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Tag: Google

Hey Google My Business, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!


In fact, we never have been in Kansas, but Google seems to disagree.

In November 2020, Google suddenly decided that Local SEO Guide, Inc, a business located in Pleasanton, CA, was actually located in Fawn Creek Township, KS.
Local SEO Guide Kansas

Not only that, we had also apparently opened a hotel (in the midst of COVID no less – we are in fact optimists at heart):
Chateau Local SEO Guide

Pretty dumb of us though to open the hotel in California when Google thinks we are in Kansas. Not a lot of operating efficiencies with that set-up.

Jason Brown notes in “Breaking Free of Your GMB Independence Issue” that this Kansas stuff may have started in September 2020.

We don’t really rely on on our GMB page for leads so I shot off a note to Google My Business support and figured they would fix it at some point. Meanwhile it might give us some insight into how their Rube Goldbergian system works. Then I kind of forgot about it.

In February, while in a 20-person Zoom meeting on how much we should freak out about Core Web Vitals, I logged into LSG’s GMB dashboard to see if maybe we had been moved to Colorado (hopefully near Aspen). While in there, for some reason, I decided to add “SEO agency” as a Business Category. “SEO Agency” must be on the double-secret do-not-use list because as soon as I added it, our listing got suspended.

I get it. A lot of SEO Agencies are how shall we say “sketch” businesses. It’s a red flag. But surely GMB would realize that LSG is an established sketch business? And it’s certainly no less sketch than Psychic or Cat Hostel.

All I had to do was delete SEO Agency as a category, plead my case via Google My Business’ Reinstatement Form, and it would be cleared up in a few days/weeks as GMB support worked through its queue.

Did I mention that we are in fact optimists at heart?

As of last week I had heard nothing back. Of course this page on fixing suspended business listings has been updated, but at the time it said something like “If you have already submitted a request, do not re-submit it. It will really annoy us.”

Just for kicks I asked Steven Saldana, LSG’s GMB problem-solver extraordinaire, to give it a try. My initial request went something like this, “Hey GMB, I added a new service category and got suspended. I deleted the category so please un-suspend us. Thanks!” Steven’s request was a bit more forceful. It basically said the same thing but he also added “This is our corporate listing and it must be reinstated ASAP!” It worked.

Of course, we’re still in Kansas, but that’s certainly better than being in GMB purgatory.
Local SEO Guide Kansas

I guess the point of this story is thus:

  1. If you are relying on GMB for a large part of your business, you have my thoughts and prayers
  2. The fact that shouting in ALL CAPS seemed to make the difference is kind of crazy.
  3. If you are a business in Montgomery County, Kansas, you may want to double-down on your SEO. The Local Pack results are pretty much littered with out of state businesses so I’ve got to believe the locals don’t really trust them and are clicking on the Local Organic results.

And if you are looking for a great restaurant in Fawn Creek Township, KS, Google recommends Vegos Food Truck. Don’t worry that it’s actually located in Albuquerque, NM. It’s a truck, so you never know when it might show up in your hood.
fawn creek township restaurants

Google Domains: "Name Conflict" when trying to add



I need to add a `cname` called "_domainconnect" for my domain name but every time I try Google just tells me "Name Conflict". There is not already a record with that name.

https://imgur.com/I4PW3K0

What gives?

Update: Response from Google:

Thanks for your patience. Please be informed that the reason as to why you are unable to add the record is because the hostname is already being used by Google Domains. You may not see it on the actual DNS settings of your domain name but it's automatically configured on the back end.

We do not have a way to remove it as well.

submitted by /u/GeraldTibbons
[comments]

How to Track Google Posts in Google Analytics & Search Console


https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

We have a big study on Google My Business posts that I’m presenting at LocalU on April 7th. While doing that study, there were several things we learned about Google Posts.

Clicks in Google My Business Insights Don’t Match Clicks in Google Analytics. 

If you’re looking inside Google My Business, they have data showing you how many clicks your posts received.

Google Posts Clicks

The numbers you see here will not match the numbers you see inside Google Analytics.  There are many reasons for this which I have highlighted in this post.

How to Track Google Posts in Google Analytics

In order to track the activity from Google Posts in Google Analytics, you need to use UTM codes.  After a lot of deliberation, I have decided that the formula below is the best to use:

https://website.com?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmbposts[listingname]&utm_content=date

You can easily create a URL just like this one by using Google’s campaign builder. I will highlight below why I believe this formula works the best.

  • Source/Medium: Most marketing companies pay really close attention to organic traffic in Google Analytics and if you use anything other than google / organic or it could actually look like you had an organic traffic drop from Google when looking inside Google Analytics.
    https://www.sterlingsky.ca/
  • Campaign:  This is where you can segment the traffic specifically from Google posts.  You want to make sure you include a unique identifier or name for the listing to differentiate it from other listings for that company.  This is especially important for multi-location businesses or businesses that have practitioner or department listings.
  •  Content: I had a hard time trying to figure out what to use for this but decided that using a date would work best.  For example, content=feb52021 or content=02052021.  The reason why a date works best here is because to track results from a specific post, you need a system that uses unique identifiers.  It’s hard to keep track of what you used before but a date will literally never get re-used unless you’re posting multiple posts on the same listing on the same day (which isn’t something I’d recommend).

How to See the Traffic inside Google Analytics

In order to see the traffic from a specific post inside Google Analytics, you want to open the Source/Medium report, use “Campaign” as the first dimension, and “Ad Content” as the secondary dimension, as illustrated in the image below.

Posts in Google Analytics

When looking in this view, you should be able to see all the traffic from Google Posts along with information you won’t get in Google My Business (conversions, time on site etc).

How to See the Traffic inside Search Console

In Search Console, you should now also be able to see the data per post.  Add a filter for the page URL containing “gmbposts” at the top and it should give you a full list of all the posts that got any impressions or clicks.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

 

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/
Latest posts by Joy Hawkins (see all)



Is Google moving towards greater search equity?


