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Google local business center Victoria lawyerI found this rather interesting bug over at Google today.

When doing a search for “Victoria BC Lawyer”, in the Local Business results I found that only one of the seven results were actually for law offices! The remaining 6 were for doctors as well as a government publishing office.

One would think that Google has been doing this long enough to not make such a big error – 1 out of 7 results relevant to the search?  That’s pretty poor if you ask me.

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Top Posts on Search

Here are the top posts on Search from the old StepForth SEO Blog.


Ins and Outs of Local Search

‘Submission to local search based engines is becoming more and more important for any sites servicing a local or specific geographic audience.’

Google Latitude Adds More Social to Mobile

‘See where your friends are right now.’ Read more…

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Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Ins and Outs of Local Search

Local SearchAs the population with internet access explodes, and more and more people are using search engines to find what they need, the usage of local search also continues to rise. For any sites servicing a local or specific geographic audience, submission to local search based engines is becoming more and more important.

Read more…

Google local search has been integrated into the top of their results pages, for geographic specific searches, for some time now. However, Google recently made an adjustment expanding the number of results displayed in the OneBox / Universal Search results.

Previously when a local based search, such as “Seattle Hotels” was performed, Google would return the top 3 results, followed by the regular top 10 organic listings. With this update, now the top 10 Local results are returned to the searcher.

This morning I came across a great article by Sujan Patel at Search Engine Journal called “5 Quick Ways to Optimize for Local Search“. I highly recommend reading this article! Read more…

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Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Google Unveils Plus Box

More details are now available on selected searches as Google unveils “Plus Box”. Wherever you see the plus box icon “ ” clicking on it will provide you with additional information on the link. A search for Microsoft, with the plus box clicked shows the following:

Currently there are two types of plus box results being displayed. The above stock example for Microsoft, as well as maps for appropriate local results, such is the case with a search for “Babbo”, a restaurant in New York.

This information is not available for all businesses but Google is working on increasing its availability.

If you would like to find a search for your business including this extra information, ensure your full business address is located on your webs site in a textual format and then visit Google’s Local Business Center to add or update your information.

QUESTION: My client originally promoted a single .co.uk domain that he owned. Recently he purchased a .com and pointed that domain to his current website. Since this change we have noticed his “pages from the UK” content has been dropped from Google UK but the .com is performing well on Google.com under the client’s target keywords. What is going on? – G.S.V.

ANSWER: I see no sure answer why this has happened without more information. First things first, the .com website will get attention from Google.com simply because non-regional TLD’s are favoured at Google.com. Also, the fact that your client’s site got excellent rankings is a testament to the quality optimization of the site (even if you do not want these rankings); so kudos to you if you were the one who optimized the site.

Understanding why the .co.uk dropped in the UK regional rankings seems the tough question. Here are some things to check on:

  1. Was the .com 301 redirected to the .co.uk? A 301 redirect effectively tells the search engines that they should pay attention to the destination domain (.co.uk) versus the domain the spider originally entered at (.com). If you were to enable a 301 redirect now you might save yourself a lot of confusion and potentially pain in the future; since this technique undeniably states which domain represents the flagship website and will limit duplicate content penalties.
  2. Did the .com have a prior history? Perhaps it was bought the .com had a significant number of backlinks or history that outweighed the .co.uk domain. You see, I expect when Google is presented with two domains pointing at the same content it will choose to rank the domain with the most positive history. That is of course, if no other directives have been stated (i.e. 301’s). A way to see if the domain had a history before it was bought is to use the Wayback Machine and see if a prior site existed. Next you should do a backlink check for the domain to see if there are any links that came with the ‘new’ domain.
  3. Is the website hosted in the USA or the UK? If the .co.uk and the .com are both hosted on an American server then achieving a ranking on google.com will be significantly easier than google.co.uk and vice versa. In other words, host in the UK and use a .co.uk domain if you want to be sure to have regional UK rankings.

At the moment these are the most prominent possibilities that come to mind but there are likely more. The fact is, if all else fails and it appears everything is normal I find issues like oddly missing rankings fix themselves over time. I hope your outcome is extremely positive and I do hope you keep me up to date.

