primary category would influence ranking at a much higher rate than the additional categories.

With this update, I’m seeing some changes to that. For example, here is a client of ours that is both a personal injury lawyer and employment lawyer. He cares more about personal injury so we’ve made that his primary Google My Business category to make sure it prioritizes where he ranks. Consequently, he’s always struggled with the employment-related keywords as a result. With this update, we saw huge lifts for keywords related to employment law. These are all terms and concepts that are heavily represented on his website.

Here is another example. This SERP used to heavily favor listings that had the primary category “orthodontist.” We saw listings increase in ranking that did not have the “relevant” primary category. The listing that increased the most didn’t even have the orthodontist category at all.

If you’re only tracking local rankings from a single point (city, zip code etc.), you might have missed the severity of this update. It wasn’t until we checked several geo-grid ranking reports in Places Scout that we saw how huge of change this was.

Also, if you use UTM codes inside Google My Business, you can also track the impact in Search Console by filtering URLs that contain “utm”. This is an example of a client who originally dropped a ton on Nov. 5 but then completely recovered on Nov. 10.

Additionally, as I pointed out in my first article, I have seen a lot of new spam ranking and we’ve also seen a lot of new listings get impacted by the filter. (If you’re not familiar with the local filter, check out the second point of my article on Possum.) Last week, I had a user on my forum reach out to me for help after his ranking tanked. He was halfway down the first page in the Local Finder. I was able to identify a duplicate listing that was filtering him out and after removing it, he instantly rose to the second position within an hour. Additionally, we saw this trend with clients. One of our attorney clients used to have his practice listing in the three-pack and it was replaced with this update with the practitioner listing for one of the attorneys that work there.

If you want to follow the discussion on this ever-changing update, feel free to find me on Twitter or comment on the Local Search Forum thread.

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Businesses can now opt out of Google’s online food ordering /businesses-can-now-opt-out-of-googles-online-food-ordering-322774 Fri, 27 Sep 2019 20:10:31 +0000 /?p=322774 Here's how restaurants can opt out of "order online."

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Earlier this year, Google started showing “order online” buttons on the knowledge panel for local restaurants in India and the US. This button takes you through Google’s food ordering platform which integrates with several popular food ordering and delivery platforms. 

I have also seen additional calls-to-action in the search results highlighting this new feature and trying to draw attention to it.

There is now an opt-out form for restaurants that do not want this new feature on their listing. This form would remove the order button but would not remove other third-party features on the Knowledge Panel including the ads and order links.

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4 Things to know about Google posts in the 3-pack and local finder /4-things-to-know-about-google-posts-in-the-3-pack-and-local-finder-322727 Fri, 27 Sep 2019 12:00:39 +0000 /?p=322727 We have not found content used in the Google Post has any impact on ranking so, focus on keywords you're already ranking for to boost CTR.

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In early 2019, Google started to display post highlights in the 3-Pack and Local Finder. We are seeing these more and more lately and have learned a lot about how they function. Here is everything we know about them so far.

1. The highlights pull in content from posts older than seven days so even if a Google Post isn’t showing live on your Knowledge Panel, it can still get featured in a post highlight.

2. Posting about a single topic looks much better than having a long post that lists all your services.

3. The highlights in the search results get updated in real-time. I was able to see a post highlighted for a client in the Local Finder that I had just posted five minutes prior.

4. Different types of posts can get highlighted. We have seen event posts get highlighted (we use these to make the post stick longer than seven days) and we’ve seen regular update-types highlighted. 

So far we have not found that the content used in the Google Post has any impact on ranking, (for example: posting about “dog bites” doesn’t make you rank higher for “dog bite lawyer) so I would suggest focusing your posts on keywords you’re already ranking for that could use a boost in click-through-rate.

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Google’s inconsistency with third-party reviews is a confusing user experience /googles-inconsistency-with-third-party-reviews-is-a-confusing-user-experience-321024 Mon, 26 Aug 2019 14:47:40 +0000 /?p=321024 Google would be better off removing “reviews from the web” because the lack of enforcement with their own guidelines makes it difficult to understand.

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When I first started in this industry in 2006, there was a multitude of sites that small businesses could ask customers to review them on. Over a decade later, we find that there are very few websites in this space that are actively generating user-generated content from consumers. This makes it even more problematic when a business receives a negative review on one of these third-party sites because it’s often harder to combat if there aren’t many positive reviews already to balance it.

It also becomes very confusing to consumers and marketers when you factor in Google not enforcing their own schema guidelines for third-party review sites. Here are a few examples.

Reviews are not visible on the page

According to Google’s review snippet guidelines, it says: “Make sure the reviews and ratings you mark up are readily available to users from the marked-up page. It should be immediately obvious to users that the page has review content.”

This is definitely not the case for the reviews Google is showing under reviews from the web on business knowledge panels.

Here is an example of a law firm in Florida. They have legal directories listed in their Knowledge Panel that are supposed to have one review each that is a rating of 5/5.