30-second summary:

  • Search equity allows for your average business owner to compete on the SERP without being impeded by a lack of SEO-knowledge
  • A more equitable SERP is a necessity for Google from a business and overall web-health perspective
  • Google is pushing for equity on the SERP to a far greater extent
  • The democratization of the SERP represents an enormous paradigm shift that brings certain SEO skills to the fore

What would happen if instead of having to jump through hoops to rank your new website, you were given a seat at the SERP straight away? Presumably, that would cause all sorts of havoc for SEO professionals. What if I told you that there’s a strong push at Google to do just that? I call it “search equity”. It’s Google trying to remove optimization barriers so site owners (aka business owners) can focus on creating great content and reap the benefits of it. 

It’s a move that I think Google is pushing hard for and has already taken steps towards. 

What is search equity?

Search equity is the ability for a site to be able to compete at some level of significance on the SERP without being impeded by technical structures. It is the ability for a site to rank its content solely because that content is worthy of being consumed by the searcher. 

As such, search equity would mean that sites with limited resources can compete on the SERP. It means they would not need to have an overly complex understanding of SEO on a technical level and from a content structure perspective (think things like page structure and other technical SEO aspects). 

Search equity gives a business owner the ability to be visible on the SERP and in many ways helps to preserve the overall health of the web.

It’s a spectrum. It’s not even possible to have total search equity. At any given time, there could be more or less of it within the Google ecosystem. It’s not an all-or-nothing equation. It’s not even possible to have total search equity. What matters is that Google is trying to create as much search equity as it reasonably can. 

Why is search equity necessary?

The idea of search equity being highly desirable to your average site is self-evident but it also makes a lot of sense. What do I mean by that? 

Business owners are content experts. They are experts on the subject matter that is related to their business. They are the ones who should be creating content around the topics associated with their business. Not SEOs, not content marketers, and not some content agency. 

There’s a problem with this, however. That problem is the incentive. Content creation is hard and time-consuming so there has to be a reward for the efforts. Also, there needs to be a way to address the various technicalities that go into SEO, but that’s for later. This is where the current model falls into trouble. 

What happens when a business decides to dedicate the time and resources to create content? What happens when they are now faced with things like optimizing their page structure, internally linking, external linking, title-tags, canonical tags, keyword cannibalization, or whatever else floats your SEO boat? 

Do you see the problem?

SEO, as it’s often thought of, discourages the very people you want to be creating content for from creating content. Business owners don’t know anything about tags and links and structure. They know about running their businesses and creating content around that expertise. 

This is a real problem for Google. It means there is a lot of potential content out there that the current incentive structure doesn’t allow for.

If you think the notion that there’s a gap in the content generation is fantastical, it’s not. For starters, Google has often indicated such a gap exists in non-English speaking markets. Further, Google has an entire “Question Hub” to provide answers for when the “content just isn’t there”.

What I think makes this notion a contradiction and hard pill to swallow as there is an overabundance of content and a lack of it at the same time. This is because a vast amount of content being produced simply lacks substance. I’m not even referring to spam and the 25 billion+ pages of it that Google finds each day. The content bloat we experience is due to the overabundance of low to medium quality content. When was the last time you felt there was just so much really quality content on the web? Exactly. 

There is no gap in the quantitative amount of content on the web but there is in its quality. If Google’s main SEO talking point is any indicator, the gap of quality content out there might well be significant. That’s not to say that such content doesn’t exist, but it may not exist in healthy quantities. 

To fully capitalize on the content creation resources it needs to maintain a healthy web, Google needs, and has moved towards, search equity.

But not all of Google’s drive towards search equity is purely altruistic—there’s also a business interest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in this case, it’s quite healthy. In any event, understanding how search equity aligns with Google’s business interests is an important part of understanding the impending urgency of a more equitable SERP. 

Why Google My Business demands search equity

The prominence of Google My Business and of the local SERP, in general, has risen in recent years. No longer is local SEO relegated to the loser’s table at SEO conferences. Rather, local SEO has come front and center in many ways. 

Part of this is due to the growing importance of having a GMB profile. Local SEO isn’t getting more attention because of some internal shift in SEO, it’s because it’s becoming more important for businesses to have a GMB listing set up. 

With the plethora of options and abilities that GMB offers (think Reserve with Google or Product Carousels) having a listing has become a way for a business to showcase itself.

Look no further than GMB itself advocates setting up a profile as a way to “stand out”.

Here too, Google runs into the very same problem I mentioned earlier: incentives. If Google My Business isn’t just about “managing your listing” but is also about standing out and marketing yourself, then the environment on the SERP has to be equitable.

In other words, what would happen to GMB adoption if business owners felt that in order for them to compete on all fronts they had to jump through all sorts of hoops and/or spend a ton of money hiring an SEO on a continuing basis?

Clearly, Google is trying to grow the relevancy of GMB not just in terms of the number of businesses adopting it but in how involved the platform is in the everyday functioning of the business. This incentivizes the business to create a listing, add images, and create Google Posts. What’s lacking, however, is content. 

When it comes to the content local sites create, they have to play by the rules of every other site. There is no branded query driving users to their product carousel, Google Posts, or online menu. If Google wants businesses to feel they can thrive with GMB that success has to be across the board. This means sites have to have success within the traditional organic results for a slew of keywords (not just branded local searches).  

You can’t have the truly successful adoption of GMB if it doesn’t incorporate the business’ site itself. If a business feels that Google is making it excessively difficult to perform in one area, it will not fully adopt the other area. Meaning, if Google makes it difficult for a business to rank content, that business will not be willing to fully commit to GMB in the way that Google so desires. Businesses have to feel that Google has their backs, that Google is not an impediment before they’ll consider GMB a place to showcase themselves. It’s just common sense.  

If GMB is to continue to thrive and grow in unprecedented ways, then Google needs to make sure businesses feel that the entire Google ecosystem is a place where they can thrive. 

Search equity is the only way this can happen.

How Google has already been moving towards search equity

Truth be told, Google has been heading towards greater search equity for a while. I would argue that this movement began back in 2015 when RankBrain entered the scene. As time has gone on and as Google has introduced other machine learning properties as well as natural language processing the move towards greater search equity has followed exponentially. 

