SMX Melbourne : Google Places – Not Your Father’s SERPs

monte-h-cropThis is a summary of the presentation given by Monte Huebsch, CEO of Aussieweb at SMX Melbourne last month, about the way Google Places and local search are changing Google search results.

Monte starts by saying that 96 percent of Google revenue is AdWords and AdSense, while the other 4 percent is stuff they do to piss off Microsoft. This gets a big laugh from the audience.

The Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) of today, Monte says, are almost unrecognizable from the Google SERPs of 10 years ago. The majority of search results are now dominated by local matches, social search and/or universal search. So SEO just won’t cut it anymore. You absolutely need to be in Google Places and social search.

He mentions Page Preview – which is a new search feature launched this month, where Google adds thumbnails of a page, directly into the search results. These previews are accessible via the search navigation menu on the left of the SERPs, under the heading Page Previews.

Monte moves on to talk about the impact Local Search is currently having. Monte showed an example of a SERP for “florist Brisbane” and how it has changed in the past two weeks due to the introduction of Place Search. The traditional “7 pack” of Google Maps search results is gone and in it’s place is a kind of universal local search, with images, videos and map pins all pulled from Google Places listings. Results are algorithmic and predictive, based on the search terms used. You can even drill down to isolate only Google Places results for your search terms. This provides a significant opportunity to businesses targeting local searchers via their Google Places listings.

Google Boost is a brand new beta service offered to to select Google Places users in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago, allowing them to pay a monthly fee to Google for AdWords ad creation. Boost enables business owners to create search ads from within their Google Places account, without the need for an AdWords account. Monte suggests that this is the way local search is headed – with localized ads right there in your maps.

Links on the SERPs now often lead to a Google Places page rather than web site, says Monte. If you claim your spot in Google Places, you’ll get into Universal Search, Google Maps, Google Earth and mobile search, whereas if you don’t, you won’t!

Something to be aware of when you claim your Google Places listing, says Monte, is that you CANT change the email address associated with your listing. Monte suggests creating a new Gmail account JUST for your Places account so you have more control over it and future flexibility. Monte suggests looking at Davidmihm.com as a great resource for Google Places info.

If you have a mobile business, you can mask your physical address in Google Places. So for example, if you have a mobile pet grooming service, where a physical address is not relevant – you can still use Google Places to your advantage.

Also, try to get reviews on Google Places and add YouTube videos and photos about your business as these are all included in your data allowance and you should be making the most of them.

Google Places is another platform for your business! Make the best use of it you possibly can.

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Leverage Your Google Places Listing With Business Photos

googleHere’s a bit of exciting news for those of you with Google Places listings in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Google is inviting businesses to apply to have a Business Photo Shoot – where photographs of your business will be taken by Google Streetview staff (the guys that drive around photographing all the roads for Google Maps).

Apart from being a free service, the advantage here is that the photos of your business will appear on your Google Places listing, giving you not only another channel to impress potential customers, but also building up trust about your business in the eyes of Google.

At the SMX Melbourne conference last week, one of the speakers suggested that companies taking part in the Business Photo Shoot may well be given a slight boost in their Google Places rankings because Google has endorsed them and verified their legitimacy. While Google obviously hasn’t made any announcement to this effect, it makes sense that businesses known to Google might be given some type of advantage over businesses Google hasn’t verified.

So I would highly recommend you apply to participate in the scheme! At this stage, only businesses in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are eligible to participate and only select cities in those countries. Apply here for your Business Photo Shoot.

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Q and A: How do I fix Ranking Penalties?

Question

Hi Kalena,

I love your blog… you have a lot of useful internet marketing content. I was wondering if you could do a blog post about the situation I’m currently having.

My site, [URL Provided], was recently penalized in Google. I got one of those -50 penalties where I go down to page 5 or 6 for all of my search terms (including site name). It has been like this for nearly 2 months… since September 24, 2010. I used to be ranking #1 for the term ‘auto insurance quotes’ and also on page one for ‘auto insurance’.

Now, they say that incoming links cannot hurt your site, but that is the only explanation I can think of for my situation. There are a lot of blog comments pointing to my URL. Most of these comments, as well as many of the links pointing to my site, are links that I personally never created. I have never purchased links nor have done any automated link building… The domain is 11 years old and I have devoted the past few years of my life to it.

James.

Hi James,

A sudden drop in search rankings is one of the worst nightmares for most website owners, and can be a very scary thing – particularly if your site relies heavily on organic rankings for traffic and sales.

I’ve had a look at your rankings, and can confirm that it looks very much like a ranking penalty has been applied by Google (although your rankings seem fine under Bing). Your site appears in position 47 on google.com for a query of your business name, with many other sites that simply mention your name outranking you.

