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  • new google local search carousel

    I have seen quite a bit of criticism for the new Google local search carousel that was introduced last week.

    It replaced the traditional local listings that looked like the below screenshot (if I recall correctly this was a screenshot I took when searching for “Del Mar CA restaurants”:

    The new search carousel looks like this: 

     

    I have a high-resolution laptop display, so my screen definitely shows more results (organic specifically) than most folks would see above the fold.  However one thing you will immediately notice is the prominence of the carousel.  I think there are some great things about it including the listing photo (however since the photo can be user generated through G+ reviews, it is possible it could be a bad photo).  Google says that the photos are randomly chosen through the algorithm.  All of our hotel clients seem to have good photos chosen, however the photos for the hotel restaurant listings aren’t very good (in fact one photo is of a person taking a picture of their face in the restaurant).  From our research this photo predicament seems to be a trend with our restaurant searches, so hopefully Google will change the way photos are chosen in the near future.  Unquestionably the new slider helps many local businesses because they now have higher chances of being placed on page one.  That being said, from an organic perspective, this definitely de-emphasizes the value of the organic listing (especially since many will be below the fold).  There was an article in the Search Engine Journal saying that the carousel is receiving 48% of the clicks, while the map (right side, and didn’t load for me in the above screenshot) is receiving 14% with organic listings receiving lower than that.  I also read articles that show people clicking further to the right rather than the first carousel listings, which is backwards of organic search click distribution.

    Here is a heat map of the click distribution (click on the article to link to the original Search Engine Journal article) :

    I would be interested to see if anyone has pre-carousel data regarding click distribution, because I would assume that local listings would receive a similar percentage of clicks, purely because of appearance   I think the frustration in the mind of many inbound marketers is that Google is clearly focusing on their own products (G+, Google Maps, Hotel Finder, and AdWords) as all of these pieces have the primary placement on the page.  This is certainly the case, but there isn’t much we can do about it: they are in business to make money.  I would also assume they will be integrating an ad unit into the carousel.

    Overall, because we work with predominately travel clients, the carousel has been helping us with competitive keywords where local search receives a large number of clicks.  I would say that  rather than complaining about the carousel as an inbound marketer, we have to find ways to improve client placement with different tactics .  We are working on increasing share of voice on pages (so we have a carousel listing and an organic placement (or multiple organic placements) on the page).  Yes, the organic listing might receive less traffic, but increasing the SOV on the page will still assist brand positioning and assist overall find-ability.

  • why search rankings are still important

    I was recently reading an online debate on whether or not search engine results page (SERP) rankings are still important.  Although, I was surprised to see this question posed, I completely understand why.  Personalized search is changing the way search pages are ranked, formatted, and otherwise looked at.  Because of this, the question of whether or not anyone is actually seeing search engine results pages is the same way as a generic (non-geo’d, non personalized page) is quite valid.  Although we know that personalized search traffic is increasing tremendously (see my article on the rise of not provided numbers in Google Analytics), it is still at generally under about 30% of total search traffic.  So, that leaves about 70% of searchers still seeing generic keyword positioning.  You obviously don’t have to be a marketing researcher to realize that if over two thirds of your customers are still seeing your brand in a certain order it would make much sense to help control that order and work to improve overall performance.

    Another important note is that over 90% of traffic goes to organic search, while only 10% goes to paid search results.  And even more staggering is that there was $40 billion dollars invested in 2012 in paid marketing and only $5 billion invested in SEO/in-bound marketing (from Forrester’s Interactive Marketing 2012 Report).  Yes, doing SEO well and the right way is hard, but it is simply critical. It only makes sense that knowing where you stand within the results of the majority of searches is a no-brainer.

