I don’t know about everyone else but I have been having an issue with customer complaints about spam bots visiting pages and racking up referral traffic in Google Analytics. This really isn’t a HUGE issue given you can just ignore them but for me I was having to answer a lot of questions from customers about what they were and why we shouldn’t pay any attention to them. It was also inflating visitor traffic artificially and messing up my KPIs, so BOO!
At any rate it’s been just a little more efficient to block them from visiting my customers sites then dealing with the questions. If you have a website using a basic Apache setup this is pretty easy. Just go into your htaccess file and add the following script to the end of the document.
# Bot filtering
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer semalt.com spambot=yes SetEnvIfNoCase Referer darodar.com spambot=yes SetEnvIfNoCase Referer buttons-for-website.com spambot=yes SetEnvIfNoCase Referer 7makemoneyonline.com spambot=yes Order allow,deny Allow from all Deny from env=spambot
I’m sure that eventually there will be a number of these companies trying this shady marketing technique so when that happens and you notice another referral bot pop up just copy theSetEnvIfNoCase Referer botname.com spambot=yes line and change what I have in green to the URL of the referral bot and add it before the Order allow,deny line and that should do it. 🙂
I also wanted to give credit for the original code I used to Sudorank.com. Thanks for putting this out there guys!
I first noticed how good a job Domino’s Pizza was doing at Local SEO when I started doing research into the effect’s of the recent pigeon update. Of all the companies I reviewed during that time I believe Domino’s Pizza is the best company I have seen at local SEO. Here’s my argument for why you should model your local SEO strategy after this world renown Pizza Franchise.
Do a search for the keyword “pizza” just about anywhere in the United States and Domino’s Pizza is going to be at the top of the list. I find this fascinating… To start it’s one thing to get lucky and be able to take a ranking once and a while but when you’re dealing with over 10,000 corporate and franchise stores internationally (according to Wikipedia) we’re talking about a number of hurdles that most of us in the Local SEO space will never have to deal with. Which makes Domino’s success all the more impressive.
First off there is the issue of scale. When you’re dealing with that many locations were talking about an internal agency larger than 95% of the local SEO companies out there today. It’s impossible to operate at a scale like that without having a rigorous, scalable and structured method for optimizing each of these locations.
In the past we have looked at the three main factors that each location needs to have to rank including: On-site SEO, citations and an optimized Google Plus page. Domino’s has a very interesting way of tackling all three of these for each location. Below we outline their strategy, break them down to their smallest pieces and look under the hood at what’s going on in Domino’s Pizza SEO department.
Google Plus Page Overview
Domino’s has thousands of locations and from what I can tell they’re all setup the same way, so for this article I decided to stick with just one Domino’s location and break down everything that they’re doing for local SEO through the prism of that one location.
For no reason in particular I chose one of the Domino’s Pizza locations close to me here in Phoenix. Let’s start by extracting some raw data, then break it apart as much as we can from there.
Here is everything we’re able to pull from the Domino’s Google My Business for the location here in Downtown Phoenix. Here is a link to the Domino’s Pizza Location I’m referencing for the remainder of the article just in case anyone wants to fact check me: https://plus.google.com/105482462167781472612/about?hl=en&gl=us
Description: Domino’s Pizza in Phoenix is your pizza restaurant for fast pizza delivery. We have coupons and specials on pizza, pasta, buffalo wings, & more! Order online now!
Pictures: 8 photos 7 photos of menu items and 1 of their logo.
Reviews: 16 total reviews with an average of 2.9 stars.
Google Plus Page Analysis
There are a number of things on this page that isn’t out of the ordinary and you don’t really need me commenting on including the address, name and phone number so I’m going to skip over the boring stuff and just get to what’s fun.
UTM codes in URLs
As you can see from the URL Domino’s is using UTM data in the URL string to track how many clicks dominos.com is getting from their Google Maps listing.
For those unfamiliar with UTM codes as stated above they’re more typically used in PPC campaigns and help identity through Google Analytics the source of traffic. If you would like to generate your own UTM codes for tracking Google put together a nice tool to help set these up. You can find that tool here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867?hl=en
They have 8 photos on their Google Plus page. Oddly none of them are the main thumbnail or the header image, since both of these appears blank. Typically locations that are ranking well from my experience will have both of these filled out. Upon further digging all the photos seem to have no geo tagged meta data, which leads me to believe this might not be as important as people once thought it was.