If anyone else has experienced this issue or has some educated feedback please post a comment within this posting on The SEO Blog.

PS. Here is a great forum thread at Search Engine Watch discussing Google.com vs. Google.co.uk rankings.

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Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Ask Goes Local

On Monday Ask launched a local search service that strongly competes with other existing services offered by the big 3.

AskCity allows users to search for businesses, events, movies, and maps with directions. This service has integrated a number of those owned by parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp including CitySearch, ReserveAmerica, ServiceMagic, Ticketmaster and TicketWeb. Ask has also incorporated services from IAC partners.

Many of the new services from AskCity are also similiar to those offered by Google, MSN and Yahoo; however, the big three have to sign partnerships with other companies in order to provide these services.

In the big scheme of things local search is still in its infant stages, but as the internet continues to grow and evolve the world of local search will continue to grow as more and more people allow the internet into their lives.

Today ComScore announced their research findings on the size and growth of local search in the USA.

According to their findings, 63 percent of U.S. Internet users conducted a local search in July. Local searches are considered any form of search for local information such as a local business number, address, or business website. The real kicker, in my opinion, was that Google (30%) and Yahoo! (29%) had nearly the same amount of the local search market.

Here is some more data that you may find interesting:

Share of Local Searches by Site  July 2006  Total U.S. Home, Work and University Locations  Source: comScore qSearch

                                     Total Local Searches  Total Internet Population                 100%  Google Sites                             29.8%  Yahoo! Sites                             29.2%  Microsoft Sites                          12.3%  Time Warner Network                       7.1%  Verizon Communications                    6.6%  YellowPages.com                           3.9%  Ask Network                               2.7%  Local.com                                 1.9%  InfoSpace Network                         1.9%  DexOnline.com                             1.4%  All Other                                 3.2%

Search engine marketing has displaced every traditional media with the exception of television in relevancy and importance in the eyes of ad-buyers. With much lower costs and a much greater reach, online advertising makes up the second largest area in which advertisers spend money and marketers pass messages. There are a growing number of advertising channels available via the Internet and the major search engines are interested in acting as facilitators for as many of them as possible.

These channels or services, unlike traditional predecessors, are open and available to virtually anyone with a product to sell or message to communicate. Openness, ease of use, a sense of fairness and the global reach of the Internet are factors that make search marketing so popular. Ultimately, the versatility of the Internet combined with the much lower costs associated with online communications is what has brought search marketing to today’s prominence. Add the evolution of the medium and expanded accessibility and it is a safe stretch to say that search marketing will eventually surpass traditional television advertising by 2010 as the communications vehicle of choice. Here is a short list of what the search engines currently offer in the way of services to small business advertisers.

Organic Listings

By far, the strongest form of search engine advertising is found in the free organic listings, at least if your site is in the Top10. According to a number of studies, the most well known of which is Gord Hotchkiss’ Google Eye Tracking study , the vast majority of search engine visitors examine and select organic listings over paid listings.

Organic listings are also the least expensive form of online marketing. All that is required is a good website and information on items people are searching for. Delivering a bigger bang for less money, a strong placement at Google, Yahoo and MSN can provide dramatic increases in site traffic.

Ironically, organic search marketing is not seen to be nearly as sexy or interesting as its wealthier cousins from the paid-placement side of the family. The free, organic listings are the loss leader of the search engine world. None of the major search engines makes a penny providing free listings and the search marketing sector servicing organic placements is still seen as an arcane and murky world by many advertisers.

Pay Per Click Advertising and Placement

Pay Per Click or PPC is currently the most popular advertising service offered by the major search engines. Mainstream marketers love it because PPC is fairly easy to understand and not nearly as difficult to explain to others as organic SEO. Because of this, and the base fact that search engines make money hand-over-fist from PPC programs, the rise in interest in search by major advertisers mirrors the evolution of the various PPC systems offered.