    Because of this, yes, standard search rankings are still very important.  And, finally, here are Rand Fishkin’s (of seoMOZ) reasons as to why (besides knowing where your brand places within the 70% of searchers):

    • Are the search engine optimization efforts making a difference in regards to the broad algorithm (regardless of specific biases like geography/personalization/etc)?
    • Determining how traffic and rankings may correlate and to what degree the impartial ranking position is predictive of potential traffic
    • Measuring progress on keywords that tend not to have geographic/personalization bias (there are still plenty of these out there)
    • Traffic increases or decreases to your site (Did my rankings generally go up/down? Did fewer/more people search for this? Did my listing become less attractive relative to others on the page? )
    • Observing the impact of particular changes or SEO efforts on an individual page (especially for a keyword that may rank in position 30+ and whether efforts can move that up onto page 1 or 2)
  • value of blog comments

    I receive a fair number of questions from clients regarding the value of blog comments (questions from a content point of view, brand point of view and SEO value).  The short answer to the question is that comments add content value, brand value (and more brand chatter/awareness), and also add significant SEO value.  If that is all you wanted to hear, then you can stop reading here.  Otherwise, continue on with me and I will elaborate.

    A blog is inherently a social concept.  It is a writers way of communicating thoughts, awareness, ideas, and opinions over the internet.  Because it is social, it is expected to have a two-way conversation (unless you are also a person who talks to yourself).  Blogs changed significantly, when companies began using blogs as a way to share company insight, services, or offer support.  Because of this, many of these blogs didn’t have two-way conversation (no comments).

    Google defines a blog as seen below:

     

     

     

     

    As you can see, it is recorded opinions (and I believe the definition is missing the word social or collaborate).

    So, why are comments an integral part of a blog?  I’ll answer this in terms of content value, brand value, and SEO value.

    Content Value: Good content is generally well written, useful or interesting information.  If the content is useful and interesting, then it generally spurs discussion or chatter.  If this chatter is intelligent, forward thinking, or helps solve a problem, then it is very useful.  So, if people contribute valuable answers, solutions, or other information to your blog then they are only enriching your blog.  I think this is a susicnt answer to why a blog with comments adds content value, but holler if you disagree.

    Brand Value: The more people discuss your brand in a positive light, shows that you have developed real fans, not just social network fans.  Because of this, the more people chatter about your brand on a blog, helps with both word-of-mouth advertising as well as spreading the word in the infinet black hole we call the inter-webs.  So, encourage fans to share their thoughts (if they are negative thoughts, and lots of negative thoughts, then you might have a bigger problem than just your comment boards on your blog).

    SEO Value: This is my favorite.  The more relavent content you have, the higher you will rank (comments add more content).  In addition, if people are adding links from high-quality, relavent sites, this can spur improved search engine positioning.  There is enormous SEO value from having a developed content board on your blog.

     

     

     

  • Pelago in Chicago

    It is about time for a restaurant post.  Pelago Restaurant in Chicago on Delaware street is a tremendous dining experience.  The interior of the restaurant is elegant, yet very comfortable, and the staff are very kind and aim to please.

    I was recommended to Pelago as the “best italian” in Chicago, and I believe that this statement is accurate.  The menu is specific, yet extensive, and has a number of options to please.  The wine list is also extensive, and has a number of unique and exciting options from all over Italy.

    I tried:

    Insalata di Pomodori e Mozzarella con Germogli di Basilico
    Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fresh Mozzarella and Micro Basil

    (this salad was fabulous with wonderful buffalo mozzarella and a great olive oil drizzle).

    Sella D’ Agnello alle Erbe Aromatiche 
    Roasted Rack of Lamb with Herb Crust

    (the lamb was cooked to perfection and the herb crust complimented the lamb well and was in no way over powering).

    The food was paired with a couple of southern Italian red wines that were fabulous.

    When in Chicago I also highly recommend the Peninsula Hotel Bar, which is classic, yet has a very warm feel.  The Drumbar on the roof of the Raffaello Hotel is also awesome with great views, and craft cocktails.

    The Heirloom Tomato Salad

    Roasted Rack of Lamb with Herb Crust