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Attend Local Search U – Get Free Stuff

I’ve had a lot of fun putting putting together GetListed.org’s Local University with David Mihm, Matt McGee, Mike Blumenthal, and Mary Bowling. They’re SEO’s that I’ve followed for a while. It’s been great working on an event with some of my industry heroes and having the opportunity to bring them to Spokane for what I know will be an amazing event. They are really talented folks.

In fact, three of our presenters are finalists for a SEMMY Award. It’s the search engine marketing equivalent of The Oscars, except the nominees aren’t nearly as good looking. While I doubt the awards will be covered by E Television, it’s an honor to be nominated.

Alright, what’s up with the this talk of free stuff?

We’re thrilled at the registration numbers so far, but my goal is a 100% packed house. Beyond a personal goal of having a full room for the event, a packed house helps send a very positive signal that Spokane is a destination for technical conferences. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of having to go to Las Vegas, Orlando, or San Jose for conferences. It’s time for more technical conferences to come to Spokane!

But I also have a personal goal – to beat Matt McGee. You see, Matt took the early lead in attendee registration and politely reminded me that he’s not even from Spokane. That just ain’t right. All speakers have individual discount codes that saves you $50 (the same discount offered via The Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Inlander, and LaunchPad). The only difference (until now) is the code tracked in our registration engine.

Let’s see some schwag (free stuff)!

For those of you familiar with trade shows, there is always the allure of schwag – free stuff from vendors. As this is a non-profit educational event, we don’t have the budget for traditional schwag. However, here’s what I’m throwing out there for reese2010 attendees:

Register For The Event Here
Add “reese2010” during the check-out process to save $50 and select one option below.

Free One Hour SEO/Marketing Assessment: Pick my brain for one hour at your office. Yep, one hour of free Internet marketing advice. No pitch. No proposal. One free hour of SEO advice for you and anyone else at your company that you’d like in the room. Bring your questions and I’ll do my best to answer as much as humanly possible in one hour.

Free Foosball Lesson: Back in the day I made an attempted a career in professional foosball. In fact, I’ve played four of the top 20 foosball players in the world. True, my 0-4 professional record doesn’t exactly make me the Roger Federer of the foosball circuit. But I’d call myself a very good recreational player and can teach you some really cool tips and techniques that will help you beat your friends and neighbors the next time you play. I’ll meet you at Trent & Dale, THE place to play foosball in Spokane. I might even be able to talk Lotus Leong-Chesbrough into swinging by. She has won a $100,000 invitational tournament, represented the United States in international competition, and destroyed me in a tournament back in 1994.

Free Disc Golf Lesson: As an aspiring disc golf player tournament player, I’ll offer tips about improving your game and guide those who would like to learn more about the sport. I’m still a relative novice to disc golf, but play quite a bit and am happy to share what I’ve picked up so far. To learn more about the sport, check out the Spokane Disc Golf Association.

 

 

Register For The Event Here
Remember to add reese2010 before final check-out

But what about people that have registered for the conference already?

No worries. All attendees that registered before January 27th will be grandfathered in! This is all in good fun. The local search community is a very close, supportive group of people. Our goal is to provide you with all the tools necessary to immediately head back to the office and improve your business. And if we’re able to play some foosball or disc golf along the way, all the better. We look forward to seeing you on February 4th!

The Value of Internet Yellow Pages

I originally posted this article to Mihmorandum: The Small Business Web Design + Local SEO Blog by Local Search Guru David Mihm. I met David at SMX Advanced this Summer and talked with him briefly about some very curious data that I believed was being driven by status changes in my SuperPages account. I saw him again at The SEOmoz Expert Seminar in Seattle and talked about it in detail. He thought my data was interesting enough to warrant an article and gave it a platform on his blog. This is a re-post of that article. David wrote a reaction to my analysis the following week.

Fluctuating SERPs: The Reason for My Curiosity

In late 2007/early 2008 I noticed something very interesting. When I upgraded our free Superpages listing to a featured listing, our organic traffic immediately increased for nearly all of our desired keywords + location. We ranked on page one in organic search as well as in the blended, 10-pack results for our desired keywords + location. Then I stopped the featured listing to see what would happen (though I kept the free listing intact). Sure enough, the rankings, as well as traffic, dropped. After seeing low traffic for a while I upgraded again and the SERP’s jumped back to life.

Initial Investigations

I brought this up at the Q&A session at SMX in Santa Clara. It seemed that my featured Superpages listing was getting priority and I asked the Local Search Panel if that was the case. The consensus of the panel was that it didn’t have much effect, and that it was likely other factors causing the spikes in rank.