From what we can see this location doesn’t have tons of reviews. Only 16 at the moment of this writing and they all seem to be natural. All reviews are from different accounts and left at different times over the past two years. I was a little suspicious that most of these accounts had only left 1 review on this specific Domino’s Pizza location however given half the reviews were very negative I have no reason to believe these were faked in anyway. If they were it was done very well.
All things considered I’m going to mark these reviews off as natural and well deserved. No manipulation here of any kind.
As stated above the categories are:
Chicken Wings Restaurant
Pro Tip: If you’re wondering how I was able to find these, you can pull them out of the source code of the Google Plus Page for the ones that aren’t shown. They’re just set as span tags with the CSS value of display:none.
There isn’t anything that exciting about their categories, the only reason I wanted to bring them up is because I wanted to make a point of how precise they are. A lot of the times I find “pizza” restaurants using categories like Italian restaurant, family restaurant or possibly just restaurant as categories.
Google recently posted an update to their quality guidelines in which they state to use as few categories as possible to describe what the business does. You can see those guidelines here: https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en. With that in mind I feel it’s becoming more and more important to pay attention to this when doing our Local SEO. No need to keyword stuff the categories people. Let’s keep it neat and precise. Using a sniper rifle approach instead of a shotgun.
Once again nice job Domino’s.
Google Plus Page Summary
Overall they’re doing everything right and nothing is out of the ordinary. They have nice photos, a good number of reviews though most of them are negative and their categories are set correctly. On point without trying to stretch what they really do. Awesome job Domino’s! Now moving on to that beautiful website they created.
You will notice that while Domino’s is using the UTM codes as we mentioned above they’re re-directing to https://order.dominos.com/en/. What I want to point out about this site is that it’s incredibly user friendly. It takes you to exactly where you want to go with their “Order Now” call to action buttons and is responsive which let’s this website look great on both desktop, tablet and smartphone. Through my own research I have been finding that having a great mobile solution on your website is essential when trying to rank in local. Once again hats off to Domino’s.
Mobile Friendly Landing Pages for Each Location
It’s true that having a mobile friendly site makes a huge difference when it comes to ranking on Google Maps. My thought being quite simply Google Maps is more often used by mobile phone as opposed to desktop. In fact according to Statista.com Google Maps is the most used cell phone app in the world (Note this article is from August 2013 but I feel this should still be pretty accurate) http://www.statista.com/chart/1345/top-10-smartphone-apps-in-q2-2013/. With that said Google isn’t stupid and they want to deliver the best possible user experience. Sending someone to a site that’s not mobile friendly when they’re on their mobile phones just isn’t going to fly. Hench awesome mobile sites rank higher.
Another notch in Domino’s belt. Once again hitting it on all cylinders. Awesome!
We recently wrote in a post how important it is to include your NAP information (name, address and phone number information) on the site you’re linking to. SO WHERE IS IT ON THIS PAGE!? … This is the most interesting trick Domino’s has up it’s sleeve.
While the URL linked to directly by the Google My Business page is https://order.dominos.com/en/ the orders page. The real magic happens on a very clever pizza subdomain Domino’s has.
If you do a search in Google for “site:dominos.com “2819 N Central Ave Phoenix, AZ 85004″” (pardon the quotes in quotes but it will help you pull up the right result) you will find this special URL I’m referring to.
Body Content: The body content seems to have a few words that are swapped out based on the location. In this case this location is in Phoenix and the copy is talking about Scottsdale a town adjacent to Phoenix. A review on CopyScape.com shows that while this site’s text is being taken by a few coupon sites and what appear to be some kind of content farm it’s original to this Domino’s location.
With as many locations as they have and given the use of Scottsdale in both the Phoenix locations I looked at we can conclude they’re using a very advanced content spinner to create these page. This is getting a little grey hat but I’m going to give them an A plus here for creativity.
Over all these pages are masterfully done and I find it quite interesting that they were able to put the NAP information on a subdomain and see such great results. Quite a genius strategy for anyone if you have 1 location or 1,000.
Doing a Google search for “”914 E Camelback Rd Phoenix, AZ 85014″ dominos” reveals how many citations they have for that particular location. Note: this is never 100% accurate but it’s a good test to get a general feel. We can see in this search there are 27 sites containing citations for this location with 97 total citations. Most of these citations are on the same sites but what I would like to point out with how it would seem Domino’s is missing a lot of the typical Hot Frog and Monta directory sites that we’re used to seeing with a citation strategy.
