Did you know that Google is rolling out new updates every month or so? Did you know that just ignoring these changes can negatively impact your online advertising efforts? Here at PG, we talk to local business owners each and every day, and most folks we come across have a “who cares” attitude when it comes to Google’s updates. Since these updates can have a major impact on your local business, we thought it wise to explain why all this does matter!
The Venice Update
Back at the beginning of the year (February to be precise), Google launched the Venice update (details). According to their official statements on the changes, Google claims this update “improves the triggering of Local Universal results” and that the newly revised system is able to “find results from a user’s city more reliably.” While these statements are certainly true, it’s important to realize, just like every other business, Google spins the information it provides to the public for self-serving reasons. So, read between the lines to understand what’s really going on, and how it affects you.
Why YOU Should Care
The importance of the Venice update for you, and your local business’s online advertising efforts, is that Venice essentially burned the rule book regarding map listings and organic results. Before the update changed the system, it used to be that your website could rank well without your map listing, and vice versa. But those days are long gone. The new reality is that if you fail to fully optimize both, you can say goodbye to your rankings. As Google says, they are now “relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal” in local searches. This tells you point-blank that your website’s ranking factors now help dictate your map listing’s ranking.
The Penguin Update
Google’s most recent update, the Penguin Update (also known as the Webspam Algorithm Update), is their latest effort to provide higher quality content. In short, these changes will decrease rankings for sites believed to be in violation of Google’s quality guidelines. Just what qualifies as webspam to Google? Here are a few of the concerns Google targets, taken directly from their own quality guidelines:
- Keyword Stuffing
- Excessive Linking & Linking to Webspammers
- Cloaking & Doorway Pages
- Duplicate Content
- Little or No Original Content
Why YOU Should Care
In working with local business owners every day, PG hears from hundreds of folks who tell us they’ve found a way to “beat” Google. Their tricks range from creating fake map listings to stuffing keywords into a webpage to using any number of other antiquated, underhanded techniques. And, quite frankly, they don’t work, not in the long term. While these ploys might work right now, you can’t dodge Google forever, and they will stop working one day—often, with disastrous consequences. Using black-hat techniques is Russian roulette because once the iron fist of Google’s spam team comes down on your business, it can disappear from the Internet! It’s never too soon to clean up your act. So be honest with yourself, and if you’re engaged in “tricks” or behaviors that violate Google’s quality guidelines, stop and clean them up. Get in line with Google’s guidelines before your business sees the business end of Google’s gun.
So What Should You Do?
There are a couple of things you can do, now that you’re aware of how the Venice and Penguin updates can affect your advertising campaigns online:
- Accept that your website and map listing aren’t separate anymore, at least in the eyes of the search engines.
- Optimize your map listing and then monitor it every single day to make sure no changes are made that could affect its performance.
- Own up to any behaviors that Google may consider underhanded and undo them before they undo your business.
- Don’t forget that SEO and online advertising are about serving TWO masters at once: one is Google (the machine), but the other (equally important) master is the site visitor (the human). Not considering both when it comes to just about every decision regarding web advertising tends to lead to failure.
Need a Hand?
For business owners who want to make sure Google’s updates aren’t bringing their rankings down, there is a lot to do. But it’s crucial to the success of your advertising efforts on the Internet, so it’s worth it in the end. And, you don’t have to go it alone. Prospect Genius can help! Monitoring your map listing EVERY day is truly important. You might wonder why it matters: You put the correct info up there when you optimized the listing, so why does it need to be checked? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that it’s easy for inaccurate information like old addresses and phone numbers to get switched out for the right contact info; another, is that, unfortunately, some of your competitors might not play by the rules—and could actually report your business as closed! Checking your listing offers protection against these risks. Here at PG, we have a program called MapTrax that can actually monitor your listing for you, helping both ensure your map listing stays correct and freeing up your time to do other important tasks. We also provide Google Places listing optimization. We include this service for free for clients who sign up for our lead generation program, but we also offer it as a stand-alone service for other folks. Keeping track of your website’s ranking can be pretty much impossible without some type of analytics tool in place. Just googling yourself doesn’t actually work: If you search for yourself every day, you end up skewing the results. That’s because every time you repeat the same search, over and over, you’re telling Google that the results they’re showing aren’t what you want to see… But here at PG, we have a proprietary program called AdTrax that can accurately track whether your website’s rankings are trending up, slipping down, or holding steady. This is included in all clients’ LeadTrax sites, but we also provide it to clients as a stand-alone service to monitor their own websites or even the success of other marketing campaigns online. This data is critical for your decisions regarding web advertising, so make sure you’re using something to track it!