When you visit either profile (one and two) it doesn’t show any reviews which is a really confusing experience for a consumer.   

Tom Waddington reached out to me about a case where a landscaping business he was helping had a negative average appearing in his Knowledge Panel. This business had Google showing a 1 out of 5 average according to Angie’s List.

When you actually visit their listing on Angie’s List they have a total of 10 reviews with the following scores:

  1. 2 with a rating of A
  2. 3 with a rating of B
  3. 2 with a rating of C
  4. 3 with a rating of F

I’m not a mathematician but I honestly have no idea how to calculate that and end up with an average of 1/5 based on 19 reviews. I also have no idea what I’d tell this business about how to fix it.

Facebook is another one that I continually see and cannot figure out.  In this example, Google shows a 4.8 average based on 43 votes.  

When I visit the profile on Facebook, I see two different counts. One says 49, the other says 18.  Neither match what Google lists.

It doesn’t get much less confusing with Foursquare. This auto parts business shows 6.9/10 on their Knowledge Panel based on four votes.

When I visit the profile, I only see two reviews, both which appear positive but don’t display a rating out of 10 so it’s hard to say how this average is getting calculated. 



Reviews are duplicated from other sites

According to Google’s review snippet guidelines, it says: “Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.” 

In this insurance agent’s case, the reviews from around the web are showing a profile from BirdEye that has six reviews on it. 

These six reviews are actually his Google reviews, which are already present in the Knowledge Panel. 

Here is another example with Judy’s Book showing six votes.

When you visit the profile it shows that three of the reviews are from Judy’s Book and three of them are from Insider Pages.

As a marketer, I want there to be more competition in the review space and I also wish it was easier to show small businesses the benefits of getting reviews on third parties. In my opinion, I think Google would be better off removing “Reviews from the web” at this point due to the lack of consistency in their guidelines being enforced and the confusing experience it gives users.

RELATED VIDEO: Local search expert Joy Hawkins shares an unexpected finding from her Google reviews research

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The majority of listings for car accident attorneys on Google are fake /the-majority-of-listings-for-car-accident-attorneys-on-google-are-fake-314569 Mon, 25 Mar 2019 17:59:08 +0000 /?p=314569 Google’s ranking algorithm has a huge flaw in its local results that lead generating companies have been using for their own profit.

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If you work with attorneys, you may have noticed recently that there is a massive amount of spam that seems to be growing like weeds in Google’s local results. Let me explain what I mean.

This was a search done earlier this week in a prominent zip code in Manhattan, New York. All three of these listings in the three-pack are fake.

In fact, when digging further, 18 out of the top 20 for this search result set were not real businesses. When looking through two cities for one of my attorney clients this week, I compiled a list of 273 fake listings in the top six pages of results for just two different keywords. Many SEOs who work with attorneys are noticing this. Brian Barwig of AttorneySync tweeted earlier that he looked through over six pages of fake listings that had no websites attached to them.

Whoever is behind this has realized that there is a huge flaw in Google’s ranking algorithm. Listings that are ranking on the first page of local results have:

  1. No website
  2. No backlinks or online mentions online of any kind
  3. No reviews

So how are these listings ranking? It’s simple, Google’s [stupid] local algorithm strongly favors listings that have words in their business name that match the searcher’s query. So the fact that these listings have the words “car accident” in them and are close to the user searching is making it possible for them to rank…with absolutely no other factors needed.

Dave DiGregorio also points out that the listings are starting to get flooded with fake reviews as well. The same users are leaving reviews for various listings.

When you call the phone numbers on the listings, they take you to lead generating companies that ask if you need a personal injury lawyer. If asked, they will not identify what company they work for. Several attorneys I work with have told me they are being inundated with requests from lead providers who are selling these leads for hundreds of dollars each.

Stewart Guss, an attorney in Houston, Texas, reached out to me about how horrified he was to see that his office was being pushed down in Google as a result of these. He decided to have some of his employees call the phone numbers and pretend to be in need of a car accident attorney so he could find out which lead providers were selling the leads. If you’re an attorney reading this, here is his advice. “Vet your paid lead sources. Just ask them flat out how they are finding and funneling their leads through their lead generation system. Make sure that you’re not doing business with a pay per lead vendor that is cannibalizing the very same leads you should already be getting via organic local search results.”

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Google My Business messaging problems continue /google-my-business-messaging-problems-continue-312719 Thu, 21 Feb 2019 15:01:27 +0000 /?p=312719 When messaging is set up in the GMB app, it doesn't work for listings that belong to location groups in the dashboard.

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Recently, I went through the trouble of having my client (an attorney) set up the Google My Business messaging feature since I was not able to set it up for him. Once I sent a few emails back and forth with him to explain how to download the app and set it up, he finally got the confirmation box to appear.