To put it simply, as Google can better understand content per se, it inherently no longer needs to rely on secondary signals to the extent it used to. This is why the debate about the importance of links and specific ranking factors has grown like a wildfire in a dry forest. 

Take headers or title-tags. Whereas at one point in time you might have had to worry about the specific keyword you put into your titles and headers, that’s not exactly the case today. Aligning your title-tags to user intent and being topically focused is more significant than a specific keyword per se (one could even argue, that while still important, the overall ranking significance of the title-tag has diminished as Google takes a broader look at a page’s content).

This is really the idea of taking a more “topical” approach than a keyword-specific approach to a page’s content (an idea that has come to the forefront of SEO in recent years). That’s search equity right there. What happens when you don’t have to rummage through a tool to find the exact keyword you need? What happens when you don’t need to place that exact keyword here, there, and everywhere in order for Google to understand your page? 

What happens is businesses can write naturally and, by default (so long as the content is good), create something that Google can more or less assimilate.

In other words, the flip side of Google’s often discussed “breakthroughs” in better understanding content is “search equity”. If Google can better understand a page’s main content without having to rely as much on peripheral elements, that inherently translates into a more equitable environment on the SERP.    

You don’t need to look any further than Google’s mantra of “write naturally for users” to see what I’m referring to. Google’s improved ability to comprehend content, via elements such as BERT and the like, allows for site/business owners to write naturally for users, as previous “impediments” that demanded a specific understanding of SEO have to an extent been removed.  

An even stronger push towards increased search equity

Advocating that Google is headed towards increased search equity by pointing to an almost ethereal element, that is, the search engine’s ability to more naturally understand content is a bit abstract. There are clearer and more concrete cases of Google’s ever-increasing push towards search equity. 

Passages ranking and the clear move towards a more equitable SERP

Passage ranking is the absolute perfect example of Google’s desire for a more equitable search environment. In fact, when discussing Passage ranking, Google’s John Muller had this to say

“In general, with a lot of these changes, one thing I would caution from is trying to jump on the train of trying to optimize for these things because a lot of the changes that we make like these are essentially changes that we make because we notice that web pages are kind of messy and unstructured.

And it’s not so much that these messy and unstructured web pages suddenly have an advantage over clean and structured pages.

It’s more, well… we can understand these messy pages more or less the same as we can understand clean pages.”

Does that not sound exactly like the concept of search equity as I have presented it here? Passage ranking further equalizes the playing field. It enables Google to understand content where the page structure is not well optimized. In real terms, it offers an opportunity to content creators who don’t understand the value of strong structure from an SEO perspective, i.e., a business owner. 

Simply, Passage Ranking is a clear and direct move towards creating a more equitable SERP.  

Discover feed could lead to more equity

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, there is a tremendous danger to the average site with auto-generated feeds, such as Google Discover. It’s easy to conceive of a person’s feed being dominated by large news publishers, YouTube, and other high authority websites. That would leave little room for the average business owner and their content. 

However, let’s take a step back here and focus on the nature of the beast and not the specific content possibly being shown. What you have with Google Discover (and personally this sort of custom feed is where things are headed in many ways), is content delivery without the ability to influence placement via direct SEO. In other words, unlike the SERP, there is far less direct influence over what you can do to optimize a specific page for Discover. There is no keyword that a user implements in Discover, so there are far fewer things SEOs can do to tilt a page in a certain and very specific direction. 

Rather, Google Discover relies on the overall relevance of the page to a user’s interests as well as the site’s general authority around the topic at hand. It’s far more a content strategy-focused endeavor that hinges on the production of highly relevant and authoritative content in the context of a site’s overall identity than it is about traditional SEO. 

Discover, as such, is inherently a far more equitable construct than the SERP itself. Does that mean that it is in actuality a more equitable environment? That all depends on how Google goes about weighing the various considerations that go into showing content in Discover. Still, as a framework, the feed is of a more equitable nature regardless. 

CMSes and their role in search equity

There’s been an interesting development in the role of CMSes for SEO, to which I have a front-row seat (as I work for Wix as their SEO liaison). CMSes, like Wix and Shopify in particular, have put a heavy emphasis on evolving their SEO offering. 

As a result, and I can tell you this first-hand as I’m often a direct participant in these conversations, Google seems to be taking a more outright welcoming approach to the closed-CMSes. The reason is that as the CMSes have evolved for SEO, they offer the ability to create an equitable experience on the SERP. 

Just look at what John Mueller had to say as part of a conversation around businesses using Wix: 

 

The evolution of some of the closed CMSes is in many ways the missing piece to Google’s search equity puzzle. If a platform like Wix or Shopify provides the defaults and out-of-the-box solutions that remove the impediments associated with the more technical side of SEO then the SERP is far closer to search equity than ever. 

This is reflected by John’s statement in the next tweet from the thread I presented just above: 

Having platforms out there that take care of the user from a technical standpoint puts businesses in the position to be able to rank content. This is search equity. 

If you combine what’s happening with the CMSes along with Google’s advances around Passages and the like and you have one massive step forward for search equity. 

This creates an environment where the average person can use a platform that handles many of the SEO issues and then rely on Google’s ability to parse unstructured content. That’s a tremendous amount of equity hitting the SERP at one time. 

What greater search equity means for SEO

When you look back and what we’ve discussed so far here, search equity is a far-reaching construct. It touches on everything from the algorithm to the CMSes supporting the web. More than that, it’s an enormous shift in the paradigm that is Google search. In a way, it’s revolutionary and has the potential to fundamentally change the search marketing landscape. I don’t mean that hyperbolically either and I’m not generally an alarmist. 

No, I’m not saying SEO is dead. No, I’m not saying technical SEO is dead (not by a long shot). What I am saying is a more even playing field for those who can’t invest heavily in traditional SEO is a major change to the SERP and potentially for our industry. 

Bringing SEO strategy into focus

The evolution of search equity might mean that it is (and will be) easier for business owners to create content that ranks. It does not mean that these businesses will have any idea of what to target and how to construct the most advantageous SEO content strategy. 

