No. 512
September 29th, 2009

Links of Local Interest, Volume 9A

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything of real value to readers (unless you somehow derived value from my last post on random vanity searching), so I hope to rectify that situation this week with some more content-based posts.  Let’s dive right in.

Google Places Is Announced

Mike Blumenthal was, as usual, the first one to break the news about a new Google Maps initiative called “Places.”  Some of the interface (photos, user content) was already in place for general city or neighborhood searches but despite a disallow command in Google’s robots.txt file, these types of pages now appear in SERPs for individual businesses, including this one that others have highlighted for a jeweler in Buffalo, NY.

From a small business owner’s perspective, the implications for Will Scott’sBarnacle SEO” could be enormous: the shortened nature of the URL for these Places make them easy to link to, and if Google weighs its own domain heavily, we could easily see these kinds of results with regularity.  Which could be disastrous for IYPs and other Local portals who get a big chunk of their traffic from Google, as Andrew Shotland points out. Regardless, they signify a clear attempt by Google to Yelp-ize their Local search results with richer user-generated information.

Other top Locals who’ve weighed in with interesting contributions on Places so far include Steve Hatcher, Dev Basu, and Miriam Ellis.

IYP SEO Rankings

Andrew’s really been killin’ it lately…(not sure how you find the time to blog, Shotland!) Last month he released a quantitative study of Internet Yellow Pages search engine rankings compiled by searching for <City>+<Category> and rewarding sites for ranking well with an inverse number of points., largely thanks to the work Chris Silver Smith did before moving onwards and upwards to KeyRelevance no doubt!, was the winner.  Citysearch and Yelp followed closely behind, even beating out Yahoo Local, which was surprising.  Equally surprising was MerchantCircle’s position all the way down at #11 which doesn’t gibe with my more anecdotal search experience; perhaps they haven’t yet begun to see the SERP benefits of their most recent marketing efforts this summer.

Ash Nallawalla, one of two Australian Local SEO‘s that I know, authored an excellent followup shortly afterwards, focusing on a broader range of geographic areas, but a smaller number of categories.  Superpages still emerged as the winner, but Yellowbook and MerchantCircle seemed to rank higher, in general, than they did in Andrew’s study.

A little birdie told me Andrew will be presenting some of these findings and their implications for SMB’s during his talk at SMX East next week.

Chris Silver Smith Goes Platinum

Chris has long been considered a thought leader in Local search, even before Local was sexy (i.e. prior to Will Scott’s arrival on the scene).  As I mentioned above, he’s the guy largely responsible for Superpages’ continued success in organic search, so he’s got some amazing insider knowledge at how the data providers and IYP portals operate–two critical pillars for SMB success in Local. He’s just been on a roll recently, starting with this Eric Enge interview, where he goes into incredible detail about the aforementioned topics.

He then weighed in on this interesting YouMoz post about the service area problem, cutting right to the heart of the issue with the following quote:

Google needs to differentiate between businesses which are traditionally destinations requiring consumers to visit their locations versus businesses which are mobile and travel to the consumers’ locations.

before offering this potential solution to another Maps problem: call tracking numbers.  He’s long been a fan of microformats for Local SEO, introducing even experts to the hCard microformat in a Search Engine Land column a couple of years ago, and would like to see Maps extend this to a “canonical phone tag.”  (For more on microformats, check out this excellent overview by Vertical Measures.)

Chris’s notion that Google Maps may be interested in BizRank as opposed to PageRank also dovetails nicely with my own axiom that Local Search is about optimizing locations where as traditional search is about optimizing websites.

If you’re not already following Chris on Twitter, do so @si1very.

Lisa Barone Goes All SMB on the Search Industry

As Chief Branding Officer, Lisa Barone has just been doing an outstanding job for Outspoken Media.  At Bruce Clay, her writing typically focused on more esoteric SEO concerns that were really targeted at industry types rather than end users.  But she’s really making a phenomenal effort to engage with the SMB crowd these days, not only on Outspoken, but also in her guest posts on Anita Campbell’s Small Biz Trends.  I’ll reference some more of her multitude of articles in future posts this week.  In the meantime, here are a couple of great ones about why small businesses (and everyone) should be blogging, and paying attention to customer service as a marketing strategy.  Subscribe to the Outspoken blog here. You’ll be glad you did.

And Now for Something Completely Different: Epic Golf Launches

In addition to speaking at a ton of conferences in August and early September, my spare time was pretty much completely consumed by getting together a pet project of mine that had been brewing all summer.  It’s a pretty snobby, esoteric golf blog entitled Epic Golf.  The design isn’t completely finished yet (I know, I know, there are some usability issues with the sidebars) but it’s actually got some content now!

Watch for Links of Local Interest Volume 9B tomorrow!