However, when I sent him a test message, it never arrived. As the user sending the message, I didn’t receive any type of error that it didn’t go through. I brought this up to Google at a recent conference and was told that this is a known issue that is impacting listings that belong to location groups inside the Google My Business dashboard. This impacts all my clients since we are using the agency dashboard and every client is inside a location group. The issue appears to only be with listings that set up Messaging via the Google My Business app, not listings that set it up via SMS before Google removed that ability.

The amount of issues arising with messaging seems to conflict with the fact that Google is pushing these features and highlighting them more to customers. I’m not 100 percent sure why they would want to push it when so many pieces for merchants to manage it are still broken. One of the newest tests we have seen was pointed out by Sergey Alakov on Twitter. He highlights the message button with a “new” message.

Hopefully, Google comes out with a fix for some of these issues soon. We’d love to start actually setting up this feature for small businesses, but it’s hard to recommend a feature that doesn’t work.

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6 things you need to know about Google’s change for service area businesses /6-things-you-need-to-know-about-googles-change-for-service-area-businesses-312177 Thu, 14 Feb 2019 13:20:54 +0000 /?p=312177 Google's new service area business set up cleared addresses. If you're a service business, don’t try to add it back. Here's why.

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Earlier this year, Google announced that they were offering an improved sign-up flow for service area businesses. There have been lots of questions from the Local Search community about these changes and what they mean. I’m hoping to clarify some of that by pointing out the main things you need to know.

1. Instead of having a box you have to check that says you deliver goods and services to your customers at their location, you now have the option to clear your address. This function accomplishes the same thing; it just has new wording. Clearing your address will turn your listing into a service area business which will remove the directions icon, remove the maps pin, remove the listing from the Google Maps API and hide your address from the public.

2. If you’re a service area business and your address was cleared, don’t try to add it back. When Google started rolling this out in November 2018, they automatically cleared the addresses for any existing service area business listings. This caused a ton of confusion for people who logged into their dashboard and saw their address was “missing.” If you attempt to add the address back, it will make you reverify it.

3. Even though your address is missing, Google still knows where you are. The purpose of the feature is to hide the address from the public.

4. There is no longer an option to add a service area that is a radius around your location. You instead need to add a list of zip codes or cities.

5. Your ranking is still based on the address used for verification not what you put in the service area. It has been this way for a very long time and we all hope Google will change this at some point.

6. If you move to a different area you should add your new address back to the listing so you can reverify it and then clear it again. Again, not really ideal but if you fail to do this, your listing will rank based on your old address not your new one.

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Google My Business messaging via SMS to end, but where is the alternative? /google-my-business-messaging-via-sms-to-end-with-no-alternative-in-sight-311134 Mon, 28 Jan 2019 15:28:45 +0000 /?p=311134 The end of SMS messaging on the GMB dashboard will have a sizable – and negative – impact on marketing agencies and large enterprises. Here's why.

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When Google My Business released the new GMB app back in November, many people failed to see the massive inconvenience of their new approach to the messaging feature would cause. Previously, the Messaging feature relied on technology from Allo which is set to be discontinued and will only work until March 2019.

Currently, if you try to add the messaging feature on a listing in Google My Business, it prompts you to download the GMB app.

If you are one of the lucky few that set up messaging before this change, you can still access the messaging feature via the Google My Business dashboard and receive and respond to messages via SMS. However, since Allo is going away in two months, we are assuming this SMS functionality is going to stop for everyone, including those that already have it set up. I have attempted to get a public statement from Google about their plans here and have been unsuccessful.

This change, in my opinion, has a sizable negative impact on both marketing agencies and large enterprises.

Agencies

If you run an agency and are using the Google My Business agency dashboard, you cannot access the GMB app. Trying to do so gives you an error that tells you that you have no listings in your account.

A user on the Google My Business forum sums up why this sucks for agencies:

“This is horrible. We were utilizing messaging option with our chat program. Were onboarding many clients that would allow them to use same chat program with GMB, their website, FB, and more. This shuts that down really fast. Plus, I utilize Agency GMB dashboard, which does not work with the App. So to help clients that still want to use GMB messaging separately from the easy to use third party, I have to walk them through it, because I cannot help them through my dashboard access.”

Franchises and enterprises

If you have a chain with 100-plus stores, how would it be possible to manage all of this via one app on your phone? Dan Leibson, who works with several of these types of businesses says:

“We have a few clients (both are 500+ locations) that have heavily invested in website chat and integrated that provider into GMB chat for pre-sales support and customer service. It’s has been a great lead producing and review management (via solving customer service issues before it comes to a review) tool.

These large clients that were using Google SMS for GMB in their communication strategy were told by their SMS vendor that they will have to stop using GMB chat when Google deprecates SMS. And that no solution on the immediate horizon but that a solution ‘was coming.’

Now this revenue and support stream will be completely cutoff.”

We still have two months until Allo stops working so maybe there is the possibility that Google will surprise us and announce a way for us to continue utilizing Google Messaging via SMS. For now, I would advise agencies and enterprises to hold off on adding the Messaging feature until there is a solution that makes sense.

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