In fact, I speculate that most businesses will end up trying to target extremely competitive spaces. They will try to target top-level keywords without focusing on the elements that differentiate themselves and without creating an “organic niche” for themselves. 

The point is, search equity only makes understanding SEO at the strategic level more important than ever. Understanding the algorithm and the overall direction and “inertia” that Google is trending towards will be an extremely valuable commodity.  

The business owners who will benefit from search equity will need our help to give their content efforts direction. 

(By the way, this is not to say that ensuring these sites adhere to SEO best practices should or will fall to the wayside. Although, I do think this does widen the gap in what it means to do SEO for different kinds of sites). 

Emphasis on the site as a whole (not the page)

As mentioned, search equity takes the focus off the “page” and the explicit optimization of it and places it onto the content itself. The spotlight being moved onto content per se creates a new operating framework. Namely, the importance of the site from a holistic point of view versus the significance of a per-page outlook on SEO. 

The various pages of content on a site do not exist in isolation of each other. They’re all intricately related. Imagine a site that had pages that talked about buying car insurance and other pages on how to make chicken soup with no clear connection between the two topics. From a per page perspective, each page could offer wonderful content and be intricately optimized and therefore expected to rank. However, if you step back the lack of topical focus brings with it a slew of issues. 

Search equity is synonymous with an explicit focus on the substance of a page’s content. You cannot have search equity without Google being better able to understand and subsequently value the content on a page. Search equity is synonymous with an increased valuation of the page content as page content (as opposed to page structure, for example).  

An increased focus on the content itself, with ancillary factors having, at times, a diminished role. This means that the site itself comes into a larger focus. Once that happens, the overall purpose, identity, focus, and health of that site become more important as well. 

Great content that is out of context relative to the other content on the site is less relevant. Just think about a user who hits the page from the SERP. They finish reading a blog post only to see a carousel of related articles that are entirely irrelevant to them. Who is that good for? Or imagine the internal links in such a piece of content, how relevant would they be? How strong is the content if it intrinsically can’t have any internal links, as internal links can often help support the user’s content acquisition? 

The effectiveness of a webpage’s content does not exist in a vacuum. It gains strength and relevancy from the pages that support it. If Google is taking a more direct look at content, the pages that support a given piece of content must also come into focus. 

The advancements towards greater search equity require us to take a more holistic view of a website. Search equity and the direct content focus that Google has taken mean that the relevancy of the entire site comes into focus.

This means we need to perhaps shift our attention from the role of individual pages to consider the site’s efficacy overall. This might mean a revamping of our SEO strategies and priorities and directly speaks to the importance of having a well-thought-out SEO outlook (as I mentioned earlier).   

It’s a good thing

At the end of the day, a web that removes impediments to the creation of strong content is a good thing. Might it change the SEO landscape as time goes on? Certainly. A more equitable SERP will most likely have a major impact on SEO over time. Does that mean we shouldn’t embrace it? No. Does that mean SEO is dead? Of course not. Does it mean we shouldn’t be concerned with best SEO practices to the same extent? Clearly, doing so would be a terrible idea. 

What it does mean is that we may need to change our outlook on SEO a bit and understand where we have true value to certain types of sites. 

Search equity is a good thing.

Mordy Oberstein is Liaison to the SEO Community at Wix. Mordy can be found on Twitter @MordyOberstein.



Newb Question about authenticating mailchimp in Google Domains


Hello all –

I’ve searched all over, running out of patience – so, sorry for the likely newb question. Trying to set email domain authentication between mailchimp and a domain in google.

I’ve added the records under Custom Resource Records:

Name = k2._domainkey.mysite.com
Type = CNAME
TTL = 1h
Data = dkim2.mcsv.net. (the period is being appended automatically, which makes me think i’m adding it to the wrong field)

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

What % Of Google SERPs Show Local Packs?


One of the operating theories here at LSG is pretty much everything is going “Local,” but we never were really sure by how much, until today that is.

Behold the Local-Pack-O-Meter!:

Local Pack-O-Meter

Over the past year, we have been building some pretty cool business intelligence tools for our clients often using massive amounts of keyword ranking data from Traject Data. During a discussion, Traject casually mentioned that they had info on SERP features for something like 60M U.S. search queries. While tools like MozCast have their own versions of a SERP Feature tracker, these are typically only for a relatively small number of keywords (1,000 for MozCast). When we heard “60 million” we thought that could give us a much more accurate picture of what the SERP real estate looks like for the entire country. One LSG hackathon later and the Local Pack-O-Meter was born.

The L-P-O-M doesn’t only report on Local Packs. It also reports on nine other SERP Features including Knowledge Graphs, PAAs, Images, Shopping Boxes, Job Packs, Ads, Related Searches, News & Brand Carousels. Perhaps we should have called it the SERP-O-Meter?

Here are a few things we have noticed so far with this data:

  1. The % of Local Packs over the past year has been pretty consistent. It’s currently at ~36%. So a little more than one third of all Google searches have some kind of local intent. That’s a lot of “pizza near me” searches. BTW this is pretty close to what Mozcast shows (41%) so good on you Dr. Pete!
  2. People Also Ask questions have been the fastest growing SERP Feature over the past year, growing from 25% in May 2020 to now 41% of all SERPs in Feb 2021, so start answering those questions:
    Percent of People Also Ask Questions In SERPs
  3. Another interesting trend is February saw a relatively big increase in the presence of both Google Ads and Shopping Boxes. Looks like someone is trying to goose the next quarter’s earnings?

Percent of Google Ads In SERPs
Percent of Shopping Boxes In SERPs

We hope you find this v 1.0 of the Local Pack-O-Meter useful. If you have any ideas of how to improve it or additional data you’d like to see, please let us know.

And big props to our TechOps rockstars, Bryan Heckler, Sam Capeheart, and Tingbin Huang for creating this and sharing it with SEO community.

Check out the Local Pack-O-Meter here.

 

[2021] How to Interpret Google My Business (GMB) Insights


https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Updated March 4, 2021

There are many questions that often come up about how to properly interpret Google My Business Insights.  I’m going to break down the different sections and explain what they mean.