They have a strong number of citations and all seem to be on very reputable sites such as yellowpages.com and Yelp. They also appear to be natural. Given the amount of other advertising Domino’s does this doesn’t come as huge a surprise that they naturally gain a lot of citations. Most of us don’t have this luxury but it’s good to note what directories they’re using and over all how many citations they have.
My main reason for writing this article is because I’m simply blown away with how awesome this is all put together. I have to say I’m a bit of a Domino’s SEO fan-boy. If SEO was a work of art this would be the Sistine Chapel. Not only because of how well it’s done but the sheer scale of it all and quite frankly it makes a great case study for how we should all be setting up and building our local campaigns.
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Google announced last night that they’re pushing Google Hangouts out to a small number of select Google My Business accounts as a test. More details here can be found on this Google Answers page here.
Our first reaction when we saw these notifications come in was; why would a Google My Business page need to use Google Hangouts?
The more we thought about it however the more potential use cases we were able to come up with for Google hangouts. Especially when it comes to communicating with customers or potential customers.
From what we have seen in the past few months from Google, they’ve been making a big push to communicate better with their users. Everything from emailing you with a Google Analytics report to sending you an email when someone leaves a review on Google Maps / Google My Business page.
With that in mind this new test would seem to be right in line with the direction Google has been going. Adding Google Hangouts would also be another step toward being able to better manage your reviews in Google Maps.
Imagine as a business owner being alerted about a positive review and being able to reach out as the business in private and offer thanks. Better yet being able to deal with negative reviews by speaking directly with the reviewer as the business.
Overall we like where Google’s heads at with this test. As for if anyone will use this feature? Only time will tell.
Below is a step by step guide for adding a manager account to an already existing Google My Business account.
Sign in to your Google account that has Ownership of the Plus page at: plus.google.com
Hover over the “Home” button in the top left corner until the navigation bar appears.
Scroll down to “Pages” and click.
Find your listing and click “Manage this page”.
Hover over the “My Business” button in the top left corner until the navigation bar appears.
Scroll down to “Settings” and click.
On the next page you will see a menu toward the top of the screen where you will need to click the “Managers” button.
Select the blue “Add managers” button.
Send the invite to the email address for your manager account.
*Note Legacy Google Places Accounts: It’s important that the Google+ page for the location was created before you attempt to add a manager. If we create a location in Google+ it will automatically create a location on Google.com/places. If your location was created on Google.com/places it will not be tied to a Google+ location and won’t be able to be shared via this method. In that case we will need to re-create the location on Google+. At this point most businesses have moved over to Google+ / Google My Business but we still find some older account that need to be forced over.
It feels like someone finally stepped up and told Google they’re not a good communicator and guess what … they’re listening! Across the board we have seen multiple Google properties making a wide effort to communicate better. For example Google Webmaster Tools is now sending how to “Improve the search presence of [your website]” emails on sign-up of a new website through Webmaster Tools, Google My Business is now sending any review your business receives to your inbox, and as of today Google Analytics has sent millions of emails outlining how well your website did in October.
These communications seem to be happening across the board regardless of context. For example I have been getting many reviews from Google My Business that have no actual content or review, just a plane 3 star rating from a user who doesn’t even have a picture. We have also seen these Google Analytics alerts come in for accounts with just a few hundred visits and some with millions of visits, but not all account have gotten these emails.
This isn’t a complete surprise given Google put out an ad for a Marketing Automation expert about 3 months ago. Originally we had speculated that these ads were for looking for someone to handle marketing on the B2B side, helping to bring in more Adwords advertisers based on the fact that one of the ads that was shown was looking for a Marketo Marketing Automation specialist. However it appears they have been busy building their email campaigns around their free services.
Overall it looks like Google has got the message that not being able to call or get customer service on things like Google Analytics leaves the patrons of the service lacking the warm and fuzzies we get from a lot of other services that took the time to set up 1-800 numbers. Even if they do just route to a country we can’t find on a map and connect us to someone with an accent we have to strain to decipher.
The three main emails we have seen coming out in the past month for the services mentioned above are:
Google Webmaster Tools:
This email comes on the signup of a new Google Webmaster Tools account. It’s delivered to the messages section of Google Webmaster Tools as well as coming straight to your inbox. It outlines the things you should be doing to make sure your website shows up more. At least that’s what they say it’s about. Really it just is a reminder to set the location or your site, the non-www and www versions of the site and a few other basic Webmaster Tools items. Either way I suppose it’s a useful list.