Unfortunately it’s not possible within the scope of this Q and A to undertake a detailed analysis of your specific circumstances. However, I’ve outlined below some of the general steps that should be taken, and suggest that you contact a professional SEO for further advice.

It is unlikely that dodgy backlinks, or even duplicate content would result in a ranking penalty – the problem is much more likely to be caused by something on your site.

Identifying a Ranking Penalty

If you are monitoring your sites rankings, you should notice a ranking penalty very quickly, as you will see a sudden and dramatic drop in your rankings for all keywords and pages,  If you arte not checking rankings reguilarly, you may not realise there is a problem until you notice significant drop offs in traffic (via analytics) – or, worst case scenario, in your sales or enquiries.

Identifying the Problem

If you are using Google webmaster tools (and you should be), Google will often (but not always) notify you when a penalty is applied – and will also usually indicate what the problem is.  You should also very closely review Googles Webmaster Guidelines and check if there is anything on your site that may contravene Googles “rules”.

A ranking penalty may not necessarily be applied as a result of a recent change on your site.  The problem may have existed for some time, but have been triggered by a new crawl, a change in the ranking algorithm, or could also be caused by a combination of relatively minor problems with your site, which , taken in total, reach a trigger threshold.

Fixing the Problem

Once you identified the problem/s it is important to fix the issue completely as soon as possible.  It’s also a good idea to also fix any other “iffy” or questionable practices, as your site is likely to be submitted to closer scrutiny than normal before the penalty can be lifted.

Submitting a Reinclusion Request

Once you are satisfied that the problem with your site has been completely resolved, you need to submit a reinclusion request. Google calls these a “request for reconsideration”, and provide some good tips for how to go about doing this (along with a video from the Google Search Quality team) on their Requesting reconsideration of your site help page.

In your reinclusion request you need to be very clear about what action you have taken to resolve the issue and ensure that it will noit happen again.

Once a reinclusion request has been submitted, the Google search quality team will undertake a manual review of your site, and (as long as the site does now conform to their guidelines), will, probably reinstate your rankings.  Be aware though that this review process can take days or weeks.

If you’d like to find out more about the Ranking Penalty and Reinclusion Request, I blogged about it a couple of years ago, and the process is still pretty much the same  – “My Google Rankings have dropped and I think I’ve been penalised – What can I do?

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting SEO (Australia)

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Google’s Tribute to John Lennon

A visit to Google this morning reveals a new Google Doodle – a tribute to John Lennon on what would have been his 70th birthday.

But today’s Doodle, (Google’s nickname for their holiday logos), includes a little extra surprise. When you click on the Doodle itself, a short audio clip from Lennon’s haunting ballad Imagine plays, accompanied by an animation sequence inspired by the music.gg-john-lennon-final

The Doodle itself incorporates the famous self-portrait hand drawn by Lennon from the ‘Bag One Portfolio’, an artistic chronicle of his wedding ceremony to Yoko Ono, their honeymoon and their plea for world peace.

After the animation clip plays, the Doodle morphs into a drawn style and then you are naturally redirected to search results for “John Lennon”.

A fitting tribute and much more inspiring than some of the more recent Doodles being churned out from Mountain View.

Nicely done Google.

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New Home for Google Realtime Search

Remember when Google promised us they were getting close to being able to provide search results in real-time? Well this week they’ve cracked it.

In an official blog post, Google announced real-time search results are now available. But instead of being integrated into regular search results pages, real-time search has been given it’s own home – a dedicated page for people to conduct searches in real-time.

You can also access Realtime Search by clicking the “Updates” link in the left-hand panel of normal search results. The results appear as a constantly refreshing stream. Your Google Alerts also work with Realtime Search so you can be sent updates for your target searches within minutes of them appearing in Realtime Search.

We’ve been able to see some real-time results in SERPs already, with social search results containing recent Twitter posts and Facebook status updates, however being able to isolate real-time search results from regular organic search results is extremely useful, especially if you are looking for information relating to an event in a specific location or a developing news story.

A couple of handy new features allow you to refine Realtime search results by pinpointing results by location or time and you can even see entire conversations to get context about any topic.

For example, the political situation in Australia is currently in turmoil as the country faces a hung parliament as a result of an election draw. Political developments are in flux and it’s difficult to keep up to date. If I conduct a search for “Australian election” using real-time search, I can see tweets from as recently as 1 minute ago and news stories posted within the last hour.

Realtime Search and updates in Google Alerts are available globally in 40 languages, and the geographic refinements and conversations views are available in English, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. To learn more, visit the Google Realtime Search info page.

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