For an overview of the new Mobile vs Desktop breakdown and the upcoming display to track driving directions, website clicks, and bookings via GMB, check out this article about the 2021 GMB Insights Update.

How Customers Search for your Business

This chart is only reporting on impressions (not clicks).

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

  • Direct = People that are searching for your business by name or location.  I would say you can attribute these impressions to other forms of marketing since the person has already heard about you. A lot of these impressions are most likely existing customers as well.  These are searches that return a knowledge panel of your business. I got confirmation from Google that impressions will count in this section when the search results only list a single business listing (so this could be misleading in cases where you see a one-box for a non-branded query).
  • Discovery = People that are searching generic categories and see your listing (auto insurance, dentist near me, italian restaurant etc).  These are impressions you can most likely attribute to your SEO efforts.
  • Branded = These are searches for a brand your business sells that return a set of results (you are not the only one listed).

What is the difference between branded and direct searches?

We often see a lot of confusion around the difference between branded & direct searches so I’m going to give some examples.  This is a car dealer that sells for Nissan (a brand) in Woodbridge, VA.  When you are located near the dealership and you search “Nissan dealer near me”, you get a single result.  This would be counted under direct.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

However, if you move a little further away from him and do the same search, you now get a 3-pack.  This would be counted as branded.  

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

For more examples of what is considered branded vs direct, see this forum thread.

What is the difference between branded and discovery searches?

One way to tell if Google knows a term is branded is to see if the 3-packs  have an ABC label on it.   For example, “botox” returns a normal 3-pack but “progressive insurance” returns a branded 3-pack that has the ABC label.  For more on these different types of 3-packs see this article.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

However, since this only appears to happen when business names contain the brand being sold, it’s not always the case for businesses that carry products. I’m currently trying to get more clarification from Google on how they distinguish a branded term from a discovery term.

Where Customers View your Business on Google

Where customers view your listing
This graph is a bit confusing if you don’t understand that when both boxes are checked, the graph is cumulative (the top of the graph includes the total of both numbers).  So for those of you scratching your head wondering why the heck the graph is up near 60 for July 25th in this picture when you hover over it, it’s saying 17, you’re not alone. Here is how you actually see the numbers – the total searches on Maps was 41. The total searches on Search is 17. Therefore the total for the two is 58, which is what the graph is showing. Yes, very confusing. To avoid confusion just look at the graphs separately (only click one box – either Search or Maps).

Searches on the Local Finder are included in “Search” since they happen on Google.com and not Maps.Google.com.

As of March 4, 2021, Views in Google My Business Insights are the number of unique visitors to your profile.

Users who viewed your profile: Number of unique visitors to your profile. A user can be counted a limited number of times if they visit your Business Profile on multiple devices and platforms such as desktop or mobile and Google Maps or Google Search. Per breakdown device and platform, a user can only be counted once a day. Multiple daily visits aren’t counted.

  • Since this metric represents the number of unique users, it may be lower than the number of views you find on Google My Business and in email notifications.

  • Since the metric focuses on views of the Business Profile, as opposed to overall views of the Business on Google, it may also be lower than the number of views you find on Google My Business and in email notifications.

Customer Actions

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Driving Directions

This section shows where your driving directions came from if you have enough of them.  Google will also show details about the areas where your direction requests come from including a nice heat map.  If driving directions seem high, it’s probably because you are in a building and Google is counting driving directions that were actually to other businesses at the same address.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Phone Calls

Don’t be surprised if the numbers on this graph don’t match the numbers under “customer actions”. This graph shows 4 weeks whereas the actions section shows 30 days.

As Tim Capper illustrated, you can still copy and paste the values into a spreadsheet if it’s easier to interpret the data that way.

Chat To You

The GMB Messaging feature is the newest feature that generates insights data. You first need to setup the GMB Messaging feature before Google can collect this data.  Additionally, if you are using a 3rd party for the messaging feature, the graph inside GMB Insights might show zero even if you actually have been receiving messages.  In this example, the business is using Podium for this feature and has been receiving messages but GMB Insights shows zero.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Photo Insights

Photo Views

My church (in a very small town) gets an average of 20-40 photo views a day.  Their monthly photo views exceed the number of people who actually attend the church.  When I asked Google for an explanation for this, they said that “view photos” is counting both impressions (the photo appears in the 3-pack or knowledge panel) and if a user clicks to go to the photos. So these really are not clicks but rather impressions (and could be very misleading).

This section will also compare the number of times your business photos have been viewed, compared to photos from other businesses.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Photo Quantity

This section compares the number of photos that appear on your business, compared to photos from other businesses. It breaks them out by “Customer Photos” and “Owner Photos”

Popular Times & Visit Duration

Popular Times data gets pulled into the Insights section of GMB for businesses that have a decent amount of foot traffic. If you have “Popular Times” displaying in your knowledge panel then you will likely see the data in Insights as well. Visit duration is calculated slightly differently.  It’s based on how much foot traffic you’ve received in the last few weeks whereas Popular Times is looking at the data from the last few months (reference).

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Search Queries

This section focuses on the search terms people typed into Google to find your business.  The numbers under Search Queries might appear smaller than other metrics you see in Insights for the following reasons:

  1. Search queries are showing the number of unique users.
  2. It only includes queries that meet Google’s privacy threshold.

It’s important to realize that the data here shown for “1 quarter” is not representing the last 3 months.  It doesn’t get updated in real-time and often will show the same data for several weeks.  Unlike other parts of GMB Insights, it doesn’t display a graph that clarifies what date ranges it’s pulling from. This issue seems like it will be fixed with the update to the new search queries report that we discuss in this article, 2021 GMB Insights Update.

GMB Insights

Does Insights Data Include Data From Google Ads?

Yes. If a business has an Google Ads account that has Location Extensions added, the users will be taken to to the Google My Business listing when they click on the extension.

When a user clicks on the ad in the 3-pack the person would get taken to the GMB listing (not the website).  Clicking on the listing would count as a search in Google My Business Insights. If the listing shows up as an ad and then also as a listing organically in the 3-pack, it would count as 2 searches (impressions) in GMB Insights.