This email seemed to have gone to a lot of Google Analytics accounts but not all and we couldn’t pin-point which accounts were targeted to get these emails. They basically provide a nice summary of how well your site did through the month of October via some nice Google Analytics data with some pretty charts and graphs. Below are some snapshots of one of the emails we received.
*Note: the screenshots above don’t reflect the whole email. It was quite long so I only grabbed some of the sections I liked.
Google My Business:
Finally Google has been sending more emails to users of Google My Business which we have wrote about in the past. You can find that post here: You Just Got a Review In Your Email?
All in all we like the new level of communication and extra effort from Google. At this rate maybe one day I will be able to call Google and ask them why my Google Analytics ecommerce reporting isn’t working correctly. At least we can dream right?
For those of us Local SEO managers who have more then one client it can be hard to manager all the Google My Business log-ins. After talking with a number of Local SEOs I have found that a lot of people haven’t gotten into the habit of managing these listings through what we’re calling a manager account. Using these accounts can save you a lot of time and headaches. They will prevent clients from changing log-ins on you and locking you out, and will keep you from having to log in and out of multiple accounts giving you just one password and email to remember.
So here is Report Pro’s little guide on how to add a manager to a Google My Business listing.
How to Add a Manager in Google My Business
The first step is to sign into your Google account at: google.com/business. Remember this account has to be the one that is the owner of the Plus / My Business page. If you login and get to the add manager account portion of this walk through and notice that there are two account managers and one of them is title “owner” and it’s not the account you’re logged into, then you’re going to have to get access to that account to be able to add additional managers.
Once logged in hover over the “Home” button in the upper left corner of the Google My Business page until the navigation bar appears.
Then scroll down to “Pages” and select it.
This will navigate you to a page with a list of all the businesses shared with or created in this account. Find the listing you want to add a manager to and click “Manage this page”.
Hover over the “My Business” button in the top left corner of the page until the vertical navigation bar appears.
Scroll down to the “Settings” button and click.
On the next page you will see a horizontal navigate bar on top of the page, click the “Managers” button.
Once on the managers page select the blue “Add managers” button.
Send the invite to the email address for your manager account. This “manager account” can be any normal email/Gmail address you have created. We typically create a few “manager” Gmail accounts that we use specifically for this purpose, much like most agencies do for Google Analytics, and much like Google Analytics Google only allows you to have 100 local business accounts tied to one email address. This rule doesn’t apply if all the business are the same business. Walmart for example can have all 4,000 locations in one email address with a bulk upload. Unfortunately this doesn’t work if all the businesses have different names. Trust us, we tried. 🙁
*Note: In the case of legacy Google Places Accounts it’s important that the Google+ / Google My Business page for the location be created before you attempt to add a manager. If we create a location in Google My Business it will automatically create a location on Google.com/places. If your location was created on Google.com/places it will not be tied to a Google+ / Google My Business location and won’t be able to be shared via this method. In that case we will need to re-create the location on Google My Business, then call Google My Business customer support to get the duplicate listings merged. At this point most businesses have moved over to Google+ / Google My Business but we still find some older account that need to be forced over.
It was recently announced that Google is going to be giving Google My Business users the opportunity to respond to negative reviews through the Google My Business platform. Today was the first day we got a peek into how that functionality will work.
Google sent out millions of emails today informing business owners of reviews that were left on their Google Maps listings.
Google has been sending both positive and negative reviews in emails with a call to action prompting readers to click to read the review, call Google customer service, or view their help center.
The blue “Read Review” link requires you to be logged into the email address of the Google Listing where the review was left. The remaining two links included in the email take you to the Google help page. One of those links opens an email contact form on the page the other … tells you what Google My Business is?
Either way, while the content of the email is a little spares we feel it’s a step right direction for Google in providing business owners with more tools to address both positive and negative reviews through the Google My Business platform.
The morning of 11/04/2014 we saw a large increase in Google My Business listings getting unverified. As much as 0.4% of Google My Business listings we’re effect.
As of yet we have not been able to identify any similarities between listings that have became unverified and those that were not affected. This seems to span new listings and ones that have been around for years. There also doesn’t seem to be any link between which listings were affected and spammy citations or any of the other usual suspects in a typical Google update.
The linked Google page doesn’t seem to offer any answer as to why this issues has been occurring other then the page may have not met Google’s quality guidelines or been “spammy.”
Based on our manual review of a number of these listings there doesn’t seem to be anything obviously spammy or low quality that would cause an issue like this. Google customer service also doesn’t seem to have an answer yet as to why this has happened, which leads us to believe that these listings have became unverified based on an error on Google’s part.