The person sitting next to me happened to be a reporter from Wired. The next day she published a quick blog post about my observations. Had I taken some time to think about it a bit more that day rather than rant, I might not have looked like such an idiot. However, it did start amplify the discussion. A very good take on her article can be found on Greg Sterling’s Screenwerk blog. It includes some great comments from Chris Silver Smith, Mike Blumenthal, and others. While many of the original comments to the article were negative in tone (can’t say I blame them), a few people emailed directly to say they had experienced similar results.

The Importance of Categories

I was advised to delete my Google Local Business Center categories, instead relying on Google to index and incorporate the more detailed Superpages categories and sub-categories. Within six weeks of this change, my search results for all relevant keywords + location (San Francisco) increased 40%.

My first assumption was that this was mostly category-based, as Superpages (and other IYP’s) category list is much more robust than Google’s. While I’m not sure if this is the case for all industries, only a few of GLBC’s categories are related to our industry (film and video production). In the Google Local Business Center category list, only three make sense. Meanwhile, for Superpages, the related category list is extensive.

Sharing, Caring, and Matt Cutts

A few months later I shared this tip at SMX Advanced in Seattle during the final Q&A session. I talked with several SEO’s after the show (including David Mihm) that had ideas as to why this might be happening.

On my way out the door, Matt Cutts stopped me and mentioned that Google took a look at the site after they read the article in Wired. He mentioned that it was possible my recent results were as much due to the work of their engineers as my category change. I thought it was pretty cool of him to let me know they had been working on the relevancy for Local Search. It isn’t every day that you hear that you helped influence a search algorithm (at least not for me).

(n.b. from David, Google undertook a massive adjustment in their determination of category around the time of SMX Santa Clara. Mike Blumenthal has a great write-up on this, including a quote from a Superpages resource saying, “Perhaps they only accept categorizations from partners which have taxonomic processes which they believe to be of higher quality.”)

My Experiment

I decided to test the two variables that I hypothesized were affecting Hotbed’s search results. I dropped my Superpages listing from featured to free and added my categories back to my GLBC.

My keyword + location results in both organic and blended search dropped almost immediately. My organic traffic dropped 70% in one month!

Thank God for SMX Local. Armed with this data I was determined to find out why this was happening. My citation with Superpages was still there (though no longer a featured listing). I was trying to wrap my head around the drop in rankings. Do featured listings in the IYP’s receive more link juice? Are they somehow circulated through a wider network of distribution partners? Are they somehow perceived as more relevant?

The content and discussions at SMX Local in San Francisco got me back on track. Definitely check out David Mihm’s great SMX Local recap for a summary of content.

During one of the breaks I had an opportunity to talk with a group of ten local SEO’s to figure out why I was receiving these dramatic results. What follows is are the assumptions of that group as well as continued discussions with David for this post.

  1. While Superpages is a strong, relevant, and authoritative site, it shouldn’t have that much power in determining rank.
  2. An authoritative citation shouldn’t have any more or less power at the search engines whether it’s a featured listing/citation or not.
  3. As business for Hotbed is mostly local/regional traffic, keyword + location specific searches will dominate both local and organic search traffic.

Delving Deeper

David and I took a close look at my Superpages listing. No matter how we searched for Hotbed, it always came up on page four or five of the results within Superpages. It’s a good possibility that the citation is not being indexed by Google that deep in the Superpages results.

As a featured listing, the citation is guaranteed page one visibility. The default results are generally listed in alphabetical order. So, if you happened to be Abe’s House of Video Production you’d be just fine. Hotbed Media less than fine, and Zeekâ’s Zany Film Studio would be absolutely screwed.

The Answer

I just checked the results again on Superpages and noticed that default is no longer alphabetical but standard search results. This could explain my recent increase in rank. However, many other factors are now in play that I believe are having a very positive impact on the web site ranking and overall exposure. There were many great take-a-ways from SMX Local that I have since implemented.

  1. Addition of a citation and video on eLocal Listing. Steve Espinosa from eLocalListing had a great presentation and I really wanted to try their services.
  2. Addition of BOTW local listing per David Mihm’s suggestion.
  3. Addition of MetaCafe citation and video as another authoritative citation/video source
  4. Created an account on Universal Business Listing to ease submission process.

Conclusion

I was relying too heavily on a single featured listing for local authority. Per Mike Blumenthal and others at the conference, addition of many authoritative citations is very important in local search. A featured listing in the IYP’s is probably a good way to kick-start your local listing. However, the same effect can be accomplished for less money with a little bit of effort. I have still not re-activated my Superpages featured listing and have seen great gains in the past several weeks.