There is currently no way to track Google Ads data separately from regular organic data in the GMB Insights section so my recommendation would be to add a call tracking number in the Google Ads Location Extension field in the Google My Business dashboard so you can accurately track the calls from ads.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/

Does Google My Business Insights Data Include Voice Searches?

If someone searches for a plumber near them on their Google Home or using the Google Assistant, is this counted in Google My Business Insights?  The current answer is no.  The data only includes visual searches.

https://www.sterlingsky.ca/
Latest posts by Joy Hawkins (see all)



Google Review Attributes, Local Link Building & UTM Tagging Guide for GMB


What metrics should we focus on for local link building?

  1. Relevance
  2. Linking Root Domain

Don’t focus on overall link numbers, but rather increasing the number of linking root domains. Yes, your industry can be competitive, but by targeting and going really deep on relevance (both topical and geographical) you can outrank some pages that have more linking root domains.

For local link prospecting you can pretty much ignore Domain Authority (DA) and focus on relevance instead by identifying relevant prospects, both topically and geographically

What about nofollow links? For local link prospecting, don’t exclude nofollowA lot of link builders won’t put a site on their prospecting list because they know they don’t provide follow links. HUGE MISTAKE.

If you acquire local links, even with no-follows, they do have an impact overall and they do something else: generate customers and leads. 

Anchor Text – For local link prospecting, don’t obsess over anchor text. Where you can get it, great, but don’t stress about it overall. Brand and “junk” anchors are fine. Don’t remove a prospect from your list just because you can’t optimize anchor text. 

Scale – For local link prospecting, you can’t scale and you don’t need to scale. Think hyper-local, geographic and topical relevance.You don’t need to be getting thousands of links in the local context in order to beat competitors.

Must Link – For local link prospecting, don’t ignore linkless citations. If you can get the link get it, but don’t dismiss sites simply because they have a no link policy. 

$$$ > Traffic > Rankings – Your links can generate revenue, customers, leads, sales, and traffic. Money and traffic beat rankings every time. 

Target Audience Local Link Building 

Build out your target audience persona, prospect link targets like you would buy media. This will help you build out a list of sites where your customers will actually go.  

Think about this in the context of local awareness, interest, and consideration. Local news and events are the money makers. Start building relationships with journalists, go in and comment where you can, get active in your community. Whether you’re speaking, participating, or sponsoring a local event, link these topically-relevant local events. They can really move the dial from a link building standpoint. 

Local Directories (both industry and geographic specific) – Make sure your information is accurate. 

Who: Demographics + Psychographics 
Where you can find patterns in terms of age, socioeconomics, etc. – what keeps those people up at night – think about this, as it will tell you where these audiences spend their time online and what sites they are looking at.

What Are They Searching Locally? 
Go super hyper-local: neighbourhood, specific areas, and streets. If you’re focused on super hyper-local areas, that’s where you’ll see bang for your buck within the radius of the search area for your business location. 

What Ranks Locally?
The best indicator of whether Google thinks something is relevant or popular is if Google ranks it themselves. Find the different sites that rank locally and put them on your prospect list. The most relevant type of link you could get would be from a competitor that does the exact same thing as your business. Obviously they aren’t going to want to link to you. But think about tangential businesses, what about other businesses that don’t compete with you? 

Dive deeper into the results, go beyond the first page and you will start to find options.

Best Local Link Building Tool: Google 
Use advanced search operators such as inurl and intitle to prospect for links. For example:

[something your target audience might also search for] + inttitle:[hyper-local geo-modifier]

For the hyper-local modifier, you want to go deep like the neighbourhood or street. 

Second Best Local Link Building Tool: Maps
Put your own business address in and start to look at all the different businesses around your physical location. The proximity of getting local links from businesses that are in your own area makes a big difference. Ideally they are also topically relevant. For example, a Personal Injury Lawyer can get links from rehabilitation businesses or ancillary services clients might be using locally. 

Leverage Google Maps by using your own address, zooming in and looking around. Think about:

  • Who are the businesses around me?
  • How could I work with them to get a link?
  • What are my options and what are the businesses that could link to me?

Hyper-Local Content Marketing For Links

  • Topically relevant content.
  • Scholarships in the traditional sense may be dead, but if it’s local across the target audience, topic, and local to your area that can be a solid win.
  • Guest Post can be powerful if it’s a real local blogger, locally and topically relevant.

When you focus only on Domain Authority for your local link building campaigns, you’re going to end up missing out on opportunities that are both topically and locally relevant, which are both way more important and stronger signals/factors when it comes to earning links as a local business. 

Pro Prospecting Tip: Doing your prospecting through Google – Gyi loves to use the MozBar (a Chrome/FireFox extension) that allows you to export all the Search Results into a CSV. If you tack on a little parameter &num=100 to the URL after you run the search, you can get all 100 search results exported in a spreadsheet and work through that, rather than drilling through the results.

Local link building is a grind – embrace the suck!

Re-framing is critical and will help you during all your link building campaigns. If you hold yourself accountable for topical and local relevance, the list isn’t as long as you think.  It’s not about going out and trying to get 100s of linking root domains, it’s about trying to get like 25 solid ones. Spend the time getting to know the business or site you’re trying to go after. From an email outreach standpoint, if you’re cold emailing you’re not going to get a lot of traction, take the time to develop rapport with the business to get more positive and engaged responses to your outreach.  

In local you don’t need the volume, you need to be relationship-focused and locally-focused. 



How To Track Passage Ranking SEO Performance in Google Search Console (And Why You Might Want To)


UPDATE

So I may have jumped the gun on the “passage ranking” thing, but even though this may be old news, these URLs started showing up in a lot of GSC accounts over the past week so I wouldn’t be surprised if these are related to passage ranking. And I do think the idea of using the slugs for content research is a good one – Ed

*********

Google just announced that “passage ranking” is now live in the SERPs:

I think it actually launched about a week ago as that’s when I noticed that odd-looking URLs were showing up in the Search Performance Report in Google Search Console like:
Google Passage Ranking URL

It’s possible, these may not be actual “passage ranking” URLs, and are just some other flotsam Google has launched. I am seeing them popping up over the past week on several client sites. But for the sake of this post, let’s assume these are passage ranking URLs. It’s an SEO blog post so cut me some slack.