Where this post isn’t directly about Local SEO we have found that one of the most important signals in getting your Google+ listing to rank is your website. We get a lot of question about websites and what we see in terms of how they affect Local SEO so we compiled a list of the major red flags we look for and gave some instructions on how we test them.
The 4 major factors we review on a webpage from a local perspective are:
Site Crawl Ability
Keyword / Categories in copy
Does each location have it’s own page are those locations using Schema
Is the site Mobile friendly
Site Crawl Ability
This is really one of those “is it plugged in” tests. While it’s simple to check I still see it getting missed quite often, even by some seasoned Local SEO vets. That’s why I typically start any Local SEO audit with a quick review through SEOCentro.
If all of those things check out we can cross site crawl ability and the basic meta and title tags off the list and move on.
Keyword Categories appearing in content
Often times one of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses making is not actually talking about what they do on their website. I had a client once who was a new start up bar in NYC. They were having difficulty ranking for their keyword. I can’t remember which keyword is was specifically since this was about a year ago but as an example let’s say the keyword was “Sports Bar”.
I started doing an audit on their site only to discover as a user I could not for the life of me figure out what kind of a bar they were… They had no content about what type of food they served, whether they had sports games on their TVs, or anything of that nature.
Not only is the bad from a usability perspective this is also bad from an SEO content perspective.
One of the key rankings factors for a lot of business, especially ones that don’t have categories related to their businesses in Google Maps (think Medical Marijuana or Vape shops) is to talk about those subjects on their website.
Since Google pulls most of the rankings factors from the content of your Google+ page and citations one of the only opportunities besides the description in your Google+ page to work in a few keywords is on the site attached to the location in Google+.
What this means to me is if you serve pizza you better talk about that on your site. If we review a site and see that it’s missing any copy around the word pizza and that’s what you’re trying to rank for then it’s time to have a copywriter take a crack at getting that copy up to par.
Location Pages and Google Schema:
We all know that citations are one of the major factors for ranking well in local, however you might not have known that the citation on your own site is the most important one! Based on our research there is a very large correlation between having your name, address and phone number on your site and great rankings. A good examples of this would be Domino’s Pizza.
All Domino’s Pizza Google+ locations point to dominos.com but if you do a deep dive on the site you will notice that each Domino’s location has it’s own page with original content and Schema location data. Here is an example of one of those pages: http://pizza.dominos.com/arizona/phoenix/85004/2819-n-central-ave/ and it’s been executed very well. Time and time again I see sites trying to rank for local that don’t have their NAP information anywhere on their site.
Another common mistake would be to have all 10 locations on a “locations” page. Throwing a page like this into Google Structured Data Testing Tool seen here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets were we have multiple location on one page that are not taking full advantage of Schema like Domino’s does, we see that Google doesn’t do the best job of differentiating between which phone numbers and address tie to which locations. Most of the time in fact Google pulls in pages like this as article pages.
By implementing schema on these pages or doing one better and giving each location it’s own page, we can ensure Google reads the location correctly with the proper name, address and phone number and can attribute that back to the proper Google+ page. Implementing Google Schema used to be difficult to do correctly and test. Nowadays however there really isn’t an excuse.
Google takes into consideration what user-agent you’re coming from when doing a search. What that means is if you’re on Chrome on a desktop you’re going to see one result and another on Chrome for mobile. If your site is not optimized for mobile Google is going to be less likely to show your page to someone who’s doing their search from an iPhone if there is a better result available for mobile phones. This applies globally to local and desktop searches.
As an example I had a bar in New York I was reviewing that was having difficulty showing up on maps when they did a search from their mobile phones. It didn’t take us long to see that their site was barely usable on a desktop and on top of that could barely be seen on a mobile phone.
This creates a bad user experience for people coming off Google Maps so Google is much less likely to show their site. Our suggestion to them was to make a few small changes to their website to make it more usable on mobile phones.
If you’re having trouble testing sites on mobile phones or want an easy mobile phone simulator I use Mobiletest.me Here is how our site looks on their simulator http://mobiletest.me/iphone_5_emulator/#u=http://reportpro.net to be honest though these web based emulators … aren’t the best. Quit being lazy and pull out your damn phone!
There is always more you can be doing when auditing a site for Local SEO and we barely scratched the surface here, however we find these to be the biggest factors and typically if you can pass all these tests your sites going to be in pretty good shape to grab some awesome local rankings.