Overture started the ball rolling with their original pay per click search engine GoTo.com. The model was copied and modified by Google and Yahoo purchased Overture, rebranding the service Yahoo Search Marketing. Overture was fairly successful in its early years, sticking deals with the search engines of the day to display paid results much in the same way Google and YSM do today but it wasn’t until Google introduced AdWords that mainstream advertisers took notice.

When they did, the sky was suddenly no longer the limit. (Google is actually working to send search services to space.) Mainstream advertising agencies and the absurd amounts of money they control started attending conferences and learning as much as they can about pay per click and other forms of search marketing.

PPC offers a number of definable results that organic SEO simply cannot. You can guarantee with absolute accuracy that the result will be visible on the front page as long as the money and effort is there to make it happen. Good SEOs haven’t made guarantees for a number of years now. PPC has another hidden advantage that makes it widely attractive to larger advertisers.

Contextual Ad Delivery is possibly the coolest thing since the automated bread slicer was invented, at least if you think like a marketer or a search engine financial executive. The delivery system works in two unique ways. The first is based on keywords entered by searchers; the second is based on keywords found on a page or document.

Many search engines display ads generated by a larger search tool. AOL for example currently runs ads generated by Google. The specific ads coming up to the right of the organic search results are placed there because they somehow correspond to the keyword query made by the searcher viewing them. That’s the basic form of contextual ad delivery.

The more complex form is found on non-search related documents. Next time you visit a website that is not a search engine, (perhaps even this one), take a look around the sides of the screen. If you see any ads by Google or YSM, you are looking at contextually delivered product. The ads appear on the screen because the website owner has partnered with Google or YSM. The ads are generated based on keywords found on the document on which they are displayed. Whenever a site visitor clicks on one of those ads, the site owner shares a percentage of the click-through bid. Similarly, users of Gmail have become accustomed to seeing paid advertisements generated based on keywords found in the text of their email messages.

Marketers see contextual delivery as the predecessor of personalized ad-delivery, a service MSN feels it is close to introducing when it takes adCenter out of beta.

Shopping Search

Another form of search service is shopping based search engines. Shopping engines deliver product information directly to consumers, and help them find online merchants to purchase from. They are not meant to be places people look for lost relatives or seek solutions to common health ailments but they would be glad to refer visitors to a good book or microwave oven.

Most shopping search engines receive information directly from the databases of merchants using their systems via an XML feed. Two well-known independent examples are Become.com and Shopping.com . They are not alone however as the major search engines know a good thing when they see it. Earlier today, another well-known shopping engine, PriceGrabber.com was purchased by London based GUS PLC for $485million.

Google, Yahoo and MSN all have their own shopping search engines. Of the three, Yahoo’s is arguably the most interesting application of Web2.0 philosophy, MSN is the most traditional and Google is the most comparative.

Yahoo Shopping has moved forward into the world of Web2.0 providing lists of products and reviews compiled by its massive user base. It actively promotes users to save lists to an area known as my lists, and to make those lists available to other users. Yahoo has tied Yahoo Shopping into Yahoo local search and provides maps to stores found through their shopping engine.

MSN Shopping is fairly traditional and straight forward with product listings by category and price range.
Google’s shopping service Froogle is actually more of a comparative price engine than a pure shopping engine but, in conjunction with Google Local and Google Maps, Froogle can provide directions to the lowest cost items near you.

Local Search

Perhaps the biggest marketing bonanza will be found in local search engines. Many search engine observers suggest local search will replace the Yellow Pages as users start to interface with search via handheld devices and cell phones. Most often used by consumers looking for a product or service near their own home, local search engines tend to draw information from the general search databases.

The types of search services mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full range of features, tools and services offered by the major search engines. For small business advertisers though, these are the services that are easiest to take advantage of and tend to return the best results.

Marketing in general has become more complicated and search marketing is becoming extremely complex. Small businesses that already have a relationship with an SEO or SEM firm might want to arrange a meeting with their search marketing vendor to discuss plans for the coming year. With or without the assistance of SEOs or SEMs all online advertisers have a lot to think about over the holiday season. 2006 looks like it is going to be wild and highly productive year.

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