If you want to track the performance of your content with passage ranking, all you have to do is filter the GSC Search Performance Report by Page containing “/#:~:text” and you get a nice little graph like:
Google Search Console Passage Ranking Report

Looks like we need to do some work on getting some actual clicks from these though….

Why should you track passage ranking URLs in Google for SEO? (yes I am trying to rank this passage)

Based on what I am seeing so far, the URL slug displayed in GSC provides some pretty interesting clues as to what content on the page Google matched with the query. For example, according to GSC https://www.localseoguide.com/#:~:text=Obligatory%20Impressive%20Client%20Logos%20%26%20Case%20Studies appeared for searches for “local seo” and “local seo expert.” This may be a signal that “case studies” are important to searchers when they are looking for local SEO help.

Hell, even if these aren’t passage ranking URLs, this is still a good technique for figuring out what content on your page Google is prioritizing for certain queries.

 

 



The future of Google and what it means for search


30-second summary:

  • Something that all of us in the search industry are guilty of is our over-reliance on Google telling us what is coming next.
  • Understanding Google’s considerations as a business, provide context to many of its recent decisions and provides a sense of what is coming down the road.
  • Global digital agency Croud’s Organic Strategy Director discusses the future of Google, right from Google’s antitrust lawsuit to Apple as a future rival, and more.

It occurs to me that I am part of a cult.

Or at least, something that displays the hallmarks of one. An unchallenged authoritarian leadership, prophets and oracles who deign to share only select information from a mysterious entity, who engage in coercive behaviors, who punish for non-compliance, and followership who are indoctrinated into special teachings and practices and whom parrot back the mantras and sayings of the leaders. Yes, I of course refer to the SEO industry and yes, you may take a small pause here to go through the above statement to see if it works. It does.

Something that all of us in the search industry are guilty of is our over-reliance on Google telling us what is coming next. Whether through announcing prescriptive updates on Google Search Central or retrospectively announcing algorithm updates on Twitter – we rely too heavily on the limited information Google shares with us and, as such, only get a very short-sighted view on the future of our industry.

This needs to change, and in order for that to happen, we need to stop thinking of Google as a search engine.

Google is first and foremost a business, and as such has a responsibility to its shareholders to continue to defend and grow its market capitalization. Understanding Google’s considerations as a business provides context to many of its recent decisions and gives a sense of what is coming down the road.

Section 230 in the spotlight – Google to factor truth in determining search results

The Storming of the US Capitol came as the culmination of a five-year disinformation campaign that went unchallenged and unadulterated by big tech. They cited concerns over the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and public interest as the reasons for a lack of intervention on even the most palpable mistruths, but the events at the Capitol prompted a shift change. Twitter and Facebook de-platformed Donald Trump, Google removed dangerous channels that called for violence from YouTube, and Apple, Google, and Amazon joined forces to take down Parler.

Though the events at the Capitol provoked big tech into action, the shadow of the incoming Biden-Harris administration had already moved them into action (Twitter flagging Trump’s tweets, for instance). As part of the ongoing swathe of antitrust cases against big-tech, protections currently available for platforms under Section 230 will be thrust into the spotlight for review. The crux of it is whether or not platforms are treated as the publisher of third-party content. Currently, platforms are not treated as the publisher and therefore resign any responsibility for the content that appears on their platforms.

Biden, during his election campaign, said,

“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms.” He added, “It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”

His recent appointee, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, has told lawmakers that she will pursue changes to Section 230.

If – and it seems likely – Section 230 is at least amended, this evidently raises issues for big tech. It is unlikely that it will be completely revoked – such a decision would likely have a net negative effect. It is more likely that Google will need to demonstrate efforts to moderate content at scale, and have a mechanism by which content flagged by users or other parties. Such mechanisms already exist – such as the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (in the EU) or DMCA takedown requests for copyright infringements. In these cases, individual URLs can be flagged by users and organizations. Though a much bigger undertaking, in this case, it is likely that such a process will be used to deal with issues of veracity, libel, incitement to violence, and so on. The difficulties here will be firstly manpower to deal with these requests, and secondly the criteria by which these complaints are assessed.

What does this mean for search?

Websites that produce editorial and opinion-based content will need to be confident that what they produce will not contravene guidelines agreed by big tech and governments. Individual infringements might see de-indexing of individual URLs, but continued and flagrant non-conformity could see full domains removed from search results entirely (as is the case with DMCA takedowns).

Antitrust – Google loses market share in search

There are numerous antitrust lawsuits currently filed against Google, which examine its monopoly status in the search market. Google has an estimated almost 90% share of the search market in the US, and this is the foundation upon which its gargantuan online advertising business rests. Its path to monopoly may have seemed organic to most, but the tactics the company used to secure such dominance are now under scrutiny. The purchase of DoubleClick in 2007 gave Google end-to-end ownership of the process of matching advertisers to users, which many at the time raised as a concern, in that it would give Google too much power in this space. The purchase of the Android operating system also allowed Google to push its apps, such as Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, and more onto nine out of 10 mobile devices sold globally each year.

All of the above, and more, will be considered in the DoJ’s case against Google. The precedent for such a case was set by the EU Commission where it determined that Google had broken antitrust laws by abusing its market dominance with Android and had to pay a fine of five billion dollars. Included within the decision, was a ruling that for all new Android devices, Google must offer users a choice in their default search engine. Google created an auction system for rival search engines to appear in the “choice screen”, leading many to once again accuse it of abusing its market dominance for profit, and placing barriers to entry for smaller players that cannot compete. DuckDuckGo wrote a blog post that stated, “This EU antitrust remedy is only serving to further strengthen Google’s dominance in mobile search by boxing out alternative search engines that consumers want to use and, for those search engines that remain, taking most of their profits from the preference menu.”

There is precedent for such an approach to introduce competition, with a similar case launched by Russia’s competition watchdog, and Yandex growing market share by 20% in the years post its introduction. However, it seems to have had little impact in the EU thus far, with smaller search engines either unable to afford to compete in the auction or, even when doing so, getting little traction from it. This could be because the choice screen is only displayed on new Android devices, and, according to the rather cumbersomely named Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager,

“very few Android phones have been shipped due to the Covid crisis.”

In this case, it may be too early to make a strong conclusion as to the effectiveness of measures.

Watching this all from across the Atlantic, the DoJ has slowly collected and built evidence to take on Google. There are a number of different cases, some looking over the aforementioned issues and some looking at new potential avenues to introduce competition to the search industry. The Justice Department has cast its net wide and spoken to third parties within the advertising industry, as well as search competitors as to their thoughts on how to reduce Google’s market share. One such line of enquiry was around which parts of Google’s vast ecosystem it could be forced to sell off. One leading suggestion; Chrome.

Now, they didn’t ask me but had they, I would have said why not force them to spin off the second biggest search engine – YouTube.

Apple – A future rival to Google Search?

Another big investigation point is Google’s continued payments to Apple to remain the default search engine on its devices. It pays $12 billion to do so and has said that if this were ever challenged, it would amount to a code red scenario for the business. However, as an active part of the antitrust lawsuits, this could be something that becomes a reality for Google. In such a scenario, would Apple open up a bidding war for the opportunity, or would it do something fairly shocking… create its own search engine.

Apple has already begun to tantalize the market with a couple of nods in this direction. First, in 2018 it hired the former Head of Search from Google, John Giannandrea. Second, it is hiring a huge amount of search engineers. Third, Applebot has significantly increased its crawling activity recently. Fourth, in the iOS 14 update, Apple has started showing its own search results when a search is made from the home screen. Fifth, it updated its Applebot guidelines last year in a way that is remarkably similar to guidelines in Google’s Developer Blog. Included are guidance for webmasters around the robots.txt and noindex tags and even what it takes into account for ‘Search Rankings’.

If Apple were to enter the space, it would be the first true contender for Google from a search perspective. Although Google’s years of development and investment into its search ecosystem would certainly be a high barrier to entry, Apple’s massive user base and commitment to privacy would certainly capture a significant portion of market share. In such an event, how would this impact the web? If Google and Apple deviated from each other in search ranking factors – could SEOs be in the position where we have to dance different dances for different masters. Even if Apple does not enter the market, effective antitrust legislation would open up the market for new compelling offerings such as Neeva, You, and Mojeek, as well as existing search engines – such as DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Baidu, and Bing – attracting more market share. Many of these offer Privacy as a major selling point – and as these issues become more evident in the public consciousness, there will likely be a gradual ebb of users to these other engines. There is a greater risk, however, that in the very public antitrust case, if any major news breaks around how Google uses data collected in search engines, that it could see a max exodus of its user base, as happened recently with WhatsApp and the flocking to Telegram and Signal

What does this mean for search?

  • If Google loses dominance in search, SEOs will need to be fluent in multiple search engines’ best practices. Though likely to be similar in some regards, other search engines may not use, or weight, ranking factors in the same way. They might also have different features in their search results. Consider how different Google and Baidu search results are for instance.
  • Adoption of different search engines could vary across markets, demographics and audiences, and therefore specific verticals may align their websites more to the best practices of one rather than another.
  • Reporting and analysis of the ‘Organic’ channel will become more complex and have a higher cost base.

The battle for ecommerce heats up

Covid has created many new trends and behaviors but has just as importantly served as a catalyst for many pre-existing trends. The penetration of ecommerce as a percentage of total retail sales skyrocketed during the early stages of the global pandemic and has remained high ever since. Amazon was the largest beneficiary of this trend, with its share of ecommerce sales in the US at a whopping 47%. This statistic, and the fact that more product searches begin on Amazon than any other platform, spurred Google into action.

In 2019, Google made clear its intent to recapture market share in this space, with a somewhat understated relaunch of its Shopping platform. It seemed the plan was to slowly capture market share with a gradual introduction of new features across its platform. With the arrival of Covid, however, it began to release features rapidly. Free organic shopping listings came out of nowhere, and the new Google Pay app, which allows retailers to offer targeted coupons and deals to users, is a bold offering.

One of Google’s more unique offerings in this space is enabling and facilitating ROPO (research online, purchase offline) behavior. Its acquisition of Pointy, a software allowing local retailers to list their inventory online and appear in local results, will greatly increase the importance of listing optimization for products and services. Product searches already have a filter for nearby – which will certainly abet impulsive purchases.

Additionally, local has already slowly been building up its integration services with booking engines to allow users to book or buy directly through local listings. 

Google will continue this process of “ecommercification” of its ecosystem. With the likes of Instagram and Pinterest looking to commercialize their content by allowing people to buy products directly from their platform, Google has been fairly transparent about its intentions to do the same with YouTube in the near future. The role of video has largely been seen as an awareness medium up until now, but changes here could very quickly see the video platform having a much more immediate relationship to conversion.

What does this mean for search?

  • Local search becomes far more important as both an awareness and conversion channel – especially for brands that invest in joined-up experiences across online and offline.
  • The value of video and YouTube content is made clearer, playing an increasingly important role in both awareness and conversion for brands. Image search too.
  • Augmented Reality features may be integrated into search results. This has already been tested with Dogs and Dinosaurs, but the early adopters’ program documentation demonstrates this is clearly to be used for ecommerce.
  • Expect further opportunities for brands listing their product inventory on Google and a more advanced version of the fairly rudimentary analytics product currently on offer. 

An ever-changing landscape

The above outlines just a few examples of the challenges facing Google as a business, which will likely have a tangible impact on search.  Here are a few other areas we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the coming months:

  • Google’s acquisition of Fitbit and how this might be used in its Google Health arm
  • Drone delivery legislation, which could enable Alphabet’s drone delivery company Wing to enter the fulfillment space
  • Australia’s new law forcing Google to pay news publishers for the right to link to their content, and the way News might appear in search results
  • Android being installed as a leading main operating system in driverless cars, and the potential impact on search

Pete Eckersley is an Organic Strategy Director at global digital agency Croud, where he oversees organic strategy across the brands within the IWG group.